"I can't put it any other way," Rollins said on Tuesday in Clearwater, Fla.
But the Mets had different -- and less confrontational -- ways of looking at the race when they were made aware of Rollins' assertions. Their reactions were mostly benign.
"The Phillies probably were the most active team in our division," Mets left-hander Tom Glavine said, "but what you do in the winter -- it looks good and it's a nice to talk about -- but it doesn't equate to anything. You bring in pieces of the puzzle and hope they mesh. You hope you have a good year. But nobody's going to know that until the year starts.
"I think we're more worried about our own business."
Some of Rollins' remarks seemed aimed at Glavine and Orlando Hernandez.
"Their staff is a little older," Rollins said. "We've seen those guys. It's going to be a battle, but we have the edge -- youth. Our pitchers are more intimidating than their pitchers. ... The youth and attitude of our pitchers gives us the edge.
"Look at our team and what we're bringing. Look at the improvements we've made. You look at the rest of the division [with uncertainty]. The Mets had a chance last year to go to the World Series. They made it to the playoffs. They won the division. Congratulations, but last year is over. They can take that any way they want, but I'm just stating a fact."
Glavine agreed with some of Rollins' thoughts. He couldn't dispute the age factor, but Rollins' other comments were opinions, he said.
Former Phillies closer and current Mets closer Billy Wagner said that he liked Rollins and hardly seemed offended.
"Our motivation," Wagner said, "isn't to beat the Phillies. Our motivation is to win the World Series."
He and Glavine wondered whether Rollins, who made a similar public pronouncement on Jan. 22, was sending a message to the Mets or the Phillies.
"We're not going to come out and talk," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "We don't need to do that. Until somebody dethrones us, we're the defending NL East champs, and we're going to act like it. As far as predictions and talking about it, talk is very cheap.
"Our mind-set going into every year when the Braves won was, 'To be the best, you've got to beat the best.' We found a way to dethrone the Braves. The Phillies can talk as much as they want, but until they prove it on the field, it's just talk."
"Good for him," Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran said of Rollins. "What did they win last year?
"I don't take it personally. That's him making a comment. We're the ones who won last year, and we got better. We will show it in the field. I don't need to say anything. People say crazy things. I'm not surprised by anything."
Pay up: Sometime this year, Mets left fielder Moises Alou will receive a bill, the amount of which has yet to be established. It will come from his new teammate, Jose Valentin.
"I haven't decided yet," Valentin said. "It depends on how well he plays."
The bill will be compensation for the uniform No. 18, which Valentin surrendered to Alou. Valentin has changed to No. 22 -- worn previously by Ray Knight, Donn Clendenon, Kevin McReynolds, Al Leiter and Xavier Nady, among others -- to accommodate Alou. Except for his first two games with the Pirates in 1990, when he wore No. 52, Alou has worn No. 18 throughout his career.
Alou's uncle, Jesus, wore No. 23 with the Mets in 1975.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.