The NL East standings look like this:
2006 National League Standings EAST W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA STRK L10 NY Mets 44 26 .629 --- 21-14 23-12 373 299 Won 1 7-3 Philadelphia 35 36 .493 9.5 18-22 17-14 353 364 Lost 1 3-7 Florida 30 37 .448 12.5 15-17 15-20 311 313 Won 9 9-1 Washington 32 41 .438 13.5 15-19 17-22 331 367 Lost 2 3-7 Atlanta 30 41 .423 14.5 14-18 16-23 348 375 Lost 8 1-9The once-dominant Atlanta Braves are 14.5 games back of first place, and the Phillies, after losing to the Yankees on Tuesday, drop back to 9.5 games off the pace. The upstart Marlins have reeled off nine straight wins to land them in third place.
The Mets have been home for five games since coming back from their very successful road trip and, despite going just 2-3 so far, they maintain the division lead they came home with. It seems that even when the Mets struggle to come up with wins they are picked up by their divisional rivals, all of which are sputtering.
Nine-and-a-half games is a huge lead, but there are still ninety-some-odd games to go in the season and any number of outcomes are still imaginable. Yet, as June draws nearer to a close, the Mets have the most comfortable first-place lead in baseball, and every gear in the Big Met Machine is running smoothly in most cases and at least capably in all cases.
The Mets' biggest detractors point to their rotation as a sore spot, but the Mets are second in the National League in starters' ERA, just percentage points behind the Dodgers. Aaron Heilman has been struggling in the bullpen, but other guys like Chad Bradford have been there to pick up the slack.
- Last year, many fans crucified Willie Randolph for his mismanagement of the bullpen and the lineup. This year, the complaints have been few and far between. Has Randolph become a great manager over the course of one offseason? Are the Mets simply proving that a manager is only as good as the team he coaches? Bullpen-wise, the 1-2-3 of Wagner-Sanchez-Heilman hasn't given Randolph too many opportunties to make mistakes. Lineup-wise, sure, there are some minor tweaks that could be made to optimize the batting order, but the payoff may not be worth "fixing what ain't broke".
- Is it just me, or is there not a single guy on this ballclub who is hard to root for?
- Stay tuned to AA, as I have some Mets '86 World Series DVD sets to give away; three to be exact. They will all be given away as prizes to loyal members of the AA community. Details to follow.