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Hey Pal, I've Got Your Upgrade Right Here

Posted By Greg Prince On February 18, 2005 @ 7:54 pm In Main Page | Comments Disabled

Shawon Dunston – greatest late-season pickup in Mets history, all based on one at-bat (leading off the 15th of Game 5 vs. Atlanta), probably the greatest at-bat in Mets history, all due respect to Mookie. I think he was simply issued No. 12 and recognized it as having belonged to The Boz. That alone got him in my good graces after years of cursing him out as a Cub. I was disappointed when he wasn't more thrilled to be here in the first place (he just bought a house in St. Louis, but that wasn't my problem), delighted when he gave the boys a stirring speech after the epic series against the Braves, dismayed when he wasn't re-signed thereafter and went back to being just another nettlesome utility player for somebody else.

You'll be happy to know that future Met Dick Stuart was succeeded at first in Pittsburgh by future Met Donn Clendenon. But if you want an immediate and dramatic defensive upgrade, consider this:

On June 14, 1983, the Mets' starting first baseman was Dave Kingman. On June 15, the Mets traded for Keith Hernandez. Pretty immense improvement right there. True, Piazza was a catcher playing first whereas Kingman was a misanthrope masquerading as a human, but they were both out of position and both were relieved by master glovemen. Keith proved it over and over here. Dougie Hard to Spell & Reluctant to Sell, we'll see.

Ah, the ambiguously gay Chevy. Isn't it great how the guy who can afford to purchase any 50 automobiles he desires (plus his dad owns a dealership) is gifted a vehicle while thousands of fans scraping by in '92 Corollas watch and applaud? I forget — did they bestow a Shoney's on Mo Vaughn during Injury Appreciation Week?

Had an interesting (to people like us) debate with Rob earlier today regarding who you'd rather have as your catcher for one year if you were creating an all-time Mets team based on a single year's performance. I take Piazza 2000, he goes with Carter 1986. He gives Carter credit for grit and the role he played in Game 6 against Houston when Keith delivered his Sermon on the Mound: “Call any fastballs and we'll fight,” or words to that effect. Said Rob, “I can't imagine Piazza ever being involved in anything like that.” But, I countered, it's not like Carter said screw you, I'm going with No. 1 and if you don't like it, I'll rip your mustache off your ugly face — now go back to first where the only thing you know about pitching is that you can't hit it, or words to that effect. Carter listened and called for sliders. Piazza could have done the same thing, though he might have come out for Pratt (or Hearn) by the 16th.

Then there was the Clemens thing in 2000, both the beaning and the bat fragment, for which Rob still awaits retaliation. (What — Shawn Estes didn't do it for him?) I still don't know how to explain that away in Mike's favor. Davey Johnson's Mets would've wailed on Clemens in a situation like that. Bobby V, for all his weird bluster, did not instill a literal fighting attitude in his charges. Anyway, I loved Gary Carter, even more in '85 than in '86, and I wouldn't want to diminish him at all, but I'll go with Piazza for my hypothetical team. (I'll roll out the rest of the lineup here one of these days.)

Thing about spring is Piazza hasn't slumped since last season, so we're all constructing lineups and penciling in Piazza-type production approximating what we once knew. Mike has not been Mike except for flashes since 2002. Going to first was going to take a big load off his body. Now going back to behind the plate is supposed to take a big load off his mind, yet his body is another year older. He may start the season batting cleanup, but I can't believe he'll end it there. But if not Mike, who? It's probably a bit much to put that slot on Wright right now. Floyd? You don't get the sense he's long for this team wherever he bats. It must be difficult to have a job where your status is talked about in clouded terms constantly, and the majority opinion is you'll be traded and are unwanted, but for what these guys make, put up with it, smile and grab a bat. Ditto for Cameron, not the centerfielder he thinks he is.

I worry about Beltran out there. Center is notorious at Shea for its swirling breezes and Devil's Triangle effect on fly balls. Lance Johnson said it took him half a season to figure it out. Brett Butler never did. Willie Mays said it was the most difficult center he ever played — as a Giant when he was still Willie. And Cameron looked like Keith Miller at times last year, not enough like Pat Howell (yes, Pat Howell, best defensive CF we ever had, albeit for five minutes) the rest of the time. We're all putting too much on Beltran probably.

My, this is a nervous Friday. They've done no more than loosened their arms and I've got worst-case scenarios going all over the place. At least I'm in mid-season form.


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