LADIES & GENTLEMEN, YOUR FIRST PLACE NY METS
1. Julio Franco: After breaking the record for oldest man to homer in a game earlier this season, he followed his two-run, pinch hit single with a stolen base. It's pretty clear that everything Franco does from here on will break an age-related record of some sort. Oldest player to adjust his cup, oldest player to spit in the dugout, oldest player to bag a groupie on the road, oldest player to inject his own ass with steroids. The sky's the limit here.
Actually, he didn't break the record for oldest geezer to steal a base, falling a couple years short of Arlie Latham, "The Freshest Man on Earth." Latham's nickname was an apparent reference to his predilection for trash talking and other lip-flapping aggression. The first time I read about him, probably in some Bill James book back in the day, I thought of the nickname through modern eyes: fresh as a synonym for "cool." I had a vision of a cool dude, strutting around the field. Which supposedly was the case anyhow.
2. Barry Bonds: I'm glad Willie didn't walk him. He hasn't even hit 750 homers in his career, and we're supposed to be afraid of this guy?
Seriously, you've got a lefty closer that throws almost 100 MPH. Are you gonna put the tying run on base? I think Willie's been giving out too many IBBs this year anyway, so I'm glad to see him pitch to Bonds. The goal, on defense, is to get outs. The only way to get outs is to throw strikes. So Wagner threw a strike, and Bonds hit it out. Not exactly what I wanted, but that's how it goes.
Who am I kidding? The Mets won. If they lost, I'd be calling for Randolph's head.
3. Billy Wagner: His second blown save in seven opportunities. But he hit 99 MPH on the Bonds homer, and his Ks are up. 3 in one inning yesterday. Plus, his defense didn't help him.
4. David Wright: Despite the 5 errors in 21 games, I think he's got a decent glove. Yes, I know that sounds preposterous, but he's got good range, good hands, and he keeps his head in the game.
That said, he simply can't throw. Third basemen need good arms, and Wright doesn't have even an adequate arm. He actually did an ole on a hot grounder to start the ninth, but it was the throw that allowed Bonds to come up that was truly awful. I love Wright's bat, I love his attitude, and I hope he's wearing a Met cap when he stands on the podium in Cooperstown in 2032. But eventually the Mets are gonna have to move him to 1st base, ala the Indians with Jim Thome back in '97.
Unlike Thome, though, who seems to take the field actually wearing a Gold Glove, Wright has the range and the hands to play a mean first sack. The apt comparison, probably, is Steve Garvey, another sweet swinging right-handed third baseman who moved to first because he couldn't throw. When he got to first he still couldn't throw, but he played his position well, nonetheless.
5. Brian Bannister: Injured. Hmmm. Although, I have to again note that his pitching line is horrible: 28 IP, 22 H, 9 runs, 2 HR, 17 BBs, 14Ks. The ERA and the hits allowed are very good, but 4.5 Ks per 9 IP is barely at the ground floor for a major league pitcher. Just way too many balls in play. And then to have more walks than strikeouts? He just can't sustain that. Too many baserunners, too many balls in play, too little command. Yet, he wins. Who knows?
Plus, the boy can hit. He's batting .400 with a .700 slugging pct., and takes a helluva cut at the dish. Maybe they can use him to pinch hit instead of that fellow they pulled off the 7 train. Jose Valentin? Is that the guy's name?
More to the point, though, if Bannister goes on the DL, who do they add to the rotation? First of all, they'll have to keep the Killer Zambie up in Queens, and starting. Yikes. And the other guy? Heilman or Oliver into the starter's role? They can't bring up Pellfrey yet. Let's just hope it's not gonna be Lima Time. Ouch!
Anyway, where have you gone, Jae Seo-o-o? A rotation turns its aching arms to you.
You were expecting me to throw in the "Oo, oo, oo," weren't you? C'mon, admit it. Well, I'm not gonna embarrass myself. I have too much dignity for that.
No I don't: Oo, oo, oo.
6. Reyes Walks! It's not quite "Garbo Talks," or even "Bush tells the truth," but noteworthy nevertheless. In fact, free-swinging Jose has now drawn 7 free passes in 91 ABs. Watch out, Mr. Bonds. That guy in your rearview isn't a Narc, it's Jose Reyes coming to get your career walks record.
Maybe Rickey Henderson's doing something other than looking & acting crazy as he sits in the stands and watches the Mets. Even in his playing days, Rickey looked & acted crazy . . . but drew 100+ BBs in the process. Man, if Reyes can become a 1 BB/10 AB guy, and hit .275+, he's gonna be a scoring machine. He's totaled 18 runs in 21 games this season with a .296 OBP, for a team that's middle of the pack in scoring (read that sentence again). Last year he scored 99 with a .300 OBP.
The guy, like his "mentor," Rickey, is a run scoring fool when he gets on base. Maybe the fastest baserunner I've ever seen. Rickey, of course, added a .400 OBP to his baserunning prowess, thus he was good for 100+ runs if he played as many as 130 games. Reyes ain't Rickey (no one is), but he's showing some signs of improvement, of learning, so it could be good.
7. Ramon Castro continues to hit, following the trend he began last year of being nothing but good for the Mets, in every situation. In fact, his combined '05 & '06 stats are excellent: 230 ABs, 30 runs scored and 44 RBI, plus 19 2Bs and 9 HRs. He's drawn 26 BBs. I don't have his HBP or SF data, so I may be slightly off on the OBP, but he's 261/336/461 for the Mets, with about 1 RBI per 4 batting outs. And he's a backup catcher! Whether it's luck, opportunism, or sheer talent, I don't know. But along with the Mets excellent hitting pitchers, Ramon's one of those little things that helps the team win. Not that Ramon's ever been called a little thing in his life, I'm sure.
8. Armando Benitez: I wish I could find something bad to say, but I can't. Damn!
9. Oliver! Not the Oscar-winning musical, but the resurrected corpse of a very bad pitcher. I fully expect him to end the season with a bloated ERA, and a shower of boos every time he shambles in from the pen. But for now, the dude's been quite good, even K'ing more than a batter per inning.
10. Xavierrrrrrrrrrr Nady: He's been a real treat, but I can't help but see a free-swinging, dead fastball hitter. His OBP is at .345, and going down fast. He doesn't walk, he's got more holes in his swing than a neglected playground, and he's done nothing in his career to suggest he'll continue to hit .300 with so much power.
But, he is 27, and he seems to play hard. I can see him hitting 25-35 homers, but the average is gonna fall. I think 260/320/475 for season is a possibility. And with his good fielding and hustle, that's fine. More than fine.
The Mets are playing good ball, and with the weak division, I'm actually optimistic for the season. Let's Go Letsgoes!