Not-so-amazin' Mets in need of miracles

Posted: February 01, 2012

Third in a series

YOU ALMOST have to feel sorry for the Mets.

Almost.

Remember the Mets that stole Tom Glavine from the Phillies in 2002? The Mets that snatched Billy Wagner in 2006?

Remember how former Expos genius Omar Minaya and Yankees royalty Willie Randolph were going to unseat the Braves for the next 2 decades?

Remember Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado and Francisco Rodriguez?

All gone. They couldn't even afford to retain one of their own best players in decades: Shortstop Jose Reyes never was likely to extend with the Mets, and now he's a . . . Marlin?

Talk about a slap in the face.

The Mets, long one of the National League's caviar clubs, now are a Blue Plate Special team (playing in an $800 million stadium underwritten in part by the city - the Pirates of the North).

The Mets have been a talk-show punch line, thanks to their owners, the Wilpons, and the Wilpons' sketchy relationship with Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff. The Wilpons remain in litigation in relation to the case.

Combined with lagging attendance and years of foolhardy spending, the Mets simply cannot afford better than diner food.

Now, after boasting a payroll of more than $140 million just last season, the Amazin's will spend a more believable $90 million in 2012. And they might be getting robbed at that.

The Mets are under the thumb of pragmatic Sandy Alderson, in his second season as Minaya's replacement. Alderson is riding out yet another year of questionable contract burdens.

He hopes that Johan Santana can stay healthy enough the next two seasons to approximate his 2008, the first and only season he pitched to his 6-year, $137.5 million contract. Knee, elbow and shoulder surgeries hindered Santana otherwise, but he is expected to be back for the last two seasons to collect the $49 million he is still owed.

Alderson prays that Jason Bay avoids injury, too. A concussion and a rib problem helped limit Bay to 18 homers in the first two seasons of a 4-year, $66 million contract - half as many homers as he hit in 2009 with the Red Sox.

And Alderson probably will hope that some team in need of a third baseman in his prime will overlook David Wright's back injury. Wright played in just 102 games last season due to a stress fracture in his back - exactly the sort of injury at a high-mileage position that erodes trade value.

Wright is owed $15 million this season, with a $16 million team option for 2013 or a $1 million buyout. Bank on the buyout.

The rumblings from Flushing are that the Mets have $100 million to spend this season, but likely will stand pat $10 million short of that number. Moving one of the big names always is an option, so the payroll could actually fall into the $60 million-$70 million range.

Alderson speaks as if he is content to rebuild through stockpiling draft picks . . . while the Nationals snag Gio Gonzalez and make a run at Prince Fielder to harness with Jayson Werth, and while the Marlins woo Albert Pujols, unsuccessfully, and sign Reyes.

Wait a minute. The Mets have become the Nationals and Marlins.

The big news in New York is that five-inning starter Mike Pelfrey avoided arbitration. So did Andres Torres, who hit .350 against the Phillies in the 2010 NLCS . . . and .221 overall last season.

Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez came from San Francisco in exchange for Angel Pagan, one of the Mets who was actually interesting to watch. Pagan's departure is part of a culling that is downright painful to review.

The Mets gave up on former phenom Fernando Martinez, 23, losing him on waivers. They traded Beltran to the Giants.

Their closer's job is an open competition, with newcomers Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Ramirez at the head of the line for the back of the 'pen.

Jon Neise, a promising lefty, is in the middle of a rotation that, save for Santana, is, plainly, nondescript.

Like the whole team.

Sort of sad, isn't it?

Actually, no.

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