By Mike Steffanos
Note: I feel as terrible about Orlando Hernandez' injury as anyone, but will take my cue from the Mets players and proceed with business as usual in this space. There are already enough in the media willing to wring their hands or twirl their moustaches over the latest bad news.
We'll finish our look at the Regular Season performance of the New York Mets today. This seemed an appropriate exercise at this time, since I consider playoff performance absolutely separate from regular season achievements. Although playoff accomplishments are the stuff that New York sports legends are made of, you can't do anything without making it there. This is a look at those that made it happened.
Keep in mind that my grade takes into account what a player has done compared with what he could have been reasonably expected to do when the year started. We tackled the pitchers last night, now we'll take a look at the position players and manager:
Manager Willie Randolph
Getting better and better at managing a game, and no one does a better job managing his players.
Stepped up to become what he is being to paid to be -- the best player on the team. His improvement offensively was self-evident, but he also picked up his game defensively, too. He had a knack for coming up with some of those 41 HRs in huge situations. My only minor quibble is that if he could learn to lay off breaking pitches out of the zone, especially from the left side, he could be a .300 hitter. Still, he did everything that could be asked this season.
You've come a long way, kid, from the favorite whipping boy of numbers crunchers to arguably the most important player on the Mets. Let them spout their nonsense about Reyes being overrated -- I think many who don't follow the Mets regularly honestly don't have a clue what this kid brings to the table. Still only 23, it's scary to think how much better this kid could still get.
It didn't come easy for Wright in the second half as his power numbers dropped off, as did his splits against lefties. I think he strikes out a little too much for someone with his ability, and then I remind myself he's still 23. Still prone to make the occasional wild throw when he has too much time to think about it, his defense is still light years improved over the first two years. There is still foreseeable upside in all facets of his game.
I can't think of a more pleasant surprise than Jose Valentin in all of my years in watching the Mets. Although he slumped some in September, he still finished with an excellent line for a middle infielder of .271/330/.490. He also worked himself into being a really fine defensive second baseman. He was also a great teammate and a nice inspirational story. And just how big were those 2 homers in the clincher?
Mr. everything off the bench. He brings terrific fundamentals to all facets of the game. His hitting approach has caught up to his defense and baserunning. His defense is so strong he's actually probably the best centerfielder on the team, and one of the best in the game. Insert your superlative here, this kid just deserves any accolade he gets.
Paul Lo Duca
We all feared one of Lo Duca's second half collapses, but it never came. Instead he led the team in hitting with a .318 average, and did everything you could ask out of a number two hitter. His defense wasn't great, but we knew it wouldn't be. He was terrific handling the 2,000 men who pitched for this team in 2007, and he was a real leader.
The numbers for Delgado were pretty good, despite enduring two really long slumps. His bat seemed to be a little slow at times as the season went on, but he had some big moments. The one thing that stayed consistent was his leadership. His effect on Beltran and Wright is hard to quantify, but indisputable. A really solid clubhouse presence.
He seems to be coming out of a long slump at just the right time. Like Delgado he has been a valuable team leader.
His production was down from last year as injuries limited him to 126 ABs.
He just couldn't stay healthy for the team in 2006 as he battled all manner of leg injuries, causing a severe drop-off in contributions both at the plate and in the field. Here's hoping that he writes a great final chapter for his Mets career in the playoffs. Always one of the good guys. I'm probably at least a half-grade higher because of that.
Despite the low batting average, Tucker is a professional hitter who works the count and can give you some quality at bats. His defense is adequate.
He's been streaky but generally disappointing at the plate, and his defense is not much of an improvement on Nady's. That contract for next year isn't looking too good. He's a good guy and a good teammate, but he needs to produce offensively to cancel out sub-par fielding.
Woody plays solid defense at several positions but really came up short with the offense this season. In key spots he always seemed to be in an 0-2 hole. He also strikes out excessively for a guy with little power -- 55 times in only 222 ABs with a miniscule .311 SLG. I like Chris, but my gut feeling is that the Mets could find a utility infielder that would give them more offense and equivalent defense.
His first taste of the bigs wasn't exactly a resounding success. He has a lot of growing up to do, but then again, most of us did at his age.
I love the defense, but he's overmatched against major league pitching. He'd need to lift his average 100 points just to be a competent utility infielder.
Batted under .100 for the Mets in 32 ABs. What more needs to be said?
Actually batted 14 points lower than Ledee.
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