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?

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