Everybody else is doing it, so why can't we? Forty-one-ish games into the season and the Mets have had an up-and-down three months to say the least. Things could be a whole lot worse, though, even if the Mets have fallen well short of expectations to this point. That's what these mid-season report cards often come down to: how did Player X perform relative to what could have been reasonably expected of him? So with that as our lead-in, here are my first-half grades.
Rotation - C: The starting rotation appeared to be a strength heading into the season, and I guess relative to the offense it *has* been pretty good, but again we're talking about expectations and in that regard the Mets' starters have disappointed as a whole. Mets starters are eighth in the league in ERA and ninth in WHIP, which is fine for a middling team with a small-town payroll, but these are the Ny Effing Mets with more money committed to player salaries than any other team in the National League, so middle of the pack isn't going to cut it. Pedro has been either awful or injured and, while I think he'll pull out of it alright, he's giving the Mets nothing right now. Santana has been fine; unspectacular, but still very good. Oliver Perez, save his most recent outstanding start against the Yankees, has been equal parts terrible and inconsistent. Maine has been pretty good, though not last night.
Rock stars: Mike Pelfrey, I guess
Boxcar hobos: Pedro Martinez, Oliver Perez
Bullpen - B-: This grade could be a bit higher because most of the bullpen principals have been quite good. Billy Wagner, with the exception of that execrable stretch of three games at the beginning of June, has been awesome. Scott Schoeneweis's low-three ERA seems unsustainable give his 12-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but he's been solid despite any smoke and/or mirrors he keeps stashed in his locker. Joe Smith has been inconsistent, but his numbers are pretty good across the board. Feliciano continues to walk a lot of guys, but his ERA and strikeout rates are very strong again. Duaner Sanchez was said to be the key to this relief corps heading into the season, and he's been decent. Like Smith, his numbers are mostly solid, though his ERA is nigh four and his strikeout rate is unspectacular. Aaron Heilman was horrendous in April and May but ungodly in June, so there may be hope for him yet.
Rock stars: Billy Wagner, Pedro Feliciano
Boxcar hobos: Matt Wise, Jorge Sosa
Offense - C-: I'm a little torn on this grade because I'm not sure how much blame to assign to the players and how much should be heaped on the front office and ownership. The offense has not been very good, but a lot of the guys who haven't been very good were known before they even took a swing to not be very good. Marlon Anderson, Endy Chavez, Fernando Tatis: these are not good players. I hate them because they suck, but I don't blame them so much because even their respective mothers could have told us they were terrible. I'll go back to my favorite analogy to these bums: I don't blame a spoon for being unable to to cut my steak; it's a tool ill fit for the job, much like Tatis playing baseball. After a slow start, Jose Reyes has been terrific, and is at or around the top ten players in baseball in VORP. His power is much improved over last season and his walk rate has crept back up to the rate he established last season. Wright has been a little underwhelming, but I still feel like he could break out at any moment. Beltran has been his typical emotionally-subdued but otherwise extremely productive self. Delgado drove in nine runs the other day, so he's good for zippo over the next six weeks now. Church has been mostly terrific and partially injured, but his on-field performance has exceeded any expectations I had of him.
Rock stars: Ryan Church, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran (yes, Carlos Beltran)
Boxcar hobos: Carlos Delgado, Luis Castillo, Brian Schneider
Manager(s) - C: I don't really know how to evaluate managers, and I don't know if I ever will. Willie Randolph seemed like a nice enough guy, though he had awkward bullpen usage and often relied too heavily on established, ineffective veterans in all facets of play (bullpen, offense, defense). I didn't always care for his lineup construction, and rumors trickled in after his ouster that he had lost his clubhouse. All of this paints a pretty crummy picture of him as a manager, but even considering all of that I still don't know that he cost the Mets any more than a few games over the course of a season relative to a "great" manager, whomever that might be. Jerry Manual took over and has shown a bit more fire and a little less reliance on "his guys".
Front office - D-: Omar Minaya brought in Johan Santana for a truckload of money and a mixed bag of prospects, and despite his best efforts the Lastings Milledge deal has sorta worked out for the Mets so far (though perhaps not in the long run). However, his biggest failing (stop me if you've heard this one before) was his inability to provide reasonable contingency plans for injuries to Moises Alou and continued ineptitude from Carlos Delgado. That the first line of support has been the likes of Tatis, Anderson and Chavez is as big an indictment of Minaya's shortcomings as a GM as anything you could hold against Randolph as a manager. There are some important decisions to be made in the next three weeks about the viability of this team as a legitimate playoff contender, but despite assurances from ownership that his job is safe, Minaya has to feel that this could be a watershed season in his career as Mets GM. The NL East seems weak enough that a small bump could put the Mets over the top, but will Minaya trade away what few chips remain in the farm system for a shot at the postseason? Unfortunately, his short-term outlook and the Mets' long-term success may be diametrically opposed come July 31.
Overall - C-: The Mets are still just three (or so) games out in the NL East, but clearly they have failed to meet expectations in almost every area of their play. There's still a half-season to turn things around, but it'll get late early (Yogi!) if they keep losing every other game.
Agree or disagree, leave your grades in the comments. Or, go one step further and make some prognostications about the next
41 81 (or 40 80, now) games.