January 10, 2007

The corners provide the anchors

Marty Noble at Mets.com, writes about David Wright, Carlos Delgado and how they impacted the Mets lineup:

The corner infielders were the cornerstones of the offense.

Delgado stepped into the cleanup spot, hardly unfamiliar to him, and performed as if he were made of Lou Gehrig. No first baseman had hit so many home runs (38) or driven in so many runs (114) in the first 45 years of the franchise. And Wright, in his second full season, enhanced his image as the face of the franchise that somehow still is linked to the third-base inadequacies that existed through most of those years. Batting fifth, he made contributions that included 113 RBIs, 26 home runs, 96 runs and protection that helped make Delgado a most formidable force.

It all clicked as general manager Omar Minaya and manager Willie Randolph thought it would when Delgado was acquired from the Marlins in November 2005. Reyes' speed and extra-base prowess, Lo Duca's opposite-field swing and Beltran's switch-hitting and speed worked so well together. But at the core, the second-best offense in league was the key tandem -- the 34-year-old, left-handed-hitting first baseman and the 24-year-old, right-handed-hitting third baseman. As Tennessee Ernie Ford warned, "If the left don't get ya, then the right one will."

"Their lineup is as balanced as any we've faced," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said during the 2006 National League Championship Series. "They can beat you in a lot of ways."

The Mets have had one other left-handed hitter in their history who inflicted damage comparable to what Delgado inflicted in his second National League season -- Darryl Strawberry. Delgado's RBI production stopped at the point that matched his own per-season average in his first 10 big-league seasons. And only Strawberry (39 home runs twice), Mike Piazza (40), Todd Hundley (41) and Beltran (41 last year) have hit more home runs playing their home games at pitcher-friendly Shea Stadium.

Only four players in franchise history -- Piazza, Robin Ventura, Bernard Gilkey and Wright's role model, Howard Johnson -- have produced single-season RBI totals that exceed Wright's 116 in 2006. He drove in 113 in his first full season.

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