Amazin' Mets Report Card: Mojo Rising In NL East
By Joe McDonald
Coming into this season, the New York Mets would have been happy to compete. If they were in the thick of things at the All-Star Break, then the team general manager Omar Minaya put together in the offseason would be considered a success.
But a funny thing happened. The Mets showed up to play, but the rest of the division apparently didn't.
A 53-36 record, a 12 game lead and the best record in the National League is nothing to sneeze at, but at times the 2006 Mets looked more like the 1996 Mets rather than the 1986 Mets.
Before the season restarts in Chicago, it's time to look at how each Met really did and truly figure out if they are Amazin'.
First Base: Carlos Delgado [.252, 22 HR, 56 RBI] Delgado was scorching hot in April; ice cold in May and had a so-so June. He hasn't produced like expected, but is on pace to hit 40 home runs. Having him in the middle of the lineup is necessary for the Mets, no matter what his average is. Grade: B-
Second Base: Jose Valentin [.275, 9 HR, 36 RBI] If Valentin wasn't on this team, Kaz Matsui would still be the second baseman. Just for that he gets points. But the 36 year-old, who looked awful in April, came on and now is a credible bat in the lower half of the batting order. Also has made a great transition to second base; looking great in a position he says he's not comfortable playing.
Shortstop: Jose Reyes [.300, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 39 SB] Coming into this season, the Mets would have been happy if Reyes got on base and didn't embarrass himself in the field. What they got was their best leadoff hitter since Rickey Henderson in 1999. The 23 year-old ignites the offense everyday and it makes for a simple equation: When Reyes scores, the Mets generally win.
Third Base: David Wright [.316, 20 HR, 74 RBI] In one half season, Wright went from up and coming young ballplayer to outright superstar, matinee heartthrob, and someone who can finally give Derek Jeter a run for his money as New York's favorite son.
Left Field: Cliff Floyd [.249, 7 HR, 26 RBI] Floyd was supposed to be an anchor in the Mets lineup; rather a slump and a few injuries made him one of the disappointments in the first half.
Center Field: Carlos Beltran [.279, 25 HR, 68 RBI] This is the player the Mets were buying when they signed him to the seven years, $119 million contract. Has been relaxed, more consistent and carried the team in parts of May and June. Could hit for a higher average though.
Right Field: Xavier Nady [.265, 12 HR, 34 RBI] Nady surprised many with a hotstart, but injuries slowed him down. It's still up in the air if he's a long term solution in the outfield, but for what was expected, he has been solid.
Catcher: Paul Lo Duca [.302, 3 HR, 30 RBI] Lo Duca quickly established himself as a solid replacement for Mike Piazza. He commands the pitching staff and also acts as an on the field quarterback positioning the infielders. Hitting out of the No. 2 hole, the catcher sacrifices himself and gets situational hits. Could be more productive with driving in runs.
Grade: B +
Pedro Martinez [7-4, 3.25 ERA, 111 K] Martinez seemed to lose a step over the past season. Still a great pitcher, there are times he's gotten lit up. Also a bad hip has slowed him down.
Tom Glavine [11-2, 3.48 ERA]
Before the season, the question was if Glavine would get 300 wins. At times during the first half, you wondered if the milestone will come this season. The Mets are getting what they paid before the 2003 offseason and the future Hall of Famer has come through.
Steve Trachsel [8-4, 4.67 ERA]
You can wonder all you want how Trachsel does it, but the veteran pitcher has done nothing but win, rattling off six straight victories. Can drive you nuts in the way he pitches, but if the bottom line is winning, the righthander is a success.
Orlando Hernandez [3-4, 4.14 ERA with the Mets]
When the Mets acquired El Duque from Arizona, it looked like age finally caught up to him. But after being a sometimes spotty, the former Yankee looked real good in the two starts before the break.
After the top four, the pitching has been mediocre at best and awful more times than not. Just by bringing Jose Lima back for another start tells you how desperate the Mets are in the No. 5 slot. They hope John Maine can fill in or maybe Brian Bannister can get healthy. But right now, this slot has been a failure.
Brilliant at times and sometimes they make you scratch your head, but the pen has been solid overall, even with four blown saves by Billy Wagner. Duaner Sanchez has been the workhorse, while Chad Bradford surprised everyone. Aaron Heilman looks like he wants to pitch his way off this team.
Manager: Willie Randolph
Will never be the best in game manager, Randolph does have the trust of his players, which is a plus. Good communicator and getting better with the media.
The last game of the Yankee series where he left Alay Soler in to get his tail kicked makes you wonder about him.
Grade C +