Monday, December 29, 2008

Classic Ballclub: The 2006 Mets

The 2006 Mets were the Championship Team that wasn't. They kicked off a wild ride that began with aspirations of serious contention for a playoff spot, and ended up taking off with such a fury that, by Mid-June, it was apparent that they were going to run away with the NL East. And, they did. They did not have any serious challenges from any other team in the Division, though there were moments that Atlanta and Philadelphia came close. But as the season went on, things just got more and more fun as the Mets proved themselves to be in every game they played, and got outstanding performances all around, from David Wright, to Carlos Beltran, to Jose Reyes, to Delgado, to unexpected guys like Jose Valentin, Endy Chavez, Chad Bradford and Darren Oliver. The mix of talented youngsters and wily, experienced veterans meshed perfectly, the team playing with constant joy and flair. And it culminated on September 18th, when they nailed down the NL East and touched off a Wild Celebration. In the Postseason, they faced off against the Dodgers, and whenever it seemed that LA would dance and jab, the Mets would respond with a haymaker, eventually overwhelming their opponents and shoving them off the dance floor in a 3-game sweep. Things looked unstoppable. But the injuries and inconsistency finally caught up with them, ending on October 19th in a game of Beautiful Misery. But it was a team that made it fun to be a Mets fan again, and a team that made us Believe.

This capsule, of course, was written shortly after the Mets had won the Division, before the Postseason began. As always, my comments are in italics.


With the season winding down, but certainly far from over, I offer to you my team capsule for the 2006 season.

Although we certainly all had high expectations for the Mets this year, for once the Mets actually exceeded that by leaps and bounds. The team won games that for years they never would have. The players had fun, and made fun of each other, and the togetherness showed on and off the field. And the wins continued to pile up, with everyone contributing. The lead in the division grew and by the All Star break, the Mets were actually running away with it. And finally, after 18 seasons, after suffering through more bad and sometimes embarrassing than good, the Mets nailed down the Division title, and seem poised to roll on through the playoffs with the best record in the League. Sure, there were the obvious moments of trepidation. With the recent
history of the team, how could their not be. But once the Mets got going, there wasn't much that could stop them.

Coming into the season hoping to contend for the Wildcard and ending up running away with the Division, you have to consider the season an overwhelming success. But because the Mets were so dominant at times this season, just a Division title isn't enough. The playoffs will be interesting, indeed, and will certainly determine how this Mets team stands against some of the best teams in club history. (This team does stand up as one of the best singular seasons, I believe. But until they show themselves capable of recapturing this particular magic, the era as a whole has to be considered a disappointment.)

And with that said, the part you have all waited for:

Willie Randolph - A-

Willie definitely learned from his mistakes this season. Where last year, he never seemed to light the fire under the team when they were struggling, he kept the team focused and got them to the point where you began to believe they were never out of the game, no matter how many runs behind they were. There were certainly some questionable player moves (Lima), but then, with the lead in the Division squared away by July, Willie had the flexibility to mess around a little. And sometimes, his spare parts just weren't there. He's probably deserving of Manager of the Year this year, but that will likely go to Joe Girardi. Personally, I'd rather have the Division title and best record in the National League. (Willie just had the touch that season.)

Paul LoDuca - A-

Planted in the 2nd spot in the order, LoDuca really did a great job. He took pitches allowing Reyes to steal bases, and would often follow that up by inside-outing pitches into right field to move Reyes over, or score him. Performed solidly behind the plate and did a great job coaxing some of the younger pitchers through games. No, not anywhere near the galvanizing force of Piazza, but definitely a solid player and a great clubhouse presence. You have to respect a player who answers to the nickname of Captain Red Ass. (It was easy to over-romanticise LoDuca after this season, because he was so good, pretty much all season long. When he regressed to his career norm in '07 and was let go, there was really a large outcry of support for him. But he wasn't going to get any better than he was in '06)

Ramon Castro - B

Yeah, Castro was buried behind LoDuca and didn't get quite the playing time he did last season. But when he went down and we saw what was behind him, well, I for one really missed Castro. Should be back soon and be around for the Postseason. And back as the backup next season as well.

Mike DiFelice
The hell is he doing back here?

Kelly Stinnett
I remember in the 10th Grade I got a super short-print baseball card of Kelly Stinnett. Gabe made fun of me for weeks. (The card in question was a 1994 Topps Stadium Club First Day Issue. A card to forget, no doubt. But I still have it, believe it or not.)

Carlos Delgado - B+
Much like Donn Clendenon in 1969, Gary Carter in 1986, Robin Ventura in 1999 and Mike Hampton in 2000, Delgado was the missing piece that put the Mets over the top. Yes, he slumped badly in June and July, but he was enough of a force that he made Beltran and Wright better. And then when Beltran and Wright slumped, Delgado simply picked up the slack. Now, he's going to the Playoffs for the first time. This should be very interesting, indeed. (Delgado really proved himself the difference maker for the Mets that season, and since then, he's proved that he can be whenever he's going good. He, of course, responded to the October Bell by having an outstanding Playoffs, including a HR off Derek Lowe in Game 1 of the NLDS that's still flying.)

Jose Valentin - A
At the end of April, I know we were all wondering what the hell Valentin was even doing on the roster, washed up, done, barely able to hit his weight. And then he did a complete 180, starting off with the weekend in Milwaukee, and never looked back. Shoved Matsui out the door and took off, belting key hits and displaying power he hadn't shown in years. No, you wouldn't expect
him to do this again, but with the pieces around him, he was certainly a welcome, surprising force at the bottom of the lineup. (Part of the problem with the 2007 Mets was that Valentin was counted on to repeat this success, and there was no real plan B for when he inevitably faltered.)

Jose Reyes - A

Professor Reyes es Rapido! Jose put it all together this season. Maybe the OBA isn't as high as Gabe predicted it would be, but he'll wind up with one of the greatest offensive seasons in team history. Close to 200 hits, over 50 SB, close to 20 3Bs. But even more impressive than that were his 19 HRs and 80 RBI, numbers unheard of for a leadoff hitter. Obviously, the power that we thought he had in the minors was there, he just needed a few years to develop. But, of course, most importantly, beyond the power, the RBIs, the steals and the defense, Jose got on base and scored runs in buckets. 119 is the current count. And how many of those 119 gave the Mets early leads? Without Reyes leading things off, the Mets aren't nearly as dangerous a team. Muy Bueno! (This particular season for Reyes showed just how tantalizingly good he can be. We can talk about the reasons he hasn't quite reached these numbers in '07 and '08 to death.)

David Wright - B+
Captain America took the league by storm in the first half of the season, and looked like a surefire MVP candidate before slumping badly after the All Star Break. The overall picture for the season will still look pretty damn good, which goes to show you just how good he was over the first half. For a good chunk of time, Wright basically carried the team to a number of victories, and big, clutch, late game hits were the norm.. Also turned the All Star Game into the David Wright show, where we learned many things about him, such as his penchant for "Rocking the pastel shirts." (I wish I could find that clip on YouTube, but I can't. And it's not worth discussing how he cocked up his swing in the HR Derby and never really got it back.)

Julio Franco - C-
Gets this high of a grade because he continues to play it out despite being older than the Stadium he plays in, and because he has been a major presence in the clubhouse. However, his bat control and speed have deserted him, he can't really run the bases, he's a double play waiting to happen, and for Christ's sake I can't take hearing the Christian Rock they play whenever he comes up to bat! (Again, too much faith in a player who was past it.)

Chris Woodward - C-

Playing with a torn labrum and didn't tell anyone. Still playing it out. Good bench guy, but he hasn't hit at all this season, and can't be counted on as a key pinch-hitter. If the choice were between him and Anderson Hernandez, I would take Hernandez.

Kaz Matsui

Getting rid of this dunce was about as joyful as when the Mets got rid of Alomar or Benitez. I would have taken a bag of beans for him, and that's about what Marrero amounted to, but just to be rid of him was good enough. Of course produced his only highlight of the season in his first AB, with an inside-the-park HR in San Diego. (Kaz had a passably good '07, but there was no way in hell he was ever going to find success in NY, especially the way the crowd would get on him.)

Anderson Hernandez
True, when Hernandez got hurt, it wasn‚t much of a loss offensively because he hadn't hit at all. BUT, his defense is top-notch and he and Reyes make a spectacular DP combo up the middle. I'm still not sure if he'll ever hit at the Major League level. That remains to be seen. If he can produce at all—and I don't mean like Rey Ordonez—I mean some tangible big hits, and not someone who you're afraid will come up in a key spot, but actually hit, I think he can become something. Remains to be seen. (He never showed an ability to hit, be it consistently or at all.)

Carlos Beltran - A+++++++++++

Before the season, I watched Beltran blast a monster HR against Cuba in the WBC. I turned to El Guapo and said, "Good. Now I want to see that 30-35 more times this year." And he certainly did that. After being lustily booed for the first few days of the season, the Real Carlos Beltran showed up, and showed why he deserved the money he got. The clutch hits and the big smiles that were absent all last year became routine as Beltran put an assault on the team record books that, although he may not reach, were still enough to put the Mets over the top. Case in point: On August 22nd, the Mets trailed the Cardinals 7-6 in the last of the 9th. 1 out. LoDuca had singled off of Isringhausen. Beltran came up. And everyone in the stadium was up because they knew Beltran was going to do something big. He cranked the first pitch out into the bullpen in Right. Mets win, 8-7. (I said it at the end of the '08 season, and I'll say it again here: It's time to get off Beltran's case for the way things ended in '06. It's funny how quickly people forgot that if it wasn't for his standout season, the Mets weren't in that position in the first place. Because of the circumstance, this particular failure is magnified, but I hope that at some point we realize how lucky we are to have this guy on our team.)

Endy Chavez - A
Now we know why everyone loves Endy! He just isn't an everyday player, but use him as a pinch hitter, defensive replacement and spot starter and this guy is All-World! I can‚t tell you how many times this season I've seen Endy do something big. Whether it was a key pinch hit, a spectacular catch in the outfield, whatever. Endy was a huge addition to the club this season, and I expect him to be a major contributor in the Postseason and beyond. Totally surpassed any expectations anyone had for him. (Major Postseason Contribution? Oh, did he ever.)

Cliff Floyd - C+
When Cliff comes up to bat at Shea, they play the theme from "Sanford and Son" over the PA system. It's fitting, because Cliff's legs are in such bad shape that whenever he has to run down a ball in the outfield, he looks like Redd Foxx. Terrible dropoff from his gaudy numbers of last season, but considering his injuries catching up with him it's not too much of a surprise. (El Guapo and I both felt bad, because Cliff really wanted to do well, and he really was a class guy. But by the end of the season, it was clear that he couldn't play it out on a daily basis and was becoming a liability defensively.)

Xavier Nady - B
Too bad he got dealt, but with the injury to Sanchez, I suppose it had to be done. Played great while he was here, although he was a bit streaky. (At the time, I didn't think much of it, and I figured it opened the door for Milledge to play full-time. Milledge, at that point, wasn't ready, though, and the trade ended up turning out to be rather un-necessary, though it did net us Perez. But the point of the deal was to get Hernandez, not Perez, and Hernandez turned out to be vastly useless for us in the Postseason. On the other side, having Nady around in the postseason as another righty bat, when the Mets struggled so badly against lefties, might have been more helpful than we realize.)

Lastings Milledge - C+
Still needs more seasoning. Flashes of brilliance, flashes of youth and inexperience. Still only 21, and just had his first drink last week after the Mets clinched. Has all the makings of a stud, but the Mets need to be careful not to shuttle him back and forth too much. It‚s OK for now, but the
next time they bring him up, they need to decide that he's going to be up and not going back. (It didn't happen until the following July, but he did play passably well. Unfortunately, character questions continued to dog him until he ended up being traded away.)

Shawn Green - C-

The Hebrew Hammer really isn't what he used to be. It looked like he was about to turn a corner against Atlanty, but it appeared to be a mirage. Still, I like him having around, but he could turn into a major liability unless he puts a little bit of a hot streak together. Very John Olerud-esque, even going back to his days with Toronto.

Michael Tucker
Yeah, fine, whatever.

Eli Marrero - B
Only gets this high a grade because Colorado was willing to deal him for Matsui.

Victor Diaz - F
Oof. Too bad that Victor got buried. But, he had the opportunity to win the RF job in the spring. He didn‚t perform well, and I wonder if this was a side effect of constantly being shuttled between AAA and the Majors. Well, he's gone now. I can see it now. Victor ends up the starting LF in Texas next season, and while he hits .220 with 150 Ks, he‚ll hit 25-30 HRs in that bandbox and everyone will be up in arms about how stupid a deal it was. Not really. (Not really was right. VD didn't hit a lick with Texas and Lord only knows where he is now.)

Ricky Ledee
Someone I work with said to me the other day, "What the fuck is Ricky Ledee doing on this team?" (He said the same thing when Ledee mysteriously resurfaced with the Mets in 2007. Bringing up Ledee is basically tantamount to throwing up your hands and admitting "We give up!")

Tom Glavine - B+

For 3 months, Glavine looked like a totally remade pitcher. Not only was he coming up with key, quality starts, he started striking out guys like he never had before. He hit a wall around midseason, and there was the blood clot scare, but he‚s rebounded and looks strong and poised for the playoffs. Will be back next season and only needs 11 wins (and still a start left this
season) for 300 wins. (Before he basically undid all the good he did with the Mets with his gutless performance in the '07 finale, Glavine really carried the Mets in a pair of brilliant outings in the Postseason. At that particular point, Glavine was the only starter the Mets could count on, and he delivered twice when the Mets really needed him to come up big.)

Steve Trachsel - C+
Trachsel is your typical "Bad ERA but tends to win" pitcher, much in the mold of Freddy Garcia. Problem is, Trachsel was getting so routinely hammered in games that you knew that if the Mets didn‚t score a ton of runs, they were screwed. But that's been Trachsel's story for years. He'd do the absolute minimum to win a game, and was still eating innings, but he was bad or otherwise boring. Except for the start he made the night the Mets won the division, which probably earned him a Postseason start, for better or worse. That was his big clutch outing to this point this year. But I don't know if he'll be able to duplicate that in the Postseason. Hold your breath and keep
your fingers crossed...(...and watch as Trachsel shits the bed.)

Pedro Martinez - B
Pedro was Pedro. I think the fact that he was injured for most of the second half of the season was probably a blessing in disguise. The Mets won without him. Let him muddle through a few starts now, get him sharp and he'll be ready to answer the bell for the Playoffs. Then unleash him. I often feel as though Pedro plays possum an awful lot during the regular season. Sure, be
injured, be ineffective, cry in the dugout. And then when it matters most, he'll turn into Badass Pedro and start ripping off 92-95 MPH fastballs, knee-buckling curves, and sliders from hell, and dominate. (Yeah, this was before we knew about that whole rotator cuff thing.)

Orlando Hernandez - B+
Rock Solid ElDuque was a major cog in the middle of the rotation all season. Sure, he had his bad starts, but the one thing about ElDuque is if he doesn't have it, you know from the first inning, and you can get him out of there quick. But lately, he's been lights out, and his Postseason track
record speaks for itself. I love that we can trot out a horse like this every few games for the Playoffs. (He probably would have helped, too.)

Aaron Heilman - B+
True, he was terrible for a good chunk of May, June and July, and he pouted about not getting to start. But Heilman was so good out of the bullpen early, and especially late (as he was last season), that you can't justify taking him out of the bullpen with the glut of starters that exist on the team now (even though he may be better than most of them). Definitely someone who can be trusted in key spots for now. Also bonus points for using The Clash as his entrance music. (Heilman was, once, an excellent and trusted reliever. He was so good just about all season, and especially after Sanchez got hurt that he got a pass for the Molina HR. There was no argument that he should have been out there at that particular moment. But he hasn't really rebounded from that too well.)

John Maine - B+
True, I'd prefer to have him start in the playoffs over Trachsel. But I'd also like him as the long man (along with Oliver) out of the bullpen in the playoffs as well. Maine looks like he can be a key swing man in the playoff push, and also looks like he can be a very solid mid-rotation starter for the future. Only problem is that he can sometimes struggle with command and gives up a number of walks, often at bad times, and this can lead to him getting hit around a little bit. This can be chalked up to inexperience, though. He's also looked flat-out dominant at times as well. Could be Glendon Rusch from the right side with better upside (Remember how big a
role Rusch played in 2000...). Hopefully the long term results will be better. (Before you kill me for comparing him to Rusch, just think about how many times Rusch came into a game in the 2000 Postseason and held the line. Course, I didn't figure on 2 starters getting hurt and Maine being thrust into the spotlight in Game 1 of the NLDS. But Maine pitched admirably well that day, and again in Game 6 in the NLCS. His efforts and fearlessness endeared himself well to the Mets and their fans, and it was good to see him build on it in '07.)

Darren Oliver - A-
Added to the team as an afterthought, Oliver was huge for the Mets all season. Used primarily as the long man out of the bullpen, Oliver pitched in with some key efforts, eating up innings in a number of games where the Mets looked to be done, only to come back and win. Oliver kept runs off the board and if it weren't for him, the Mets don't win a number of the games they end
up winning over the course of the season. (Would have been better to have around in '07 than Aaron Sele.)

Billy Wagner - B+

Enter Sandman. Sure, Wagner had his moments, but for the most part, he was huge in the closer role, providing stability, and certainly kept the angst of the Franco/Benitez era to a minimum. (At least when he wasn't facing So Taguchi. Prompted El Guapo, Shirts vs. Blouses and myself to start slamming shots of Maker's Mark during the 9th inning of Game 6 of the NLCS.)

Chad Bradford - A-
Same as Oliver. Bradford is another one of those pitchers who never gets a lot of ink, but he's out there making key effort after key effort. Another one who allowed very few inherited runners to score. Also dropped in the ever popular 63 MPH curveball which always kept hitters off-balance. (His success netted him a ridiculously large contract from the Baltimore Orioles, who would subsequently cut him in 2008, where he would end up playing a key role in the Postseason for the Tampa Bay Rays. His replacement, Scott Schoeneweis, was given a similarly ridiculous contract and did not fare quite as well.)

Pedro Feliciano - B
Feliciano did his griping, he and Willie talked it out and Feliciano had a great year, building on the success he had late last season. (Yeah, it's weird how that incident basically got glossed over. When Feliciano started pitching really well and as a crossover guy in the late innings, it was easy to forget it had happened.)

Duaner Sanchez - A

Memo to all players: When you are playing on the road, and you're in your hotel room and you get hungry, and it's about 2AM, PLEASE, just go across the street to the White Castle. Don't get into cabs and drive around Miami looking for Caribbean food. You have no idea what will happen.

Seriously, it sucks what happened to Sanchez, especially considering how good he had been all season. Lights out all the way. All wishes for a speedy and complete recovery so he can be back as the key 8th inning guy next season. (Not to be dramatic, but at this particular point in time, it's not outlandish to say that this injury may well have wrecked his career.)

Alay Soler - C

Not impressed. Except for the two really good outings in LA and Arizona, Soler battled everything everytime out. Unless he really puts it together, I don't see him being a key player in the Mets future. (Which is why I was surprised that there was such an outcry when he was cut in '07. You haven't seen him on the roster of another Major League team since then, and there's a reason for that.)

Brian Bannister - C+
Bannister is very much like Pelfrey without the stuff. Bannister had the knack of getting into and out of trouble in the same inning. Lots of agita and high pitch counts, Lost for most of the season with a hamstring injury when it seemed like he might be beginning to put it together. Deserves a
good look next season so we can know for sure what he is. (Or we'll deal him to KC in another un-necessary deal for a reliever who throws really hard and really flat who will blow out his elbow, get arrested for beating up his girlfriend, and become a suspect in a Hit and Run car accident.)

Heath Bell - D
OK, I'm sick of Heath Bell. I don‚t want to hear about him, or his family and his house in Florida, and I don't want to see him coming into games anymore and either turning leads into squeakers or blowouts into bludgeonings. He's terrible. He's inconsistent. He's ugly too. Goodbye. Go hang out with Mike Stanton and Doug Henry. (I still contend that this was the right move. Bell wasn't ever good with the Mets and never displayed that he would be good.)

Dave Williams
Somehow put together a number of really solid starts. I'm as surprised as the rest of you.

Oliver Perez
If he can throw a few more games like he did against Atlanty, he's golden. Still a reclamation project, but with the upside, it's worth the gamble. Doesn't have the best head for pitching, so it remains to be seen, but Peterson has certainly gotten some encouraging results so far. (Doesn't have the best head for pitching is a very nice way of saying that Ollie is a giant fucking headcase who can throw a brilliant game under the most glaring of spotlights and then stink it up the next time out. But he sure as hell came through in the Playoffs that season.)

Mike Pelfrey - Inc.
Can't say yet. The stuff is there, but he needs to get his command together, and most importantly, his feet under him. Definitely a bit of living dangerously in his few starts. But I think he can dominate someday, and maybe soon. (Soon is here.)

Philip Humber - Inc.

Hasn't pitched yet, although I wonder if Willie would give him a cookie start the last weekend. (He didn't get that cookie start until about a year later, when it wasn't a cookie start, it was a last resort.)

Jorge Julio - C-
Three really putrid outings early in the season really spelled his doom. He was very reminiscent of Armando Benitez which scared the bejeesus out of everybody. Threw really hard, but also flat and straight. Yet somehow was dealt to Arizona for ElDuque, which was a major heist. Julio would perform admirably for Arizona, but ElDuque was much more of a key cog for the Mets
than Julio would have been.

Victor Zambrano - F
He wins the idiot award for continuing to pitch with a bad arm and not telling anyone. He wins the Wilson Alvarez award for multiple Tommy John surgeries. I wonder if he'll actually be a decent pitcher once he's healthy. Of course, since he's a FA, I can't imagine the Mets will possibly bring him back. On the bright side, Kazmir missed a good chunk of the season with a
shoulder problem. The bitch of it is, I actually feel bad for Zambrano. He felt so much pressure from the media and the fans to perform that he basically ruined his arm in the process.

Jose Lima - Z-
Much in the vein of wondering why in the name of God Kaz Ishii was allowed to make 16 starts last season, I am left wondering the same as to why we had to experience Lima Time 4 times this year. Between the blond hair and the kissing all his teammates...Lord. El Guapo and I were at his last start. It was spectacular. Not only did he give up 5 rockets in a row to the bottom of the Marlins lineup, littered with names like Jeremy Hermida, Robert Andino and Billy Mangina, he followed that up by giving up a monster of a Grand Slam to Dontrelle. The kicker? WILLIE LEFT HIM IN FOR ONE MORE BATTER!!! (Yeah, this didn't work so well.)

Roberto Hernandez
So we went out and brought him back, and then basically buried him in the bullpen. True, he doesn't have to be counted on quite as much as last season. But I might have preferred to keep Nady rather than have 'Berto back in a panic move.

Jeremi Gonzalez - F
Almost as bad as Lima. Not as magnified because the Mets came back in a couple of his lousy starts. Mostly I'll remember him pitching the day that Mike and the Mad Dog called the game on WFAN, and Mad Dog exclaimed loudly, "This Gonzalez is singing for his supper here today!"

Guillermo Mota - A-
Great pickup and even better since Piazza isn't around anymore. (Juicing.)

Royce Ring
I'm beginning to think that Ring is just Grant Roberts from the left side. Tons of potential and a 10-cent head. (And he has done nothing to disprove this theory.)

Henry Owens
I wonder what the plan is for Owens? He definitely has good stuff, but his command wasn't there during his week or so in the Majors. I'm interested to see more...

Bartolome Fortunato
Apparently he pitched for the Mets this season. Is there proof of this?

SO there you have it. What to do for next season? Well, first of all, learn from the team of 2000. Don't stand pat. Get better. Get a LF to replace Floyd. Carlos Lee is a FA, Soriano is as well. Get a 2B. Soriano anyone? Get Barry Zito. Get Barry Zito. Get Barry Zito. Build a dynasty. The Mets have the pieces in place to do so. Smash the flea with a Sledgehammer. Become the new Braves. Own the Division for a few years.

But first, On to the Playoffs!

The potential to own the division for a few years was definitely there. I was really hot for Barry Zito, but not at the asinine price the Giants ended up paying for him. In retrospect, letting him go was the right move. However, the moves the Mets ended up making were, for the most part, wrong. The core of the team was led by some younger players, but the team itself was mostly comprised of older players, and rather than taking the route of restocking the farm system and bringing in younger players, the Mets instead brought in even older guys, and injury-prone subs. While Moises Alou, Damion Easley and Marlon Anderson had some positive contributions, they weren't long-term solutions. Other players, like Schoeneweis and Sele, were just catastrophically bad and contributed heavily to the undoing of the Mets in '07, where one of the strengths of the '06 team—the Bullpen—became a glaring weakness. The other problem was that after the ease at which the Mets ripped through the season in '06, the Mets got cocky and rested on their laurels in '07, playing lazy and complacent Baseball for much of the season. They coasted for a while, but eventually it caught up with them, and by time they realized it, things had spiraled completely out of control. In '08, the problem was that the team seemed all too conscious of the way '07 had ended, and appeared to play out the last few weeks wound far too tightly. But the core of the team remained, and remains the same. And I began to wonder, at some point, if it wasn't so much that the Mets underachieved in '07 and '08, but that they really overachieved in '06 and just weren't that good. I'm not totally convinced.

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