I have to tip my cap to Billy Wagner, Tom Glavine, Jose Valentin and Julio Franco, who all supported Willie Randolph and his decision to suspend and fine Duaner for his lateness and poor work ethic. Each of them were very vocal about the importance of being focused this season and keeping your eyes on the prize. The great thing about this Mets team is that they have a clubhouse full of determined leaders and players who lead by example. And even though there are so many Mets fans that are critical about all the older players on the team, I for one am glad we have them.
It takes more than an all-star at every position to win a championship, it takes proven leadership and a great team chemistry. If you don’t believe me, just ask our cross-town rivals, the New York Yankees. Sure, they have fielded a star-studded starting lineup over the last few years, but despite all their individual player accomplishments, their $225 million payroll couldn’t buy them an ounce of chemistry. All the Randy Johnson’s and Carl Pavano’s of the world couldn’t buy them another title.
OK I know you are all wondering where I’m going with all this, so here goes.
This morning while I was having breakfast with my uncle at this great diner called the Golden Dove, he wouldn’t stop telling me about how bad the Mets were doing this spring. He bombarded me with questions like why do we have so many old players, and why didn’t we sign anybody big, etc. He gave me a splitting headache is what he did. Mind you, this is the same man that made me the Mets fan that I am today, he was the guy that took me to my first Mets game when I was a kid. Somehow after getting a taste of that pennant fever last season, he (like most other Mets fans) didn’t understand why the Mets didn’t go for the kill this offseason and spend money on guys like Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano, and yes of course, Barry Zito.
Well, sometimes things happen for a reason, I told him. Maybe Omar only wanted a one-year stop gap in leftfield because we have three great outfield prospects who might be ready for a full time job in 2008. Omar gets paid a lot more than I do, to think about things like that. He has access to every scouting report in the organization with the click of a button.
I think Moises Alou was a great signing for the Mets because all it cost them was some money. Big deal. They did not give away the future of the franchise like other Mets GM’s have done in the past. Sure we could have spent over $100 million on Carlos Lee or Soriano, but then what do we do with guys like Lastings Milledge, Fernando Martinez and Carlos Gomez? Trade them like we traded Jason Bay?
With regard to the Mets not signing a big pitcher in the offseason I just want to say one thing. The more I learned about Barry Zito this offseason, the more I realized he would never fit in with the Mets. His ego was too big, and he preferred to be in his own little corner of the clubhouse, so he wouldn’t have to mingle with the rest of his teammates. Remind you of someone you know? The Mets didn’t need another version of Randy Johnson in their clubhouse. I’d rather roll the dice with Mike Pelfrey than get locked into a seven year commitment with a guy who has the personality of a dish rag. Let Zito go chase his reality show and music career in San Francisco. With all the distractions that Barry Bonds will provide in 2007, Zito should have no trouble pitching every five days and then going off into his own little universe.
Don’t worry about the Mets lack of big offseason signings this past winter. The Mets are doing just fine. We should consider ourselves lucky to have a GM who doesn’t throw money at every big name free agent out there. We’ve had too many of those types of GM’s in the past, and all they ever did was set the franchise back five years. We finally got a GM who knows when to say when, and that’s just fine with me. Finally we have a GM that has a clue.
In other news, Mets former first round draft pick, Jeromy Burnitz announced his retirement yesterday. Burnitz, 37, hit .230 with 16 home runs in 313 at-bats for the Pittsburgh Pirates in his final season. His best career stretch came with Milwaukee from 1998 through 2001, when he averaged 34 homers and 106 RBI for the Brewers. He made the National League All-Star team in 1999. He appeared in 1,694 major league games without a playoff appearance. It was the longest-running postseason futility streak among active players.
Entering yesterday, the Mets had the second-worst spring training winning percentage in the National League and had lost seven of their last eight games. They had two split-squad games yesterday, though, and snapped the skid, beating the Tigers on the road, 4-2, and tying the Marlins in 11 innings, 5-5 at Tradition Field. The Mets are now 4-8-1 this spring. Now I do understand that it’s only spring training and it doesn’t mean anything, but I also believe that losing can become contagious and I would feel a lot better if the Mets can go into Opening Day with a little momentum. So let’s put together a nice little winning streak as we wrap up the last 18 days of the exhibition season.
Jose Valentin is still pretty ticked off at Duaner Sanchez and wont accept his apology when it is offered. He said “It isn’t easy to apologize, and words must come with actions.” Valentin also said. “He has to show he means it by what he does. He has to work hard. We will help him, but the ball is in his court.”