By Mike Steffanos
Game 138: Mets 4 - Brewers 2
With yesterday afternoon's win in Milwaukee, the Mets are 16 games over .500 for the first time in 2008. While this doesn't make them a great team, or even guarantee anything as far as the playoffs, I think it is safe to say that this team bears little resemblance to the complacent underachievers of last season.
When you look into the difference between last year (and even early this year) and now, there is little doubt that one of the huge improvements is the production from the first baseman.
It's well documented that Delgado has been virtually tearing the cover off the ball since late June. At times he's even carried this team. He's been getting the big, late-game hits that have contributed to big wins.
At 36 years old he's out there every day. He's played in 135 of the Mets 138 games. His 580 Plate Appearances rank fourth on the team behind Reyes (649), Wright (627) and Beltran (601). To put this in perspective, Brian Schneider is fifth on the team in PA with 330. Injuries have forced the Mets to utilize many different lineups, and Delgado has been an important constant in holding things together.
I'm as guilty as anyone in believing that Carlos was on the last legs of his career as 2007's struggles continued into April, May and then June. Unlike some, though, I didn't feel the need to see Delgado as some sort of evil force hovering over the Mets clubhouse. I respected the fact that he continued to be a leader on the field and in the clubhouse even while his struggles were at their worse.
Because of this, I could just feel good about how wrong I was about Delgado. While I think recent talk of Delgado for NL MVP is a little far-fetched, maybe in some ways it's karma's way of repaying him for all of the even more far-fetched negative stuff that was being written about him.
As for the team itself, they've proven that they'll compete in every game, despite all of their shortcomings and weaknesses. Although I am still under no illusions that I am rooting for some sort of invincible juggernaut, I haven't felt as good about rooting for this club since 2006. They may or may not make the playoffs, but -- in my mind, at least -- they're indisputably a worthy team to root for now.