By Mike Steffanos
Thursday's penultimate day of the Mets winter caravan offered none of yesterday's "controversy", but rather some light-hearted fun and a chance for some special kids to meet the players.
Mets.com: Good deeds
Bryan Hoch reports on day 3 of the Mets winter caravan, culminated by an event for all kinds of disadvantaged kids at the ESPN zone. Earlier in the day, David Wright has specifically requested to be a part of an event with firefighters and the families of New York's bravest lost in the September 11 attacks. Wright explains why:
You really understand, being in the position we're in, we have a chance to use our names to do something good in the community. It's something that's special to me.
I get a bigger kick out of hanging out with the kids and firemen than they do. It's something I look forward to every year. I think people really appreciate our time.
For more in-depth coverage of the winter caravan, see this page on Mets.com.
Also on Mets.com: Cliff Floyd Chat Transcript
If you missed this from earlier today, here are some highlights from Cliff's live chat:
What ball players, or any athletes in general, did you admire growing up?
Harold Baines was my favorite, but I was also a big fan of Leon Durham and Shawon Dunston.
[Personal note: My God, am I old...]
What does it feel like to see a fan in the stands wearing your jersey?
It feels awesome, it feels great! You should head out to the store and buy one, too!
What do you like to do the most over the offseason?
I enjoy spending time with my kids.
If you and the Mets were to pull off a world championship this October, would you consider retirement or would you continue to play in 2007?
I would play in 2007 and beyond.
I know you and David Wright are pretty close. Now that he'll be in his second season, have you got any new nicknames for him besides rook?
How could the voters snub you out of the Gold Glove last year? I've never seen a left fielder play like that!
How could they? I asked myself that, too.
What was your most memorable home run?
Last year against the Angels, 3-2, bottom of the ninth. Can't beat it!
How much can you bench press?
When you were a free agent, what was the biggest reason why you signed with the Mets?
I always wanted to play in New York City and the Mets gave me the opportunity.
What will you do after baseball?
Real estate and I hope to own my own bowling alley. I bowled a 290 this year.
Who would win in a home run derby -- you or David Wright?
Who is the biggest trash-talker in the league?
Cliff, what kind of car do you drive?
I have an S500, a Flying Spur Bentley, SL500, Range Rover, Dodge Magnum, Cadillac EXT and Phantom Rolls Royce. And that's why I work so hard on the hitting.
Cliff, how is the team chemistry right now?
This week has been fun with the annual Caravan. We all got to meet Billy Wagner, Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Delgado and our other new teammates. It's a good group. I am really looking forward to Spring Training so we can play some baseball.
What is it like to see yourself in a video game?
It's crazy. I always play with my team. I get really mad when I strike out in the game.
Who was a major influence on you in becoming a Major Leaguer?
Tommy Harper was my hitting coach for the Expos. He was more of a father figure away from home, but also a great coach.
Baseball America: Recap on the Benson Trade
BA's Jim Callis gives a quick overview of Jorge Julio and John Maine in his look at this weekend's trade:
Jorge Julio: Adding Julio, a 26-year-old righthander, to their bullpen may allow the Mets to use Aaron Heilman as a starter. Baltimore's closer until B.J. Ryan supplanted him, Julio went 3-5, 5.90 in 67 outings in 2006. He had a 58-24 K-BB ratio and a .269 opponent average in 72 innings while allowing a whopping 14 homers. He has legitimate power stuff, with a mid- to high-90s fastball and a high-80s slider, but gets into trouble because he doesn't locate his pitches well. Eligible for arbitration, he's expected to command a salary of roughly $2.5 million. He has a career mark of 11-24, 4.20 with 83 saves in 281 games.
John Maine: Maine, a 24-year-old righthander, could challenge for a spot in the back of New York's rotation. A sixth-round pick out of UNC Charlotte in 2002, he saw his first extensive time in the majors in 2005, going 2-3, 6.30 in 10 games (eight starts). He had a 24-24 K-BB ratio in 40 innings as opponents hit .248 with eight homers off him. His best attribute is his command of his 90-91 mph fastball, and he also throws a slider, curveball and changeup. He got into trouble in the big leagues when he tried to be too fine with his pitches. He went 6-11, 4.56 in 23 starts at Triple-A Ottawa last year and has a career 30-24, 3.24 record in 86 minor league games (83 starts).
Mets Inside Pitch: The "other pitcher" in the Seo Trade
Bryan Hoch profiles Steve Schmoll, the sidewinding right-hander acquired along with Duaner Sanchez in the Jae Seo trade.
Hoch also offers this quote from David Wright on the difference that is shaping up between this year's team and last year's:
You've got all the guys coming together for the first time, everybody was in suits, together for a nice evening, and it all ends up with everybody gathered around talking about baseball. That's just what it's all about.
Guys gathering up in suits in the middle of January, getting all emotional about baseball. That's what is beautiful about these new guys we brought in, guys we traded for, guys we signed. They have gatherings of younger players and they're talking baseball, talking situations, talking pitchers and hitters.
That's what's going to make it so special this year, that we have that chemistry.