All Hands On Deck!

*Updated 9/28/06- Since this entry, Pedro Martinez has been declared out for the playoffs and backup catcher Ramon Castro has made a successful return. I have updated the probable playoff roster accordingly.

Mets_logo_2One week remains for Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph
to decide who will comprise their 25-man roster for the divisional
round of the playoffs. Barring any major injury, it’s apparent who 23
of the players will be, but who carries the last two spots are still to
be determined. The Mets might have already clinched the NL East, but
for a handful of Mets’ players this final week of the season will be
their proving ground to see if they are worthy of a playoff roster spot.


The Importance Of The Bench

Anyone who doesn’t think these final roster spots mean that much,
just think back to the defending champion Chicago White Sox incredible
playoff run last season. The last four players on the ChiSox 25-man
roster all made monumentally important plays in each round of the 2005
postseason. Who can forget Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez’s sterling
three shutout innings of relief against the Boston Red Sox in the
clinching 5-4 victory of the AL Divisional Round. El Duque was almost left
off the roster in favor of Brandon McCarthy and was the final pitcher
added to the staff. And what about the classic Game 2 in last year’s AL
Championship Series. With the Sox already down a game,
two spare parts
helped turn that whole series around. When A.J. Pierzynski presumably
struck outG3blum1026 to end the bottom of the ninth, Angels backup catcher Josh
infamously rolled the ball back to
the mound, not realizing that
it had hit the dirt. Pierzynski then made his famous mad-dash to first
and kept the inning alive. Manager Ozzie Guillen then inserted backup
outfielder Pablo Ozuna as a pinch-runner. It became apparent that Ozuna
had just stole the most important base of the ChiSox season when Joe
proceeded to double him home in the next at bat for the game
winning hit. If that wasn’t enough of a contribution from the end of
the bench, let’s remember the 2005 World Series. The White Sox won Game
3,               the longest game in World Series history (5 hours and 41 minutes),
when backup infelder Geoff Blum (photo to the right) went yard in the bottom of the 14th
inning with a two-out home run to put the Sox up 6-5 on their way to a
7-5 victory. Then in Game 4, the clincher, utilityman Willie Harris
delivered the biggest pinch-hit in White Sox history when he singled
off Brad Lidge in the 8th and then scored the winning run and the only
run of the game on a two-out base hit by Jermaine Dye.
An inning later,
the White Sox were World Champions for the first time in 88 years. So,
as you can see, who the Mets choose for the 24th or 25th spot
can have as much to do with the Mets’ playoff destiny as any of their
star players.

Backup Catcher

The most important decision for Omar and Willie will be who backs up sore-thumbed starting catcher Paul Lo Duca. The Mets would like to have one of the better backups in the NL, Ramon Castro,
fill that spot. However, Ramon has been rehabbing a strained left
oblique muscle and a torn meniscus in his right knee for two months now. While the local media has been
reporting positive news of late about Castro being close to Rcastro_1

returning, one week is very little time for Ramon to shake off the rust, so there
is a chance the Mets will have to rely on someone else for
this important role. That someone else would either be Mike DiFelice (who has filled the backup role for most of the past two months) or August pickup Kelly Stinnett. The bet here is that if Castro can’t go, the veteran Stinnett will be the backup catcher.
Willie recently said that he rated the two even defensively, but
thought Stinnett offered a little more pop in the bat. While Stinnett’s
.228 average with the Yankees earlier in the season isn’t anything to
write home about, it’s not difficult to have more pop than the .080
average (2-25) that DiFelice has sported in his brief stint with the
Mets. As far as controlling the running game, the Mets would no doubt
be best off if the strong armed Castro could return. Castro has thrown
out 9 of 26 baserunners (35%) this year. While Stinnett has only thrown
out 6 of 29 runners (21%) on the year, DiFelice has the least zing of
the three in his arm (1 of 7 baserunners thrown out). Stinnett also has
long ties with the Mets, having started his major league career with
them back in 1994. So, as a final assessment, pray for Castro, expect
Stinnett, and if it’s DiFelice, hope he doesn’t have to play.

The 25th Man

Who will get the final spot on the Mets’ playoff roster is one that
will be based around strategy. The two contestants are outfielder Michael Tucker and infielder Anderson Hernandez.
The winner of this spot will depend on what Minaya and Willie value
most. If they carry Tucker, it gives them anMtucker_3
extra lefthanded
pinch-hitter with a little pop. If they choose Anderson Hernandez, the Mets will
have a very fast pinch-runner and a slick defensive replacement at second base
or shortstop should anything befall Jose Reyes. He also provides them with a very good bunter in case
they need a sacrifice at any point. So, in my opinion, since either Cliff Floyd or Endy Chavez
will be available as a left handed pinch-hitter, I think the Mets would
find it most beneficial to carry Anderson Hernandez. But, because of
Tucker’s veteran standing and a gut feeling that Willie and Minaya
would like to have the extra pinch-hitter to fully maximize their
strong bullpen, expect the 25th man to be Michael Tucker.

Below I have listed the Mets’ probable 2006 Playoff Roster:

Hitters                                                                               Starting Rotation

C-  Paul Lo Duca (R)                                                      1- Orlando Hernandez (R)   

1B- Carlos Delgado (L)                                                  2- Tom Glavine (L)      

2B- Jose Valentin (S)                                                     3- Steve Trachsel (R)

SS- Jose Reyes (S)                                                        4- John Maine (R)

3B- David Wright (R)

LF- Cliff Floyd (L) / Endy Chavez (L)                           Bullpen

CF- Carlos Beltran (S)                                                   CL- Billy Wagner (L)

RF- Shawn Green (L)                                                     SM- Aaron Heilman (R)

                                                                                            MR- Guillermo Mota (R)

Bench                                                                                MR- Chad Bradford (R)

C-  Ramon Castro (R)                                                    MR- Pedro Feliciano (L)

1B- Julio Franco (R)                                                       MR- Roberto Hernandez (R)

OF- Lastings Milledge (R)                                             LM- Darren Oliver (L)

IF-  Chris Woodward (R)

OF- Michael Tucker (L)


R-   Righthanded

L-   Lefthanded

S-   Switchhitter

CL- Closer

SM- Setup Man

MR- Middle Reliever

LM- Long Man




    Boy, I hope you’re right about Anderson Hernandez being a good fielder. From what I saw of him in AAA this year; let’s just say he has a bit of trouble throwing (at least at shortstop, although I can’t imagine him pinch-running or filling in defensively for Reyes). When he permanently switched over to SS, he had two or three throwing errors in the few games I saw him in.


    Well, I guess I was wrong.
    I went back to check the box scores and he had one game in which he had two fielding errors, but no throwing. I do remember that there were 2 or 3 other plays by him that could’ve been errors, too.

    Go Mets!

  3. Zoe

    Carl, I wish I could make those clothes–I’d wear ’em! I think what you see as a dress is actually a top–a baby doll top.

    I’ve been looking for a good NY patch forever, but all the stores have are the huge shoulder patches, which just wouldn’t make for cute Mets clothes.

    Even ebay hasn’t been good yet for finding small patches. But I’ll keep looking. Sewing on a patch would be the easiest solution.

  4. SomeBallyard

    I’ve been watching Anderson Hernandez for a couple of years and found him to be exceptional fielder, at least at second. I agree with sldickinson, though, in the games I watched he doesn’t seem to be a natural shortstop. My big concern, however, is I don’t think he is ready for Major League pitching. If you’re not going to carry him for his bat, why carry him? The Mets have enough utility infielders.

    So I think Tucker is the call.

    I suspect that the Mets’ playoff fortunes will depend on that 25th man. I thing things will be that close. So as always, Carl, a timely article.

    Michael Norton – Some Ballyard

  5. Carl

    Well Michael and Sid,

    It appears Tucker will be on the roster, which I have no problem with. While Anderson Hernandez is not really needed for defensive purposes(though he would be a late game upgrade at 2nd base) the two main reasons to carry him, as I mention, would be for his great bunting and baserunning skills. Since Milledge will be on the team also, we will have at least one fleet pinchrunner, so go Tucker!

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