Don't Stop The Presses

The Mets announced the signing of free agents SS Chris Woodward and P Manny Aybar to minor league contracts.

Of Woodward, we can safely say that Hamstring Jose's job isn't in any great jeopardy. He's 28 yet still unsung, but he's not really too terrible. His best season was 2002 when he hit .276-13-45 in 90 games for the Jays. On the one hand you can say he's pretty versatile on the field, having played SS, 2B, 1B and 3B over his career. His fielding percentage isn't sparkling but who knows, with all fragility of Reyes in mind, this isn't a terrible pickup. ESPN says:

"He's fit, wiry and athletic with strong hands, contributing to above-average bat speed, which can produce surprising pop. Nonetheless, he can be overpowered up in the strike zone and is vulnerable to breaking stuff low and away." Fit and wiry, I like that. It won't stop the world from spinning but it won't cause its destruction either.

Aybar, on the other hand, Aybar is 32 and hasn't been in the majors since 2003. It may or may not be important to know that you pronounce his surname EYE BAR. I don't know what, if anything this says about his pitching prowess. He's got a lifetime ERA over 5.00 which is not good. He's not a lefty, which is usually a valuable commodity in a bullpen, even with a career ERA that makes the skin crawl with dread like ole Manny has. But he's not entirely without promise. It does appear that in 2002, he was the PCL Player of the Year. Let's put it this way: he could be a younger John Franco without the annoying, interferring, frustrated GM clubhouse presence. Or he could lead Norfolk in saves. Anything's possible in the offseason.

Lastly, the Mets also announced the signing of Joe Nelson another relief pitcher past his prime without ever having experienced a prime, so to speak. You know you're really grasping at straws when you have to point out that yes, whilst his career ERA is gargoylish at 25.07 (no, that's not a typo folks!), and his page on ESPN doesn't even have a photo, I would point out that his strikouts per 9 innings ratio is a devastating 16.88. You know what Randy Johnson's strikout per 9 innings ratio was last season? 10.62! So stop snickering. This Joe Nelson kid could be worth a few dozen Gus Zernial vintage baseball cards some day.


Perhaps a bit of absurdist humour at play at the NY Post was involved in Joel Sherman's MAYBE AMAZIN'S CAN SWIPE CARLOS FROM BOSS' GRASP column filled with wishful thinking.

Let's face it. King George has enough money to buy most of the other franchises in baseball. It's laughable to think he'd let a little thing like excessive payroll stop him from getting the man who is baseball's most sought-after free agent.

"But what if Steinbrenner really feels he must cap his payroll and future expenses at some point? What if a potential $100 million-plus bill for luxury tax and revenue sharing next offseason chills The Boss enough for him to shun the prettiest trinket in the window?".

Really, the day the Wilpons outbid the Evil Empire for a marquis player is the day you'd better climb down into your bomb shelter with your cans of beans and bottled water, cover every orafice with duct tape and masking tape and just hope the next world turns out better.


Zambrano, Zambrano, Let Your Hair Down

Archie Bunker's Army is not holding its collective breath on the availability or success of the Victor Zambrano, he of the infamously stooopid Zambrano for Mets superstah future flamethrowing pitching phenom Scott Kazmir.

Zambrano, rumoured to be the bottom rung of next season's Met starting rotation, we THOUGHT was plagued by a dodgy right elbow but no, 'tisn't the elbow that had the Mets brass so concerned that they flew him to New York from Venezuela to have him looked at, it is the ankle. It appears Zambrano told friends his ankle still bothered him a great deal.

But now, with the magical wave of a wand, Zambrano is back throwing bullpen sessions. Herculean, that is, dodgy elbow, dodgy ankle and hanging by a string. Not to beat a theme to death but I'm still wondering to myself why Omar didn't take a swing at grabbing free agent Wade Miller before the Red Sox did. Miller won 45 games in three years for the Astros before going down for the season to a frayed labrum and by all accounts, for the measely amount it took to sign him after the Astros dumped him, could be the steal of the off season.

Instead, we can keep a running count of Victor Zambrano's Flying Circus of Various Maladies all season as he swoops his way through double digit figures in losses and a nice phat ERA.


Now, more a sign of the inevitability of greed rather than any true, probable interest, the Carlos has spoken, noting that after visiting with the Astros and the Yankees, for his next act, he will now speak with the Mets.

The Mets, as Beltran told Primera Hora, a newspaper in Puerto Rico, "are being aggressive."

Aggressive as in signing a player as a backup first baseman to the first string first baseman they haven't signed yet? A backup first baseman who was born the year before the Mets began their major-league existence?

Well, at least he should be around for us to see him hit his first homerun, which would be homerun number 400.

The Mets also signed nine other players to minor-league deals with spring training invitations. That list included troubled former Florida Marlins catcher Ramon Castro, a one-time top prospect who last month pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor indecent assault charge stemming from a 2003 rape allegation. Castro is serving a one-year probation term. Also on that list were former Yankees reliever Juan Padilla, former Phillies infielder Marlon Anderson, former Padres and Cardinals outfielder Kerry Robinson as well as the familiar names of pitchers Grant Roberts and Scott Strickland and outfielder Gerald Williams.

Aggressive indeed. A rape assaulter, washed up and out-of-sorts players who have seen better days? I'm all for taking chances on players but really, is there anyone here to get truly excited about? Do you think any of them will play a big role on a winning Met team next season?


If It Aint Beltran, Don't Fix It

It's being reported that with the injury to centerfielder Mike Cameron, the Mets are now considering Eric Byrnes.

Byrnes batted .283 with 20 homers and 73 RBIs in 143 games with the A's in 2004, stealing 17 bases in 18 attempts which is more than adequate to replace Cameron but the problem is, it might take top prospects Yusmeiro Petit or Lastings Milledge to get them. Hmmmm. I guess losing future ace Scott Kazmir in a sloth-minded trade for damaged goods to Tampa Bay wasn't enough of a giveaway of future pitching prospects to teach the Idiot Collective a lesson.

On the upside, Byrnes is known for his all-out play, exactly the sort of hustle and character the Mets should be looking for, but would probably be better suited to a 4th outfielder role rather than a starter. In fact, he's perfect for the job of replacing Cameron but not at the costs mentioned. For that price, this is probably more wishful thinking than reality.

Another one making the rounds is Kaz for Winn. Randy Winn is a switch-hitter with some power, runs well and plays two of the three outfield positions. He also is signed for two more years for nearly $4 million a season--on the cheap. Last season he hit .286 with a .346 OBP and .427 Slugging Pct. but his numbers were significantly better on the road than at home. He also stole 21 bases although struck out 98 times compared with 53 walks.

Of course ultimately, the irony of getting Winn would be in that Winn was the player Tampa sent to Seattle to get manager Loooooooou Piniella thereby depriving the Mets of the opportunity.

Depending on what you thought of overpaying for overrated and rapidly ageing outfield replacement, the news that Moises Alou is San Fran-Bound should do your heart some good and allow you a collective sigh of relief although two years at $13.75 million was significantly cheaper than what was rumoured he was after from the Mets.

Although nothing has really happened yet, the general consensus seems to have locked in on the Mets going for Carlos Delgado, The Willie Randolph Clone. It would be nice to see that deal done so Omar can continue to pursue options for a virtually depleted outfield.

"My" choice for platoon OF, David Dellucci has re-signed with the Rangers.

At least the Orber Moreno aspect of the bullpen is sorted. Orber saw action in 33 games, going 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA. In 34.2 innings pitched, he struck out 29 and walked 11. There's still no decent set up to get to closer Brandon Looper but this, we can hope, is merely a matter of time as Omar chases and hunts down all the options.

Also wondered why nobody in the Mets organisation seemed to flinch when the Astros let Wade Miller go. Yeah, he had season-ending rotator cuff injury last season, but he did but he went 7-7 with a 3.35 ERA in 15 starts before going on the disabled list June 29. I think this was a steal for the Red Sox to sign him to a contract with a $1.5 million base salary and $3 million in incentives. Where was Omar? Still romancing the Sosa?


No News Is No News

Whilst the Carlos clock kept ticking, the Mets resolved their what 43 year old will play first base whilst Rome burns and Omar fiddles.

Andres Galaragga is not the blueprint to success but although Galaragga missed the bulk of the 2004 season, as he received treatment for a recurrence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, he's a great presence to add to the bench. He played seven games for the Angels in September, going 3-for-10 with a homer and two RBIs. I don't need to remind anyone, that spells .300-60-120 over a season.

In some corners, they still must get Carlos.

Even if we kick the Shea Hillenbrand tires.

Really: Shea?

Has there ever been a more appropriate player for the Mets?

Not to mention, cheap solution at first...Hillenbrand, 29, batted .310 with 15 homers and 80 RBIs.

The best news of the day is that there are 41 new free agents to pick from.


Convenient Injury or Fate?

Some might call it mere coincidence that in the middle of the first rumours of a Met low-key hunt for centerfielder free agent supahstah Carlos Beltran, the Mets own starting centerfielder, Mike Cameron, goes down for at least the beginning of the season with a sudden wrist injury. Archie Bunker's Army calls is fate in the race to chase The Carlos.

Yes, the story is true, after arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist, it was revealed that Mike Cameron will miss beginning of season and the Mets officially have no centerfielder to start the season just at the same time the hunt begins for the best centerfield free agent in baseball. Hmmmm.

Further still to Cameron's surgery, since he will not swing a bat for three months, it's a pretty safe bet that even once he starts playing, offensively, he's going to be a bigger non-factor than even last season's .231 batting average would indicate.

Immediately, even if it is only foreplay at the fore of the Met mind, this image pops up like visions of sugar plum faeries dancing in our collective Met heads.

Likely a dose of wishful holiday thinking but one must wonder at the timing.

And what a holiday-way to reveal the injury. Apparently, it was whilst playing Santa at Shea, that Cameron revealed the left wrist injury that he'd sustained while batting on Sept. 21 in Montreal and had aggravated during off-season workouts at his home in Atlanta. Hohoho. Merry Christmas, Mets fans. Now Omar's got an even more legitimate reason to chase baseball's most expensive free agent.

from the More Bad News Dept:

If you were hoping mini-Pedro was going to join him here at Shea, forget it. Nelson de la Rosa, better known as Pedro Martinez's miniature sidekick and Boston Red Sox good luck charm, is upset at his former friend, and vows to support the Red Sox instead of moving over to the Mets.

Well who wants a Red Sox good luck charm anyway? It's time for Pedro to start a city-wide search to find Mr Midget Met or Mini Met, or whatever the hell we might call him.

It's in times like these you have to wonder: where would we if Hank the Angry, Drunken Dwarf were still alive.


No Bats In The Belfry

The dust has settled down following the big Pedro Parade, Pedro continues to unload on his former team, and pepper the air with Pedroisms and perhaps now, as we adjust, it's time to address the other issues, time to finish filling in the holes, to make this a team to be reckoned with.

The usual suspects are involved of course. All along, the possibility loomed but now that they've got Pedro acting as their spokesmodel, the Mets appear to be joining the race for Beltran, albeit in a softly, softly mode.

The plan is apparently to fly low under the radar and involves waiting to see how much ridiculous King George Steinbrenner is willing to bid - if the price stays within range of the $81 million the Astros are rumoured to have offered, the Mets might well make a run at Carlos. Of course, not satisfied with his 6 starting pitchers, such a move would likely trigger an outrageous offer from King George, who will not be happy enough finally getting Randy Johnson.

The more likely scenario appears to be that the Mets will go after "The Other" Carlos, Carlos Delgado, a big left handed bat to fill the whole at first. At the moment, only the Orioles appear to join the Mets in bidding for him in a market where Delgado is likely to net a deal similar to the four-year, $50-million contract first baseman Richie Sexson signed with the Mariners. Being a lefty is a big advantage at Shea since an internal study recently showed that more home runs hit at Shea leave the ballpark in right-center than in any other area. He also makes a nice bookend with Mike Piazza in the middle of the lineup, if indeed the Mets are STILL forced to witness another season of Piazza's wretched and weak arm behind the plate. But the Delgado Dilemma is his dodgy defensive ability and there are still two other lighter hitting, but better fielding first basemen available in current Red Sock, Doug Mientkiewicz (according to No Joy In Metsville, now Kevin Millar seems the more like Sock first baseman to be unloaded) or free agent John Olerud is available, who will obviously cost alot less and free up cash to fix the outfield even if they bring almost nil excitement with them.

You have to wonder, with Pedro talking up a storm, after listening to both his and Omar's accounts of free agents now champing at the bit to join the Mets, that nearly anything is still possible for the Mets this offseason.

One possibility I almost dare not mention is that of the Mets overpaying someone like Moises Alou to play the outfield. Alou has been helped alot by playing at Wrigley Field. Last season, he had 300 at bats at home and 301 on the road. Home, 29 homers, 67 RBIs and a nice fat .339 batting average. Away, a mere 10 homers, 39 RBIs and an enemic .247 batting average. Not only that, but let's face it, Moises is almost as old as Moses: he'll be 39 after the All Star break. On the other hand, he missed only 18 games total over the last two seasons (compared to current left fielder Cliff Floyd, who missed 103 games over the last two seasons. At Shea, Alou hit .250 with ZERO homers and 7 RBIs in 32 at bats. Hardly heart-stopping. The novelty of getting a guy who pisses on his own hands to improve his hitting would be worth a few chuckles when the season gets slow but hopefully Alou will either accept a one year deal or better still, join his father in San Francisco. Neither is a likely scenario.

I have to hand it to Pedro as well, he knows how to dig the knife in. In a Q&A with the Boston Herald the other day when he said he hopes his former Boston backup, free agent Jason Varitek, "is on my team."

Of course, the Mets already have their catcher in Mike Piazza and when Pedro was told that Piazza may not be thrilled by that news, Martinez shrugged and added unconvincingly, "I do want Piazza, too. Piazza is a good hitter.

"We can move him to first or somewhere. I would like every good player that is out there to be on my team. I want 'Tek. 'Tek is a good player, a good catcher."

So there you have it. Piazza can to move first or "somewhere". Hopefully another city. Pedro is already scoring big points with me and he hasn't even thrown his first pitch.

If we dare hope, perhaps some of the offensive flash can come from Hamstring Jose Reyes, who is tearing up something else besides his hamstrings these days.

The 21-year-old Reyes, long rumoured for baseball stardom but more often mired on the disabled list, is currently batting .323 (31-for-96) with one home run and nine RBIs for Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League. Of course, that's the Dominican Winter League and not even Pedro is pitching in it.

One solution to add to the outfield swagger will definately not be the man they claimed yesterday off waivers, Ron Calloway. You have to wonder what the motivation was here. Calloway is 28, with a lifetime .224 batting average. Where will he best fit in? Bat boy? Does he possess an exceptional voice that will have him as the designated singer of the national anthem at every home game? A .224 batting lifetime batter. He must know something about Omar. Something dark and dirty.

By the way, the Mets are so progressive with minority hires, even their Santa is black. What gets puzzling though isn't the black santa, it's when Pedro calls Mets pitching coach named Guy Conti his white daddy. On the other hand, a black woman who was the Mets' director of human resources claims she was treated more like a maid by two of her bosses, including the owner's son.

"These white bosses, the power structure, don't acknowledge women in the highest levels of the organization, especially black women," Jack Tuckner, lawyer for Shez Jackson, the probable plaintiff said. "It was like, give it to a colored woman to clean up."

Given their current dearth of bats, maybe they ought to just have a colored woman, like Toni Stone, batting cleanup instead of merely cleaning up.

Lastly, for more sports outside the realm of the Mets, have a look at the sister site, Sports Amnesia.


Braves New World

Well, the stone dropped in the NL East water, still rippling from the signing of Pedro by the Mets, is quickly followed by another.

As the Mets were ushering in the Pedro Period, their biggest rivals, the Atlanta Braves, were pulling off a coup of their own, trading for Oakland pitcher Tim Hudson.

Hudson, 29, has been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball over the last five seasons. His 81 wins from 2000 to 2004 tied for the most in the American League and tied for fifth among all big-league pitchers. Hudson owns a 92-39 career record with a 3.30 ERA. His .702 career winning percentage ranks third in Major League history among pitchers with at least 100 career decisions.

It was Atlanta's second big trade in a week. Last Saturday, the Braves acquired All-Star closer Dan Kolb from Milwaukee -- which allowed them to move John Smoltz back into the rotation. Now they've got a rotation of Hudson, Smoltz, John Thomson, Mike Hampton and Horacio Ramirez, certainly on par if not even more formidable than the Mets starting rotation of Pedro, Glavine, Trachsel, Benson and Zambrano.

And let's not forget, the Braves recently acquired a All Star closer from the Brewers, rightie Dan Kolb. Although the Mets have a closer, they haven't much else in the pen, a distinct weakness that needs fixing quickly.

In the meantime, the Omar Eyes Bats to add some ooomph to the Mets weak and ineffective batting order. The Mets are waiting on an offer to first baseman Carlos Delgado and have also offered a contract to outfielder Moises Alou.

Nothing is solid yet though - several teams are interested in Delgado and the Mets would probably have to pay a similar contract of about $60 million that they did for Pedro. That's alot of cash to sink in to two players but it would speak volumes about how serious they are about winning their division.

One thing in their favour was the Pedro signing. Omar Minaya revealed yesterday that since Martinez signed, the GM has received calls from other players with interest in coming aboard as well. Martinez then announced that he's happy to help with the recruiting.

Another thing he appears to be happy about is being Mike Piazza's teammate. For the time being, anyway. With all the optimism and love in the air at yesterday's press conference, it isn't suprising that Pedro and Piazza are now "family" despite their bad history. They are, after all, former Dodger teammates.

"It is resolved already, because he's my teammate," Martinez said at his press conference yesterday.

"And whatever happens before when we were not teammates or whatever — whatever words were said — have to be forgotten the first moment I became a teammate.

"He's now my family."

Well, let's hope so. Every day it looks more like Mike Piazza is staying and not only that, worse still, catching for the Mets, so it looks now that the future is now.

The Mets other main competition, the Phillies have changed managers but still have the same stale players.

And by the way, listening to Pedro talk on WFAN via the internet this morning, it's nice to hear his swagger for the Mets. We needed more players who refer to themselves in the third person. The best part though, was making the Maddog fumble for words, drowning in his own stupidity, when Pedro turned the tables on him and asked him how many quality starts he had last season in response to Maddog questioning Pedro's stats starting every 4th day as opposed to every 5th day. Pedro handled Mike and the Maddog like the negative little muppets they are and you've gotta love him already.


It's Pedro's World Now, We'll Just Be Living In It

Yes, of course, before the world gets too giddy, Pedro's still gotta pass the Mets physical with what's rumoured to be a torn labrum.

There's nice commentary and history on the pesky torn labrum at Mets Daily:

"Remember Rob Nen? In 2002, Nen underwent surgery in an effort to clean up particles in his shoulder. Doctors discovered Nen had a torn labrum. The one-time closer with a 97-mph fastball is still in recovery. He hasn't throw a baseball since surgery. Nen's torn labrum has put his career in limbo. The torn labrum is still a mystery to doctors. Those medical specialists concentrated on sports-related injuries are unsure how to treat it, repair it, even the diagnosis is in question."

As I always say, an event isn't really an event until you've performed a google search about it and searching "Pedro MRI" nets this:

"Which brings us to that physical exam. Question is, will the team and the Great Pedro each be happy after that? Because there are more miles on Martinez's labrum and rotator cuff than on a '73 Gremlin, and if they take MRI pictures of that labrum, they could reveal more stretch marks than anything this side of Kirstie Alley. Not to mention possible fraying, tearing, bending, wiggling, looseness, Spaghetti-O's, gummi worms and goodness knows what else."

Even the bloody Nats Blog is playing it cynical on this one.

Well, I'm not going to get hysterical and pull out the worry beads just yet. No, suh. This is a problem Pedro has had for a while and his history suggests he's learned how to manage it. That doesn't mean it couldn't go at any minute but let's face it, if Pedro were in perfect condition, the Red Sox wouldn't be letting him go, would they? The risk is still worth the giddiness, no question.

Of course a deal for Pedro wouldn't be a deal for Pedro without Peter Gammons weighing in. Not to mention the other ESPN-famous Red Sox fan, Bill Simmons lamenting Pedro's final punchado in Farewell Petey.

I don't really care because I'm still hoping Piazza isn't long for the Mets, but there is always the issue of Pedro being a problem for Piazza. I don't see why. After all, Piazza layed down like a lamb for Clemens and Clemens almost killed him. I also recall Pedro making some comments a few spring trainings ago when Piazza went Nicholson on the Dodger's Guillermo Mota after getting plunked twice which at the time, I thought were out of control but lately, given Piazza's selfishness, may not have been so far out of line after all.

Let's just be happy Don Zimmer ain't the Mets bench coach, via The Metropolitans.

I suppose it's safe now to have a look at Obey Pedro - at least until the sting is gone.

Not everyone is taking the Pedro Happy Pills, like East Coast Agony, who notes:

"After a momentary lapse of rational thought in which I made the unforgivable mistake of associating the Pedro Martinez of the present day with the Pedro Martinez of five years ago, I began to get critical and realized that there is only one conclusion to be drawn from the rumored contract parameters: this is an unequivocally bad deal for the Mets."

I'm still sticking with my theory that Omar Minaya, by the time he is finished, will have rescued the Mets from last four seasons of the three glaring evils of the Wilpon Idiot Collective: lethargy, sappy sentimentalism and letting non-baseball people make baseball decisions. This is about faith. Anyone who can jerk the franchise back away from the Wilpons (see the extra cash to lure Pedro, see the unceremonious dumping of Leiter as examples), deserves our faith and patience.

But that's today. Tomorrow, or Opening Day, if Pedro's arm is hanging by a thread, we might just wonder if the winter wishful thinking got the better of us in the end.


Say Hello To My Little Friend

"He ain't going to no Mets," former Red Sox teammmate David Ortiz assured The Boston Globe just days ago.

Just when it seemed like it was safe to conclude the winter meetings for the Mets were going nowhere further than the Rule V selection of Henry Owens from Pittsburgh's Altoona affiliate, along comes Pedro.

This is perhaps the biggest splash of the winter meetings. After days of laying the groundwork, as he called it, The Omar has finally spoken. Even at $52 million over four years, irrationally perhaps, I don't care what happens in the end, two years or two months down the road from now with Pedro. When you compare what the Mets got last season for their brightest young arm in Scott Kazmir, (answer to that punch like is a Zambrano full of holes), getting Pedro didn't cost a thing. Let the Wilpons spit money like blood, they've made us suffer long enough with their idiotic investment, year in and year out, of their opinions and their lack of baseball acumen.

And yes, you can play the role of sensible killjoy and wonder Why Pedro Was So Easy, but let's be honest with ourselves, had Omar come away empty-handed, had the starting rotation consisted solely of Tom Glavine and a sad accumulation of unfulfilled talent following closely behind, none of us would be happy with Omar, would we? It isn't difficult at to determine that Pedro in the rotation is a beeeeeeg improvement over Leiter in the rotation, no matter what happens a year down the road.

It didn't cost the Mets Hamstring Jose, as Tim Hudson, the only decent starter remaining, would have. It cost them an unknown draft pick and the risk of losing Wilpon's money. Bully for Omar. And of course, one supposes, by virtue of weakening the Red Sox rotation, unintentional bully for the Yankees.

As noted in the daily rags, the Mets are taking on one of the most talented and controversial pitchers of the last decade. Martinez owns a career record of 182-76 and a 2.71 ERA, and now he's headed to the easier National League. Martinez was 5-1 with a 1.17 ERA in five starts and two relief appearances at Shea Stadium during his first five major-league seasons with the Dodgers and Expos.

How long Pedro stays healthy is another matter altogether but for one day at least, there is joy in Mudville.

As for poor little lost-in-the-Pedro-limelight Henry Owens, he went 3-4 with a 4.28 ERA with four saves in 39 games this season. He's a sinker/slider pitcher with a decent fastball.


All's Quiet On The Winter Meeting Front

After Saturday's brief flurry of activity, the winter meetings returned to it's more speculative form on Sunday.

This could be because Omar Is Laying the Groundwork For Future Deals.

Groundwork, as we all know, is usually very quiet and tiring work, especially on the voice and eyes.

"A lot of groundwork's been done here," Minaya said Sunday. "My voice is tired, my eyes are tired. I would say that we've explored as many options as possible."

Well, if making insinuations that Sexson and Alou are in the bag, or chasing the same old Pedro dog day in and day out even after it's clear to everyone in the baseball world but Omar by now that Pedro used Omar as a his dancing media monkey to get the Red Sox to increase their offer, can be considered "groundwork", well, he's been quite a busy lad. Realistically, all he's done in the last several weeks is lay the groundwork for our disappointment.

However, Minaya is also confident that useful players will be available as late as February or March.

"We'll find somebody," he said. "I don't feel there's a rush to do things."

Well, that is a comfort. The more I think about it, the foxier I think that Omar Minaya really is. Oh, he's a clever one alright. No need to get things done during winter meetings like everyone else. That's the easy way out. Only losers do it that way. Everyone knows the clever GMs wait until Spring Training has already started before they start making their trades and signing their players.

Actually, it wasn't until February that the Yankees traded for A-Rod last season, but unless Tim Hudson isn't gobbled up before Christmas, I don't see any potential trades going down so late this year.

Fess up, Omar. You made a big splash, but so far you haven't proven you can swim.

As Joel Sherman reported back at the beginning of October, Omar's Bag Has No Magic Cure.


It was reported in the NYT that the rumours about the KazMan going to Boston, or anywhere else, are unfounded.

"Kaz Matsui is going to be our second baseman next year," Minaya said. "We are not talking or entertaining anything with Kaz Matsui."

And we can all rest easy now. In wonderful news for us all here and everywhere, the Times also reported that catcher Mike Piazza has ended the silent treatment and has finally lowered himself to speak with his manager. That's right, manager Willie Randolph said he talked to him by phone for whole 10 minutes on Sunday, the first time the two had spoken since Randolph got the job on Nov. 3. I wonder if Mike finally just got tired of listening to Willie's voice on his answering machine twenty times a day.

If you've not had enough, more details and rumours,, not to mention fancier graphics, are always available through Always Amazin' and all the usual suspects listed to the right.

For the sportsworld outside of the Mets, have a look at my other blog, Sports Amnesia.


Who's On First?

Abbott: Well, let's see, we have on the bags, Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third...
Costello: That's what I want to find out.
Abbott: I say Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know's on third.
Costello: Are you the manager?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: You gonna be the coach too?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: And you don't know the fellows' names?
Abbott: Well I should.
Costello: Well then who's on first?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: I mean the fellow's name.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The guy on first.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The first baseman.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The guy playing...
Abbott: Who is on first!
Costello: I'm asking YOU who's on first.
Abbott: That's the man's name.
Costello: That's who's name?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: Well go ahead and tell me.
Abbott: That's it.
Costello: That's who?
Abbott: Yes.

from Abbott and Costello's infamous Who's On First? skit.

One thing which can be established as a certainty during the winter meetings is that until someone actually signs a contract, mad speculation, rather than serene contemplation, rules the day. From hour to hour, paper to paper, headline to headline, everyone attempts to outguess each other as to who is going where for what. One minute, Carlos Delgado is all but gone to the Orioles, the next, the Mets have offered Delgado and Piss Hand Alou contracts. On another channel, Omar Probes Sexson.

Realising that all bases have to be covered so to speak, the only similarity in rumour after rumour appears to be that other than Kris Benson and despite incessant scares, hints and innuendo, no free agent has signed with the Mets yet.

That's not always a bad thing. There is always the theory of addition by subtraction or better still, addition by not adding in the first place. Having commented previously on the merits or demerits of Delgado being signed for the Mets, I'll wait until rumour becomes truth or simply flies out the window forever.

Addition by not adding in the first place might well sum up the talk of acquiring Piss Hand Alou. I haven't commented on the possibility of signing Alou because frankly, I was hoping if we were all very, very quiet about it, it would go away like a bad dream. Not so. Preparing for the worst perhaps, the issue of Alou has already been examined over at The Metropolitans.

Another interesting rumour making the rounds has the Mets shipping the KazMan and Piazza to Boston for Manny Ramirez and Doug Mientkiewicz.

That's known as a steal in most parts of the world and considering the Boy Wonder Theo Epstein doesn't appear to be desperate or dumb enough to make such a deal, this might be a little of Omar's wishful thinking leaking out of his mind and into the papers.

Not only can't the Mets dump Piazza on anyone, but now he doesn't even return his manager's calls, big shot.

"He could be on an island, sipping piña coladas," new Met manager Willie Randolph said, dismissing the lack of dialogue with Piazza this winter. More likely he's too busy changing the colour of his hair to answer the telephone and doesn't want to mess up the latest dye job.


Odalis, Odalis!

Now that it looks like Pedro played Omar and the heady days of Pedro and Whine are already over on the first day of the Winter Meetings, it's time to begin the Odalis Chant because frankly, after the slew of starting pitcher signings, there isn't much left to sort through in the bargain bin.

First of all, when I think about the Mets rotation, which is now, in the absence of Leiter AND Pedro, imponderably pitiable, it appears not only that Omar has stumbled right out of the blocks, but that they need someone to fill in the rotation either as a number one or a number two starter.

When considering the inevitable shift to Odalis, it should be remembered that Odalis is NOT a number one or number two starter. Part of the attraction of Odalis was that he might be a decent pitcher and he might be a bargain.

Well, he probably won't be a bargain any longer. With the market already established through the signings of Jaret Wright and Jon Lieber, both for three-year, $21 million deals, the Marlins going hog-wild on the 39-year-old Al Leiter to the tune of $8 million, and the Twins spilling $18 million of blood for two years of Brad Radke, the ranks are thinning quickly and more teams than just the Mets are left pushing an empty cart.

And frankly, at any price, a starting rotation of Glavine, Odalis, Benson, Trachsel and Zambrano is making me feel nauseous already.

What this really boils down to is that it's time for Omar to earn his money.

At the moment, he's got in Piazza and Cliff Floyd, two Mets he doesn't really want unless he can't get rid of them anywhere else. I wouldn't really call them bargaining chips because no one will want them other than in a salary dump and no one will want them in exchange for a frontline starter.

Probably because he has no other options, Omar is still optimistic:

"It's fair to say that we still have hopes of signing Pedro," Minaya said shortly after the Mets' front-office contingent arrived to the winter meetings with the buzz on that Pedro was reupping with the Red Sox. "We've had conversations with the agent, and until the time he signs, it's an option."

Sweet dreams, Omar.

But time to wake up and sort through the ashes. There is no free agent available who will fit the bill as a number one or two starter. However, there is one pitcher that still appears available in a trade and that is Tim Hudson.

Question is, who would the Mets surrender in return, Hamstring Jose Reyes? The rumour is, he wouldn't even be enough. According to Newsday, Oakland is looking for a top-flight outfield prospect (think Lastings Milledge), a second baseman (Jose Reyes) and a major league-ready starter (take your pick).

That seems pretty steep.

Funny thing is, Omar seems to think they can stand pat as is if need be.

"When we decided to look around and not sign Al, we were comfortable giving Jae Seo or sone of those guys a chance," Minaya said, repeating blasphemies. "We're a team in transition. We're thinking about this year, but we're also thinking about two to three years down the road. We're putting our energy into a lot of different plans and different scenarios. There are different ways of putting a team together and it's not all about one guy."

Well, if we aren't worried about 2005, I guess it really doesn't matter, does it? That's one way of looking at it. Then again, there's always the trouble of getting people to come to Shea to watch A Team In Transition.

Odalis is only 27. He's a lefty and potentially, he could be pretty good down the road if Pitching Coach Peterson can get a read on him. And hey, let's not forget, he's Dominican.


More good news, not only is Pedro almost gone, but Carlos Delgado Isn't Interested either.

So far, the offseason has been a smash for Omar. Let's hope he isn't putting all his eggs in the team-in-transition basket though. We've been in transition for four years running now. Maybe it's time to stop the merry-go-round and get serious.


Riding The Rumour Trolley

With no "real" news to report on the free agent front, all the New York tabloids resort instead to speculation. In honour of that system of keeping the fans interested even when nothing is really happening, the latest rumours are:

They prefer Sexson. After leaking official denials of a $10 million per year offer, it is allegedly confirmed that they've made an offer to him at the expense of one to Carlos Delgado.

It's a tough call to make, even if they have a chance. Sexson, on the one hand, fills a defensive void and is one of the more underrated defensive first basemen in baseball. He has hit for power, with 30, 45, 29 and 45 homers each season leading up to last season's disasterous outing with the cursed Diamondbacks. However, with that power, over that same period of time, comes a walk to strikeout ratio of 267-624, keeping in mind that he played for a Brewers team who had essentially no one else to be feared in their lineup - he's a free swinger and misses alot for all that power. Still, a lifetime OBP of .349 is not too shabby. Over the last three seasons, with runners in scoring position, Sexson hit .288 and perhaps more interesting, he has hit .344 at Shea with 2 homers, 3 doubles and 7 rbis in 32 at-bats. Against Philly, Florida and Atlanta, the Mets biggest NL East rivals, Sexson's numbers dwindle slightly although the power is still there: in 155 at bats against those three teams over the last three seasons, Sexson has hit .232 with 11 homers and 30 rbis. What that boils down to is a good defensive first baseman who will hit for power but not much else. Something like Jeremy Burnitz with a glove. Is that worth $10 million a year?

Delgado, 2 1/2 years older than Sexson, is a lesser fielder than Sexson, so they'd lose something defensively. He too hits for power with a similar average but a better OBP. Now, he's the power hitter of the lineup so you don't really care as much what his OBP as you do whether or not he produces. With runners in scoring position, Delgado has hit .312 and his walk to strikeout ratio is much better than Sexson's, in fact, he's walked over 100 times the last four seasons in a row. Unlike Sexson, he isn't coming off major surgery though he missed 33 games last year due to a strained rib cage.

So, what you'd see is a Delgado who can't field as well but who gets on base more, strikes out less and hits for just as much power and possibly more than Sexson. He's healthy, he's hot (after a crap May and July last season because of the rib cage, Delgado hit .330 with 17 homers and 51 rbis over 200 at-bats.) That borders on superpower and that, if replicated, is something the Mets could sorely use.

Then again, with Delgado, unlike the svelte 6-8 220 pound Sexson, you've got the ominous Mo Vaughn Factor. Granted, Delgado is listed at 6-3 230, and even ESPN has Fat Mo weighing in at a very unsvelte 275 lbs at 6-1. (Good god, I wonder how much Fat Mo weighs now that he doesn't have to "be in shape" to play baseball -- think he's hit the 1/2 tonne mark yet?)

Well, the way I see it, there is no Fat Mo Factor - Delgado isn't coming off several years of injury and inactivity, nor is he a load and if the Mets sign either player for first, Sexson might be the better bargain if only because of being younger and playing better defence and would be cheaper than Delgado. On the other hand, if Sexson is at $10 million per season and Carlos Delgado can be had for less (highly unlikely), Carlos has perhaps a better potential to simply explode offensively and carry a team.

If the Mets keep Piazza, as it appears they are leaning towards despite everyone's better judgement, either one of these players would be a good compliment.


Now that Al Leiter has finally left the Mets, whingeing all the way - (get over it Al, you weren't wanted any more, not at ANY price) --from at least one quarter it is being reported that Omar Is Ready To Raise the Stakes On Pedro.

"Minaya already has scheduled his next pitch to try to overcome the Red Sox' efforts at sentiment and loyalty by countering with cash.

The Red Sox were hesitant to guarantee a third year, and now that they are reportedly relenting on that, Minaya can top them with a guaranteed fourth year."

Four years at what will probably amount to somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 million a season would be a $52 million investment. Comparatively, they paid just over $37 million over four years for Al Leiter's 49 victories b/w the age of 34-38, which averages out to about $755,000 per victory. Of course, inflation has to be figured in but Pedro won 57 games over the last four seasons. That's two victories more per season for about four million extra per season. Over that same four year period, Al Leiter pitched about 746 innings compared to Pedro's 720. Leiter had a 3.50 ERA over that period, Pedro had a 2.76 ERA. So, Al Leiter pitched 746 innings over 112 starts the last four years. Pedro has pitched 720 innings over 110 starts the last four years. They last about the same duration per outing.

Let's face it, in many ways, you're getting the Dominican Al Leiter. Pedro is a prima donna and christ knows I can't stand him, but Al Leiter is an outspoken Republican who actively campaigned for George Bush. I'd rather have an eccentric prima donna than a Republican in my clubhouse any day. This doesn't even account for all the filthy rumours of Al Leiter helping the front office make personnel decisions for the Idiot Collective over the past several seasons. And let's face something else: I read on and on about what a great community guy Al Leiter is, his charities, the time he gives blablabla. Bottom line is he could be the biggest asshole in the world but if he's winning 20 games or leading the Mets to the World Series, I don't care if he keeps children locked in his basement and eats them one by one every morning.

Finally, with reference to concerns that Pedro's arm or elbow or shoulder could blow at any moment, what pitcher in baseball DOESN'T come with the risk that he's going to suffer a serious arm/shoulder/elbow injury over the course of a four year contract? It's a gamble, it's a risk, blabla. The Wilpons have plenty of money, I don't want to hear it. Fat Mo was a gamble and a risk. Pedro is one of baseball's better pitchers. If Omar can sign him and it's as reasonable as $52 million over four years, I say do it!

As documented, Tim Hudson is available in a trade. Tim Hudson has made 130 starts over four years for a total of 901 innings. That's an average of just about 7 innings an outing. He will turn 30 middle of next season, whereas Pedro will still be 33. Over the last four seasons, he's 61 games to Pedro's 57. He will cost the Mets something they don't have the luxury of spending: prospects. The only real prospect the Mets might be willing to trade is Jose Reyes. If the Mets sign Pedro, (yes, they'll surrender a draft pick) but they can keep Hamstring Jose Reyes and hope he improves - hell, now that the Mets have changed their medical staff along with their training staff, why not? If Hamstring Jose, who by all accounts, is tearing up the Dominican League (hitting .339 (21-for-62) with a home run and six RBIs through 14 games for Gigantes del Cibao)now that he's being helped by New Orleans-based fitness guru Mackie Shilstone, can play a full season, he's worth two Tim Hudsons.

The best option is still to sign Pedro.

So there you have it for today's rumours, sportsfans. I'd have a look at Magglio Ordonez before I'd pay the big bucks for Delgado or Sexson because the Red Sox are shopping Doug Mientkiewicz and he is a cheaper option for first base, the logic being that unless they trade Piazza, the Mets don't really need Delgado/Sexson at first PLUS Piazza PLUS Ordonez. They do need Pedro, especially now that Omar is putting all his eggs in one pitching basket. Of course, if they can unload Floyd on some unlucky team, they could use Ordonez even more and then might also want Sexson, the cheaper option at first. How about that batting order?

Reyes - ss
Kaz - 2B
Sexson - 1B
Piazza - C
Ordonez - RF
Wright - 3B
Cameron - CF
Leftfield platoon

Starting rotation of Pedro, Glavine, Benson, Trachsel and Zambrano. Tweak the bullpen and these are the NL East favourites. O heady days of winter!


Drum Roll Please

And the losers are.....

No arbitration for Richard Hildalgo.

Yet, Hildalgo doesn't want to go. What is it, that special Shea water?

Is the Pedro Theory over already? Sox offer arbitration, if nothing else.

Because he was so indominable last season, Mike DeJean is back in the pen.

Somehow, somewhere, there's still Sosa talk still going on. What's next, reelection for Bush?

Magically, simultaneously, the Ordonez Days are over in Chicago. Hmmm. Expensive prima donna star on the decline or Ordonez in right field. Tough one.

As though adding insult to injury, Carlos Delgado is on the Mets wish list. Can't we just take his name off?

What do we need Delgado for when we've got Craig Brazell and his minimalist OBP waiting in the wings?

Fittingly, the Mets will open their season against their primary opponents in the Battle For the Basement against the Washington Nats.

That's it kids, now get back to work.


You Say Pedro, I Say Tomato

After the uproar caused by the inaugural review of a potential Met team on the field, it's time to look at what the Mets pitching might have or have to offer in 2005.

First of all, let's all applaud the departure of Al Leiter. As pointed out by Flushing Local:

"Despite Leiter's low ERA and BAA, the numbers for Al have been unmistakably deteriorating these last few years. No longer a power pitcher with good control, 2005 could be the year that Leiter gives up more walks the strikeouts. Typically, he was unable to pitch past the fifth inning this season. As he enters his 40th year on the planet, it's unlikely his stamina will do anything other than fade. And as he pitches himself into jam after jam, it's almost certainly going to be harder for him to escape unscathed."

To which I would add, the Mets already have an aged lefty who can't pitch more than five or six innings an outing and his name is Tom Glavine. Seeing as how the Mets bullpen is nothing to dance a jig (more like a polka) over to begin with, it seems pretty clear that taxing it further with two back-to-back starters who are almost guaranteed to give the pen three or four innings of work an outing is not a wise move. Let's be thankful that the Wilpon Idiot Collective didn't get dewy-eyed and nostalgic over this one. Score one for Omar. So adios Al, good luck and thanks for what you gave us.

It's touching that Omar has offered a contract to Pedro Martinez. Pedro is better than anyone the Mets currently have in their starting rotation. But personally, I can't stomach the prima donna mentality and the predictability of his failures against the Yankees, not to mention the delicacy of his fragile ego and the special clubhouse treatment he appears to believe he merits for his art. Yes, it would put the Met starting rotation on the map, give it notoreity for something more than overpaying Kris Benson, but if it ends up playing out to the tune of a rumoured 4 year $50 million guaranteed contract that will be needed to yank him away from the Red Sox, well, that sort of signing just reeks of desperation although now that the Sox are joining the pilgrimage to Santo Domingo, a big payday looks likely on Pedro's horizon.

I still would rather see the Mets try and trade Hamstring Jose Reyes to the A's for Barry Zito, or whatever reasonable combination it would take for the move to happen. First of all, signing Kris Benson and his tabloid pin-up wife Anna would be small potatoes compared to having Barry Zito's squeeze, Alyssa Milano, glowing at Shea.

It also allows a neatly unfolded logic of why not even bother attempting to sign Carl Pavano, the former Mr Alyssa Milano when obviously, he is passé, old news, last week's rubbish. Now Pavano has been downgraded to prancing around city to city, for something his agent is calling Carlapalooza.

Carlapalooza? It's a frightening ploy and really brings into question what his agent is trying to say about him. Why, for example, is it not "Carl-palooza"? Isn't that sufficient to get the idea across? Carla-palooza seems to infer some rather dodgy information about the over-wooed star pitcher that I don't think I want to know about.

So if the Mets could have Glavine, Zito, Benson, Trachsel and if healthy, Zambrano, we've got the makings, even without Pedro, of a starting rotation which doesn't automatically inducing vomiting, not to mention the star quality, of Anna Benson and Alyssa Milano, trailing two of the pitchers like soup cans tied to the back of the bridal limo. Odd logic, I understand but frankly, Benson and Zambrano were odd acquisitions to begin with and sadly, I'd much rather be discussing what the Twin K's, Kazmir and Keppel might be doing for the Mets this time next season. But such was the logic of the Idiot Collective last season so I'll simply point out that Zambrano was a magical 8-2 with a 2.88 ERA at home last season and a fairly miserable 3-5 with a 5.91 ERA away. He also seems to prefer artificial turf, upon which he had a 3.12 ERA when pitching as opposed to his 5.91 ERA on grass which is why, apparently, he was traded for to begin with, that superlative record on grass.

If, as recent history would seem to indicate, the Mets are unable to get Zito or even Pedro, what might be on the horizan? Well, as it appears Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano will eventually be signed by the Mariners and Yankees respectively, and with even Eric Milton rumoured to be headed for the Bronx, there isn't much left to get excited about, is there? Not unless you are easily excitable to begin with. Omar's recent activity might point in the direction of Odalis Perez but frankly, if this is the best solution he can sketch, it might be time to stand at the drawing board a little longer until he conjures up more nightmares like Kevin Millwood, the maddeningly inconsistent Matt Clement or Brad Ratke. Incidentally, the pros and cons of Odalis are well drawn up at The Metropolitans. And for the trivia starved, it might do well to point out that free agent Russ Ortiz has the most wins over the past four years of any free-agent pitcher on the market.

If this is where we stand with the starting rotation, frankly, what difference does the bullpen make? Well, one burning question now that Franco and Stanton are gone is who will be the token lead-blowers rolling out of the pen next season? Well, one way to see the blown lead blown to fruition might be to re-sign righty Mike DeJean, right? Lefty to blow leads, why haven't you heard? The Mets traded for the indominable Felix Heredia and his 6.28 ERA. And just when you thought you'd had enough, there's always the looming threat that Scott Strickland makes it back from Tommy John surgery in time for the season.

There are a few bright spots though. Righty Orber Moreno still has promise and closer Braden Looper should be relieved he probably won't have many saves to hold next season.

Overall, alot of luck will be required. Failing Pedro, the Mets ace will likely be the 38 going quickly on to 39 year old Tom Glavine. Thereafter, far too many question marks, potential disasters and probable injuries which will probably mean there's a good chance we'll be seeing many pieces of the Norfolk starting rotation as the season progresses.


In today's Star Ledger, Omar says of pontential pitchers:

"If we do get a guy -- a guy like Pedro -- then we're pretty solid across the board," Minaya said. "Pitching is so important and if there are pitchers who are available out there we have to consider them. We are at four (starters) right now (and) feeling comfortable if we have to go with Jae Seo or (Aaron) Heilman at the fifth spot."

I don't know about the rest of you but Jae Seo or Heilman at the fifth spot does not make me feel comfortable at all. Not unless I'd feel comfortable nestled beneath even the Washington Nats in the NL East next season.


Me Omar, You Dominican

The Flushing Local asks the disturbing question; "am I the only one who is starting to think Omar Minaya is a little too fixated with bringing more of his fellow Dominicans to the Mets?"

Not at all. But it's not exactly puzzling that Omar would go for a big splash with a fellow Dominican. Sosa is available after all and although now tainted by the steroids scandal, had a reasonable settlement been achieved with him and the Cubs, Sosa would have been a big draw. I remember how the Dominicans in the Bronx would soap up their windows with the number "61" when Sosa was chasing McGwire and Maris. Pedro is a free agent and although an incredibly annoying prima donna, still one of the better pitchers in baseball, certainly better than anyone currently on the Mets staff. Head Case Jose (Guillen) of course, is another matter altogether, as is this trade for Felix Heredia.

But there are still plenty of Dominicans to go around, plenty of brothers for Omar to chase. The Mets need at least one starting pitcher added to their rotation and if not Pedro, then why not Odalis Perez, who is a free agent with superb stuff and coming off a season with a 3.25 ERA.

Adrian Beltre is available. Of course, the Mets already have a quality third baseman and Adrian Beltre is probably going to receive a much larger contract than his past realistically merits, but chasing Beltre, for example, would be solid confirmation that Omar is stacking the roster. Hey, it was only an off season ago that the Mets, already stocked with the shortstop for eternity in Hamstring Jose Reyes, signed a free agent shortstop for the future so there is a illogical precedent for the Mets signing a free agent who plays the same position of a player they've already deemed their future.

Of course, Alfonso Soriano is being actively shopped by the Rangers. Just because the Mets already have what they thought were their future at second and short doesn't mean Alfonso's 121-33 strikeout to walk ration and a meagre .324 OBP wouldn't go a long ways toward reconfirming interest in an impatient lineup that whiffs more than connects.


On the other hand, if I were the GM of the Mets for a day, I think I would try and construct the roster as follows:

First Base: Big hole on the field. My preference here is to go low key with someone who is a good fielder and not necessarily an expensive free agent. Doug Mientkiewicz is precisely the kind of line drive hitter who would do well at Shea and a former Gold Glove first baseman. Boston is looking to get rid of him and he should come at a reasonable price.

Second Base: By default to The Kaz Man. According to his career, he might more naturally be a shortstop, but last season's debacle should force him to concentrate on a less demanding position. However, if the Mets trade Reyes, it's also possible that the Kaz Man would stay at shortstop and Victor Diaz could be slotted here rather than jerked around into the outfield. It's a variable position depending on whether or not the Mets keep Reyes.

Shortstop: Here's where it gets a bit dodgy. I'm all for trading Hamstring Jose. Yes, he may eventually blossum into an injury-free superstar of inconceivable magnitude but I recall only a few years ago that Alfonso Soriano was in a similar position and look at him now. If Reyes spends another season battling the DL, his value, despite his promise, is going to plummet. As it stands now, the Mets might get someone decent in return. The crazy notion I have in mind is to send him to the Oakland A's for Barry Zito. It's no secret the A's are looking to trade one of their aces and among them, Barry Zito had the worst season. Reyes is precisely the kind of player the A's are always looking for, cheap, young and supremely talented, a bargain at his current salary. Zito can be helped by a reunion with pitching coach Rick Peterson and the only question is whether Reyes' market value is sufficient for Zito in a one on one trade. I think it should be, but if not, it's a trade the Mets should try hard to make happen. You could spit and hit a free agent shortstop this season there are so many of them so if the Kaz Man at short and Diaz at second doesn't work out, or if you're not comfortable with the Kaz Man being anywhere near shortstop after last season, then keep him at second, groom Diaz for the outfield and sign someone along the lines of Rich Aurelia to fill in the blanks.

Third Base: Failing mysterious injuries, sophomore slumps and overhyped talent, this should be David Wright's position for the next decade.

Catcher: This is another conundrum. Personally, the sooner Mike Piazza is no longer a Met, the better. The selfish manner in which he refused to properly learn to play first base in order to continue a singleminded pursuit of his stupid homerun for catchers record is emblematic of the kind of low morale, me-firstism that has plagued the Mets ever since they lost in the Subway Series. If there are two things I would focus the offseason on, it would be getting an ace for the staff and ridding the team of Mike Piazza. Shawn Green for Mike Piazza is fine by me. Preferable even. He might still go to the Angels but now that Headcase Jose Guillen is off to the nation's capital, it isn't clear, who, if anyone, the Angels would give up for Piazza.

I'd say Piazza's bat needs to be replaced but frankly, I'd have said that for the last two years running so it really doesn't matter at this point. If they are interested in a good defensive catcher like Henry Blanco, perhaps this could be sorted out at the Reyes for Zito stage. Otherwise, I'm content with Vance Wilson and Phillips sharing the role. If Piazza goes and a good bat replaces him at any position, let's say, for example, Shawn Green, I would concern myself more with catching defence than offence. Alot of how the team is constructed would be based upon the premise of getting rid of Piazza and what replaces him in return. However, it might be safe to assume that this is a position where defence will be the focus more than offence. This is where Omar can earn his money. Figuring out a way to get rid of Piazza and get something in return, even if it is only prospects. (especially in light of the kind of prospects and talent the Angels have.)

Leftfield: Now that the Sosa trade seems out of the question, the puzzle of how to get rid of Cliff Floyd remains to be solved. No matter what, it's imperative to get rid of him, almost as much as Piazza. I was against this signing from the beginning and nothing in Cliff's two years here has changed my mind about him. In addition to his fragile, injury-riddled body, last season he added whingeing to his CV. He has a mouth and he has an opinion and he's welcomed to them both however, if he could be dumped on someone else without having to swallow too much rubbish in return, I'd rid myself of Floyd. A serviceable and cheap replacement, not to mention a left handed bat, might be David Delucci. His ideal role is as a reserve, or perhaps platooned with someone like Eric Valent. If either can win the job outright in Spring Training, all the better.

Centerfield: Probably not going to be rid of Mike Cameron. His defence is his stronges selling point, his speed is good and if someone could teach him to swing less (143 Ks) and connect more, he might have a better OBP. He was 8 stolen bases shy of a 30/30 season last year but I think I would rather he concentrate on getting on base rather than hitting the ball over the fence. Easier said than done however. At 31, Cameron's entire career has been somewhat shaded by a poor OBP and too many strikeouts.

Rightfield: Provided he is healthy, Magglio Ordonez is a no-brainer. He is the centerpiece around which the offence would be built in the absence of Piazza.

Now, the question that still remains is if Piazza is traded, who do the Mets get in return?

So far, the options appear to be Shawn Green or bust. I'd be happy with Shawn Green at first base. Actually, I would do elaborate interpretive dances for a Shawn Green for Mike Piazza swap. Failing that, Piazza plus cash (to offset the salary imbalance) for Chone Figgins and Jerrod Washburn would also make a lovely pairing but this is probably not a scenario the Angels would agree to. Chone Figgins is young, fast and can play basically anywhere in the field other than catcher. He will probably be an ideal lead-off hitter someday.

For the sake of completing the roster, let's say the Piazza for Green trade can go through as does some combination of Reyes for Zito. The batting order, as it has for several seasons running, has a big hole at the top. There is no one to set the table for the rest of the lineup. Then again, barring some sort of trade possibility we haven't heard of yet, the Mets will have this problem next season regardless. Kaz and Cameron both strikeout too much and don't walk enough to merit the spot. If he was starting, Victor Diaz is probably not ready for a full time spot in the lineup and even if he were, he hasn't shown any propensity for getting on base enough to be a lead off hitter. Kaz has a better OBP as a #2 batter (.355 to .311) but he might be the only realistic option.

So the lineup might look something like this:

1. Kaz ss
2. Diaz 2b
3. Green 1B
4. Ordonez RF
5. Wright 3B
6. Cameron CF
7. Platoon LF
8. Platoon C

This isn't going to send shivers of fear through opposing pitching staffs but it could be more than serviceable and with the proper approach to decrease strikeouts on the part of both the Kaz Man and Cameron, an emphasis on defence, speed and pitching is not a bad direction for the Mets to start heading.

I'll have a look at the pitching in the next go.