Through consultation with several writers and other experts, we've determined the final grades Mets players can take home from the winter. We've adhered to that old scholastic grading scale: A - exceptional; B – above average; C – average; D – passing/below average; F – failing.
You can find our full grading charts in the November issue of Inside Pitch, on newsstands the week of Nov. 1.
Marlon Anderson, IF/OF
Pinch-hitter extraordinaire quickly became a Randolph favorite and, for a time, actually led the NL in hits off the bench. He fell a slot in that category with a rough second half, hitting just .218 after the All-Star Break. He finished tied for third in the majors with 18 pinch-hits in 56 trips (.321), and coupled with adequate infield and outfield play, the Mets got what they expected – nothing spectacular, just solid all-around play. FINAL GRADE: C+.
Carlos Beltran, CF
After signing a seven-year, $119 million contract, there was no ceiling to the thrills Beltran was to provide. They'll have to come later, as Beltran was a disappointment in his debut year. Hampered by a nagging hamstring, Beltran was lost without full use of his legs and needed a second-half burst to finish up respectably (.266, 16 HR, 78 RBI). He silenced boos by playing out the last 1-1/2 months with a fractured facial bone after an awful collision with Mike Cameron, but it was only a temporary fix. Beltran knows he'll need to show far better in 2006. FINAL GRADE: C-.
Miguel Cairo, IF
At one point, it appeared Randolph would shun Kaz Matsui and play Cairo at second base every day down the stretch. It took an awful second-half plunge, plus injuries, to put Matsui back in the Mets' mix. Cairo finished the year weakly (.251, 2 HR, 19 RBI) and showed few signs of the second baseman the Yankees lamented losing after a strong '04; somehow, the Bombers are managing OK with Robinson Cano. The Mets will likely manage in '06 with someone else as well. FINAL GRADE: C-.
Mike Cameron, RF
The wind came out of the sails of the Mets' season when Cameron suffered that ugly Aug. 11 collision with Beltran; only his return to the clubhouse weeks later – at least 10 pounds lighter and sporting metal plates in his face – brightened the mood. Before the collision, Cameron was on his way to a solid season through 76 games (.273, 12 HR, 39 RBI) despite missing the first month of the year with left wrist tendinitis. He'd also adjusted well to right field and handled the move with dignity. FINAL GRADE: B.
Ramon Castro, C
Castro wound up, eventually, as the surprise starting catcher after Piazza broke a bone in his left hand and missed much of August. A solid defender and a surprisingly dangerous offensive player, Castro (.244, 8 HR, 41 RBI) figures in the Mets' plans as an above-average backup, if not an average-or-below starting catcher. Regardless, the Mets got their money's worth for '05. FINAL GRADE: B-.
Victor Diaz, RF
Dangerous at the plate, and only slightly less so in the field. A converted infielder, Diaz (.256, 11 HR, 37 RBI)deserves a pass for adjusting to the outfield, but he just hasn't shown enough at this point to warrant an everyday starting position. He filled in for Cameron better in April (.292) than after the Aug. 11 injury (.269), where he was just average. FINAL GRADE: C-.
Cliff Floyd, LF
The monster year the Mets – and several other teams – had been waiting for, and all it took was staying healthy and on the field. The respected veteran leader gave the Mets the overall best year of his career (.273, 34 HR, 98 RBI) and played in 150 games, his most since '98. Contributing surprisingly solid defense on two able legs, Floyd narrowly missed an All-Star selection. The Mets have to hope Floyd can Xerox this year for '06, when the team could be in serious pennant contention. FINAL GRADE: A-.
Kazuo Matsui, 2B
Why was there a bidding war for this guy again? All Matsui did was reinforce the nasty things people have said about him, losing his starting job to Cairo at one point in an otherwise lackluster year (.255, 3 HR, 24 RBI). Matsui wasn't an everyday shortstop at the major league level, and he hasn't evolved into an everyday second baseman either. Expect the Mets to try and move Matsui this winter, and failing that, eat the remaining cash on his contract. FINAL GRADE: D-.
All Mientkiewicz – Minaya's 'Plan B' when Carlos Delgado went to Florida – would have had to do is hit about .270 with his usual good defense, and we'd probably be talking about a new contract. Instead, Mientkiewicz (.240, 11 HR, 29 RBI) played his way out of the starting first base job by getting hurt and struggling to keep above water. Once he finally did get his head above the .250 mark, he suffered further indignity by having to shave it. FINAL GRADE: C-.
Jose Offerman, 1B
Naturally, the one thing every clubhouse youth movement needs is a 36-year-old journeyman infielder. To be fair, Offerman didn't hurt the Mets that much – aside from one inexplicable September baserunning blunder – but he also didn't help (.229, 2 HR, 13 RBI). His main role seemed to be filling in for, then taking away playing time from, Mientkiewicz. FINAL GRADE: D.
Mike Piazza, C
The New York farewell tour for Piazza (.253, 19 HR, 62 RBI) only hit one major roadbump – the broken bone that derailed him in August – and provided a number of great moments to remember the superstar by. Hopefully, Mets fans had a chance to appreciate Piazza and reward him for seven-plus years of inspiring service; despite reaching and passing a point of diminishing skills, Piazza got it done the way he always has, with hard work and natural ability. FINAL GRADE: B.
Jose Reyes, SS
You'd like to see a higher on-base percentage from a leadoff hitter, but it's easy to forget that Reyes is just 22. Like a wild horse galloping around the bases, Reyes (.273, 7 HR, 58 RBI) is every bit as dangerous as you'd want your leadoff man to be – 60 steals and 17 triples are a testament to his inspiring speed. He escaped '05 without injury and played in 160 games, just to prove a point. From here, Reyes looks like a future NL All-Star. FINAL GRADE: B+.
Chris Woodward, IF/OF
After being personally recruited by Randolph during the winter, Woodward (.285, 3 HR, 18 RBI) fit right into the Mets' mix as a jack-of-all-trades, even eagerly learning the outfield when asked in spring training. Every team can use a guy like Woodward, and he seemed to understand his role – he relished periodic starts and was helpful in Mientkiewicz's absence at first base, but never pouted when asked to step aside. A solid complement to the club. FINAL GRADE: B-.
David Wright, 3B
No sophomore slump here for Wright, who has gone from hot prospect to future All-Star. Refusing days off and trying to carry the Mets on his back, Wright (.308, 27 HR, 102 RBI) is the third baseman the Mets have searched for since 1962. One of the NL's most productive players in the second half (.333, 16 HR, 58 RBI), scouts, fans and teammates all love Wright alike. Without hyperbole, it's safe to say he could be the face of the Mets for the next 10 years, barring injury. FINAL GRADE: A.