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Mets Hot Stove: Klap on the Mets, Benson still wants to stay

Mike SteffanosWednesday, December 14, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

Bob Klapisch has written a column for ESPN about the Mets, questioning if they might be the best team in New York, while Kris Benson plays Santa and wishes for his own special present from Omar.

ESPN: Not your father's Mets
Bob Klapisch asks:

After a flurry of delirious check-writing, appearances at glitzy press conferences and otherwise rerouting the road to mediocrity, has the unthinkable finally occurred in New York?

Have the Mets become the city's best baseball team?

Do they give some sort of trophy for that now? Seriously, though, this makes for some interesting speculation on a slow hot stove news day, and I'm sure that it gets some Yankee and Met fans all worked up, but it doesn't mean anything to me. I guess I got my fill of that in the '80s, when after absolutely sucking while the Yanks were winning World Series, the Mets became New York's team for a few years. It got so bad for Yankee fans that the ones I worked with were actually rooting for the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series.

More importantly, Klapisch points out:

Many baseball officials believe the Mets now project to a 90-win season, even if Minaya doesn't make another move before April.

Finishing at 90-62 might be good enough to topple the Braves. At the very least, the Mets have surged past the Phillies, Marlins and Nationals, none of whom have significantly improved this winter.

Notice Klap didn't say the Mets were better than the Braves, and I'm not totally convinced we're head and shoulders above Washington and Philadelphia. We have more talent than the Nats, but we did last year, too, and it took a late collapse on their part combined with a nice Mets finish for us to finally pass them. Frank Robinson knows how to get teams to produce. And the Phillies, despite the hit their bullpen took, still have a lot of talent.

The Mets might surpass the Yankees in 2006, or they might not. Omar has a lot of work to do with this bullpen, and he needs to let his Manny Ramirez dream fade away. If we can't wrest the division away from the Braves, who cares who rules New York?

Klapisch quotes Omar Minaya on Atlanta:

That's the best young nucleus [the Braves have] had in a long time. They lose [Rafael] Furcal but they replace him with someone who might be even better [Edgar Renteria].

We haven't won anything. The value of winning as a team, as a nucleus, that's insurmountable. The Braves have that. [my emphasis]

Amen. The enemy that has to be conquered is in Atlanta, not the Bronx. The Braves don't worry about marquee names; they just care about building a team and winning. John Schuerholz adds players to the Braves to make them better, not to grab the back page of the newspaper. That's why it annoys me so much to keep reading about Manny Ramirez. According to Klap:

According to one National League official, the Mets wanted to trade Kris Benson to the Rangers for Juan Dominguez and Laynce Nix, then package them with Carlos Beltran to Boston for Ramirez.

The deal never got past the Rangers, however, and Minaya has back-burnered Ramirez -- for now.

We saw this earlier in Klap's column in the Bergen Record. I asked then, who would play CF for the Mets in this scenario? What's the point of giving up Benson and bringing no bullpen help back? Why bring Manny in for Beltran and sacrifice defense completely?

When you read something like this, you wonder if it is some other NL executive just speculating, or if he really knew something. Of all of the things we hear, we don't know what Omar is really trying to do. He's not saying. I'll continue to give him the benefit of the doubt until he really does something. If he does something nonsensical like this, then I'll kill him for it. I hope I don't have to. This type of move would prove the Mets were more about grabbing headlines than really trying to build a winner.

AP: Santa, baby
As Hal Block reports, Kris Benson, despite the incessant trade rumors swirling around his name, kept his promise to play Santa at the Mets' annual holiday party.

Block quotes Benson on his desire to remain a Met:

I've always said I wanted to be here. I signed here because I want to be here. We said all along we want to be here.

They said, "Sign with us and be part of a world championship team we're building". Hopefully they still feel that way, and I'll be a part of a world championship team here.

But Benson goes on to say that he understands how the business works, and that he knows that Omar Minaya will trade him if he can make a good deal.

Mets.com: More Kris Kringle
Brian Hoch has an article about Benson's Santa turn on the Mets web site that focuses more on Kris' experience as Santa than his desire to stay in New York. Hoch quotes Benson on the experience:

I never in my wildest dreams thought I would play Santa Claus. I don't know if some of the kids even know who I am underneath all of this stuff, but they think it looks real. I tried to put myself together pretty good.

It's a lot of fun. You've got a few kids who really take it seriously and [ask] to spend time with their families, or they want a baby sister. Then you've got kids who'd rather not sit on your lap because it's not the cool thing to do.

Hoch points out that Benson is the third Mets' Santa in three years. Mike Cameron played the role last year while John Franco did it two years ago. Maybe taking on the role was not the best choice for a player that hoped to remain in New York.

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