Yesterday I affirmed my belief that the Mets are the team to beat in 2008. Despite all the negativity that has arisen from the lack of adding a top starter, I still believe that the Mets will in fact win the National League East and go to the post season with a drive and burning desire to win it all.
I have many reasons to back up my claim, and I have already explained one of those reasons as the re-signing of Luis Castillo. There is another reason even more compelling than the addition of Luis Castillo… It is the addition of the powerful middle of the order hitter the Mets had been lacking all season last year. No, I’m not talking about Brian Schneider or Ryan Church, although their contributions will both be positive upgrades in 2008. I speak of our lumbering first baseman, Carlos Delgado, whose prodigious power was missing in action last season.
When the Mets showed up for spring training last year, it was clear that Delgado had not yet fully healed from his two off season surgeries. He did all that was asked of him and showed up in perfect shape, but when you are 34 years old, your body does not heal like it once did when you were 24. In his willingness to help the team, he altered his stance and his swing so that it wouldn’t be as painful. Instead it only put more pressure on other parts of his body and caused him to go through a half dozen changes in his swing throughout the year. His poor production affected his psyche and soon his focus. In the end, he finished the season with the lowest homerun and RBI totals of his career.
His poor production greatly affected the performance of Carlos Beltran who flourished with Delgado hitting behind him in 2006. It called for drastic measures and by mid season, it was David Wright who was batting cleanup instead of Carlos Delgado. The lineup never really clicked. The Mets missed their big clutch RBI machine who was once the most feared hitter in our lineup. It caused both Beltran and Wright to go after pitches outside the strike zone, and changed their approaches at the plate. Runners were being stranded on the bases at an alarming rate, and it became very clear how much the Mets needed their left handed power-hitter to emerge from his funk. It never happened.
This season will be different. Carlos Delgado is completely healthy and determined to prove that last season was an aberration. He is 100% confident that he can still be the dominating presence in the middle of the lineup that he once was. His workout regimen this off season only hints at the comeback he has planned for the 2008 season. Another thing working in the Mets favor is that Delgado is in his walk year. Never underestimate the impact that a contract year can have on a players performance.
I believe Carlos Delgado will have one of the best seasons in his career in 2008. Most importantly… he believes it too. He is a proud man and a vocal leader in the clubhouse. He believes he let the team down and aims to rectify that in the upcoming season.
A solid year from Delgado will bring out the best in Carlos Beltran and David Wright. It will allow the lineup to work they way it should have last year. No more will pitchers pitch around Beltran or Wright so that they could get the big guy out. The Mets will have the clutch hitter that they sorely missed last year and everyone else in that lineup will feel more relaxed and thus become more productive.
I for one can’t wait to see Delgado launch a 450 foot blast on Opening Day and set the tone for what is bound to be another magical thrill-ride for the New York Mets in 2008. The power bat we have all been yearning for has been on the team all along. A word of warning to the pitchers of the National League East… Beware of Carlos Delgado!