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If We Make It Through December

I know of a guy who’s got a lovely wife and a couple of fine kids. He was supposed to be on his way home to them, but he was in a pickle of a limbo of a quandary: Should I get on back to the missus and my children or should I go live with Heidi Klum? His family needed him and he needed his family, but Heidi Klum greatly appealed to him on a certain level.

Somewhere along the way, the guy noticed one little hitch. Heidi Klum hadn’t made him an offer. So he stuck with the wife and kids.

Not to insinuate the Atlanta Braves are the supermodel of the National League East (not anymore they’re not), but geez that’s what Tom Glavine reminded me of the last few weeks. “Mets or Braves? Braves or Mets? With whom should I sign?”

Uh, Tom? Choose the Mets…they’re the only ones who are choosing you.

So it’s come to pass that Tom Glavine weighed the offers between the Mets — a ton of money and every detail, save geography, the way he wanted it — and the Braves — no contract whatsoever — and figured out he should remain a Met.

Everybody says Tom Glavine’s a real smart cookie. I have to agree. He signed with the only team that showed any inclination to sign him. Way to go, professor.

No hard feelings for the delay. Seriously. I never understand why fans and media get sore at players for taking their time. If I was sorting out offers (or in Tom’s case, offer), I wouldn’t want to be rushed to a decision just to rescue a bored public from another day of Michael Strahan vs. Plaxico Burress vs. ESPN. Glavine said he’d let the Mets know before the Winter Meetings and he did. Good. Glad to know we have at least one future Hall of Famer’s services to bank on from the start in ’07.

And that the Glavines won’t go hungry, wherever they live.


The next move is toward Barry Zito. Not a bad idea, I suppose. The enthusiasm is a bit lacking here partly because there will be an inevitable breaking-in period (there always is) and a staff of Glavine, Duque and Zito means fewer starts for the young’uns. Of course Zito’s not so old and Duque’s not impervious to overall body soreness or whatever it was that befell him last August. I know it is assumed American League pitchers transfer to the National League and throw three shutouts a week — because with Pujols, Howard, Berkman, Soriano, et al batting, there is no offense of which to speak in these parts. But has Zito been setting the A.L. on fire since his ’02 Cy Young? Not really. He’s better than what we had for much of last year, but I wouldn’t be totally opposed to seeing Perez and Maine and Pelfrey, to name three, get the ball a lot next year and watch the chips pile up or fall where they may.

I place the current Zito bakeoff in the same box as the pursuit of Wagner last winter. If we get the prize pitcher, great. If we don’t bag him, we do have options. Maybe I’m just cushioning myself for the potential blow of not winning him. I’m almost curious to see what Omar will whip up in case the Trib (or whoever owns the Cubs next) decides to write more and bigger checks.


I love a splashy free agent signing as much as the next Mets fan, but in the spirit of milestone anniversaries, I’m more than a little bit haunted by Decembers past, particularly those of five and fifteen years ago. You remember December 2001, don’t you? We signed everybody who was signable and traded for everybody who wasn’t tradeable to anybody else. In this, the era of good feeling, I shudder to mention the names (Alomar, Vaughn…) that we all thought were going to turn 2002 into chicken salad. Likewise, there was a stretch back there in December 1991 when we were on top of the world. More eventual unmentionables (Bonilla, Saberhagen…) were stalked and savored by our front office. It all seemed so promising.

Yeah, December isn’t the kindest month in Mets history. Staying on the milestone-anniversary track, twenty years ago this month, we traded Kevin Mitchell and showed the door to Ray Knight. Thirty-five years ago, we traded Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi.

We traded Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi.

It hasn’t been all bad. The Mets’ very first December, 1961, yielded the Mets’ very first All-Star, Richie Ashburn. Future world champion Don Cardwell arrived in December 1966. Ten years ago, quiet transactions yielded mum John Olerud and loud Todd Pratt.

We traded Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi.


Past isn’t necessarily prologue, but December is my most ambivalent month. I was born in December. It’s my look-back-in-reflection time. It’s also when I’ve found myself as often as not wishing to run out the clock and get this year, whatever the year, behind me because of whatever disappointments arose between January and November. Next year…next year.

Given our prevailing baseball winds, I’m reluctant to turn the page, let alone replace one Bill Goff calendar with another. I love the 2006 Mets even if they don’t quite exist anymore, not without Chad Bradford (three years?). After having luxuriated in the way we built a 97-65 record, we’ll be 0-0 in four months, which kind of sucks when you got used to being way ahead of four other teams for six months. 2006 was the first year when I could and would spout snide about the Atlanta Braves again and again without repercussion. I don’t want to not be able to do that, y’know?


You’re smart and you’re funny, you have a great attitude. You do everything on your own terms. You’re, like, from a cooler world.

—Tom breaking up with Jane on Daria

One item that makes this December different from others in recent memory is a change to the arbitration rules. In past Decembers, those Mets not offered arbitration by midnight last night were good as gone. The governing clauses have grown arcane but the newly printed bottom line is you can still negotiate with your free agents to whom you don’t offer arbitration. Doesn’t mean you’re going to sign them. It just means you can.

If you haven’t, though, it’s presumably a kissoff for the immediate future. The Mets have opted to offer arbitration to Guillermo Mota (curious — won’t be back for 50 games plus not likely to be welcomed warmly…unless he’s really good) and Roberto Hernandez (futile — he’s allegedly all but gone to the Indians, but at least we receive a draft pick). The Mets did not offer arbitration to Chris Woodward or Darren Oliver or Steve Trachsel, three players whose past contributions and liabilities will probably be approximated by similar 2007 models to be named.

To no one’s surprise, Cliff Floyd also went wanting for an arbitration offer. His contributions have been immeasurable, and when he signs elsewhere as is universally expected, we will miss him more than we can possibly realize.

Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children.

—Jules Winnfield, citing Ezekiel 25:17 in Pulp Fiction

In a warmer world, Cliff Floyd remains a Met because he should. He doesn’t start in front of Moises Alou, but something is figured out. He’s a latter-day Joe Orsulak as a fourth outfielder or some variation of Rusty Staub as a pinch-hitter deluxe. He reacquaints himself with first base. He takes fly balls in right just in case. He signs an incentive-packed pact. He heals like he did two years ago when Willie Randolph famously “challenged” him to stay in the lineup. Less pressure, less money, some room to grow into the role of elder statesman slugger with portfolio.

We’ve got elders and statesmen to burn and we have sluggers, too, but if you don’t have Cliff Floyd on the Mets, you don’t have Cliff Floyd on the Mets. It’s hard to imagine a very good team gets better by subtracting him. But a very good team will attempt to do just that.

This sort of thing happens all the time. Guys who are a great fit on a team don’t fit into that team’s plans. Cliff may or may not get healthy. He may find a spot somewhere that will allow him some flexibility to recover to everyday status. He may happily revert to the 2005 Monsta version of himself and make the Mets look shortsighted in letting him go. He may nurture some one-slugger-short squad right past the Mets. Or Floyd ’07 resembles Floyd ’06 and our Alou-enhanced lineup won’t miss a beat without him.

Either way, it’s neither a warm enough world or a cool enough world, certainly not in the cool-as-Cliff sense.

Cliff Floyd shepherded several of our Mets through the valley of darkness.

Cliff Floyd has been his brother’s keeper.

Cliff Floyd’s wallet is the one that says Bad Motherfucker on it.

Cliff Floyd won’t be a Met next year.

It’s December.

It’s a damn cold night.