Saturday, December 3, 2011

Where Are The 2006 Mets Now?

Don't let the title mislead you.  This post is not meant to inform you on what members of the Mets' last playoff team are up to.  On the contrary, it's meant to show you why that team might not have been as good as we thought they were at the time.

A total of 49 players suited up for the Mets in 2006.  As of this writing, only four of those players played for the Mets in 2011.  Those players were Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Mike Pelfrey.  However, Carlos Beltran was traded to the San Francisco Giants in July and Jose Reyes might have played his last game as a Met, leaving Wright and Pelfrey as the only two members of the '06 NL East champions who stand to be Mets in 2012.

Let's put it this way.  If Wright and Pelfrey are the only players left come Opening Day 2012, that'd mean the 2006 Mets would have the same number of players on the 2012 team as they have on the DL.  That doesn't stand for disabled list.  That stands for deceased list, as Jose Lima (four starts in '06) and Geremi Gonzalez (three starts in '06) are no longer with us.

The potential for having only two players left out of 49 a mere five years after that team steamrolled their way through the 2006 regular season is unusual in baseball, even in this day and age when free agents leave their teams frequently.  The 1996 Yankees, a team that won a World Series ten years before the Mets failed to get to one, had more players left on their 2011 roster (Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera) than the Mets might have next April on Opening Day from their 2006 team.

But contrary to what it appears to be, this post is not about the few players left on the team from the 2006 roster.  It's not just that most of the players from 2006 are no longer members of the Mets.  It's that these players are no longer in major league baseball, period.

Of the 49 players who played for the 2006 squad, only 14 played in the major leagues in 2011.  Of those 14 players, two of them finished the season in the minor leagues (Aaron F. Heilman, Lastings Milledge) and another (Chris Woodward) collected only ten at-bats in the majors after spending the majority of the season playing at the Triple-A level.

It would take longer for you to read the list of 35 players from the 2006 Mets who did not make an appearance at the major league level in 2011 than it did for Steve Trachsel to deliver a pitch to home plate when there were runners on base, but we're going to do it anyway.  Here they are, in alphabetical order, with their current whereabouts and/or statuses.

  • Brian Bannister (retired)
  • Chad Bradford (retired)
  • Carlos Delgado (retired)
  • Victor Diaz (out of majors since 2007; played in Mexico in 2011)
  • Mike Difelice (out of majors since 2008; managed Kingsport Mets in 2009 and 2010)
  • Pedro Feliciano (signed two-year deal w/Yankees in 2011; might never pitch for them due to injuries)
  • Cliff Floyd (out of majors since 2009; broadcaster for FOX Sports Florida)
  • Bartolome Fortunato (out of majors since 2006; played in Canada in 2011)
  • Julio Franco (waiting for Omar Minaya's call from San Diego)
  • Tom Glavine (retired in non-devastating fashion)
  • Geremi Gonzalez (R.I.P.)
  • Shawn Green (retired; on book signing tours for his new book)
  • Anderson Hernandez (played w/Astros' AAA team in 2011)
  • Orlando Hernandez (played w/Nationals' AA team in 2010, left the team to walk the Earth)
  • Roberto Hernandez (retired)
  • Jorge Julio (out of majors since 2009; bouncing around in Pittsburgh's minor league organization)
  • Ricky Ledee (retired)
  • Jose Lima (R.I.P.)
  • Paul Lo Duca (out of majors since 2008; serves as a horse racing analyst)
  • John Maine (left Rockies' AAA team in 2011; might be walking the Earth with Orlando Hernandez)
  • Eli Marrero (out of majors since 2006; serves as batting coach for Reds' rookie affiliate)
  • Pedro Martinez (retired 10 minutes ago)
  • Kaz Matsui (out of majors since 2010; played in Nippon Professional Baseball league in 2011)
  • Henry Owens (out of majors since 2007; suspended for HGH in 2009 and hasn't played since)
  • Oliver Perez (played w/Nationals' AA team in 2011; not good enough to make AAA team)
  • Royce Ring (played w/Mariners and Red Sox AAA teams in 2011)
  • Duaner Sanchez (out of majors since 2009; played in Mexico and Independent League in 2010)
  • Alay Soler (retired)
  • Kelly Stinnett (retired)
  • Steve Trachsel (retired)
  • Michael Tucker (out of majors since 2006; played for various independent teams since 2009)
  • Jose Valentin (out of majors since 2007; player-owner for Santurce Crabbers in Puerto Rican league)
  • Billy Wagner (retired)
  • Dave Williams (out of majors since 2007; last played professionally w/Nationals' AAA team in 2009)
  • Victor Zambrano (don't ask)

Aaron F. Heilman and Lastings Milledge both ended their seasons at the minor league level in 2011.  Chris Woodward was lucky to get a late September call-up.  That leaves only 11 players from the 2006 Mets who played exclusively in the major leagues in 2011.  One of those 11 players (Ramon Castro) only played in 23 games with the White Sox in 2011, missing the majority of the season due to a right hand fracture.

That leaves only Heath Bell, Carlos Beltran, Endy Chavez, Philip Humber, Guillermo Mota, Xavier Nady, Darren Oliver, Mike Pelfrey, Jose Reyes and David Wright as the only players from the 2006 NL East champions to play exclusively in the majors only five years after they were teammates on the Mets.

Most of the players from 2006 are either retired, dead or Victor Zambrano.  It's also stunning to note that a large number of players who were good enough to be part of a division winner in 2006 were no longer worthy of playing in the major leagues just five years later.

If you recall, both Pedro Martinez and Orlando "The Dookie" Hernandez were scratched from the postseason roster in 2006 because of injuries.  Neither pitched well after 2006 (we don't recognize Pedro's renaissance with the Phillies in 2009 because that would be saying something positive about a member of the Phillies, which is taboo here).

Also, for those who blame Beltran for the Mets' failure to advance to the World Series in 2006, let me remind you that he wasn't the only Met to strike out with the bat on his shoulders in the ninth inning of Game 7.  Before Beltran, Cliff Floyd took strike three as a pinch-hitter with the tying runs on base and nobody out.  That's the same Cliff Floyd who was too hurt to start any of the games in the NLCS after Game 1.

The 2006 Mets steamrolled their way through the 162-game regular season.  But that team was full of players who were either one injury away from ending their careers or no-names who had no business being in the majors.  What do you know?  Only five years later, a great number of those players have suffered career-altering injuries or haven't sniffed the major leagues since Shea Stadium was still around.

A winning team needs a mix of veterans to guide the kids along.  But the 2006 Mets depended too much on veterans.  Now, those veterans are no longer around, succumbing to injuries and Father Time.  That has forced players who are still kids themselves (see Reyes, Jose and Wright, David) to be the team leaders.  Given those facts, is anyone surprised that the Mets have now trudged their way through three consecutive losing seasons? 

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