Tuesday, March 01, 2011

N.Y. METS ~ The Ghosts of 2006

From the Desk of  ~ Head-Butting Mr. MET:

After dominating the National League East all season, on September 18, 2006 - the New York Mets clinched their first Division Title in 18 years with a win over the Florida Marlins.  We are now entering the fifth year since that fateful season and we're still trying to capture another flag.  It's been a tumultuous four seasons since that night in 2006 and we are still suffering through the ramifications of the former GM's attempts at trying to get back to that night.

Omar Minaya was given Jose Reyes and David Wright to him by the last regime.  After signing Carlos Beltran to play center field, every Met position has since been a compendium of ever changing names.  The ensuing years since 2006 turned out to be ruinous for many players; two managers; a GM; and the Owers, who are taking the biggest hit of all since that night the Mets last celebrated back in Sept. of 2006.

Here's to our last flag of any kind, five years later:

The New York Mets Line-up ~ September 18, 2006  vs. Florida Marlins,  Shea Stadium:

1) - Jose Reyes - SS
We sang Jo-se, Jo-se, Jo-se down the ramps and out of Shea Stadium that one NLCS game.  More than the game itself, that was fun!...And something I won't ever forget as a Met fan.

The longest tenured Met is arguably one of the most exciting players in Baseball (when he wants to be and when healthy).  Today he is the personification of Heads I Win; Tails You Lose.  2011 is what you would call a rubber season for him.  He followed 2006 with Reyes-like seasons in 2007 and 2008.  The same can not be said of the two seasons that followed afterwards.  He's been through some real and strange injuries these last two years.  This season nothing is written in stone regarding Jose Reyes.  As of right now, there is no clear indication the Mets will sign him to a long term deal; or a short term deal for that matter.  There is a real possibility this may be his last year in a Mets uniform.  The same I think and hope, can be said of his retention.  He will be 28 years old this season and even amongst Met Fans, there remains a divide whether he has "grown up" or not.  Wilpon and Madoff aside...Will Sandy Alderson actually have the audacity to trade or let walk away, one of the most popular Mets in our history...and end Jose Reyes' time in Flushing?

2) - Paul LoDuca - C
Here-in lies just one of the biggest reasons the Mets could never get as far as they did in 2006 again there-after.  Omar Minaya never could replace the production Paul LoDuca gave the Mets in 2006 batting behind Jose Reyes.  LoDuca himself could not duplicate his previous season in 2007 either.  But in 2006 he combined with Reyes in many games to stake the Mets to early leads.  His .318 batting average; 39 doubles; with only 38 strikeouts in over 500+ at-bats in the second spot of the line-up formed an incredible one-two punch leading off games when teamed with Reyes.  I'm not saying I was particularly a fan of his, but he provided a great number two guy in 2006 that this team has struggled to recreate since.  Additionally the position of Catcher remained unsettled through today.  Josh Thole has emerged on the scene and already has become one of my most favorite Mets ever; right up there with John Stearns as catchers go.  Thole will not disappoint.

3) - Carlos Beltran - CF
This has been an uneasy, contentious Love Affair.  Both he and the team will go their separate ways some time in 2011 and neither will look back.  Both parties are thankful and respectful for the years together.  But neither of them will be missing much of each other as well.  As far as free agents go, Carlos Beltran was money well spent.  He had his career years here so the money was earned, injuries aside.  We gave him a hard time and he held it against us.  That's fair.  That's why everyone is going to walk away from this with a polite handshake and not too many words spoken. 

It's hard getting the vision of that curve ball everyone knew was coming (except Carlos) out of our minds.  He doesn't necessarily have to go, but he can't stay here; that's for sure..  It's a sad ending to a sad time.

4) - Carlos Delgado - 1B
This is the one that I feel most badly about.  Jose Reyes made our line-up dangerous from the top.  But, Carlos Delgado was the Big V-8 engine that made this machine lethal.  He never wanted to come here in the first place, otherwise he would have signed here and not with the Marlins.  But Omar Minaya traded to bring him here anyway.  In some unassociated thoughts about Carlos, I don't accept the irresponsible claim Michael Kay makes when he flat out accuses Carlos Delgado of intentionally dogging it in order to get Willie Randolph fired.  The game when he hit 2 home runs in the NLCS and we still lost haunts me more than Aaron Heilman and Game 7 does.  I honestly wanted Carlos Delgado to cap off a HOF type career with the Mets.  He started the 2009 season with 468 home runs and 111 RBI away from 1600.  Then that damn hip of his ruined things.  And I hoped 2010 would be different for him, whether with the Mets or elsewhere.  I still hope he can latch on with somebody.  After putting up a few numbers in 2009, today he is 27 HR's away from 500 and 82 RBI away from 1600.  It would have been nice if he could have done that as a Met.

5) - David Wright - 3B
He's the second longest tenured Met after Jose Reyes.  If he sticks around in a Met uniform long enough he'll own most of the Club's offensive records.  The Media criticized him and Reyes for perhaps partying too much upon winning the Division Flag that night on September 18, 2006.  But they also dubbed him the team's unanointed Captain since that night.  To that, I say, "whatever" - Captains don't mean much to me.  There's no denying the spaciousness of Citi Field haunted David's bat when it first opened.  All the unforeseen injuries of 2009-10, depleting the Mets' line-up left David Wright exposed to being very easily pitched around.  His at-bats suffered and his strikeouts skyrocketed as he just tried to hit something; anything..that came within 6 feet of his bat.  If there's one thing I would be looking at for an indication of David's ongoing maturation this season, it would be his strikeout totals and how he ultimately adjusts to Citi Field.  Last year was his first full season not finishing with a .300 batting average as he tallied his highest strikeout total of his career.  This year's line-up should be a little more stable than last year's.

6) - Cliff Floyd - LF
He squeezed the last put-out of the game on the night the Mets clinched the division flag in 2006.  Like the majority of his career, Cliff was beset by injuries.  His time with the Mets was no different.  His 2005 season was very solid but in 2006 he only played in 97 games.  Injured or not, he was always a crowd favorite.  He retired shortly after his 4 years with the Mets.  He'll always sneak into Met History because he did make that last catch to clinch the Mets' last flag of any kind.  But when he caught that ball, he turned around and showed it to the fans in the bleachers as if to celebrate the victory with his little corner of left-field pals.  That was a great touch by Cliff.  I was sitting in MEZZ  Box that night in the left field corner.  From my vantage, it was a pretty sight.

7) - Shawn Green - RF

He was hardly the player he was in Toronto and Los Angeles.  No one was mistaken about that when we picked him up at the 2006 deadline. 

But here's my Shawn Green Story; the short version.  I was loitering around the first base side before the game taking pictures, when some of the players came out to sign autographs.  I was already supremely positioned where I was, so I stuck around and tried to get one.  Shawn was closer to me than Jose Reyes was.  I stood there with my program out and ready, but down.  He knew it.  He saw me.  But I never muscled a kid for a chance.  I just waited to see if he'd offer.  I only ask once and I hadn't yet.  He finished signing and started to walk away.  After about three steps I asked, "Shawn, Do you have time for one more please?"  He stopped, turned and looked.  It was one of those "long" seconds in life, and he replied with a, "Yea, sure...You bet."

Thanks Shawn.

8) - Jose Valentin - 2B
He represents the second wild-card in the Mets' hand during 2006.  Just like LoDuca did in the second slot, Jose Valentin supplied the Mets' line-up with incredible production from the (7th and..) 8th spot in the line-up.  As one of Omar Minaya's basement bargain signings, he batted .271, hit 18 home runs and had 62 RBI in 137 games playing second base for the Mets.  He hit two home runs supplying the Mets with all the offense they needed that night the Mets clinched the Eastern Division against the Marlins. 

Jose Valentin and Paul LoDuca were tremendous complimentary bat's in a line-up featuring Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Delgado.  But after 2006, like catcher, left field, and right field, second base remained a position never satisfactorily resolved by Omar Minaya in the years that followed.  These four positions remained patch-worked together by Omar Minaya during his entire tenure which is partly the reason he is no longer GM.

9) - Steve Trachsel - SP
He got the win the night the Mets' clinched their first Division Flag in 18 years.  He pitched a hell of a game that night and left the game to a standing ovation.

Something went very wrong and astonishingly right for the Mets as they headed towards that fateful NLCS against the Cardinals after clinching the division.  Omar Minaya's reliance on guys like El Duque, Pedro, and Tom Glavine let him down.  But in 2006 John Maine and Oliver Perez emerged to become big-time pitchers when we needed it most.  But after 2006, they also went on to let Omar's hope of a winner meekly pass us by.  Then they just became flat out head-cases.

Billy Wagner - RP
Billy Wagner got the save that night of Sept. 2006 and was met by Paul LoDuca....then by the rest of the team.  All the Mets celebrated their Division Title just behind the mound at Shea.

Wagner got out of hand just like everybody else did after 2006.  It's just that he had a bigger mouth than most.  But hey, after Armando Benitez, who are we to complain?  Oh yea, Omar replaced him with Francisco Rodriguez.

That team really was a one year wonder because it had too many things wrong with it in order to sustain, although they did come very close with regards to 2007-08.  But they also evolved into a very cancerous clubhouse.  Latino Gate started things towards the incredulous in 2007.  Things just devolved from there in every respect from ownership on down.  Today in 2011, we still haven't recovered.

And here we are five years in the aftermath of what was still a thrilling season despite being ruinous to the organization and over-all psyche of METropolis.  The last vestiges of that team are finally either being purged or re-evaluated.  When all is said and done and Sandy Alderson has his way, David Wright may very well be the only one left from the last group of Mets to raise a flag of any kind. 

That also includes the team's owner.


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