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Given the itchiness of GM Steve Phillips‘s trigger finger right now, any story about Mets personnel probably needs to come with this disclaimer: subject to change without notice. Seems only days ago that we were trying to absorb the ramifications of the trade that brought perennial All-Star Roberto Alomar to Queens, as well as the free-agent re-acquisition of speedster Roger Cedeño, which would have given next season’s Metsies a potential first-rate 1-5 lineup of switch-hitting Cedeño, right-handed Edgardo Alfonzo, switch-hitting Alomar, right-handed Mike Piazza and just-acquired left-handed David Justice. But Trader Steve was only getting warmed up. By the end of the week, he’d unloaded Justice to the A’s for lefty middle reliever Mark Guthrie. (Excuse us, but why is Justice, who hit 41 homers and drove in 118 runs in 2000, considered finished by just about everyone after an injury-plagued 2001? And who says he can’t play the outfield? Wasn’t he the guy who grabbed the ball off the Yankee Stadium wall and fired a strike to Derek Jeter to get Timo Perez in the Subway Series?) Phillips also signed righty middle reliever David Weathers, thus finally replacing, if in innings rather than personality, the ever entertaining tandem of Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook. (We should point out that Weathers does bear a striking resemblance to Plan 9 From Outer Space director Ed Wood‘s favorite man/beast, Tor Johnson.) Then, last Sunday, Phillips shipped utility men Desi Relaford and Tsuyoshi Shinjo to the Giants for lefty starter Shawn Estes, thus giving the Mets six starters and all but ensuring another deal (probably involving Glendon Rusch and Jay Payton) for the still missing outfield bat (Gary Sheffield? Jeromy Burnitz? Cliff Floyd? Uncle Floyd?) sometime before the ink fully dries on this week’s Voice. Regarding Estes, who is now four long years removed from his best season (19-5 in ’97), our clearest memory of him is when he hurt his ankle sliding into second during the 2000 playoffs. He got up yelping and started hobbling around the infield; only problem was, he never asked for time and was promptly tagged out. Not quite taking one for the team.
CALL ME SCHLEMIEL
Poor Clay Bellinger. The humblest Yankee’s had to give up his jersey number (first 35, then 25) two years in a row. But what Jason Giambi wants, Giambi gets. Having once vowed to “play like an All-Star, party like a rock star, hammer like a porn star” (family newspapers omitted the last item), El Grosso toned it down for last week’s Stadium press conference, declaring, “I’m going to be the Jason Giambi I can.” Uh, shouldn’t be too hard, dude. Now that George Steinbrenner‘s speared his Moby-Dick, we can’t see what all the fuss is about. Sure, he rides three monster Harleys and a purple Lamborghini, loves pro wrestling, and aces Nintendo. This is supposed to make him cool? Maybe to a 12-year-old boy—or a bunch of balding beat writers. The guy also endorses an “alternative” healing gizmo called Light Patch, and spent his MVP season consulting Britney Spears‘s personal psychic (fellow client Ron Darling‘s endorsement: “She’s like Nostradamus, but with a better body”). Our prediction? If Mark McGwire‘s anything to go by, Giambi won’t seem like such a great catch in a few years’ time—more like a white elephant.
It remains to be seen how Roberto Alomar will perform on the field, but he certainly presents the Mets’ marketing staff with the opportunity for some intriguing promotions. Consider the possibilities:
• Alomar Mallomars: Shea Stadium concession stands do away with Cracker Jack and begin selling Mallomars with Roberto A.’s mug plastered on the package. When Alomar hits a home run, plainclothes Shea operatives planted at judiciously spaced intervals throughout the stadium begin “spontaneously” tossing Mallomars onto the field in tribute, leading to new fan craze and spurring repeat Mallomar sales. Plus: Increased concession revenue leads to huge free agent budget for next winter. Minus: Mallomars aren’t manufactured during the summer because the chocolate coating tends to melt in the heat, so Mets might need to use pine tar instead.
• Great Expectorations: Whenever Alomar is called out on strikes, scoreboard encourages fans to spit toward the home plate umpire. Plus: Spitting will help get the pine tar taste out of fans’ mouths. Minus: Shea’s notorious swirling winds might make pinpoint accuracy difficult to achieve from the upper deck.
We’ve also learned that the Mets were planning a big David Justice promotion before he was traded to the A’s last week. We offer it to Oakland at no extra charge:
• Justice Is Served: During fourth inning of every game, a lucky fan 12 years old or younger receives a free DNA test to determine if he or she is David Justice’s offspring. If test turns out positive, a process server runs onto the field and presents Justice with paternity papers during seventh inning; if test is negative, fan gets consolation kiss from Halle Berry. Plus: Today’s DNA testee is tomorrow’s paying customer. Minus: Process servers may require protective gear.
Contributors: Billy Altman, J. Yeh, Paul Lukas
Sports Intern: Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz Sports Editor: Ward Harkavy