03/12/2010 10:59 AM ET
Mets not short on spring entertainment
Juicier stories in camp give Port St. Lucie an exciting feel
By Michael Salfino / SNY.tv
Joba Chamberlain may be fighting for a rotation spot, but that is boring compared to the Mets' problems. (AP)

Writing about the Yankees these days is a chore. They're again like those corporate teams in the 1950s that went about their seasons like an executive on a business trip to a destination known. For the Yankees, it's October.

All of their players are easily projectable. There's little question the team is going to make the playoffs given the baseball marathon's ability to select the most worthy -- most talented -- teams. October will be rich with excitement, for sure. But even here, they are the defending champions, so there's not much juice in the "will they or won't they" hoist another flag angle, either.

On a less impressive team with less margin for error, we could get worked up over how many at-bats they'll waste on Brett Gardner or whether the right man will be relegated to the bullpen in the battle for the last spot in the rotation. But although the players care, the impact on the team is almost certain to be inconsequential -- maybe three games. That's enough to cost the Yankees the division to an almost equally impressive and really equally boring Red Sox team. But it's very unlikely to cost them a playoff spot as the Red Sox and Yankees have at least a five-game cushion in the Wild Card hunt, unless something very screwy happens.

The big points of debate are so played. Should Joba Chamberlain be a reliever? I'd rather have my eyeballs doused with honey while in the path of an invading colony of red ants than have to revisit this for the upteenth time. The only fresh angle with Joba is the increasing likelihood of a Minor League demotion. He makes A.J. Burnett look like Mike Mussina when it comes to pitching savvy and mound comportment.

We're in the same Groundhog Day/Twilight Zone-like portal of time with the growing controversy regarding whether Alex Rodriguez is lying about taking performance-enhancing drugs. Even Yankees scandals are boring. All the same people talking about all the same things in all the same ways. And all in a country where the advertising budget for ExtenZe seems set to sail past the gross national product of most third-world countries.

The last interesting thing A-Rod did was date Penny Lane.

She should have stuck with Russell Hammond. Maybe A-Rod's human growth hormone connection is related to a secret desire to date another movie heroine.

The Yankees have nothing to learn from the Mets between the lines, but their crosstown rivals sure know how to create a story. Just look what they did with Jose Reyes's illness this week. Public Relations 101 says message discipline.

This is what the Mets should have said: "This is a private matter between Jose Reyes and his doctors. We share their confidence that he will return to full health in short order and look forward to him then being cleared by his doctors an our medical staff to resume full baseball activities."

Instead we have this ridiculous timeline of anywhere from two to eight weeks, a full description of his condition and the apparently very unconventional treatment of just treating it with diet and rest, which just opens the team up to more questions that they are clearly ill equipped to answer. Predictably, the PED can of worms is now fully opened by the Daily News in an "investigative report" that's embarrassingly short of investigation and reporting.

This is way more interesting than the admittedly similar A-Rod story because Reyes is out and literally anything can happen next with him given the Mets' recent track record as diagnosticians. This is the point in the episode of "House" where the B-team discharges Reyes only to have him end up on the crash cart before the next commercial break.

The Mets have such a wide range of possible 2010 outcomes. They don't even have any idea when two of their stars -- Carlos Beltran is returning from knee surgery -- will be back -- April, May, June? The Yankees range of outcomes is will they or won't they in October.

The Yankees also have no interesting young players unless you include Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, who have been around forever. Even Gardner's biggest supporters know he's a scrub, which is precisely why they like him. Austin Jackson would have been interesting, but the Yankees have to tightly tie every loose knot. Jesus Montero is prospect excitement personified, but there's no room for him this year even if he further ascends.

The Mets are suddenly rich in seemingly close-to-big-league-ready prospects like Ike Davis, Fernando Martinez and Jennry Mejia. There's also the painfully delicious spectacle of Oliver Perez, always one pitch away from turning into Nuke LaLoosh.

Even Yankees fans I know have confessed that they are following the Mets ongoing drama more closely this year simply because there is none at Yankees camp. Perhaps given the Yankees' fiscal and physical strength, the Mets have stumbled onto their only path for New York viability -- true counter programming, in every sense.

In sports, the more entertaining team is the team that wins more. But this year, the Mets and Yankees appear set to illustrate an exception to this rule.

Michael Salfino is a nationally syndicated columnist and a regular contributor to SNY.tv.
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