Finally, the secret of how the Mets convince free agents to sign with them has been revealed.
The team's Spring Training facility has a parking lot for players and coaches with the 15 spots closest to the entrance reserved. Jerry Manuel and team equipment manager Charlie Samuels get two of the spots with the other 13 given to players based on a formula that seems to be based on seniority, importance to team and that ineffable, intangible something that belongs only to the Mets' decision making process.
Johan Santana, David Wright and other stars are obviously granted parking privileges, although one wonders how often Carlos Beltran will be using his this season. Newly signed players Henry Blanco and Kelvim Escobar are among the chosen baker's dozen, while Daniel Murphy will have to deal with a few extra steps of fatigue before he works on his first base defense drills.
Alex Cora, the backup infielder with the multimillion dollar contract, has a spot, although Ted Berg of SNY is surprised to hear it because he figured Omar Minaya gave him a heliport upon signing. Jeff Francoeur has a spot, which makes a lot of sense because there's no player in the major leagues who likes taking a walk less than the Mets right fielder.
While it's good for a laugh or two, the difference of 35 or 50 feet of asphalt between parking places is ultimately meaningless, with one possible exception. Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez both have reserved spots, while John Maine is relegated to the outer reaches with the rest of the riff-raff. That might provide a peek into how the Mets think their presumed four top starters stack up entering the season, which is a bit odd given that Maine pitched better than Perez last season.
Maine also wasn't overweight and in need of a little extra exercise, but there's a pretty good chance that Perez had the spot written into the $36 million contract gifted on him before the 2009 season.
Those parking spots will start mattering in about 24 hours when pitchers and catchers report to camp on Thursday.