Believe it or not, baseball aficionados, one quarter of the season has passed.
The boys of summer will soon be meeting the dog days of summer, and baseball fans around the country will be wiping the sweat off their brows as they watch their favorite teams compete for a playoff spot—or waive the white flag early and look ahead to 2009.
Those of us who root for the New York Mets can’t help but look back at the disappointments in 2006 and 2007. This year, the Metropolitans have wrapped up one quarter of their baseball schedule with a record of 22-19, good enough for one game behind the division leading Florida Marlins on May 19.
However, most Mets’ fans would agree that being only three games over .500 and not being on top of the division, while the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves have muddled along, is certainly not “good enough.”
For this Bleacher Report Roundtable, BR’s top three Mets’ writers (Dan Siegel and John Fennelly of mrflushing.com, and David Marine of metslifer.com) are joined by newcomer John Biancardi to hand out the first quarter grades to the Amazins and not-so-Amazins.
The writers were given the following criteria when selecting their grades:
A=Championship-level/Award winning-level play
D=Team/player/personnel is in danger of failing!
F=Team/player/personnel is failing/has already failed
Let’s see how the boys from Flushing faired
Biancardi awards a grade of “A” to Ryan Church and Billy Wagner
Of Church, Biancardi remarks, “He has by far been the Mets most consistent player, as he leads the club with nine homeruns, and a .307 average. Church is also only two RBIs behind Wright for the club lead, with thirty-two, and he has consistently made great plays on offense and defense when the Mets need him most.
Hmm, Johnny B.—is Ryan Church really playing an award-winning brand of baseball?
If Church stays healthy and is an everyday player for the rest of the season, which he has clearly earned at this point, he is on pace to hit 36 home runs and notch 128 RBI. Along with a .922 OPS, those are rather monstrous numbers and while the name “Ryan Church” may not garner too much attention from media outlets outside of New York, if he finishes that strong, he deserves to be in the MVP conversation
Good job with that one, Johnny. What about Billy?
“…not enough good things can be said about Wagner, as he has yet to allow an earned run in seventeen innings.
If Wagner can pull off the unlikely feat of having a 0.00 ERA and convert 36 saves, sure, hand him a Cy Young.
That’s all the “As” to be handed out so far.
Scott Schoeneweis, Pedro Feliciano, and Joe Smith can each take home a grade of “B+” for their efforts on the bullpen. Are they All-Stars? Probably not, but the two lefties have managed to maintain an ERA under two, and Smith is sporting a 2.55, more than three runs lower than Aaron Heilman or Duaner Sanchez.
Any other “Bs” out there?
Biancardi awards a “B” to David Wright. Of Wright, Biancardi notes, “For any other player, Wright's start to the season would be well above average—.283, eight home runs, 34 RBI, and six stolen bases. However, David has been extremely up-and-down, and the Mets need him to be consistent in the middle of their lineup.
Sounds about right. David’s power numbers are certainly All-Star worthy, and some uninformed writers may see him as the Mets’ MVP—probably the same ones that gave him a Gold Glove. But his lapses at the plate and his throwing problems keep Wright from being amongst the elite players in this young 2008 season
Last call for “Bs.
Ah, yes. Mr. Fennelly gives the starting rotation a grade of “B” stating that, “…Santana and Maine have pitched wel,l but Perez and Pelfrey need to be more consistent.”
Santana and Maine do seem to be playing All-Star-level ball. Johan is not quite living up to the hype and the contract, but has given the Mets a chance to win every fifth day
Pitching coach Rick Peterson can accept a grade of “B” for his work as pitching coach, guiding his staff to a 3.81 ERA, fourth-best in the National League
Keeping Peterson from getting an “A” is his bullpen, which Fennelly gives a grade of “C,” noting that, “…only Wagner and Smith have been good. The others are mediocre to bad.”
Schoeneweis and Feliciano aside, Fennelly is right on with the others
Now on to the “Cs.
Catcher Brian Schneider can take a “C” for his adventurous first quarter. He barely made it out of Spring Training with leg ailments, but kept Raul Casanova on the bench longer than any other position player. However, Schneider missed time with a bruised forearm and thumb infection.
His offense has been a nice surprise, garnering a .304 average in 92 at-bats. But his defense, which is what he was brought in for, has been quite inconsistent. While he has called good games and help shut down opponents’ running games, there have been far too many passed balls and wild pitches in the early going.
Fennelly claims that the lineup as a whole belongs in this category, stating, “[Jose] Reyes needs to start hitting left-handed full time. Wright has to stop pressing against righties. [Carlos] Beltran has been awful. Church has been a pleasant surprise, but I don't see him hitting .300. Maybe .285, which means he's going to cool down. [Moises] Alou is the key to the Mets offense—he puts the ball in play.
Biancardi specifically awards Reyes and Beltran “Cs” as well, stating, “Both players have had hot streaks, but also miserable cold streaks. Both players are showing signs of coming out of their funks, as Beltran has gotten a hit in nine-of-ten games, while Reyes has hit safely in eight-of-ten games.
“However, both players' averages have been sub-par, and Beltran has yet to find his power stroke, totaling just three home runs.
Were it not for Beltran’s recent hot play, he would probably deserve to be a part of the “D” group, and his home-run total definitely belongs there, but we can cut him some slack since he had Carlos Delgado hitting behind him most of the time before Alou came back.
There’s one more “C” to hand out, and it goes to manager Willie Randolph.
Fennelly says that, “If the bullpen did its job, the team would be in first place right now, meaning Willie would have less pressure on him. He needs to get tough with the two Carloses, although Delgado seems to be heating up. If Beltran needs to rest, put him on the DL and bring back [Angel] Pagan.
Many fans might disagree with Mr. Fennelly’s assessment, and would put Randolph in the “D” group, as he is the leader of this team that has certainly looked at times to be in danger of failing. But as many like to point out, Willie isn’t the one not hitting or not pitching—the players are.
Mr. Marine also had a hard time deciding between the “C” range and the “D” range for his beloved Mets, stating that, “I want to give the Mets a D, but the fact that they're a game out of first and have had what feels like 100 different lineups is forcing me to give them a C-.
He goes on to say, “Mediocre and inconsistent are perfect synonyms for the start of this season. The Mets have yet to have a 10-game stretch where their 1-5 guys in the lineup have played well. Once that happens, the Mets will be able to make up some ground and quell all that talk of last year's collapse.
However, Mr. Marine’s commentary takes a turn when he says that, “Starting pitching is the key. As much as people say that as Reyes goes so go the Mets, I think starting pitching is the big differentiator for the Mets. If Pedro comes back in July and can contribute, and if Oliver Perez pitches like he does against the Yankees, the Mets will have the best starting rotation in the NL. If that doesn't happen it's Maine, Santana, and a cast of characters.
In addition to Perez, Mike Pelfrey is currently a “C”-level character who will need to step up his game to round out this rotation. He has shown signs of brilliance at times this season, but throws an awful lot of pitches before getting any kind of results.
Speaking of characters, Biancardi has more grades to hand out some of the Mets’ characters. He awards a “D” to Delgado and Luis Castillo.
Biancardi notes that Delgado is, “showing extreme signs of aging. Hitting just .230 has gotten Delgado moved down to as far as seventh in the order.
Of Castillo, he states that “After signing a new deal in the off-season, Castillo has yet to live up to the great number-two hitter that Willie sees him as. Knee injuries have also hampered his performance, but right now he's more of a liability than anything else.
Pretty good, Johnny B. Both of these players are definitely in danger of failing. Delgado is nothing like the cleanup hitter the Mets saw in 2006. Castillo may prove to be the bigger failure of the two, as the Mets will have to suffer through another three and three-quarter seasons of him being in and out of the lineup, taking himself out of games, and not being able to hit the ball more than 120 feet.
Oh, but Mr. Biancardi is not through yet. He has one more grade to hand out. It is a big, fat “F” to Aaron Heilman.
Johnny B. notes that, “With a 5.82 earned run average, and twelve walks in twenty-one and two-thirds innings, Heilman has been the epitome of a flop, so much to the point where he cannot be used in a close game. One has to wonder if he can turn his season around, but at this point it's looking like a pretty low possibility.
Other “Fs” go to the demoted and the departed: Nelson Figueroa, Jorge Sosa, and Brady Clark.
The bench players (including Pagan) can get by with incompletes for now, along with Matt Wise and Duaner Sanchez. However if those two “progress” at their current rates, they can expect “Ds” at the mid-term.