As we close the first half of 2009 on a small but encouraging positive note after two nice wins, it is time to reflect on the performance of the team.
We have seen more injuries to key players than in any year since 1987, and like that disappointing season, the teamâ€™s fortunes have been dramatically affected by the massive amount of production which rests on the DL. Also like that year, the replacements have surely tried hard to fill in, but no team can hold enough talent in reserve to make up for 5 or 6 of the teamâ€™s most important players being disabled at the same time.
Other than the Dodgers and Phillies, there are no thoroughly solid teams in the NL. The Giants indeed look good right now with their pitching, but Met fans have to realistically think that, while we cannot be overly optimistic about our postseason chances until we see some of the walking wounded running and hitting and throwing again, we certainly will have an infusion of our own talent returning at some point, in addition to any more trades Omar can manage to swing. The cup is surely not full, but it is far from empty. More games like yesterday and today will help us to stay within telescopic sight of the playoffs, and with the way the NL looks right now, an 8- or 10-game winning streak in August could indeed catapult us right back over the wall into the courtyard of contention.
Francisco Rodriguez: AÂ Â Â Â Â Has two blown saves and a third which was a gift from Slappy, but overall has been nothing short of fabulous. Has a great arsenal of pitches, has no fear, and has stepped right back up after each blown save. Precisely what this team needed and maybe the first half team MVP. Thank you again Omar.
David Wright: A-Â Â Â Â Â It is tempting to be down on David, with his few homers and many Ks, but his overall production, and his continuing to silence the ridiculous â€œHe is not clutchâ€ and â€œHe is not a leaderâ€ voices have to earn him an A-. He has fewer RBI, but he has seen a lot less chances. When we have won, he has been in the middle of it just about every time. And his on-field and in-dugout leadership, as well as his comments about preparedness, seem to show that the leader we have been waiting for has indeed arrived, and in very troubling times.
Johan Santana: A-Â Â Â Â Â Had a great beginning of the season, hit a rough patch, and appears to have recovered lately. The rock of the rotation, a great and enthusiastic leader, and with theÂ pitching staff’sÂ struggles, he has to be considered as something of a savior this year.
Carlos Beltran:A-Â Â Â Â Â He has again been nothing but a very valuable and productive player, in a key defensive position. Has been more vocal about the teamâ€™s play and his own situation. Has to be downgraded from an A for some sloppy and somewhat lackadaisical baserunning on occasion, but remains one of the core leaders of this team in every way.
Gary Sheffield: B+Â Â Â Â Â Not the MVP contender of years past, but his plate discipline, OBP, and tremendously needed power and presence have been fantastic. Maybe earns a shade higher grade than the numbers would suggest due to the bargain of his salary and how much his production has been needed due to injuries. The team would be far further buried without Shef. And as manyâ€”myself includedâ€”did not want him here, he stands with Pedro as exhibits A and B of why we should not pay attention to the mediaâ€™s negative portrayals of playersâ€™ clubhouse influence until we can judge for ourselves.
Pedro Feliciano: B+Â Â Â Â Â Has been really good and very reliable. Other than too many HR allowed, fine stats across the board. Letâ€™s hope he keeps it up and does not tire.
Omir Santos: BÂ Â Â Â Â One of the better surprises of the year. Weak OBP, but power and RBI have been very good, and often well-timed.
Rest of Pen: B-Â Â Â Â Â Parnell and Green are both solid pieces, probably not as good as they looked early, or as bad as they have looked a lot of the time since. Stokes is surely a serviceable 4th or 5th man to have in the pen. If JJ returns healthy as the 8th inning guy and everyone else moves down a notch, they all become more valuable.
Luis Castillo: B-Â Â Â Â Â Maybe even a solid B. Has hit decently, has gotten on base very well, and despite one horrifying error which some of us may remember, has been a fine fielder this year. He cannot be blamed for saying â€œOK!â€ when offered a couple more years and a lot more money than he was worth.
Mike Pelfrey: B-Â Â Â Â Â Still disappointing overall, but still young and still shows enough for the team to believe he will soon develop into a solid number two. Must pound the strike zone and focus, and letâ€™s hope Wright keeps reminding him of these facts.
The Bench: B-Â Â Â Â Â Cora has cooled, but has done a good job overall, while being asked to do far too much. The league has again caught up with Tatis, but he remains a versatile and nice bench piece. Reed has been very good overall, and has hit better than could have been expected. The bench would almost certainly have a higher grade were they allowed to be the bench, and not start so often.
Daniel Murphy: C+Â Â Â Â Â Has shown some more promise of late, and has fielded very well at first base. The jury is still out on him overall, but he has shown enough production to stillÂ justify beingÂ out there every day until Delgado returns. Hard to really say what he will ultimately be.
Livan Hernandez: CÂ Â Â Â Â Maybe a bit generous, but really has been about as expected, and has provided some needed innings and wins.
Brian Schneider: CÂ Â Â Â Â Very average in all ways, but has been unusually productive of late. Will surely be gone next year.
Tim Redding: D-Â Â Â Â Â Simply not a very good pitcher.
Ryan Church/Jeff Francoeur: TBDÂ Â Â Â Â I like this deal a lot. Church is soon to be 31, and remains a very streaky and injury-prone guy, who has great hot streaks followed by icy cold ones, which are then usually followed by an injury. Frenchy has a horrid OBP and his power has lessened, but he has also put up full seasons more productive than anything that the 5-years-older Church has managed to achieve. And most key of all, Frenchy can play every day; Church cannot. This is the most important part of this trade.
Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, John Maine, Oliver Perez, JJ Putz, Fernando Nieve, Fernando Martinez: IncompletesÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Simply unfair to judge any of them â€“yes, including Ollie!â€”thus far. Nieve surely has exciting potential, but it is too soon to grade him. Same with FMart, assuming he ever can have a 60-day healthy period in which we can try to assess him. JJ was not himself at all this year, and should have been disabled long before he was. Letâ€™s hope we can have a larger body of evidence for final judgments on all of these extremely important players later this summer. Or better yet, early this fall.
Â Jerry Manuel: CÂ Â Â Â Â I find it hard to be objective about Jerry. He has been dealt a 6-card hand in a 7-card stud game, but I feel he has played this hand very poorly. Yes, players on this level should be self-motivated and prepare themselves, but I still feel that there has been just too much in the way of weak fundamental play on the bases and in the field. Batting Argenis leadoff and sitting Murphy for Tatis are moves which make no sense and are indefensible. The excessive bunting and endless lineup juggling have not helped the team. I do think that Jerryâ€™s positive demeanor may help keep things on an even keel in these hard times, and this is why he earns a grade of C rather than a bit lower.
Training and Medical Staff: DÂ Â Â Â Â I have been over this again and again, and Adam Rubin knows a lot more than we do, so check this article out, as it says what I feel, yet with much more weight of evidence and access behind it. Rubin re-states what the Star Ledgerâ€™s Brian Costa also earlier expressed: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/mets/2009/07/11/2009-07-11_meet_the_mess.html
Omar Minaya: BÂ Â Â Â Â Sorry, he deserves a B.Â Ollie looks bad, but how good do KRod and Shef look? Omar cannot be blamed for the Wilpons refusing to field a $200 million payroll, and he cannot be expected to have an all-star team waiting in AAA. He has given us a contending team every year, and there is no reason to believe that if we are healthy and make a couple more improvements, that 2010 will not be a great year, as this year might have been without the injuries.
The Wilpons: B-Â Â Â Â Â Hard to grade them, as it is so hard to know what they think and what they dictate. From our perspective, it seems as though they would not increase the payroll enough to obtain another bat in the offseason, and their silence seems to say that they are either content with poor fundamental play or too distracted elsewhere to notice.
Overall Team Grade: C+Â Â Â Â Â Despite the injuries, we still remain within striking distance of the playoff chase. We certainly have a lot of teams to leapfrog, but if we somehow return to full strength by mid-August and remain within about a half dozen games of a playoff spot, we might see the opposite finish of the last two years. Despite the injuries and sloppy play, the team clearly has not given up, and we have half of an excellent starting lineup on the DL. Letâ€™s get them all back and see if all of the adversity has strengthened the constitution of this franchise.