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MMM, Spring Training

The first day of spring training went pretty much as I thought it would: After an inning I paid almost no attention (though being at work ensured I couldn't), the Mets lost and made like 47 errors and I was still giddy.

This morning the papers are surprisingly upbeat, oohing and aahing over Matsui's two nice plays on the infield and Mientkiewicz's nice scoop on the back end of the first-inning double play. (Of course, just seeing Matsui and Reyes on the field together with an umpire involved means this March is better than last March.) Yes, it's great to not see poor Piazza ole-ing throws from the infield, or Ricky Gutierrez taking up roster space, or Rey Sanchez and Roberto Alomar yawning as balls wander past them and then looking around for a rookie to blame. (Auggh, Alomar! Avert evil! Avert evil!)

Maybe it was just the Nationals-related spotlight, but it was nice to see positive headlines for the M boys — I was wondering if the papers would be moaning about Miguel Cairo and Aaron Heilman (who probably needs a different gardener if he's going to bloom).

It's early, but I'm beginning to regret those mean things I said about Omar Minaya. Yes, his inaugural press conference was longer and sillier than Bill Clinton's infamous first Democratic Convention speech. Obviously the Wilpons opening the checkbook makes any GM look better. But I get the feeling Minaya's not going to let go of that famous full autonomy given to him, and whenever I see him going about the day-to-day stuff, he's doing it with a grace that's impressive. Item: His choice of hats yesterday. It's a little thing, but he knew the cameras would be on him for the first game between his old, relocated team and his new one. So what would he wear? Mets hat? Fine, but a bit cold. Nationals hat? Clearly not. Expos hat? Guaranteed to bring a pissy phone call from the MLB offices. But a Montreal Royals hat? Nice salute to his time in a city that was a great baseball town (and might be one again), with a quiet echo of Jackie Robinson to remind us that baseball's first black manager and its longest-in-waiting black manager were running the show. Well done.

A couple of tidbits you undoubtedly already saw: Bob Klapisch has some dirt on Armando Benitez (Auggh, Benitez! Avert evil! Avert evil!) dating back to Pratt's Homer. I seem to remember this is old dirt, though — didn't Armando get involved with some crazy woman who put a hex on him, leading to Bobby Valentine learning santeria and casting a counterspell, or some such typically insane Mets '99 thing? The real blood is drawn from Skill Set Phillips, regarding how he helped undermine Valentine starting that season. I think this can be safely added to the list of truths about this world worthy of being carved in stone: Steve Phillips Is a Bad Man.

Meanwhile, Senator Al is spinning again, blasting away at Mike and the Mad Dog in the Daily News. Holy cognitive dissonance, Batman! On the one hand, there were too many people last year talking about Leiter and Franco and the front office for it all to be the work of some left-of-the-dial conspiracy. On the other hand, I loathe Mike and the Mad Dog so thoroughly that I'd gladly blame them for not only the Mets' disarray but also global warming and nuclear proliferation without looking too closely at the evidence.

But you know what? If all of this March's Met controversies are all about 1999 and 2004, we'll be doing very well indeed.