Spare The A-Rod, Spoil the Weekend

If you're Fred Wilpon, you don't want to get out of bed this morning. Because the news today is going to be another rehashing about how A-Rod, who will be announced today as the latest superstar addition to the New York Yankees, shoulda-woulda-coulda been a NY Met.

Like a festering case of herpes, the Rodriguez debacle resurfaces every six to eight months to haunt Mets management, even though the Texas Rangers willingness to eat half of the enormous albatross of a contract he carries, only proves how right the Mets were to refuse to negotiate a similar deal.

Whether it's true or not, this weekend will become the second time in the last three years that the Mets didn't get A-Rod, and the second time this season the Mets have missed out on a once in a generation player after Vlad Guerrero's free agency. Never mind that once in a generation came twice in a single offseason.

Only the Mets could be perceived as failing to finalize a once in a lifetime opportunity, twice in the space of 30 days.

To further exacerbate matters, while the Yankees spent the weekend getting their fans another Superstar, the Mets were closing their training complex to fans and all Internet based media, so there isn't even anything positive for their fans to latch on to this week instead of bemoaning the lack of A-Rod.

Somehow a week that should be brimming with optimism and the first images of spring, has morphed into another week when Mets fans have to hide in their cubicles and under their pillows. They will avoid their friends, classmates, and co-workers who are Yankee fans, because the taunting is inevitable.

It's just as tough to be a Mets' fan today as it is to be the Mets' owner.

Subtraction By Lack Of Subtraction?

A quick look at the Mets offseason transactions, shows some new faces to report this spring with various levels of possibilities to make the team. But what may be most interesting is not who's new in camp, but how many pieces from last year's last place debacle are still around. Practically everyone.

In fact, the only players gone from the end of the 2003 season are Jay Bell, Tony Clark, Matt Watson, Marcos Scutaro, Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Jaime Cerda. Of those six players, only Clark and Bell spent the entire season on the Major League roster, and Bell was coaxed out of retirement for a one year engagement.

Even if you go back to the July 2003 trading deadline and include the trading of the three Mets facing free agency at the end of the 2003 season, (Roberto Alomar, Armando Benitez, and Jeromy Burnitz), the turnover is still relatively minimal. In essence, the Mets have replaced those three players with Matsui, Cameron, and Looper, and replaced Clark and Bell with Karim Garcia and Todd Zeile.

Comparing The Turnover










Were those numbers MLB numbers this would be a more definitive upgrade. However, the book is still out on how Matsui's talent will manifest in American pro ball. Hideki Matsui hit .334/.461/.692 in Japan in 2002, then turned in a .287/.353/.435 in a park decidedly well suited for lefty hitters. Anything resembling a similar dropoff for Kaz Matsui would make this a minimal upgrade offensively. In terms of defense and attitude, Matsui has to be an upgrade over Alomar, whose surly 'tude and lackadasical effort were emblematic of many of the Mets problems during his tenure.










Burnitz and Cameron are very similar players offensively. Both have a propensity to whiff...a lot. Defensively, though Burnitz has always been a strong defensive player, Cameron is an All-World centerfielder. The upgrade defensively should be a huge improvement, however, it projects be a minimal gain offensively if at all.





2.96  21 saves

3.03  197 saves


3.68  28 saves

3.70  46 saves

Benitez is unquestionably the more accompolished closer. When the Mets acquired Benitez, it was fresh off failing miserably against the Yankees in the postseason. Looper succeeded in that spot. Benitez eventually crumbled under the New York pressure. How Looper handles it remains to be seen.



















The two bench spots are a virtual wash. Bell and Zeile, both past where they can help reliably on the field, both 38 years old. Both "good clubhouse guys" and coaches in waiting.Garcia at 28 is a couple of years younger than the 31 year old Clark, and may start some in the outfield, which was a need for the Mets and a flexibility Clark didn't provide.

What's astounding is the number of returning players from a team that lost over 90 games for consecutive seasons. Despite the repeated failures on the field, the 2004 Mets return to action this week with basically most of the team from 2003 still intact.

And while the Mets have certainly made some improvements defensively, upgrades to the offense and the pitching have been minimal. The resignings of John Franco, Timo Perez, and Joe McEwing and the retention of pretty much every other player on the 2003 roster leaves the 2004 Mets looking at getting improved performances from the same cast of characters in order to have a better season. While they've added a couple of new players, they've failed to make any additions by subtraction.

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