by user DNL

more "on the DL" opinions
Once again, the Mets won the trophy for "Best Off-Season." Their suspect bullpen? Now solid, with the additions of Billy Wagner and Duaner Sanchez (and Jorge Julio, if Rick Peterson can teach him how not to suck). The lineup? Reinforced with a big addition named Carlos Delgado. While their rotation lacks depth and there are still question marks in right field and second base, there is little doubt that this team is superior to the 2005 version.

Unfortunately, similar things could have been said about the 2002 Mets. That team, you'll recall, added Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, and Mo Vaughn to an otherwise marginal team. But "great improvement" is not the term used to describe that squad; rather, try "colossal failure."

Us once-bitten, twice-shy Mets fans are therefore cautiously optimistic. The 2002 Mets were atrocious. The 2003 Mets were, unbelievably, worse. And the new dawn of 2005 was still a year away. We do not want to go through such a dark period -- even if it is only three years -- ever again.

And there is a possibility of that. The Mets have committed a lot of money to a number of players who could, quite easily, be busts from here on out. Pedro Martinez has a bum toe. Billy Wagner is turning 35. Carlos Delgado, 34. Paul Lo Duca is by no means a 140 game player, and Cliff Floyd is an injury (or seven) waiting to happen. We won't even mention how old Tom Glavine or the otherwise ageless Julio Franco are, as we're not impolite.

So, what makes 2006 different than 2002? Not much. In both cases, we had a good young third baseban (now David Wright, then Edgardo Alfonzo, although "young" may not be accurate in regard to the latter). We have an OBP-challenged shortstop now, just like we did then. We are really counting on Steve Trachsel to put up some good numbers, and we have at least one outfield spot that is up for grabs.

Okay, so that may be pessimistic. Both Wright and Jose Reyes are locks to have as good seasons as Alfonzo and Rey-O had, and both clearly have more of an upside. Delgado doesn't have a history of injuries like Mo Vaughn had. And the 2002 team's rotation not only lacked depth, it lacked ability, with all but 63 games started by pitchers with a park-adjusted ERA worse than league average. So yes, there is reason for a smaller side of caution with our big helping of hope.

The more likely doomsayer-friendly scenario is a great 2006, a competitive 2007, and a rough 2008. A lot of key players will be shells of their former selves, but still be due bagfulls of money from the Wilpon family coffers. As Mets fans, this has perhaps been the biggest problem at all: What about 2008?

Honestly, though, it's no big deal. The "2008" for the 2002 Mets was a year called 2004. (In other words, three season from now, inclusive, is 2008; three years from 2002, inclusive, was 2004.) And it was a very bad year. But it got better. The overspending Mets rebuilt via free agency, brought up two prized prospects, and went from 20 games under .500 to two games over. Suddenly, Shea was a good place to be yet again -- and we aren't considering the feelings or desires of visiting teams.

And if we have a bad 2008, all it means is that before 2009, we repeat this binge-and-purge process again. If it means two years with hope, sign me up.


Sun 03/05/06, 11:40 am EST

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