After an enormously disappointing 2002 season, the Mets are poised to regain their position as one of the elite teams in the National League in 2003. Among those gone from last year’s underachieving squad are contentious manager Bobby Valentine, Edgardo Alfonzo, Rey Ordonez and starting pitchers Shawn Estes and Jeff D’Amico. While the Mets certainly will miss Alfonzo’s glove and bat, very few of their fans will miss being called “stupid” by a shortstop who could barely bat his weight.
Among the key new signings for 2003 are Tom Glavine, one of the game’s premier pitchers and a great steal from the division nemesis Atlanta Braves, and Cliff Floyd, a solid power-hitter who will bring much needed offense to the Mets outfield.
Replacing Valentine at the helm is former Oakland A’s skipper Art Howe, one of the game’s masters at getting the most out his team’s talent.
And, the Mets certainly have plenty of existing talent from last year’s squad. While many of the team’s big-name players, including Mike Piazza and last year’s newcomers Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar, severely underachieved in 2002, National League teams would be wise not to look past the Mets’ impressive list of perennial All-Stars throughout the middle of the lineup. Also look for the emergence of rookie phenom shortstop Jose Reyes by mid-summer.
The Mets look to have a strong starting pitching staff, anchored by one of the league’s top one-two tandems, Glavine and fellow southpaw Al Leiter.
While questions remain about Pedro Astacio’s shoulder, pitching should be a strength for the Mets in 2003. Rounding out the staff is a reliable bullpen, lead by hard-throwing closer Armando Benitez. In the end, strong pitching plus a resurgent offense should give Mets fans reason to cheer in 2003.
While the Braves and re-tooled Phillies will present formidable competition in the National League East, there is no denying the Mets have the talent and veteran experience to make some noise in 2003.
Team ownership is committed to winning, and Art Howe brings the leadership necessary for the Mets to regain their 2000 World Series form. Only this time around, Subway Series or not, the World Series trophy will find its way back to Shea Stadium…as will all of the bandwagon (read: diehard since, oh, 1996) Yankee fans.