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Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on January 17, 2003
Home: Shea Stadium, Flushing, New York
Steve Phillips has really gone out and completely revamped the Mets during this offseason. Even if he hadn’t, it wouldn’t have seemed likely that the team could have been as bad as they were last year. In any case, Phillip’s moves should bring this team back into competition for the NL east title.
The biggest change this season is the change in manager from the outspoken Bobby Valentine to the more soft spoken Art Howe. The other changes have to do with breaking the mold of being also rans to actually executing deals with top free agents. The signing of Tom Glavine and Cliff Floyd may very well be a harbinger of better things to come.
The Mets have two major pluses to add to their offense in 2003. The first is the addition of Cliff Floyd, the second is the subtraction of Rey Ordonez. Ordonez made headlines towards the end of last season when he called Met fans stupid. It was probably the only headline Rey made last year. Still, those same fans have gotten the last laugh as Ordonez was dealt to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays-Major League Baseball’s equivalent of being condemned to the outer circle of hell. The bright side for Ordonez is that considering Tampa Bay’s offense, he might finally get to bat cleanup.
Floyd, on the other hand, gives the Mets yet another shot at trying to find an outfielder who can produce for them. Floyd has power, speed, and can hit for a decent average. Floyd has the potential to be a superstar if he can stay healthy. So far in his career he has never managed to do that for a full season. Defensively, he is a major improvement over Roger Cedeno who played left field much of last season.
Even with Floyd, the Mets are going to need the players left from last year’s team to improve their production. In truth it would be hard for them to be as bad as last season when, without exception, every starting Met had an off year. While not all of them were disastrous, enough of them were to sink the Mets' ship long before the All Star break.
The weakest part of their lineup may also be their weakest defensively. This concerns the left side of their infield where Ty Wigginton and Rey Sanchez look to be the starters. In their favor, Sanchez is known to be a decent shortstop, but at 35 might be slowing down. Wigginton had a excellent rookie season but will have to prove himself as a everyday third baseman.
Offensively, one has to think that Sanchez will hit considerably better than Ordonez, and that Wigginton will be good, but won’t put up the kind of numbers one would have expected from Edgardo Alfonzo
Something to keep in mind is that the Mets have three more players of their “infield of the future” waiting to get some serious playing time. If one of the starting infielders falter, or the Mets fall from contention, expect to take a look at them.
With Tom Glavine and Al Leiter providing the anchor for the rotation, the Mets look to have the strongest pitching staff they have had in a number of years. Pedro Astacio and Steve Trachel provides strong number three and four starters. Who fills the final spot is still a mystery, but may become a showplace for Met prospects, Pat Strange or Mike Bacsik.
The bullpen has become stronger too with the addition of Mike Stanton. Stanton is a left hander who proved himself a more than capable set up man. He is capable of providing a occasional save and being a counterpart to Scott Strickland as a role playing setup man.
Are the Mets ready to jump back to the forefront and contend for the NL East title? Maybe. Certainly they should be considerably better than they were in 2002. Both pitching and offense have been upgraded. Still if their veteran players Piazza, Vaughn, Burnitz, Cedeno, and Alomar don’t bounce back, this season could be as bad as last year. In that case Mets fans should at least enjoy seeing the infield of the future in Johnson, Scutaro, Reyes, and Wigginton.