To Trade Or Not To Trade

It's good seeing pouty former centerfielder Mike Cameron take his licks for his selfish reluctance to move the hell over and make way for Carlos Beltran already but not even a general disgust with his attitude and phoniness necessarily merits these vicious Cameron for Ugueth Urbina trade rumours.

Not even after his assinine take on music in the clubhouse had me wishing he could be magically directed into Cliff Floyd's IPod so he could listen to inanity in stereo. Or maybe that was A-Rod's I-Pod.

Hey, how come the Red Sox aren't dissing the Mets? Aren't we good enough to be dissed by the loudest and most obnoxious defending champions in World Series history? If A-Rod deserves all the ridicule farted in his direction by the flatulently overconfident Red Sox, Cameron must merit an entire encyclopedia on talk-is-cheap radio -- o Cameron, o Cameron! How I yearn for the days when you pronounced how happy you'd be to move over to rightfield if the Mets scored The Beltran! But it ain't happening because Cameron prefers to be the Mets clubhouse DJ.

" "I'm going to tell Willie you've got to have rhythm," the centerfielder formerly known as Cameron threatened the other day regarding the no music in the clubhouse rule. "It will be a long year if you have to go the year without music."

Frankly, it seems more often than not, in this cat-and-mouse game of "now I'm a centerfielder playing rightfield, now I'm an unhappily displaced centerfielder", Cameron is a Clubhouse Cancer waiting to metastise.

Urbina might be a decent set-up addition to the bullpen now that his mother's kidnapping hassles are behind her but when you look at his unflattering 4.50 ERA last season, despite the 21 saves, you have to wonder if he's even worth a DJ Jazzy Cameron at this point.

Still 227 saves is nothing to sneeze at and although Cameron for Urbina would create a small vacuum in rightfield, we still don't even know how much Cameron will improve upon his .231 batting average with a dodgy wrist that might plague him all season.

Will we miss 30 meaningless homeruns? Will we miss his 143 strikeouts? Is his fielding so bloody fantastic that it overwhelms all his other rather pronounced failings? Nyet. Perhaps as a centerfielder with a gold glove and great range, but this is rightfield we're talking about. It's pretty much a picnic out there anyway.

I would still love to see Cameron gone and perhaps not too picky about what we'd get in return.

But then you see photos, like Cameron punching the head off the base dummy and you've got to wonder to yourself, hey, perhaps he is worth a second look.


So far, it's all harmony in the Mets Spring Training. Pedro's shaved his six hair beard, clubhouse is being vewy, vewy quiet, Beltran has taken Wright and Hamstring Jose under his wing and invited them for private workouts in Gold's Gym which, of course, Hamstring Jose, with such a long and natural history of idiotic injuries coursing through his muscles, declined to attend so far for god only knows what reason other than yet another wonderful demonstration of his ability to know it all and be stubborn at the same time. Happy DLing this season, Señor Reyes. Happy unfulfilled potential and inexplicable mysterious like why your leg muscles are more fragile than cheap guitar strings.


It's nice that pitching coach Peterson feels good about the pitching staff but I'm not so sure that it's the equivilent of walking on the moon, or at least we HOPE it isn't that hard:

"All great feats are all preceded by great expectations. They didn't take off from Cape Canaveral and say, "Well, while we're up here we might as well go walk on the moon.' That was all planned out. So when you look at what this group is capable of, these are special guys." Peterson noted.

I'd feel better if there were some special guys in the bullpen as well. Urbina isn't really special but at this point, it's any arm in a storm. I don't care how special the starters are, they aren't all going to pitch 8 innings every outing and turn it over to Closer Looper with a smile on their collective faces.

Fortunately for us, SI's John Donovan has seen through our optimistic infatuation with 2005 and callously pisses on the parade before it even starts marching:

"The Mets, truth be told, aren't scaring anybody yet," he says with the kind of authority that only an SI writer could muster. "Are the Mets better than they were at the end of last season? No doubt. But better won't be enough in this division."

Well hohoho. Glad to see no one is pulling the wool over Donovan's eyes.

For the record, I don't think the Mets are trying to scare anyone. I think they'd much rather sneak up quietly, as quiet as their music-less clubhouse, and capture a playoff slot when nobody is looking.


Scott Who? Hairless Pitchers and Spring Thoughts

Maybe the Mets didn't trade away all their best pitching prospects after all. Scott Kazmir will be getting a taste of the real major leagues when he logs his weed-thin body through an entire season and perhaps by the All Star break, we will have forgiven the front office for this seemingly senseless trade for Carlos Zambrano but even if not, there may be someone better looming on the horizan:

"Yusmeiro Petit, 20, is almost a year younger than Kazmir and posted better statistics in the low minor leagues. He struck out 20 batters in 12 1/3 innings at Class A Brooklyn, recorded 122 strikeouts and just 22 walks at Class A Kingsport and went three consecutive games at Class A St. Lucie with at least 10 strikeouts. As a reward, Petit was promoted to Class AA Binghamton and invited to major league spring training."

Who's to say Petit can't be the Dontrelle Willis of 2005, popping up from AA, setting the Major Leagues on fire?


Forget the D train and the beefy Yusmeiro Express, hairless pitchers are the new rage. "It doesn't matter to me, sometimes I have a moustache, sometimes a goatee," new Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez said. "I used to shave depending how I felt. I'm not very good at growing a beard.

"I might have a little above and a little bit below my lip, but it never grew to the point where they met."

As reliever Lee Arthur Smith once told us in 1997 "the best pitcher in the whole league has only four hairs on his chest."

Why stop at an edict banning facial hair? Why not demand the Mets shave their bodies entirely? What would a completely shaven-head Mets roster look like? Would they be the antithesis of a hairy team of Idiots like the defending World Champion Red Sox?

Will their freshly shorn skin burn and peel under the warm, inviting Florida sun?

Stay tuned for more as Willie's Facial Hair Nazis take over the counterculture clubhouse.


Five Things To Watch for the Mets are Kaz Matsui’s transition, Pedro and Beltran in the spotlight, the Bullpen shakeout, the Fight for first base and the Corner outfielders.

Archie Bunker's Army says that the important issues are:

1. How the bullpen pans out
2. Either Benson or Zambrano stepping up for a break out season
3. Beltran battling the early pressure and overcoming it
4. Piazza returning to offensive form and staying healthy
5. Who replaces Cameron and/or Floyd either due to injury or trade.

They appear unsure about Eric Byrnes as a replacement corner outfielder. Cliff Floyd took the more realistic approach to the constant trade rumours of the offseason:

"This game is about producing," he said in a moment of rational understatement. "If you look at my numbers the last couple of years, you can say I've been injured. But it's about production.

"My numbers haven't been outstanding. My numbers haven't been good. So you have to understand where (the Mets) are coming from. No hard feelings here."

That's what he says today anyway. A few nicks and bruises later, a chorus or two of Shea-side booing and Mr Floyd will be back to speaking his mind too loudly and reminding us all why we sometimes wish he'd been traded already.

Of course a healthy Cliff Floyd, a miraculous wish indeed, might produce a monster comeback season in left field for him but that's about as likely as Hamstring Jose making it through the first 7 innings of Spring Training intrasquad matches without pulling up lame and requiring a three week stint on the DL.


Just for kicks, can't we have Piazza take a stab at playing right field? Certainly he couldn't look any more foolish out there than he did playing first base, can he? And frankly, without a sullen Piazza floundering in the midst of a position controversy, what kind of season will this be for him? Just happy go lucky, closely shaved face and marital bliss? What kind of numbers will this guy produce this season? Very relaxed numbers.


Pedro Fever, Catch It

It's one of the first moments of excitement of this new season. The offseason was a long high and the last few weeks following the missed stab at Delgado has been time for introspection on just what all the changes might mean for the Mets ability to compete for the NL East this season.

But in reading this gem, it's hard not to feel optimistic. At least about Pedro.

I'll always disliked Pedro. He's a prima donna, he's got a big mouth, he put down Piazza after the Guillermo Mota incident, and despite all that bravado, he almost always seemed to choke against the Yankees.

"Pressure is a lack of confidence." Pedro philsophised in the Vecsey's piece.

This is what's changing my opinion about Pedro. Rather than the humdrum nonstatements, the kind athletes and politicians are so enamoured with, Pedro speaks his mind and Pedro shows you what he really thinks. His honesty is refreshing and he seems almost immediately likeable. This was not usually the light Pedro was painted in through the media but up close, he seems more human, more vulnerable, more insightful and infinately less arrogant. It seems pretty transparent that the arrogance is confidence, necessary confidence. Pedro psyching himself into being Pedro.

Maybe he's just on his best behaviour at this honeymoon moment with the Mets, their fans and the media but for the moment anyway, he seems to resemble none of the creatures he was written as in past seasons.

And Pedro fever was unwittingly defined by Mike Piazza earlier:

"You need a stopper, the go-to guy," he said. "Your confidence is up. You score runs for him."

In Pedro's first season with the Red Sox following his trade from Montreal, he went 19-7 with a 2.89 ERA and 251 strikeouts.

If he musters the same kind of performance here this season, you can be sure that Pedro Fever will catching all over New York.


Looks like Manager Randolph is busting out the rules on his first day in charge.

"...the Mets joined the Yankees in banning facial hair other than mustaches. Randolph spoke to Martínez, who has a mustache and a tuft of hair on his chin, and Mike Piazza, who has a beard, about shaving. Piazza said he would not even keep a mustache.

Among Randolph's other rules were no alcohol on the team bus or airplane, no smoking and no cellphones in the clubhouse and no earrings on the field, which are stricter policies than some organizations have.

The list makes you wonder a little what the hell baseball players are up to out there. No smoking or alchohol on the team bus or airplane? Right. Can you just see Pedro turning the Mets team bus into a salsa parade, loud Dominican music, deep fried Dominican food, bottles of El Presidente and Mike Piazza in a conga line. Come to think of it, imagine what that clubhouse would have been like if Omar had made the trade for Sammy Sosa. A Santo Domingo discoteque? What would holy Al Leiter think of it all?

I'm not sure about the facial hair rule other than it's absurd and if Willie thinks that is the secret of success he is bringing over from the Yankees, he ought to consider how quickly Jason Giambi faded once he had to shave his facial hair in submission to King George.

So long as it works, you can feel free to make the argument that it bonds a team, a communion of sacrifice for some. Piazza probably made a back room deal with Willie that it he'd go along with the ban on facial hair but banning hair dye was simply out of the question.

And as you've heard, Pedro was late on his first day to meet the media and the first official address by Willie to the team. I'd say Willie's got a handful. But, if Pedro has a spectacular season, this is the sort of team that will embrace that rebellion in a positive manner rather than allowing it to be devisive. Winning, of course, is the great uniter.


Ready, Steady, Go!

Yesterday, Mets pitchers and catchers reported to camp and it didn't take long for the first sickening thud to register.

That thud would be the realisation that Hamstring Jose admitting he's probably gutted another season with obstinance and overconfidence when it comes to his most fragile body. What we learned was that:

"In a telephone interview Wednesday, Mackie Shilstone, a sports-performance expert based in New Orleans, who suggested last season that the Mets needed to address Reyes's recurring hamstring injuries aggressively, then took on Reyes as a client, said he examined the 21-year-old Reyes for three days last October and determined "in no uncertain terms" the root of Reyes's problems, which in addition to his hamstring woes included a stress fracture of his fibula that kept him out of the lineup for most of August and September. Shilstone said he advised Reyes to visit him for two more weeks before playing in the Dominican Winter League and to see him for two weeks after the league ended to make any necessary adjustments to his conditioning regimen.

"He chose none of the above," Shilstone said. "We didn't get to put all the pieces together. So I can't sit here and tell you the deficits are gone. I think the jury's out."

Shilstone said he gave Reyes a "partial plan," about a fourth of an overall regimen that Shilstone feels is necessary to really put Reyes on safe ground. Shilstone surmised that Reyes, following his plan, began feeling better and thus assumed he was healthy. His strong and injury-free play for the Gigantes team in the Dominican league this winter probably fortified that feeling.

So there you have it. Isn't a comfort that Hamstring Jose, who has the near majority of his career on the DL, knows more about fitness than the renowned fitness expert hired to keep him fit?

I wonder what the over/under is on Reyes making it out of Spring Training without a prolonged stint on the DL? It will be a miracle if he survives.


Although it isn't my ideal, Piazza's back, looking thinner - has he too kicked steroids in the offseason or is the excitment of marriage thinning him down? In either case, since we're stuck with him and his jalopy arm, hopefully he can make up for all the stolen bases allowed by hitting 40 homers and over .300. Otherwise, you could sum his career up as in a heavy downslide:

He hasn't hit .300 since 2001. The last two season's have seen his batting average go from .288 to .266. His production in those two seasons combined has been a mere 31 homers and 88 RBIs whereas he averaged nearly 36 homers a season in the five seasons before that. Granted, he's been injured on and off for the better part of two seasons but if this is his modus operandi for the rest of his career, he won't do anyone much good.

Interesting Piazza stat: he's stolen base 17 times in his career and has allowed 1,335 bases to be stolen whilst he's been sat behind the plate playing a catcher in real life. He's managed to throw out 437 runners in his career. In other words, runners have about a 75% success rate running on him.

Fittingly, Piazza says he's eager to focus on being a better hitter, not a better catcher. That's been his moniker all career. All hit no catch. If ever there was a player made to be a DH, Piazza is it.

The one blotch on Omar's offseason was not getting rid of this defensive liability.


At the other end of the spectrum, you've got the Kaz Man who, unlike Piazza, doesn't whinge about learning a new position where he can do less damage defensively. Unlike Piazza, he isn't going to try and learn during the season whilst playing his old position for most of Spring Training, like Piazza did last season.

"Matsui said he practiced at second base for about an hour a day for 20 days while in Japan this offseason, fielding slow rollers and fungoes. This is BEFORE Spring Training even started. Too bad his double play partner is going to spend most of the season on the DL anyway.


The normally astute Jon Heyman of Newsday gets some real genius points for pointing out that Willie Randolph isn't the same stiff as Art Howe.

No kidding. Did we need an entire article on this?

Heyman points out that "there's no explanation for Wilpon choosing a mannequin like Howe (and paying him $2.35 million annually!) over Randolph, whom the Mets bizarrely said was ill-prepared for his interview."

Sure there was. Up until the Wilpon Idiot Collective started listening to Omar Minaya, the father and son team were, well, idiots. Of course, he's never managed a team before so the jury is still out on Willie Randolph but it would be very difficult to imagine, without the use of hallucinagens, that he will be any worse than the corpse-like Howe.


More optimism than negativity should abound though. Andres Galarraga, at 43 and a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, might not just be on board for the Spring Training ride. There is a real possibility that he might help the Mets as a first base backup for Doug Mientkiewicz.

Not to mention the excitment in having Pedro in camp early and, as it's still early, the dreams that Mr Anna Benson and Carlos Zambrano might yet prove to be the pitching bargains of the year. Ho ho. Spring Training is more like Christmas Eve than anything else. Full of promise of what is to come yet also shaded by the possibility that what comes might not be what we asked for.


Let's Do It Druggy Style

Perhaps in deference to the latest drug controversy which has finally dragged baseball's headlines away from Omar's Offseason, the Mets have resurrected Darryl Strawberry in their new-fangled 1986 time warp machine.

Strawberry, who will act as a "special instructor" for spring training, is the eighth member of the 1986 team serving the Mets in some capacity. Yet all the while, the Mets organisation carp on about how they are the "new" Mets.

In case you've forgotten, here is what Darryl looks like when it isn't 1986 any more.

"It was Omar Minaya's idea to start bringing back some of the 1986 players," Jim Duquette, the Mets' senior vice president of baseball operations, said yesterday in either pointing the blame or explaining why the Mets reached out to Strawberry. "There were a couple already in the organization and Darryl was one guy who was noticeably absent. We wanted him to get more involved with the organization."

More involved with the organisation? Why? To bring scandal and drug abuse to it's rightful place? Turn Carlos Beltran's nostrils into hoovers? Maybe Darryl Strawberry was a winner once, in 1986, but he's been a loser so long since, there isn't much to be gained by his presence other than a walking advertisement for how NOT to fuck up your life.

And on the other evil hand, perhaps there is more to this rumoured Cliff Floyd trade to the Rangers after all. Ladies and gentlemen, batting fourth, playing leftfield, 42 year old reclamation project Darryl Strawberry.

Lastly, I'm glad it's been cleared up by the Wilpon Family finally that they are tired of losing because after the performance of the last three or four seasons, we were all beginning to think this fluke Omar as GM thing hire was just another bad experiment that had mistakenly gone right.


Now That The Snow Has Melted, The Hard Ground of Reality Is Revealed

The Mets, on the verge of Spring Training, have plenty of new faces and attitudes to keep them fresh. But seeing this projected team altogether on paper for the first time makes one begin to cringe a little in the realisation that alot of winter's highest hopes were based upon a really really optimistic forgetfulness of some very large holes in the roster, rotation and bullpen.

A quick glance of the our prospects for winning to date from the Mets website:

Projected batting order
1. SS Jose Reyes, .255 BA, 2 HR, 14 RBI in 2004
2. 2B Kazuo Matsui, .272 BA, 7 HR, 44 RBI in 2004
3. CF Carlos Beltran, .267 BA, 38 HR, 104 RBI in 2004
4. C Mike Piazza, .266 BA, 20 HR, 54 RBI in 2004
5. 3B David Wright, .293 BA, 14 HR, 40 RBI in 2004
6. LF Cliff Floyd, .260 BA, 18 HR, 63 RBI in 2004
7. RF Mike Cameron, .231 BA, 30 HR, 76 RBI in 2004
8. 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, .238 BA, 6 HR, 35 RBI in 2004

Making the wild assumption that Hamstring Jose will remain healthy, this is not a bad start although what jumps out at one straight away is that no one on this team hit for .300 last season and only a rookie who might be headed for the dreaded sophomore slump, David Wright, even came close. It also shows a pronounced lack of power outside of a flukey 30 homer season from Mike Cameron and the Superstah Beltran who will have to carry the Mets on his back.

This has all the makings, all spring time optimism aside, of some pretty dodgy Mets batting orders from the past which saw no power, no ability to get on base and alot of low calibre production.

Of course, this is just the first reaction of shock to seeing the batting order. If you assume Hamstring Jose is with us for 75% of the season, you've got a potential live wire leading off, the Kaz Man to advance him to second and then Beltran, Piazza, Wright, Floyd and yes, even the pouty rightfielder Mike Cameron, to bring themselves home. If Piazza were to remain injury free with his increasingly-fragile body AND regained his power touch, well, this might well be a reasonably formidable batting order.

But the key to this fantasy is that we're starting off with two major IFS to this batting order being anything but a pipe dream and that is IF Reyes and Piazza stay healthy for a season. The leadoff and clean up hitter are two of the most important ingredients to a healthy lineup and unfortunately for the Mets they are both the most injury-prone in a team riddled with injury-prone players. Without a little more depth and a little more power, this batting order will begin to look ridiculous and unfortunately for Omar, he's just run out of Latino free agents for the season.

Projected rotation
1. Pedro Martinez, 16-9, 3.90 ERA in 2004
2. Tom Glavine, 11-14, 3.60 in 2004
3. Kris Benson, 12-12, 4.31 in 2004
4. Victor Zambrano, 11-7, 4.37 in 2004
5. Steve Trachsel, 12-13, 4.00 in 2004

With a cumulative 62-55 record last season, this might well be the strength of the Mets, again, barring injury. But in order for the Mets to compete in the NL East, this rotatin is going to have to produce at least 70 victories on their own. Pedro and Glavine, although old and fragile both could possible head a rotation with alot of potential. Pedro might even run through the National League with a vengeance and I think actually, he will. Glavine, perhaps inspired by Pedro, will have another fine season and maybe, if the Mets are lucky, either Benson or Zambrano will have the kind of break-out season that will be required to make this a respectable, although never feared rotation. However, if the Mets batting order above does not stay intact and the Mets are forced to go with a series of banjo hitters to replace them day in and out, there will be, like Glavine experienced last season, no runs to give him a big lead with and thus both Pedro and Glavine might turn small leads over to what might be the biggest Achilles Heel of all for the Mets, THE BULLPEN:

Projected bullpen
Closer: Braden Looper, 2-5, 29 saves, 2.70 ERA in 2004
RH setup man: Mike DeJean, 0-5, 5.02 ERA in 2004
LH setup man: Dae-Sung Koo, 6-10, 4.32 in 2004 (Japan)

Here is where we can begin to tremble and shake with fear and the notion of any sort of even .500 season becomes almost absurd. One thing you can be certain of is that if this is what the Mets will bring out of the bullpen every night, there will be no chase for the NL East, merely a long and difficult battle fending off the Washington Nats to stay out of last place.

Again, apologies for the lack of optimism but seeing it all down here in black and white like that has just caused a spasm of regret for all the giddy optimism of the winter.


Don't Fear the Magglio

It would appear that the Mets are either interested in free agent Magglio Ordoñez, or a little wary.

The outfield is far from set with the oft-injuried Cliff Floyd in left, Beltran in center and the unhappy Mike Cameron in right. A happy Mike Cameron in right would have been ideal but the more one reads about his complaining, the more this selfishness reminds me of Mike Piazza refusing to try to switch to first and disabling the team with his horrific catching skills. It would be nice if Cameron heals as quickly as reported and is traded on the first decent available deal out of town. His attitude is Old Mets, the attitude of self and losers and we don't need him, his wonderful glove, his 30 homers nor his whingeing.

It's been rumoured since the middle of last season that Maggs would be Mets-bound. So often in fact I think alot of us began to take it as a foregone conclusion that so long as Magglio Ordoñez had healed, he was going to be a Met.

Naturally the fact that he has undergone two surgeries - the second in Austria - on his left knee and has yet to work out for teams this winter, is to be considered. But the Mets appear to waver even at the idea of flying to California to watch him work out. What have they got to lose?

Mets Daily has a well-detailed history not only of controversial surgery saga but all the relevant body parts as well.

According to the Post, "One source claimed the Mets would "probably" come out to watch the four-time All-Star, but another source with inner knowledge of the team's plans said no decision has been made. If it happens, count on the Mets to make it publicly known."

How is it not a no-brainer to just go and see him perform, see how the knee is? Sure, you can't tell how the knee will hold up over a 162 game season but what the hell, any contract he signs is going to have protection clauses for the team that signs him.

Maybe Omar is just playing it coy or maybe he's a little stung by the antics of Carlos Delgado signing with the Marlins because they "have a better chance to win" than the Mets. Maybe they don't want to take a chance on building a core part of their outfield with a player who could be out for the season if his knee goes sour again.

Then again, Ordoñez could be a bargain.

" If he is totally healthy -- and his agent, Scott Boras, says that all of Ordonez's health questions have been answered to the satisfaction of the appropriate team physicians -- then look at what Magglio Ordonez is: an apparent lock to hit 30-plus home runs, drive in 100-plus runs, play some responsible outfield and not cause any problems in the clubhouse"

IF is a big word. But a healthy Magglio Ordoñez would formalise the transformation of the Mets from slugs to juggernauts, make the lineup infineately more formidable and give them a good chance to win the East, despite their bullpen.

If the Mets don't even try, well, all season long they might hear the I Told You So song ringing in their ears if Ordoñez starts tearing it up.


Inaction: Omar's Finest Move?

There is certainly no shortage of people who will be happy to tell you how lucky The Mets are not to have Sammy Sosa to kick around in Queens this summer.

Sosa and his loud music, the steroid allegations and the debate on his decline would have been the story of the Spring, rather than the additions of Pedro and Carlos and this new-found optimism for the future.

And it's true. Sosa would have been a hired-gun who perhaps can no longer draw quick enough. He would eat up millions of payroll, form a perfect bull's eye for fans and the media and would have poisoned the clubhouse, blablabla.

OR, he could have been the perfect shield to deflect attention from Carlos Beltran in his first season from intense scrutiny if things didn't go right, right from the start. He might hit 55 homers this season just out of spite against the Cubs now that he's got something to prove. He might have helped sell out Shea every night instead of just the nights that Pedro pitches.

Frankly, Sosa could pan out either way. Sure, no one would have wanted to pay for two full years with an option for a third for a fading star, but Sosa, if he were to produce, would have been worth a single season of excitement or derision. They aren't going to win the World Series with him any faster than they would have without him.

And think about who will be there now to deflect attention from Carlos Beltran. Beltran, lest we forget, is not a .300 hitter. If he starts slowly, hits .250 the first month or two, doesn't hit for power (which should surprise no one but will anyway, you can be sure), and the Mets struggle, how many will be marveling at his basepath speed? How many will be dazzled by centerfield defensive gems?

The media will be focusing it's spotlight on Carlos Beltran and if Carlos Beltran isn't flying out of the gates the pressure will just build and build and build all season long.

If Sosa had been there, either as a success or a failure, if he'd gotten along brilliantly with his teammates, or even just his latino ones, the fact of the matter is, Sosa would have shielded Beltran from the pressure and the glare of expectation and made his transition into the world of big time media a little easier.

Instead: now Beltran must lean on Pedro, a man who not only could never handle the pressure of beating the Yankees, but a man who called them his daddy. He must lean on Mike Piazza, a man who cares more about his homerun record as a catcher than he ever did about the team and made the team suffer his poor catching as a result. He has a bunch of young infielders who will be looking to him for leadership and he will have a few outfielders who spend more time on the DL than they do catching fly balls, one of whom will be playing out of position and has already expressed his displeasure about it.

This is no harbinger of doom but merely the wish to point out that all those Sosa naysayers might have nayed a bit prematurely.

Well, not to worry. Omar says we can win the division.


Scott Stewart, a 29 year old lefty who was 1-0 with a 5.23 ERA in 10 games and 10 1/3 innings last year for Los Angeles, has been signed by the Mets as another arm to add to a bullpen of arms, Stewart was also 0-2 with a 7.24 ERA in 23 games and 13 2/3 innings with the Indians prior to joining the Dodgers last season. He might be bad, but at least he's consistent.

New York also agreed to minor league contracts with right-hander Eric Junge and infielder Jed Hansen. Junge spent last season in the minor leagues with Philadelphia after going 2-0 for the Phillies over four games in 2002 and pitching six games with no decisions in 2003.

Hansen, 32, has a .256 average (45-for-176) in 87 major league games with Kansas City from 1997-99. He batted .272 (126-for-463) with 27 homers and 87 RBI last year for Triple-A Omaha of the Pacific Coast League.

In the meantime, they've also decided they don't want Mookie's Kid for Cameron, trading one bad habit for another.


Last note, you've got to wonder why this is news. It is doubtful that this new bride, regardless of who she is, regardless of the fact that she is an ex-Playboy playmate, is going to strengthen Mike Piazza's arm or suddenly turn him into a decent defensive catcher instead of a defensive liability.

The only thing I would comment on is the timing. Two weeks before pitchers and catchers are due to report, Piazza gets married. Short honeymoon. If you were a professional catcher so enamoured with someone wouldn't you get married at the onset of the offseason so you'd have more time to focus on your bride and not on baseball rather than waiting for a few short weeks before you allegedly devote yourself again to the sport that earns you millions?