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It's Back

I doubt anyone reads this thing anymore. Why would they? I haven't written since the Mitchell Report came out – and in that time, we watched, as expected, the vindication of Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds, all of whom have now been fully exonerated of any wrongdoing and have graced us extensively with their presence on the baseball diamond during Spring Training.

For the record, Andy Pettitte's made three starts. That's it. Last we've heard of Clemens and Bonds was on Capitol Hill and the ongoing BALCO trial, respectively. But I'm not here to talk about the past – all the things I've missed, like the Mets' trade for Johan Santana or the rise of Angel Pagan (previously dubbed, in this space, Oxymoron-in-Chief).

No, I don't want to talk about Brian Register and Steve Stokes, Jon Parnell and Bobby Niese, or Ivan Figueroa and Nelson Maldonaldo. Or is it the other way around?

Yes, it's Spring, where those numbers we're used to seeing affixed to the backs of mediocre Jets make their way onto the baseball diamond, now on the backs of kids who live the glamorous lives of minor league pro athletes – taking buses from Binghamton to other cities in the Northeast and staying in motels there. Cities like Akron, Altoona, Harrisburg, New Britain, somebody stop me before I drop my computer and head for the most exciting road trip of my life.

Even though we're not here to talk about the past, the past has somehow made an appearance on the Mets, as Omar Minaya's attempt to assemble a 1998 All-Star Team has broken down, thanks to your usual sports injuries, like hernias and bunions. Just kidding about the All-Star Team – 1998 was El Duque's rookie season, weirdly his best in the major leagues, though perhaps not weirdly, since he celebrated his 39th birthday on the raft to the Bronx. But hey, think about the Mets that were All-Stars during that season. Pedro Martinez, Moises Alou, Damion Easley. And had the Mets not so rudely cast them off after last season, Tom Glavine and Aaron Sele would be on that list!

This team is pretty old. But not the good old, where you talk about all of the rings and whatnot they've amassed, where the elderly provide sagelike wisdom and key advice on the way to championships – all hail Luis Sojo – but rather these are the cranky veterans, who do things like pee on their hands, arbitrarily refuse to join the bullpen and bring years of a winning tradition to Flushing – think about Blue Jays stalwart Carlos Delgado, Tiger legend Easley, and career Expo/Nat Brian Schneider.

Sure, maybe the Mets are on the hunt for talent blackballed because of the age of the body in which it resides, but when we hear that Moises Alou is out with a strained prostate come the pennant race, one would hope that strategy is reconsidered for future years.

But there is something charmingly old and decrepit about this Mets club. They're playing the final season ever in Shea Stadium. This is especially significant for El Duque, whose son was one of the lead architects on the project during its construction in 1963.

This is Shea's last chance, in a way. Two World Series have been won on its grounds, but it has seen far more playoff hearts broken by the likes of Yadier Molina, and, well, yes, Luis Sojo than it has great triumphs. This isn't just the last go-round for Shea, it's the last chance for folks like Moises, El Duque, Easley, Jose Valentin and maybe even Pedro Martinez and Carlos Delgado, both battle-worn and signed to contracts expiring after this year. Oliver Perez is a free agent after this year, and is represented by Scott Boras – thanks for your service, bud. It might be the last chance for Willie Randolph, who has quickly appeared something of a failure at motivating his club, if he can't win this year.

Yes, it's Spring, the time of rebirth, but this entire Mets season will have to be about rebirth for this team to win. The dead bats of the elderly must be reborn, the dead arms of John Maine, Oliver Perez and Billy Wagner must be reborn for the full season, and we need to see the rebirth of Jose Reyes' interest in playing good baseball. The rebirth of Luis Castillo's hamstrings wouldn't hurt, but I'm not holding my breath.

But I hate to sound pessimistic about this season. They've got Santana, Wright, Beltran and the rest of the gang. So what if Ryan Church, Brian Schneider and the punchless Castillo are in the everyday lineup? This team will be reborn; they've got no choice.

And that's my major concern this season, not the fifth starter or the 25th man. So it's easy for me not to worry right now, when Nelson Figueroa and Joe Smith, both of whom are still in the running to make this team, combined to allow six runs in two innings against the Marlins. I can't worry about that. Both allowed homers. Yeesh. Still can't worry.

As a corollary to not worrying about the last pitcher in the pen or in the rotation, I won't reflect on the fact that Brady Clark and Fernando Tatis are feasible options to join the Mets opening week in Florida – and not in Port St. Lucie. Although, chuckling, I ought to remind you of Tatis' 1999 season in St. Louis where he posted a .298/.404/.553 line with 31 doubles, 34 homers, 107 RBI, and 21 steals. And he wasn't even named in the Mitchell Report!

But I'm not here to talk about the past; I'm here to talk about the future. And, I bet, so is Fernando Tatis. It's March 26. The Mets are losing to the Marlins. Do I care? No.

Give me five more days.