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Sympathy for the Cameron

It won't matter come April or July or, fingers crossed impossibly tight, October, but have you noticed that we've been aced out of the back page every day of spring training thus far? I thought we had the sexy stories: Pedro reporting, Carlos alighting, Cameron fuming, Mike marrying, Willie laying down the law, Jeff Keppinger taking a wrong turn out on there on I-95. Instead, the youknowwhos have trumped us daily with their physical inflation and hissyfit melodramas. Today Barry Bonds overshadows all. You'd think a zillion dollars would buy us just a little more attention.

Here's what I'm talking about when I say baseball coverage goes right down the memory hole. Vaccaro writes in the Post that “Met fans have rewarded Wilpon by snapping up season tickets in record numbers, filling the air with more Met buzz than anyone's heard since the '80s.”

Is Mike Vaccaro thirteen years old? Does he remember 1992? (God, I've got to stop bringing up that blighted year.) Never mind what actually happened after spring. In spring, the Mets were all anybody talked about. Couldn't get us off the back page even when it would have been nice to have vacated it. Come to think of it, weren't we a playoff team five and six years ago? A defending league champion four years ago? I hope when all is said and done that there was more buzz in 2005 than there's ever been because the Mets achieved so much, but this idea that nobody's said nothin' since at least 1989 is inaccurate and absurd.

But I'm a literalist.

I'm ready to express sympathy for the rightfielder. Yeah, Cameron should be a team man and trot out to his new position and holler “hey batter” and run kangaroo court and give guys hotfeet and not exude sulky tendencies over losing centerfield to Beltran, but the more I think about it, the more I can't completely blame him.

Shoot, the guy came here with a rep as the big-time centerfielder and if he wasn't golden in 2004, he was an exponential upgrade. They threw a press conference for him. He led the team in HRs. He was the only Met to play 140 games (Zeile and Valent were next in games played ­– when part-timers appear more than all but one regular, you begin to understand where it all went wrong). He succeeded Franco as Santa Claus at the Christmas party. And he gave the Mets a theme song, OutKast's “The Way You Move,” which filtered from the clubhouse to the PA as a fleeting but emotional anthem for the mid-season brush with first. When the Mets won the Saturday Shea Subway Series game 10-9, they blasted it and I hummed it for the next 24 hours.

So then what happens? The Mets get a new centerfielder. Put aside the obvious improvement Beltran brings to the lineup. Carlos hasn't won a gold glove; Cameron has won two. Mike probably has that information tattooed on his upper right bicep. He's likely remembering some catch he made when he was a White Sock against Kansas City and how in the top of the next inning Beltran didn't make a similar play. “I'm better than him,” he's thinking over and over and over. He's got those plays tattooed on his brain.

Plus, nobody called Mike to tell him this was happening. Nobody took him into consideration at all. Then he comes to camp to be told that all that great clubhouse leadership he provided with the music, even the jaunty angle at which he wears his cap is verboten. If Mike Cameron is human, he's going to be an unhappy camper. Literally.

Again, he should shut up, soak his wrist in the whirlpool and shag flies in right, but I can see where he's coming from.

Say this, too, for Cameron: He came here for money, of course, but he also came here when the Mets were the Mets that they've been, and they were no bargain. A reluctant Beltran had to be coaxed by Scott Boras, according to Adam Rubin yesterday: “Carlos, this is not the Mets. This is the 'new' Mets.” Boras loves new money.

Pedro will blow your head off for Mike Piazza. That's touching. I'd like to believe such a statement indicates a player has seen the light, that he knows he's been wasting his time with all the other teams he's been with and now has reached his true purpose in life, being a Met and defending the honor of other Mets. But Pedro will blow your head off on behalf of whoever pays him. They do the same thing on The Sopranos.