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New York Mets
Team Page | Roster | Spring Training Schedule | Regular Season Schedule
On this page: Arrivals | Departures | Spring Cleaning | Team Breakdown | Prospects | Predictions


   Eight-time All-Star Mike Piazza enjoys the postseason spotlight. Andy Lyons/Allsport

By John O'Connor, CNNSI.com

For New York Mets fans, the offseason was as much a roller coaster as the 2000 season. After losing to the Yankees in the Subway Series, the National League champs failed to make a big splash on the free-agent market.

The Mets dropped out of the Alex Rodriguez sweepstakes early, claiming his contract demands would make him unable to fit in with the rest of the team. Days later the Mets watched the Yankees scoop up Mike Mussina and then lost lefty Mike Hampton to Colorado via free agency. The Mets also pursued Pedro Astacio, David Wells, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, Denny Neagle and Dustin Hermanson -- all to no avail.

"The sexy names are easy for people to get excited about," said general manager Steve Phillips. "But we're in a good position because we have the core of a World Series-caliber team coming back."

Phillips stabilized the rotation by re-signing Rick Reed and adding veterans Kevin Appier and Steve Trachsel. With lefties Al Leiter and Glendon Rusch returning, the Mets have a formidible staff once again.

 
Top Guns
Mets 2000 team leaders
Avg.  Mike Piazza  .324 
HR  Mike Piazza  38 
RBIs  Mike Piazza  113 
SB  D. Bell/L. Harris 
Wins  Al Leiter  16 
ERA  Mike Hampton  3.14 
Ks  Al Leiter  200 
Saves  Armando Benitez  41 
 
Go Figure

118

Errors committed by the Mets last season, 50 more than in 1999.
 
 

Offensively, the Mets are essentially the same team they were last season. The feature the best hitting catcher in baseball, Mike Piazza, and one of the best second basemen in Edgardo Alfonzo. But Todd Zeile and Robin Ventura are not getting any younger.

The outfield is unsettled except for Jay Payton in center. The Mets have the resources to upgrade if they decide Benny Agbayani and Timo Perez are not the answer.

The strength once again will be a bullpen led by volatile Armando Benitez, and if Benitez can keep his offseason legal problems from becoming a distraction, he will be among the top closers in the National League. Experience will keep the Mets in ballgames late; that experience comes in the form of 40-year old John Franco, Turk Wendell and non-roster invitee Mark Leiter.

Manager Bobby Valentine, under a new contract, still must work his magic to keep everyone happy. The crowded outfield could present a problem, but the team has depth in all areas and Valentine is a wizard at juggling playing time and keeping everyone sharp. Now if he and general manager Steve Phillips can get along and agree on some key mid-season acquisitions, this team can shine.

For more on the Mets, bookmark this page and check back Wednesday, March 21 for a Sports Illustrated Scouting Report.


Arrivals
Pos.  Player  From  Via 
RHP  Kevin Appier  Athletics  Free Agency 
RHP  Rick Croushore  Red Sox  Trade 
1B/OF  Jim Leyritz  Dodgers  Free Agency 
LHP  Tom Martin  Indians  Trade 
RHP  Steve Ontiveros  Red Sox  Free Agency 
OF  Tsuyoshi Shinjo  Japan  Free Agency 
RHP  Steve Trachsel  Blue Jays  Free Agency 
RHP  Donne Wall  Padres  Trade 

Departures
Pos.  Player  To  Via 
INF  Kurt Abbott  Braves  Free Agency 
SS  Mike Bordick  Orioles  Free Agency 
OF  Derek Bell  Pirates  Free Agency 
LHP  Mike Hampton  Rockies  Free Agency 
RHP  Bobby J. Jones  Padres  Free Agency 
RHP  Pat Mahomes  Rangers  Free Agency 
Javier Ochoa  Indians  Trade 
OF  Bubba Trammell  Padres  Trade 

Spring Cleaning
 
Robin Ventura
  • Six-time Gold Glove winner Robin Ventura had a subpar season with the bat (.232 Avg.) and glove (17 errors). Shoulder surgery prior to the season contributed to his down year. A healthy Ventura will make a big difference in 2001.

  • The Mets have high hopes for Japanese outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Shinjo spent nine seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of the Central League and won seven Gold Glove awards. He had a .249 career average with 145 homers and 518 RBIs in 1,061 games.

  • Shortstop Rey Ordonez, who fractured his left forearm last May 29, took grounders and soft-toss batting practice at the Mets' spring training complex in January and is expected to be 100 percent by Opening Day.

  • A new regime: the Mets hired Charlie Hough to replace Dave Wallace as pitching coach and Dave Engle took over for Tom Robson as hitting coach.


  • Team Breakdown
    Projected Lineup  Projected Rotation 
    RF  Timo Perez  LHP  Al Leiter 
    2B  Edgardo Alfonzo  RHP  Kevin Appier 
    Mike Piazza  RHP  Rick Reed 
    3B  Robin Ventura  RHP  Steve Trachsel 
    1B  Todd Zeile  LHP  Glendon Rusch 
    LF  Benny Agbayani  Bullpen  
    CF  Jay Payton  RHP  Armando Benitez (closer) 
    SS  Rey Ordonez  LHP  John Franco 
    Key Reserves   LHP  Dennis Cook 
    OF  Darryl Hamilton  RHP  Turk Wendell 
    INF  Lenny Harris  RHP  Rick White 
    INF  Joe McEwing  RHP  Donne Wall 
    OF/1B  Jim Leyritz  LHP  Bobby M. Jones 

    Prospects to Watch
  • OF Alex Escobar -- Escobar, 22, bounced back from injuries after playing only three games in 1999. The jewel of the Mets' farm system, he has power, speed, hits for a high average and can play all three outfield positions. Escobar could make it to majors this year or be dealt for midseason help.

  • OF Timo Perez -- After a great postseason, Perez should open 2001 as at least the Mets' platoon right fielder. He has a strong, accurate arm and will be a spark at the toip of the lineup.

  • RHP Grant Roberts -- Armed with a mid-90's fastball, Roberts will be given every opportunity to win a spot in the rotation. The 23-year-old was rocked in his major league debut last season, but the future remains bright.

  • OF Brian Cole -- Cole, 22, stole 69 bases last season in the minors and could fin himself in the Mets' crowded outfield by season's end.

  • Best-Case Scenario
    Al Leiter handles the pressure of being the staff ace while Glendon Rusch emerges and the other starters rediscover their best stuff. Kevin Appier relives 1993 (18-8, 2.56 ERA), Steve Trachsel relives 1996 (13-9, 3.03 ERA), Rick Reed relives 1997 (13-9, 2.89).

    The outfield of Jay Payton, Timo Perez and Benny Agbayani suprises all skeptics, and the trio of media darlings not only contribute, but grace the New York skyline in Milk ads.

    Worst-Case Scenario
    The milk goes sour. Payton doesn't match his rookie success, Timo Perez fails and is dealt to the Orioles, and Agbayani puts on the pounds by eating too much poi.

    The elder statesmen on the pitching staff show their age, and break down physically, forcing the team to rush Grant Roberts.

    Bobby Valentine decides he was better off without a future in New York, and takes his Groucho glasses and goes home, leaving the team in the hands of Steve Phillips.

    Bottom Line
    The biggest offseason loss will prove to be pitching coach Dave Wallace, who held his starters psyches together with bailing wire and duct tape. The Mets may return to the postseason via the wild card -- based solely on the weak NL East -- but don't count on a return trip to the World Series.



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