Mets finish dismal season with win, begin looking ahead

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With the end only hours away, the Mets were positively giddy before Sunday's season finale at Citi Field. Smiling players loaded huge cardboard boxes with equipment. Travel plans were completed. Phone numbers were exchanged.

Nick Evans showed off a photograph of him with Jerry Seinfeld and wondered aloud how he could get the famous comedian to sign it for him. David Wright wrestled with the correct way to wear his royal blue stirrups. Amid all of this energy - think last day of school - no one even knew who was playing in the game.

That's because the Mets waited until 90 minutes before the first pitch to post a starting lineup. Jerry Manuel spent the entire morning in meetings with Omar Minaya as the two got an early jump on the organization's rebuilding plans.

With Manuel booked on a flight to Sacramento Monday, he and Minaya talked about the fate of the coaching staff, which will undergo a makeover this offseason. The Mets plan to announce those changes today, and the only coach safe from this round of firings will be hitting coach Howard Johnson.

Third-base coach Razor Shines - one of Manuel's closer allies - is expected to be fired, as are pitching coach Dan Warthen and first-base coach Luis Alicea. With Minaya and Manuel spared, others had to take the fall for the Mets' 70-92 showing - injuries or not.

Immediately after the 4-0 victory over the Astros, Manuel hinted at the sense of urgency facing the Mets as they head into what should be a very busy offseason. With serious gaps at first base, leftfield, catcher and in the starting rotation, Minaya has his work cut out for him. That also will have a direct effect on Manuel's job security; a slow start in 2010 will spell early doom for him.

"We've got to be very productive this offseason in determining and deciding the direction that we want to go in," Manuel said. "We feel we've got good players coming in and their health is a big issue. There are some things that I probably need to make sure that's addressed in spring training going forward. We've got to get ready to win a championship. I really believe that we can do that."

It's going to take more than what the Mets trotted out for yesterday's finale. Wright and Carlos Beltran, who returned to the lineup after taking Saturday off, represented the only two locks to be with the Mets on Opening Day in 2010. Nelson Figueroa, who has no shot of making the 2010 rotation, beat the Astros with the first complete game of his career.

Perhaps the best news for the Mets is that they made it through the final day of a miserable season without any more significant injuries. Then again, many of their key players - Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Oliver Perez, Carlos Delgado - left the team a while ago. Those who do return will see a different Mets team in four months.

"There are some things that have to be done, of course," Beltran said. "More pitching, maybe another bat. But I believe the organization and Omar will do whatever it takes."

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