Well, the second full offseason of free agent signings and trades is nearly completed and Omar, for better or for worse, has been one busy beaver, adding 15 new players to the roster since the end of the disappointing 2005 season and sending 20 more players off to new horizons.

The latest bit of manoeuvring leaves one scratching one’s head even harder than the one before it, scratching hard enough in fact, that tufts of hair might come falling out soon as the starting rotation is bled yet again and another mediocre reliever is brought in to the mix.

No one will mistake Kris Benson for Cy Young, not even now that he’ll have Leo Mazzone on his side. And we’ve already visited the puzzling nature of the Seo for two Dodger nobody trades, one we might add who was supposed to have been the set-up man for Wagner already. In Benson we lose an opinionated female (and let’s face it, Anna was always more interesting than Kris) and gain another set-up guy for the bullpen more mediocre than the last.

True enough, Jorge Julio was once a contendah. Once he had 61 saves in his first two seasons as an Oriole and of course, if he was even a shadow of that man, Jim Duquette wouldn’t likely have gotten rid of him, not even to acquire Kris Benson a second time (yes, it was Duquette as GM for the Mets who brought the Anna Mouth Show to New York to begin with.)

But the most frightening thing you can say about Jorge Julio is that he reminds scouts of Armando Benitez.

I can’t help but recall that last week we were told the two Dodgers brought over for Jae Seo were for stabilising the bullpen, one of course, the all-important set-up guy and now here we have another Met starter tossed away for yet another set-up guy, this time one whose ERA has gone from 1.99 to 4.38 to 4.57 to 5.90.

In the interim the Dodgers picked Seo, ridding themselves of two pedestrian bullpen arms in the process AND got the set-up guy Omar was rumoured to have lusted after, Danys Baez, to boot. Looks like Omar got pantsed again.

Not to second-guess or anything but with old man Glavine and sore-toed Pedro leading the somnambulist charge for the rotation this Spring, why would it not have made sense to have let Seo, Hielman, Zambrano Benson and Trachsel duke it out in Spring Training and then trade whomever was the least useful of the quintet and get whatever useless bullpen help they could have gotten in return rather than trading two of them now and leaving not only big holes in the rotation but big holes in the bullpen as well?

Psst, Omar: it’s quality not quantity which will make or break your bullpen.

On the other hand, there is always the hope that the unproven John Maine, who came over from the O’s with Julio, will suddenly catch fire after a 4-3, 6.30 ERA audition last season and make the Mets rotation. Oh wait, and then there’s Yusaku Iriki, lest we forget and there’s always the esperanza de largo distancia, Alay Soler the Cuban defector.

”We have numbers,” Omar understated the other day. ”Do we need to improve our quality? We’ll make that evaluation when we get to spring training, when we see how some of these guys pitch.”

Imagine yourself playing this game at home. You’re looking for a new girlfriend, a keeper. You go from one bar, one library, one grocery store on a Friday night, to a few dodgy locales in the red light district, a few college campus study halls, picking up one or two girls at each venue and take them all home at night. You get them to wash a few dishes, vacuum a few tight corners, baby sit a few days, evaluate how they handle a cucumber, sample their cooking, speak with their mothers, register the pitch of their voices on the Nag-O-Meter and finally, of course, learn them in the biblical sense to find out just what, out of the little audition, you wanted to find out in the end. Do you need to improve your quality?

Well hell, if baseball were like dating, I suppose Omar’s method of finding a few solid arms for the rotation and the bullpen might be fun, if not useful. But as far as I can tell, the entire winter, at least where finding a set-up man and a legitimate starter are concerned, has been a series of dissatisfactory one night stands in an alleyway. And now, worse still, we’ll no longer have the vociferous Anna Benson to poke fun or ogle at anymore.


One Japanese Washout In, One Japanese Washout Out

Ahh, so that's what it means to be a Met supporter in these fading days of the baseball winter: scanning the back pages of the bloody Asahi Shimbum looking for warm bodies.

Yes, it's true. Kaz Ishii has finally taken the hint that he's no business pitching in the Major Leagues, especially not when there's so much good home cookin' he can consume to build up his stamina for the World Baseball Gimmick and pitch his way back to Double A ball in some sweaty southwest cowpoke outpost.

I'm happy for Mr Ishii and wish the other Kaz Man would join him swimming across the Pacific back home where he can pad his stats in the waning years.

Now, in his place we have the inexplicable signing of yet another what the fuck is HE doing here in a Mets uniform miserable sort of non-prospect like Yusaku Iriki.


Offseason report: starting catcher who can throw to second base in less than four hops? Check. Dominating fireballing closer signed off our own division rivals? Check. Power hitting, first base playing, no Anthem standing Puerto Rican love machine to fill in meat of the order? Check.

Useless Japanese retread hurler without a prayer of success in the Major Leagues but a demon hair-do from hell to fill out our pitching staff? Check.

I cant' say this makes my heart go all a'flutter.

Another reason that the traditional No Ishii Sashimi Night at Shea this summer will be an utter sellout.


Would You Trust This Man With The Key To Your Dreams?

After an unseasonably quiet holiday season, Omar returned to business and traded Jae Seo and lefty Tim Hamulack to the Dodgers for righty relievers Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll.

On the surface, this appears to be a desperate deal where once again, Omar may have gotten rid of value and received Dodger rubbish in return not unlike losing Phillips last season and getting Kaz Ishii in return. Maybe Omar should stop dealing with the Dodgers altogether.

Granted, Seo’s solid pitching performance in the second half of last season was in all likelihood given his track record, a fluke. Seo has had flashes of futility in almost equal shares as his argument for being a solid number four for the Mets and it’s a loss that can go either way. If Sanchez proves to be a solid setup guy then this is a good trade. IF, the magical word of the baseball offseason.

Schmoll, who split time between the Dodgers and AAA (not unlike Seo last season with the Mets), finished with an unattractive 5.01 ERA.

But the trade of Seo also buggers the question of what to do with the rotation now that the return of Kris Benson is virtually guaranteed and a slot has now reopened for the lamentable Victor Zambrano in the previously crowded rotation. This isn’t good. Losing Seo for a pair of Dodgy ex-Dodgers and gaining Victor Zambrano in the starting rotation is not the scenario those of us whiling away the long winter nights day dreaming about winning the NL East were conjuring up. Not at all.

What we can hope is this the tip of the iceberg, that Omar has some masterplan that solidifies the rotation with one quality arm? Is he going to stockpile enough potential set-up men for Wagner that Heilman can return to the starting rotation as he so clearly wishes?

And hey, it’s true, nothing to lose signing Bret Boone to a minor league contract but Kaz Matsui was supposed to be either gone or out of a starting job to start next season and unless Boone recovers frp, whatever it was that sent him plunging to the depths of offensive mediocrity last season, this isn’t really a solution, it’s a band aid of misplaced hope, much like trading Seo and inviting Zambrano back to the rotation.

Although you can’t but laud the success of Omar when it comes to splashing money on the big free agent signings, much of this off season, like the tail end of the last year’s off season, he’s been busier trawling the vast oceans of minor league contract mediocrity, rolling the dice on dicey players with fading histories or reclamation projects with little to no hope, than he has been making solid work of the rotation and bullpen.

Sure, he rolled a seven when he acquired Hernandez last season. No one expected that kind of season out of him, but for every Hernandez and Ramon Castro, there were equal parts bullpen and utility men failures that slowly burned the Mets in the end. This team won’t make the World Series by guessing a whole lot and hoping one or two of those guesses goes right. They need solidity at every position competent backups should they go down.

As it stands, are you comfortable with your 2006 Mets if Pedro’s toe doesn’t properly heal? If Pedro doesn’t have 30 effective starts this season, you can pretty much write the season off unless the Mets are planning on outscoring everyone 10-9 all season long.

I’ve given Glavine a lot of stick in the past about being the 6 innings and out pitcher that Al Leiter only dreamt of being but the fact is, Glavine’s 6.4 innings pitched per start last season was second only to Pedro’s 7 innings per start. It doesn’t bode well when your two most reliable starters are skating on thin ice, i.e. Pedro’s toe, shoulder and age combined with Glavine’s age. It also means that finding a reliable starter during the course of the season in the form of Alay Soler or Brian Bannister is imperative.

Omar isn’t getting the job done yet on the bullpen. As it stands, there are only two lefties in the pen, Wagner and Royce Ring. Sure, Heilman, dragged unwillingly back into the bullpen, is effective against lefties, as is newcomer Duaner Sanchez, against whom lefties hit only .182. So perhaps conventional wisdom can be bucked. Heilman, Sanchez and Wagner, 7th, 8th and 9th? Hang on, not so fast. Although effective against lefties, righties hit .303 against Sanchez. Oh Dany Baez, where art thou, hermano?

And whilst it’s still offseason and the queue at the Department of Complaints is still relatively short, I might as well continue to fondle my worry beads about what the Mets are going to do for an outfield the minute Cliff Floyd goes back to his characteristic injury-prone ways next season?

Does an outfield of Xavier Nady or Endy Chavez, Beltran and Victor Diaz throw terror into the hearts of opposing pitching staffs? I’m disappointed Omar didn’t jettison Floyd whilst his value is higher than it’s ever going to be the rest of his career and I think that much like keeping Piazza at least a year if not two seasons too long, Floyd will have an albatrossian effect on the Mets batting order this season while he battles injury demons. I just get this sinking feeling when I think about batting orders comprising of Nady, Tike Redman and Endy Chavez or Victor Diaz. Almost the same sinking feeling when I ponder Pedro’s woes.

We can get as excited and blustery as we want about signing Wagner and trading for Delgado and Lo Duca but Omar appears to have made a bit of a hash of the starting rotation and hasn’t really resolved the bullpen problems beyond the closer. Yes, we gained Delgado for power in the middle but that will only to serve the vacuum that will inevitably be left in Floyd’s wake. Where have we really gotten stronger?

This season is already boiling down to a bunch of “what ifs” and “let’s hopes”, like Pedro stays healthy, Glavine is fit, Benson and Trachsel pitch full seasons, effectively. Like making Heilman and Sanchez your set up guys (how’s that for wishful thinking?!). Like Floyd staying healthy, and one of the retread outfield acquisitions having an unexpectedly sublime season.

Otherwise, I feel compelled to bang the gong already for a season that holds a paper tiger promise before us. It’s almost as though you can smell the goddamned Braves already and the ground hasn’t even thawed!