*From Protect the Plate
There's one thing everybody remembers about both the 2008 and '07 New York Mets: they choked.
A year after losing 12 of their last 17 games, the Mets dropped six of their last nine games and were eliminated from the playoffs on the final day of the season for the second-straight year.
Last offseason, GM Omar Minaya acquired the best ace in baseball, Johan Santana. This year, he added the best closer in the game, Francisco Rodriguez. With a new year, a new roster and a new home stadium, the Mets hope to catch the defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East.
Still the One
Despite constant media pressure, Johan Santana had an excellent first season in New York. The Venezuelan lefty went 16-7 with an NL best 2.53 ERA and 206 strikeouts.
Santana did everything he could to lift his team down the stretch, going 9-0 with a 2.09 ERA over his final 17 starts.
The one thing that held the Mets back last season was their bullpen. After a busy offseason, last year's weakness very well could be this year's strength.
Francisco Rodriguez, who had a record 62 saves last season, was signed to take over as the closer. K-Rod is still only 27-years-old, but already has 208 saves to go with a 2.35 ERA over his career. K-Rod blew seven saves last year while the Mets had 29 blown saves in 2008.
New York also traded for former Seattle Mariners closer J.J. Putz. The big right-hander has 101 saves and a 3.07 career ERA and enters the season as one of, if not the best setup man in baseball.
Third baseman David Wright has been one of the game's most consistent hitters over his first four full seasons.
Last year, he had career-highs in home runs (33), RBI (124), runs (115) and at-bats (626) while tying career-highs in doubles (42), walks (94) and games played (160). He also picked up his second-consecutive Gold Glove and Silver Slugger last year.
With such an impressive track record already established, it's hard to believe Wright will be only 26-years-old this season.
With 27 home runs and 25 stolen bases last year, Carlos Beltran posted the seventh 20-20 season in his career. The only players to accomplish the feat more often are Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds and Bobby Abreu.
In four years with the Mets, the switch-hitting center fielder has averaged 29 homers, 20 steals, 104 RBI and 104 runs while being awarded three Gold Gloves and a pair of Silver Sluggers.
Not Done Yet
Carlos Delgado had fans wondering if he was washed up after following a disappointing 2007 season (.258-24-87) with a dreadful first half of '08 (.248-17-52).
In 66 games after the All-Star break, Delgado regained new life, hitting .303 with 21 home runs and 63 RBI.
Delgado, who turns 37-years-old this June, ended the year third in the NL with 38 homers and fifth in the NL with 115 RBI.
Jose Reyes led the NL in both hits (204) and triples (19). The shortstop's 198 stolen bases since 2006 are the most in the majors by 36.
Daniel Murphy, an infielder throughout most of his minor league career, will start in left field and hit second behind Reyes.
The team brought back starter Oliver Perez, who issued more walks (105) than any pitcher last year.
John Maine, who has a 4.18 career ERA, returns to the rotation after recovering from shoulder surgery.
Mike Pelfrey had a breakout year, tallying 13 wins and a 3.72 ERA while pitching over 200 innings.
It's starting to look like Livan Hernandez, who had a 6.05 ERA last year, will win the fifth starter job.
Prospect Jonathon Niese hopes to break into the rotation at some point. The lefty was born on Oct. 27, 1986, the same day the Mets won their last World Series.