No Valentine to Take Fall in 2003

If you've watched the Mets on any of their stops on their annual caravan this year, you have heard the same thing over and over. The team will be better this year, if not only because of addition by subtraction. The subtraction, of course, is much-maligned ex-manager Bobby Valentine.

All three big free agent signings, Tom Glavine, Cliff Floyd and Mike Stanton, have all said that they would not have signed with the Mets if Valentine were still at the helm of the team. Mo Vaughn, the first basemen whom the Mets hope to receive better production out of in his second year with the team, told Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN last week that he was in constant conflict with Valentine and let management know his opinion as to whether or not Valentine should have been retained.

All this criticism has drawn the ire of Valentine, who leashed out twice against the Mets in the past months, both pondering whether all the similar criticism was orchestrated and, most recently, questioning why players he barely knows, referring to Glavine, Floyd and Stanton, would criticize him so harshly.

Regardless of the war of words, the ultimate question remains: will the Mets be a better team this year? One would have to assume that, with the additions the team made this year, they would show some improvement, but after last year's debacle following a huge off-season, there is nothing more than cautious optimism about this year's team. As for the Valentine-less Mets, the question is, are the Mets really better without him?

Remember, Valentine took a last-place team to five consecutive winning seasons in his first five years. Not only that, but Valentine led teams to the playoffs two straight years, something never before done in Mets history. After losing in the NLCS in 1999, he took an overachieving team in 2000 all the way to the World Series.

Then came last year. The 2002 Mets blew up in every possible way, with a clubhouse full of pot-smokers, one who had a seizure; allegations that his star player was gay; an overweight, rusty first baseman; a rightfielder who lost his stroke and his backbone in pressure; and a fight over a baseball card. But, was any of this Bobby Valentine's fault? Can he possibly prevent his players from doing what they want outside the clubhouse, stop the media from swirling rumors about his allegedly gay player, stop the sausage intake of his first baseman, fix the swing of his rightfielder and monitor the clubhouse conversation of all his players?

The answer, to the Mets at least, was yes, and however dubious, the Memts march on, looking to prove that last year was a Valentine-induced fluke.

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