There have been no shortage of heated reactions to the Yankees lavishing an 8 year, $180 million pact on 1B Mark Teixeira yesterday in the wake of the CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett acquisitions. While the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Phil Sheridan claims the Bombers “represent the very worst in America”, an equally hysterically Brewers owner Mark Attanasio called for a salary cap, telling Bloomberg News, “At the rate the Yankees are going, I’m not sure anyone can compete with them.”  Though I’m thankful Attanasio’s perspective is not shared by Rays skipper Joe Maddon, the New York Post’s Mark Vaccaro has one of the more curious takes on the subject, highlighting the alleged pressured faced not by the Yankees’ AL East rivals, but rather by the New York Mets.  It’s time, writes Vaccaro, for the Mets “to act like they belong in the same sentence – or the same city – as the Yankees…unless, of course, the Mets and the Wilpon family don’t have as much money as they say they do, and unless they want to ensure that questions about just how much they lost at the hands of Bernie Madoff will never, ever go away.”

Right now, immediately, the Mets need to consummate their pursuit of Derek Lowe (above), need to find a way to close a deal with the best available starter on the market, filling the most gaping hole on their roster.

Right now, immediately, they need to re-investigate their negotiations with Oliver Perez, and at least call Orlando Hudson. Unless the team is drowning and dying in red ink – which it insists it is not – the Mets need to prove with their checkbooks that they really are in the same category as the Yankees.

The Mets were delighted by their work at the Winter Meetings, and it is true that acquiring Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz made them instantly better in one area of need.

But it also is true that part of what made the K-Rod deal so satisfying was the dearth of dollars it cost. They got him on the cheap, at least compared to what his initial market seemed to be.

No one is suggesting the Mets need to throw money into a bonfire just to keep up with the Yankees. But they do need to improve their team, which right now looks, at best, to be second-best in the NL East behind the Phillies, with the Marlins and Braves very much in the same neighborhood. And decidedly second-rate in their own city.

There still are gems, expensive ones, necessary ones, out there for the taking. All you have to do is pay them. Ramirez. Lowe. Perez. Hudson, who would bring the kind of fire and leadership for which this team has been screaming for years. The Mets need starting pitching, and could sure use lineup help. You can make an argument for any of them.

Much as I like the odds of Derek Lowe winning 15 games in a Mets uniform next season, I’m far less enthused about him commanding a 4 or 5 year deal. And it’s the height of paranoia (or stirring shit up for the sake of it) to suggest a team featuring Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, David Wright and Francisco Rodriguez has been rendered irrelevant by the Bronx spending spree. Whether the Yankees win 100 or 130 games next season is of little consequence to Mets fans — their team making the postseason is their primary concern.  In signing K-Rod and trading for J.J. Putz, Omar Minaya addressed a pair of his club’s most glaring weaknesses.  By contrast, Brian Cashman’s purchases of Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira, while unquestionably making his team stronger, still leave the Yankees as a less than fully realized squad.  Teixeira might get on base 4 times out of 10, but his resume as a middle reliever is awfully thin.