The recent Mets have had a lot of baggage. Unmet expectations, a huge payroll, and a series of disappointments in their too-few playoff opportunities were a heavy weight for this team to carry around. But the baggage belonging to the more modest 2011 version of the Mets fits conveniently in the overhead racks or under their feet.
The biggest recent news is the Mets have jettisoned the two players most emblematic of their recent dark years, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, eating their massive contracts rather than break camp with their dead weight holding them down to start another year. What could be more symbolic than 1986 hero and Bill Buckner nemesis Mookie Wilson, now a first base coach, getting his old Number 1 back from the departed Castillo.
Credit the Mets new management for having the guts to move forward without overly stressing about what safety net options would be in place. Little known Brad Emaus has stepped into the first string second baseman spot and reportedly has a a solid and experienced glove with a little pop in the bat too. Not exactly a slam dunk, but add in the potential upside of an inexperienced Daniel Murphy trying out a new position and between the two of them fans can expect more production than another year of Luis Castillo….and with none of the nasty bagage.
Oliver Perez was as enigmatic as he was talented, and its a huge emotional lift not to have that massive question mark in the middle of the rotation. You never knew what you were going to get from Ollie, game to game or even pitch to pitch. Keith Hernandez accused him of inventing new pitches right in the middle of a game with men on base.
The Mets could get a lot more consistency out of a Chris Capuano or a Chris Young, if one or both of those reclamation projects pan out. But again, at least there is less baggage involved watching a veteran make the effort to reclaim his skills compared to the young head scratcher Pereze trying to finally find major league control.
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Written by Mark Reichman