New spring, camp name for Mets
Port St. Lucie, Fla., takes on special distinctions for club
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Each of the Mets' first 19 springs in this city has produced an element of distinction and prompted an unofficial change of name for the area the United States Postal Service knows as 34986. No different this year. Now that less than a week remains in the Mets' annual stay here, PSL again stands for something other than Port St. Lucie.
But first, a review:
When the club arrived in 1988, leaving behind St Petersburg, Fla., it was greeted by snakes slithering in the outfield grass in the morning and little else, though Sid Fernandez did see a gator. No traffic lights, no restaurants, no buildings within a radius of 100 Darryl Strawberry home runs of the complex.
It seemed natural to rename the place Port St. Lonesome that year. And Port St. Leisure fit in 1989 because Davey Johnson advocated time at the golf course. When the club owners didn't open the gates until mid-March, Port St. Lockout became the name for 1990.
Buddy Harrelson's only camp was touched by indecision about the infield personnel in '91; thus Port St. Limbo. The '92 camp was stained by the investigation of alleged rape and the details. It became 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. Dallas Green brought his 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 in Port St. Elsewhere.
Bill Pulsipher's elbow injury on March 18 set the tone for a season of injury and disappointment in '96. Camp became Port St. Ligament. More of the same in '97; Port St. Lame 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. Therefore: 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.
After a pennant, a Subway Series and an offseason of mostly failed pursuits, Port St. Letdown was a possibility in 2001. There were 101 logos on the walls of the refurbished clubhouse. Port St. Logo? But no.
The Mets had Desi Relaford in camp, and in the preceding six years, they had had 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, sang a verse of "Meet the Mertz" and called it Port St. (I Love) Lucy. What else?
General manager Steve Phillips brought in new blood in 2002 -- Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. But 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 straight 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 David Wright and the further development of Jose Reyes and Aaron Heilman. Port St. Larva.
The acquisitions of Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran brought more diversity to the clubhouse in 2005 and prompted a book -- "Pedro, Carlos and Omar" -- released the following spring, about the Latin influences. It was 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.
Which brings us to the current spring: Given what happened in October and where they play on Sunday night in the first game since the "called strike three," Port St. Louis seems to be a no-brainer. But that isn't the story of the camp.
At one point this spring, there were 22 players 40 years or older in big-league camps. Six of the 22, including one diagnosed with arthritis, were in Port St. Latterly.
Latterly (adverb): In later part of life or later part of a period.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.