One of the great clichés of spring training is the declaration that Player X is "in the best shape of his life." Usually a sportswriter conveys the message but it's not uncommon for the player to deliver it himself. We're far away from pitchers and catchers but this hot stove season is exasperating. A poll to determine who people think will be the first Met declared "in the best shape of his life" (or some variant) is more attractive to me right now then fretting over a rumor by some random dude who Tweeted that the Mets want to sign Johnny Damon. Here are some candidates, followed by the poll. Feel free to add other suggestions/justifications:
Oliver Perez - He has to be the favorite in this race. After about as disastrous a 2009 as possible, and reports that he let himself go during the World Baseball Classic, Ollie is spending the offseason in Arizona at the Athletes Performance Institute. For $12 million a year, he better be in the best shape of this life by March 2010 if he has any pride in what he does.
Francisco Rodriguez - I have no way of confirming this, but it appeared that Frankie put on a few pounds this past season, at least compared to his Angels days. More importantly, and verifiably, his peripherals slipped across the board. Strange, factoring his switch from the tougher AL to the NL. His velocity didn't slip though, and in fact slightly increased from 2008. A fit Frankie would be pumped up and ready to earn that vesting option from hell.
Daniel Murphy - Discussion of Murphy's work ethic became banal awhile ago. He would contend for this crown in any year, if only because people seem to love writing about his killer drive for success. He also has something to prove next season, especially if the Mets don't sign a free agent first baseman.
Jose Reyes - Jose might be this year's version of Luis Castillo. He suffered an injury and seemed to draw the ire of the fans, for various reasons. A report of Jose being in the best shape of his life might be disconcerting - it implies that he trained like an animal. I'd rather hear reports that he was cautious and didn't train too hard or too early. He has million dollar legs and they need to be taken care of. However, given his intensity and love for the game it wouldn't be surprising to see him first to earn the "best shape" moniker.
Jeff Francoeur - Just because.
Dark Horse: Nick Evans - Nasty Nick couldn't do anything to grab Jerry Manuel's attention in late 2009 so he needs to make a splash this spring. His plan should be to become so ripped that no one, not even Professor Jerry, will be able to ignore his flawlessly toned pectorals, biceps and quads. Piazza-esque batting practice displays in Port St. Lucie will follow. Free weights and 50 Gram Slams are on the path to glory for young Nick.