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Mets Hot Stove: Dotel, Lo Duca and Filthy Fingered Fans

Mike SteffanosMonday, December 19, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

It continues to be a slow period for Mets news. I will try to post every day this week, anyway, with whatever might be out there. I have one more installment left to go in the series on Key New York Mets Free Agents and Trades that I will attempt to get up this week or next.

New York Post: Dotel may pick his team today
Michael Morrissey reports that free agent relief pitcher Octavio Dotel will "most likely" chose today which team he will play for in 2006. Morrissey cites a source that the Yankees "showed more substantial interest" than the Mets, and it looks like they would be more likely than the Mets to sign him. The Cardinals are also reported to be one of the finalists.

Although it has been reported that Dotel wouldn't be ready to pitch until some time after June, his agent Dan Horwits says, "According to the doctors, sometime in April he'll be major-league ready."

I'm curious to see what Dotel signs for, and if it's a reasonable contract I'd wonder why the Mets didn't pursue him more aggressively. As I mentioned yesterday, the Mets do have some in-house options, with Orber Moreno, Tyler Yates and Bartolome Fortunato coming off of injury, and Cuban Pitcher Alay Solar a possibility, too. Morrissey and others report that the Mets are still pursuing former Cardinal psycho Julian Tavarez, although they are unwilling to offer him more than 3 years.

New York Times: Paul Lo Duca
Ben Sphigel has a really nice, long profile on new Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca, offering Mets fans the following snapshot:

Although the Mets' off-season overhaul has yielded stars like Billy Wagner, an intimidating closer, and Carlos Delgado, a feared power hitter, their acquisition two weeks ago of Lo Duca, a three-time All-Star catcher, could prove just as important in their quest to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2000. The 33-year-old Lo Duca is a more dynamic clubhouse presence than his predecessor, Mike Piazza, and he handles pitchers like a snake charmer, coaxing their best. Lo Duca rarely strikes out, excelling as a situational hitter, and he does not let his ego get in the way of good sense.

Sphpigel quotes Eddie Bane, the Angels' scouting director, who signed Lo Duca while with the Dodgers:

The fans in New York are going to love him immediately, because he's not all about Wall Street or Madison Avenue. Paul is someone they can identify with. He's about as genuine and humble as you can get.

With this, and other things that I've read recently, I'm sold on Lo Duca as a person, and a handler of pitchers. His low percentage of throwing out baserunners, his age, and his tendency to wear down as the season goes on still concern me. But he's definitely someone I can root for.

AtlantaBraves.com: Still arrogant
Just in case you thought obnoxious arrogance might be disappearing from that magical land where playoff games don't sell out, and people don't bother with washing their hands after going to the bathroom, we offer the following from the Braves' Mailbag:

Q: What will be the Braves do in order to compete against a team like the Mets, which has acquired so many great players?

They're hoping to do the same thing they did in 2002, when the Mets entered the season confident that the acquisitions of Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz and Pedro Astacio would allow them to unseat the Braves...

So we're comparing the signings of Wagner, Lo Duca and Delgado to those stiffs they brought here in 2002? Conveniently ignoring the fact that the Mets added these players to a more solid existing base than there was in 2002?

Criticism of Mets past moves is fair and warranted, but as guilty as the Mets were of thinking they could buy a good team, Braves fans think John Schuerholz can wave his magic wand, and the Braves will magically win the division again.

Contempt for the Mets and other teams in the NL East is certainly warranted -- the run of 14 straight division titles has as much to do with the incompetence of the front offices in Queens and Philadelphia as Schuerholz' undeniable genius. But if there are any fans in sports that are due a comedown, it is certainly the Braves fans. In their own way, they are as bad as Yankee fans. What do they say in the Bible Belt? Pride goeth before a fall...

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