Last year the Mets fought their way to the World Series but succumbed toe the Champion Parcelmen from Box City. This year Glen Allen sought to return to the playoffs and come home with the trophy. They again won the National League East, but lost to the NL Champ Ocala is an exciting seven game series that was won by the Ocelots in extra innings. The Ocelots proceeded to win the World Series. Losing to the Camps two years in a row may be a consolation that the Mets are doing better than other teams in the league, but the hunger pains linger for the sweet taste of victory.
With the free agent season officially upon us, it may be a good time to take a moment to revisit the Mets season before looking forward. The Glen Allen Writers Association have voted Matt Lawton and Ryan Klesko co-Most Valuable Players! Matt rebounded from a down year to bat .312 with an OBP of .424, scoring a team leading 103 runs, 171 hits, 54 doubles and 28/34 stolen bases, and second on the team with 104 walks while playing a solid right field. Ryan batted .297, .424 OBP, .521 slugging, scoring 98 runs with 38 doubles, while leading the team in walks with 110 and second on the team in homers with 23 and RBI with 83, stealing 25/33 bases. Klesko shared first base and left field playing admirably in either position and in many games manned both spots to juggle the batting order and /or improve the defense. Unfortunately for Glen Allen, both men are unrestricted free agents, they will each be offered contracts, but may command higher salaries elsewhere.
Honorable mention must be given to the team’s catchers. All season long the pitchers appreciated their efforts behind the plate, in addition to what they did while at bat. Brook Fordyce finished with .313 average and 14 homers, 45 runs and 92 hits, and John Flaherty .277, 96 hits 13 doubles and 9 homers with 46 RBI. Combined 94 RBI, 23 home runs, 22 doubles, 188 hits and 83 runs looks like the statistics of an all-stat catcher if it came from one body.
The overall team batting average was down from a season ago and most of the blame must go to the infielders. At third base two veterans battled injuries throughout the season and in one playoff game, Mike Stanley volunteered to man the hot corner after both were forced out of the game. Cal Ripken finished with 13 homers batting only .191 and Fernando Tatis .256, 15 HR and 100 K in 313 at bats and 17 errors to lead the team, combined they drove home 98 runs. Management was also disappointed in the significant decline of last years table setters: Vizquel, Velarde and Jackson. Vizquel played 161 games with only 3 errors at shortstop, but batted .240 causing him to be dropped to ninth in the order against left handed pitchers. Velarde also was dropped down in the order to take advantage of his slugging with 15 homers, but also his propensity to strike out, 112 K to lead the team. Damian Jackson, for all his speed learned the old rule that you cannot steal first base especially batting .236 and walking only 25 times. Ripken and Velarde each have another year under contract, but Omar is and unrestricted free agent who will be made and offer, but he may have played his last game for the Mets. Glen Allen has options on Tatis and Jackson, so they may return unless some team offers an exorbitant salary.
The pitchers did a solid job most of the year. The bullpen was especially effective lead by closer Bob Wickman (41 saves) and set up man Wayne Gomes (2.21 ERA and 3 saves). Starters Milton and Ritchie each had ERA under 5.00 to anchor the staff but third and four starters Trachsel (6.99) and Gardner (5.61) were not nearly as effective. The fifth spot was a juggling act of five others with Zito the winner. Barry will join the top of the rotation next year and allow some other clowns to be the fifth starter. Pitching coach Jimmy Key was already thinking about putting Ritchie between the two southpaws, followed by Trachsel. “Nice and balance so other teams will not be able to get too comfortable.”
Hitting coach Eddie Kranepool is already excited about a couple of his pupils who will play significant roles next year. “Trot (Nixon) had a cup of coffee this year, but watch what he will do in a whole season. He will be one of our top four outfielders for sure. Albert Pujols should win the rookie of the year! Mark it down and come talk to me this time next year. He will be fun for our fans to watch with a bat in his hands. I’m not sure which position he will play, probably one of the top four outfielders or first base if Ryan does not return…
Back to the free agent season, who will be added to the team and who will be lost, stay tuned for more excitement.