Mets wrap it up in 'Port St. Lottery'
Bullpen derby marks club's 23rd year training in Florida city
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- They're gone now. So this sprawling burg with its poorly-timed traffic lights and unoccupied buldings can go back to sleep until next February. The Mets are gone, though they did leave behind some remnants -- guys named Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Daniel Murphy. But the games are done for another year. So the time has come to decide how to identify what we have witnessed for seven weeks.
The biggest news involved Frankie Rodriguez's eyes, David Wright's muscles, Reyes' thyroid, Jenrry Mejia's future, Murph's knee, repeated attempts to prevent and recover and how good the in-camp dining was.
It was a mostly tranquil sequence of days. All of which makes this exercise more challenging. For 22 years, some characteristic of or development in the weeks spent in the postal code of 34986 has inspired a nickname for the camp -- from Port St. Lonesome to Port St. Ligament to Port Santana Lucie.
We couldn't find one distinctive word that could be linked to elevated thyroid levels, so we had to look elsewhere. Finally, the pitchers provided a possibility. But first, a review:
Port St. Lonesome was unavoidable the first year, 1988, unless you spoke the language of armadillos. Port St. Leisure fit in 1989 because manager Davey Johnson advocated time at the golf course. When the club owners didn't open the gates until mid-March in 1990, St. Lockout became the name. Those were easy.
Buddy Harrelson's lone camp as manager was touched with indecision about infield personnel in '91; thus Port St. Limbo. Allegations of sexual assault in 1992 created Port St. Lurid. Thrown bleach, firecrackers, a manager dismissed and 103 losses made for a dreadful 1993 season. Camp was renamed retroactively: Port St. Lucifer.
Port St. Lengthy happened in '94 when Dallas Green brought his John Wayne manner and work ethic to Spring Training. And who can forget the spring of '95 with Bubba Wagnon, Alex Coughlin and all the Replace-Mets? For weeks, the real players were -- where else? -- Port St. Elsewhere.
Bill Pulsipher's elbow injury on March 18 set the tone for a season of injury and disappointment in '96. The camp name was Port St. Ligament. More of the same in '97; Port St. Lamely became appropriate when Derek Wallace and Jay Payton required March surgeries.
The Mets joined hands with Japanese pitcher Masato Yoshii in '98. The Japanese word for "union," as in a coming together, is pronounced l'rengo. Hence Port St. L'rengo.
The following year, Rickey Henderson and Tom Seaver were in camp, so Port St. Legend seemed fitting. But the upgraded roster and the money committed to accomplish the upgrade demanded recognition. Thus, Port St. Lavish.
The spring of 2000 saw 11 left-handed pitchers in camp; it could have been Port St. Lefty, but Portside Lucie seemed so much better. After a pennant, a Subway Series and an offseason of mostly unsuccessful pursuits, Port St. Letdown was a possibility in 2001. There were 101 logos on the walls of the refurbished clubhouse. So Port St. Logo? But no.
The Mets had Desi Relaford in camp, and in the preceding six years, they had had 5-foot-6 Ricky Otero and Ricardo Jordan. That was a Desi, a Little Ricky and a Ricardo. And -- honest -- Jordan had a sister named Lucy. So we invited Fred and Ethel upstairs, to sing "Meet the Mertz" and called it Port St. (I Love) Lucy.
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General manager Steve Phillips brought in new blood in 2002 -- Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. Alas, it proved to be tired blood. In retrospect, Port St. Lethargic.
In 2003, Art Howe inherited a weak cast, which seemed to lose whatever strength it did have. The Mets went on to endure a second consecutive last-place finish. It all began in Port St. Lemon.
The following year wasn't much better. The Mike Piazza-to-first-base idea didn't work, Howe was eventually discarded and Jim Duquette subordinated. But spring 2004 brought the first stages of renaissance with the promotion of Wright and the further development of Reyes and Aaron Heilman. Hence, Port St. Larva.
The acquisitions of Pedro Martinez and Beltran brought more diversity to the clubhouse in 2005 and prompted a book -- "Pedro, Carlos and Omar" -- released the following spring, about the Hispanic influences. It had to be Port St. Latino.
The overriding storyline in 2006 was Martinez's toe and all the ripples it caused. So acknowledging that poetic license was at work -- because athlete's foot was not the issue -- we named the camp Port St. Lamisil, at Duquette's suggestion.
Given what happened in October 2006 and where the Mets played on Opening Night, it could have made 2007 Port St. Louis. But that isn't the story of the camp. At one point in the spring, all big league camps totaled 22 players 40 years or older. Six of the 22, including one diagnosed with arthritis, were in camp.
Latterly, an adverb, applies to matters in later part of life or later part of a period. So Port St. Latterly it was.
Injuries were many in Spring Training 2008, so a return to Port St. Lamely was considered. But repeats are frowned on. And besides, the reporters' code in Spring Training is never to ignore the obvious story. Johan's first year as a Met inspired Port Santana Lucie.
The great challenge came last year. The L words no longer seemed as abundant as they once did. Camps often has been long and lethargic. And 13 players in the big league camp took a Classic sabbatical and were in Port St. Elsewhere. But there were other new distinctions. Theresa Corderi and her parents made the mid-day meal in the clubhouse and press room delicious. Port St. Lunch? Luis Castillo had a pretty good exhibition season. Port St. Luis? Nah. Appropriate, but weak.
Since the first days of camp and right through the last week, manager Jerry Manuel presented rookie Dillon Gee as an 11th-hour rotation possibility. The camp was about trying new things -- new drills, new lineups, new positions. Most of it wasn't implemented. But Manuel's experiment did prompt some head-scratching. So when the camp closed, we turned off the Bunson Burner, put away the petri dishes and went with Port St. Laboratory.
Now to 2010. It is a little similar to last spring with so much indecision and experimenting. As late as Thursday, Manuel laughed that he had 10 relievers in his seven-man 'pen and couldn't decide who was most worthy -- or least unworthy. So we now suggest a method to help him decide. And it can stand as the name, as well. Grab some ping-pong balls, write the uniform number of each candidate on a ball and put them all in a rotating cage.
Presenting Port St. Lottery.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.