SS - JOSE REYES - Becoming one of the best leadoff men in the game. My pick for National League MVP this year. Also might win a gold glove one of these days. The Mets are lucky to have him.
3B - DAVID WRIGHT - Again, Mets are lucky to have him. I place him here, because Willie Randolph has been putting Wright in the two spot, and moving Paul LoDuca down in the order, and if I could choose, I'd want Wright in the two spot. A little pop (of which LoDuca has very little) as well as a few more at-bats per game for Wright. So maybe Willie will read this and take what I want into consideration.
CF - CARLOS BELTRAN - Hopefully Beltran will pick up where he left off last year, and have another MVP-type season. Also, I remember in Little League, when I made the last out of my team's season (although, I grounded out to short and didn't strike out LOOKING), I remembered that all the way through the next season and came back with a monster year. Just saying, Carlos.
1B - CARLOS DELGADO - Solid production is all I'm asking for. A higher batting average than last year would be nice, too.
LF - MOISES ALOU - I've said it before, I'll say it again. This has been the quietest spring ever by a big-name acquisition. What does that mean? I don't know. A quietly productive season would be great, but too much quiet this season would be bad news.
RF - SHAWN GREEN - The jury's out. He was a good clubhouse influence, so far as I could tell, during the Mets' stretch run last year. He's not going to be clubbing 40 homers at Shea, but if he's around .280, 20 HR, I think I'd be happy with that.
C - PAUL LODUCA - Not sure if LoDuca and Green may swap positions in the lineup, but LoDuca will see a slight decrease in playing time this year, so perhaps Ramon Castro will be in this spot more often. Critics say LoDuca will not be able to match his hot hitting of a year ago...I think he'll hit for a good average, especially if Randolph holds to his promise to rest LoDuca more.
2B - JOSE VALENTIN - I'd be surprised, if the Mets are having another very good season, if Valentin is a major part of it. I'd also be surprised if he's the starting second baseman by year's end. If anyone had a career season last year that won't be repeated, it's Valentin.
The problem with Valentin is that there's no suitable replacement on the Mets' bench right now. (The bench above, from left to right: Ramon Castro, Endy Chavez, Damion Easley, Julio Franco, Lastings Milledge, and David Newhan.) I'd love for Damion Easley to be that sparkplug off the bench that the Mets have had in recent years in Marlon Anderson or Jose Valentin, but I don't think Easley will be taking away anyone's job. Ramon Castro is a good backup for LoDuca - about what you'd want for a backup catcher. Chavez will get plenty of playing time this year, subbing for Alou, who will get plenty of rest, and Green. Milledge is here for the time being, he'll probably be sent down when the Mets need their fifth starter. Franco is more of a coach than a player at this point, and it's getting to the point where the Mets are wasting a bench spot on him. And I really like David Newhan. He can play the outfield or first base. I picked him up in a fantasy league when he had a really hot streak going with the Orioles a couple of years ago - he's capable of doing good things. Too bad he's only played a very limited amount of time in his career at second base.THE ROTATION
TOM GLAVINE - 10 wins from 300 in his career. He'll get there, but hopefully this isn't one of those situations where the team starts pressing trying to achieve a milestone. Glavine seems to have been reborn with the Mets' success. I expect a good year.
ORLANDO HERNANDEZ - El Duque has already complained about some neck stiffness. His ability to stay healthy will be one of the main factors for the Mets all year - if for no other reason than it's better to have El Duque in the rotation than Chan Ho Park. Park was sent down because there was no room for him in the bullpen or the rotation - if the Mets need to call him up (a la last year, using 13 starters), it will most likely be due to an injur y to this man.
JOHN MAINE - Last year couldn't have done anything but help his confidence. He's got a pad now, as the number three guy, and shouldn't have to worry about being dropped from the rotation due to a bad start. That all adds up to a comfortable season, and hopefully a successful one.
OLIVER PEREZ - I really think Perez is going to shock people this year. This year is the first time Perez will be with a successful team - I bet he rises to the challenge. I can't wait for him to prove me right.
MIKE PELFREY - I'm so glad the Mets went with Pelfrey over a veteran retread. The exposure to the Majors that Pelfrey will receive can only do him good this year, and down the road for the Mets. And, I think he'll have a good season, to boot.
PEDRO MARTINEZ* (MAN-IN-WAITING) - Pedro* should be back by August, if all goes according to plan, and hopefully be very effective by September. That means the Mets get better right when they're turning the corner towards the post-season (hopefully).
(From left to right: Aaron Sele, Ambiorix Burgos, Joe Smith, Pedro Feliciano, Scott Schoeneweis [whose name I have been spelling wrong until now], Aaron Heilman, and Billy Wagner.) Aaron Sele won the long-relief job held by Darren Oliver last year. Oliver did a great job, especially in the clutch situations in the post-season. Sele has some big shoes to fill. I liked the acquisition of Ambiorix Burgos, even though it came at the expense of Brian Bannister. I equated him to the Mets' new Guillermo Mota, who had been suspended for steroid use. Then the Mets re-signed Mota, and I wondered why they acquired Burgos. But Burgos throws hard, and showed enough promise this spring to make the team right out of spring training, so hopefully some work with Rick Peterson will make him an asset. Joe Smith has a tricky sidearm delivery, so he'll bring a different look out of the 'pen. Pedro Feliciano has been effective, despite saying some things that have gotten him into my doghouse. Scott Schoeneweis is another lefty out of the bullpen, and I like that acquisition as well. Aaron Heilman isn't happy doing what he's doing, but he sure is effective. He'll probably take last season's NLCS loss more personally for giving up the game-deciding homer in Game 7 than Carlos Beltran for taking the last strike. I expect him to come out and have a great year. Billy Wagner is again the closer. I wonder how much longer he'll be dominant...hopefully he'll have at least this year.
FANTASY NEWS: No "Survivor" yet, but mlb.com has "Beat the Streak" up, so I encourage you to sign up. I already have Jose Reyes for Sunday night. I didn't see the option to create our own league...but if it presents itself, I will be doing it and letting you know about it.
I'll be back Sunday night with the first posting of the season!