the sports section

The Mets’ Inexplicable Funk

The Mets need you to know that the reason they haven’t made a significant signing in a matter of months is not because the Wilpons were fleeced by Bernie Madoff. “Categorically unrelated,” a spokesperson told CNBC. But for a team that has a new stadium opening, two awful “collapses” in two years, and a crosstown rival spending like Brewster’s Millions, it’s a strange time to suddenly become stingy.

The Mets blitzed out of the gate, picking up two of baseball’s top relievers in Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. (Actually at bargain rates, relatively speaking.) But the team still had plenty of needs, particularly in the starting rotation. The obvious target seemed to be Derek Lowe, a big-game, big-city pitcher whose deadening ground-ball presence might be especially needed at the new Citi Field, which Mets players who have tried out the stadium say is a “launching pad.” (Perhaps the most underreported story of the Mets off-season: That Citi is expected to be a homer-happy park.) But when it came down to it, the Mets weren’t willing to pony up as much as the rival Braves, and now not only do they not have Lowe, they’re going to have to face him four times a year for the next four years.

Tim Redding, inked to a $2.25 million, one-year deal earlier this week, is a placeholder if there ever were one, a No. 4 or 5 starter at best. The Mets added him to Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine for a foursome that’s not particularly imposing. Lowe would have slotted in as the perfect No. 2. With Pedro Martinez seemingly out the door — his pleas to return have been mostly ignored; the baseball business moves fast — the next-best option is probably lefthander Oliver Perez, who hasn’t been as sought-after by other teams as some suspected he might be. Perez is a solid pitcher, but inconsistent. More to the point, he’s hardly the big name Mets fans were hoping for and, considering the influx of cash the new stadium was supposed to bring in, expecting.

The Yankees are opening a new stadium and, as a result, changing the economic infrastructure of baseball with their spending. The Mets are opening a new stadium and are being outbid for their target free agents. Bernie Madoff might not to be blame. But something must be.

The Mets’ Inexplicable Funk