VIERA, Fla. - Despite his public plea to the Mets, Jason Marquis kept waiting for the call that never came during the offseason. The Staten Island product informed his agents not to contact him unless a team was seriously interested, and the Mets refused to make him a priority.
"They never did," Marquis said before yesterday's game, "so that's why we're here in Washington."
The question is why. The Mets had an obvious need for rotation help with little certainty beyond Johan Santana. Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine - if healthy - all had spots, but although Jon Niese has emerged as the favorite, the Mets began spring training without a No. 5 starter.
Adding Marquis would have improved the pitching depth, letting the Mets keep Niese at Triple-A Buffalo as insurance. And Marquis' teams have reached the postseason in 10 consecutive seasons.
But the Mets, knowing where the market was headed for Marquis, did not make an offer. The Nationals ultimately signed him to a two-year deal worth $15 million. Marquis got to stay on the East Coast, one of his conditions. But the longtime dream of playing in front of family and friends with an easy commute to Flushing was squashed.
"I don't get surprised by anything teams do anymore," Marquis said. "You just got to go out there and work hard during the season. Hopefully, what you do pays off and eventually puts you in a position you want to be in.
"I wanted to be on the East Coast, I wanted to be in the National League, and Washington fit that criteria. They wanted me, and that was the reason why I came."
Marquis shouldn't be too offended. The Mets passed on every free-agent starter this offseason after missing out on the top prize, John Lackey. Still, Marquis grew up in New York and had said the Mets were his top choice - until they weren't.
Now on the opposing side, Marquis will start against the Mets Sunday at Tradition Field and then face the Yankees on Friday at Space Coast Stadium.