1999 Recap: The Mets won 97 games and reached the postseason for the first time since 1988. Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura each drove in more than 100 runs, but it was the defense that made this team special. New York committed just 68 errors and allowed only 20 unearned runs in 1999 - both major league records. Armando Benitez emerged as a dominant closer and manager Bobby Valentine used his crowded bullpen effectively to ease the load on his aging rotation.
1999 Highlight: Robin Ventura's Game 5 grand single in the 15th inning to send the NLCS back to Atlanta.
1999 Lowlight: Faltering in August and September against Atlanta and having to settle for the NL wild card.
Manager: Bobby Valentine (285-233 with Mets; 866-838 in 12 seasons)
Coaches: Mickey Brantley (hitting), Dave Wallace (pitching), Mookie Wilson (first base), Cookie Rojas (third base), Bruce Benedict (bench), John Stearns (catching), Al Jackson (bullpen)
Camp Site: St. Lucie County Stadium, Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Reporting Dates: Pitchers and catchers on Feb. 19; full squad on Feb. 22
Additions LHP Mike Hampton, 1B Todd Zeile, OF Derek Bell, LHP Jesse Orosco, LHP Bobby M. Jones, LHP Bill Pulsipher, LHP Rich Rodriguez, INF Charlie Hayes, RHP Dennis Springer, OF Jon Nunnally, INF Kurt Abbott, OF Curtis Pride, INF Garth Brooks
Subtractions: OF Bobby Bonilla, 1B John Olerud, LHP Kenny Rogers, RHP Orel Hershiser, RHP Octavio Dotel, OF Roger Cedeno, LHP Chuck McElroy, RHP Masato Yoshii, OF Shawon Dunston, RHP Billy Taylor, INF Luis Lopez
Spring Cleaning: With the departure of first baseman John Olerud, the man in Port St. Lucie with the most to work on is Keith Hernandez. Yes, Keith Hernandez. The Mets have brought back the 11-time Gold Glove award winner to work with first baseman Todd Zeile, who figures to be the weak link in an otherwise air-tight infield. Beyond Zeile's transition across the diamond, the Mets hope that Ventura's throwing shoulder recovers from off-season surgery.
Key Acquisition: Mike Hampton was acquired by the Mets along with outfielder Derek Bell for outfielder Roger Cedeno, pitcher Octavio Dotel and a minor leaguer. The lefty went 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA in 1999 while establishing career highs in strikeouts and innings pitched. A ground ball pitcher, Hampton is expected to be the staff ace and should benefit from the stellar defensive behind him. Although just 4-6 lifetime against Atlanta, GM Steve Phillips is hoping that he is the missing component to overtaking the Braves.
The Future is Now: Although he will not be on the Opening Day roster, Paul Wilson could be a key to the Mets second half. The former No. 1 overall pick showed flashes of brilliance in 1996, but has been sidelined by injuries and surgeries ever since. He is finally expected to make his return to Shea Stadium this season. Any contribution down the stretch would help and might keep Steve Phillips from having to trade for another arm.
Opportunity Knocks: With Roger Cedeno now in Houston, the oft injured Jay Payton will get some time in the outfield. Left-hander Glendon Rusch will get a chance to break into the starting rotation. Jorge Toca, a 29-year-old rookie, hits for average and power and could see action at first base or off the bench.
Prospects to Watch: RHP Eric Cammack, OF Alez Escobar, OF Jay Payton, RHP Grant Roberts, 1B-OF Jorge Toca, LHP Jason Tyner