The Mets have done a nice job of rebuilding their image, which was blown up, bleached and Bonilla-ed last year. "We're more accessible, more fan-friendly," says general manager Joe McIlvaine. "We're a more disciplined club. [Manager] Dallas Green isn't going to put up with any nonsense this season. And neither am I."
But improving a team that lost 103 games will be harder than they think, so here's some free advice.
•Trade pitcher Bret Saberhagen. He can bring three players in return. If the Yankees will part with young third baseman Russ Davis, make the trade immediately. To rejuvenate his career Saberhagen needs to play for a contender. A classic follower, he could be Cy Young material again if he's influenced by the right people in the right place.
•Play Quilvio Veras at second base. O.K., he'll be 23 on April 3 and hasn't even played Triple A ball yet, but he batted .306 with 52 steals and 91 walks in Double A last year. He's the only leadoff man in the organization close to being ready for the big leagues, but more important, he will significantly improve a terrible infield defense. When will this team learn that playing people out of position doesn't work? If Veras is installed at second, Bobby Bonilla can move from third base to first (where he belongs) and second baseman Jeff Kent can shift to third.
•Trade Anthony Young. If his stuff is as good as everyone says it is, he ought to be worth something on the market. But please, no more crying about Hard Luck AY. The man lost 27 games in a row over the last two seasons, and he's 5-35 lifetime. That's not bad luck, that's a lot of bad pitches.
•Play Joe Orsulak as much as possible, but not at first base. Orsulak's a hard-nosed, quality pro, but he has played only four games at first in his 10-year major league career. He would be better off in left held platooning with Kevin McReynolds, and occasionally in center on days when young Ryan Thompson is overmatched against a tough righthander.
•Get off catcher Todd Hundley's back. Sure, he needs some help in calling pitches, but he's only 25, and he has good defensive skills. Work with him instead of trying to trade him or giving his job to rookie Kelly Stinnett. And quit lamenting the loss of catcher Charlie O'Brien to free agency. He's gone—and so is his .214 lifetime average.
•Don't count heavily on closer John Franco. It was only partly Franco's fault, but the Met bullpen last year was one of the worst in history. Franco needs a lot of help. Because of injuries and his questionable attitude in recent years, he's good for only one inning, can rarely pitch on consecutive days and wants to pitch only in situations in which he can earn a save.
•Keep pitcher Eric Hillman as the fifth starter. Not only is he the tallest (6'10") man in the NL, but he's also funny. Asked once whether he liked basketball, he said, "No, the ball's too big, and there's no chance of a rainout." This team is going to need someone with a sense of humor.
45 big league at bats; will split job with Tim Bogar
Tough out, tough guy, but he's not a first baseman
Will be traded to a contender before season ends
BA and RBI totals have decreased five years in a row
No 2B had more HRs (21) or RBIs (80) in NL last year
A 20-homer, 20-steal man with a full season
Had more strikeouts than games played in '93
.213 career average lowest among active NL players
Three shutouts in last 106 starts; still a major draw
5.20 ERA in 1993; previous high was 3.12, in '89
As recently as 1988 the Mets went 100-60 and won their division with a .625 percentage. But last year they became only the fifth team in this century to fall from .625 or higher to .364 (59-103) or lower in just a five-year period.
New York Mets
PREDICTED FINISH: FIFTH