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Projected Standings:

1) New York Mets
2) Philadelphia Phillies
3) Atlanta Braves
4) Florida Marlins
5) Washington Nationals

Projected Lineups: Projected Rotations:
New York Mets
Jose Reyes
Luis Castillo
David Wright
Carlos Beltran
Carlos Delgado
Moises Alou
Brian Schneider
Ryan Church
Johan Santana
Pedro Martinez
John Maine
Oliver Perez
Orlando Hernandez
Philadelphia Phillies
Jimmy Rollins
Shane Victorino
Chase Utley
Ryan Howard
Pat Burrell
Geoff Jenkins
Pedro Feliz
Carlos Ruiz
Cole Hamels
Brett Myers
Kyle Kendrick
Jamie Moyer
Chad Durbin
Atlanta Braves
Kelly Johnson
Matt Diaz
Chipper Jones
Mark Teixeira
Brian McCann
Jeff Francoeur
Yunel Escobar
Mark Kotsay
John Smoltz
Tim Hudson
Tom Glavine
Chuck James
Jair Jurrjens
Florida Marlins
Hanley Ramirez
Dan Uggla
Jeremy Hermida
Josh Willingham
Mike Jacobs
Dallas McPherson
Cameron Maybin
Matt Treanor
Scott Olsen
Sergio Mitre
Andrew Miller
Mark Hendrickson
Ricky Nolasco
Washington Nationals
Felipe Lopez
Paul Lo Duca
Ryan Zimmerman
Nick Johnson
Austin Kearns
Lastings Milledge
Wily Mo Pena
Cristian Guzman
Shawn Hill
John Patterson
Jason Bergmann
Joel Hanrahan
Tyler Clippard

After months of discussion about whether or not the Minnesota Twins would trade the highly sought after ace, Johan Santana, and if so, where would he land, the New York Mets landed the south paw. The Mets and Twins agreed to swap Santana for outfielder Carlos Gomez and minor-league pitchers Phil Humber, Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey. Gomez, who batted .232 for the Mets in 58 games in his debut season, will look to replace Torii Hunter in center field for the Twins. Humber, who seems to have the most promise of the new Twins, was selected as the 3rd overall pick by the Mets in the 2004 amateur draft. Santana, who currently stands to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2008 season, and the Mets need to agree to a contract extension within a 72-hour window to complete the deal.

This deal slides the Mets into the driver seat in the National League East. This trade should put last year’s catastrophic collapse to lose the NL East Title to the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Brave’s previous stranglehold atop the division in the past for Met’s fans. A potential 1-2 punch of Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez (barring injuries) could propel even a poor offensive team to many victories. Though with a strong lineup including Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, and Carlos Delgado, Willie Randolph should pilot the Mets to an easy first place finish and compete for a World Series.

Well with the loom of the upcoming baseball season, I am anxious to start talking about baseball, but there hasn’t been any news worth writing about as of yet. So in preparation for the season I would like to highlight my life as a baseball fan and how I came to where I am today.

My father was a huge baseball fan and a huge New York Yankee fan. Was I simply to follow in his footsteps? Anybody who knows the relationship between me and my father would tell you no. Either way it turned out I was most likely to have a small rivalry between our two favorite teams, but my favorite team was to be decided by fate, not by genes.

It started way back in 1986. My first baseball memory wasn’t a game, but a single play. It happened in Game 6 of the World Series in the bottom of the 10th inning. With Met’s left fielder Mookie Wilson at the plate and Boston was 1 out away from breaking the “Curse of the Bambino” and becoming World Series champions for the first time since 1918, Boston pitcher Bob Stanley threw a wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score blowing Boston’s 2-run extra innings lead and moving third baseman Ray Knight into scoring position with the winning run. Wilson hit a slow rolling ground ball up the first base line that appeared to be easy to field. In the few seconds that the ball rolled down the line, the most important question was whether the heavy-footer Bill Buckner, with his chronic bad ankles and knees, would be able to beat the speedy Wilson to first base to move on to the 11th inning. That question would never be answered as the ball somehow rolled between his legs, under his glove, and slowly rolled into right field. Shea Stadium erupted and the Mets’ players and fans couldn’t contain themselves. Knight tried to hold his helmet on while jumping up and down towards home plate with the winning run in a scene that many Mets fans (this one included) would never forget.

To this day I couldn’t tell you how I came to see or even hear about it. Did I watch the game with my father? Possibly, neither of us would be able to remember, but let’s face it, probably not, I was 5 years old. Did I watch it on SportsCenter? Did ESPN even exist yet? Or did I overhear my Uncle Tom muttering under his breath (yes folks, he is a Red Sox fan) of how close the Red Sox came to winning the Series? This is the most likely the scenario.

Though this only brought the series to a 3 game to 3 game tie, forcing Game 7 in Shea Stadium, this was the only memory that stuck with me. Even so, Game 7 of the series went according to plan. The Mets won and I became a Mets fan for life … or did I?

Over the next few years, I was still a die hard Mets fan and my favorite players included Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, & David Cone. Since I was such a die hard Mets fan, my father decided to take me on a weekend trip to Pittsburgh to catch a series between the Mets and division rival Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh top players were a young Barry Bonds, a similarly young Bobby Bonilla, Golden Glover & speedy Andy Van Slyke, and young aces Doug Drabek & John Smiley. My father & I made this same trip several years in a row. Being the young starry eyed kid that I was, I just wanted to be as close to these stars as possible, trying to get autographs as I did so. This became my downfall as a Mets fan. After being ignored by one two players, I became enraged with my favorite team (yea, I was enraged & no older than 9). At this point I ceased to be a Met’s fan. I was officially a free agent.

The next few years of my life I consider to be the “bandwagon years” of my life as a baseball fan because my interest in baseball teams was more determined by the success of that team than just picking a team and sticking by them. In 1989, I became fascinated with the Bash Brothers of the Oakland Athletics, Mark McGuire and Jose Canseco, who also won back-to-back American League Rookie of the Year awards in 1987 & 1988. Later in life, I realized that most of their homers were due to steroids. While I don’t condone this activity and think it needs to be cleaned up in baseball, I commend Canseco on his honesty (not on his self-proclaimed role as “The Godfather of Steroids”) and I despise McGuire for his holier than thou attitude until he was in front of the Supreme Court and refused to answer any questions.

After jumping off of the Oakland bandwagon, I promptly jumped on the Toronto Blue Jays winning efforts. These were the first years I recall staying up for the entire World Series night games, despite not being allowed to stay up for the game. I remember staying awake in bed listening to Game 6 of the 1992 World Series on my Sony Walkman radio right down to the final play when Joe Carter hit a walk-off 3-run homer, with Rickey Henderson & Paul Molitor on base, to win back-to-back World Series Championships for Toronto.

After realizing what a bandwagon jumper I had become, I was steadfast to pick a team and stick with them to the end. Again fate played a part. It was the winter before the expansion of the Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies, and after a vacation to Florida, I decided my new favorite team would be the Florida Marlins. Gary Sheffield quickly became my favorite player, right up until the Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 World Series. Promptly after winning the World Series, team owner Wayne Huizenga claimed massive financial losses and dismantled the team by trading away most of the team’s most talented players that had won them the Series to lower the team payroll. This began a few short months after the World Series victory when he traded Moises Alou to the Houston Astros for a player to be named later, Manuel Barrios, and Oscar Henriquez. The Astros later sent Mark J. Johnson to the Marlins to complete the deal. Team ace, Kevin Brown was traded to the San Diego Padres for Derrek Lee, Rafael Medina, and Steve Hoff. A week after the Alou deal, the Marlins traded team closer Robb Nen to the San Francisco Giants for Joe Fontenot, Mike Pageler, & Mike Villano and dealt outfielder Devon White to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Jesus Martinez. Jeff Conine, who was drafted in the expansion draft from the Kansas City Royals in 1992, was traded back to his original team for Blaine Mull. Al Leiter was packaged with Ralph Milliard to the New York Mets for A.J. Burnett, Jesus Sanchez, and Robert Stratton. Shortly into the 1998 season, Sheffield, with catcher Charles Johnson, Manuel Barrios, Bobby Bonilla, and Jim Eisenreich were all sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Mike Piazza & Todd Zeile. After only 5 games, Piazza was traded to the New York Mets for Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnel, & Geoff Goetz. Later in the season Todd Zeile was sent to the Texas Rangers for Daniel DeYoung and Jose Santo. Edgar Renteria was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals mid-season for Armando Almanza, Braden Looper, and Pablo Ozuna. After all was said and done the only positional starter from the 1997 World Series Championship that remained on the team was second baseman Luis Castillo. At this point, I could no longer be a fan of the Florida Marlins and again became a free agent. I decided to settle back on my original team, the New York Mets. I’ve been a strong supporter of the Mets ever since.