Omar sent out an e-mail about this past season a few minutes ago.
Last winter, I wrote to you about our plans for the Mets. Now that our season is over, I want to follow up with a review of our 2005 season, and our goals for 2006. But before we talk baseball, I want to thank you for your support of the Mets this year, including the best home attendance total since 1989. Your loyalty and commitment gives our ownership, staff and players the inspiration to strive for even more in 2006 and beyond.
We are pleased with the progress the team made this year. Pleased, but not by any means satisfied. I wrote to you this winter that I would settle for nothing less than a championship, and that remains the standard for success. I believe that we have made great strides toward our goal, and have shown flashes of tremendous potential - but I am also the first to admit that there is still work to be done.
Our lineup has a combination of speed and power that makes us dangerous - we were second in all of baseball with 153 stolen bases and in the top half with 175 home runs. Our starting pitchers, particularly the front of the rotation, performed well, and when Kris Benson and Steve Trachsel were both healthy, we found ourselves with an abundance of quality starters. Our bullpen pitched well at times, but we had difficulty closing out games toward the end of the season. Overall, our pitching staff was one of our strengths, finishing third in the League and eighth in MLB with a team ERA of 3.76. However, we have said that our team will be built on pitching and defense, and the gloves did not support the arms well enough this year. As a team we made 106 errors, which permitted 49 unearned runs to score. These figures ranked us in the lower half of all clubs. We will certainly be working to correct these and other areas needing improvement in the coming months.
The Mets finished the 2005 season with our highest win total, and highest standing in the division, since the World Series year of 2000. The wins and losses alone, however, do not tell a complete story. There was a tangible change in the atmosphere at Shea Stadium, with a new sense of enthusiasm and belief that extends beyond just the fans. Our players, having briefly tasted again how sweet it is to be in playoff contention, are hungrier than ever to get to the post-season next year. Our core group of young players and new acquisitions joined our veterans to provide our fans with countless memories as we fought late into the season for a playoff spot. Here are just a few of the reasons to look back on 2005 with pride and toward the future with optimism:
* The "Kiddie Corps." A group of youngsters from our minor league system made a tremendous impact on the 2005 season. They gave our team energy, with an obvious love of the game and youthful bravado that had the whole city cheering them on. A few in particular stand out:
o The 2005 Mets were the first team in MLB history to have both the starting 3B and SS be 22 years old or younger and play 150 games or more. You cannot say enough good things about, David Wright. Only 22 years old and in his first full season, he finished either first or second on the team in virtually every offensive category: games (160), runs (99), hits (176), doubles (42), home runs (27), RBI (102), total bases (301), walks (72), stolen bases (17), on-base percentage (.388), slugging percentage (.523), and batting average (.306). Impressive as they are, though, those numbers, again, do not tell the whole story. He also provided the team with character, hustle, heart, and a leadership that belies his age. In addition, his no-holds-barred pursuit of foul balls gained him a cult following, and we became almost accustomed to his penchant for the spectacular (Who can ever forget his over-the-shoulder, diving, barehanded catch in San Diego?). While he made several spectacular plays, David muffed too many balls this year; he would be the first to tell you he is not happy with his error total of 24. However, with his extraordinary work ethic, we are confident that David will improve in that area next season. It will be a joy to continue to watch one of the game's top young talents continue to blossom for the Mets.
o There is, perhaps, no more exciting player in baseball to watch than Jose Reyes. He attacks the game with abandon and can energize a crowd with one thrilling race around the bases. Having played a full season, he has put to rest any questions about the leg injuries of the past and showed us all how speed can truly change the game. His 60 stolen bases are the second-highest single-season total in Mets history, as are his 17 triples. To get the most of his speed, however, Jose must get on base more often. His on-base percentage of .300 is too low for a premium lead-off hitter. On defense, his range, quickness and arm-strength make him one of the best young shortstops in the game.
o Aaron Heilman and Jae Seo re-established themselves as promising young pitchers this season. Having heard about their prospect status for so long, we tend to forget that they are still young pitchers by MLB standards. At 26, Heilman posted the lowest ERA (0.68) in the majors among relievers with 30-or-more innings after the All-Star break. Aaron was particularly effective in front of the home crowd. He went 4-1 with a 1.62 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 61.0 innings at Shea. However, Heilman's breakthrough performance actually came as a starter when he hurled the 23rd complete-game one-hitter in franchise history on April 15th vs. Florida in a 4-0 victory. Seo, 27, developed a devastating curveball and splitter this season to go along with his outstanding fastball/change-up combination. Jae won six consecutive decisions from May through September and was 8-2 overall with a miniscule 2.59 ERA. Seo's brilliance allowed the Mets to go 11-3 in his 14 starts.
o When Mike Piazza broke his hand in August, 24-year-old Mike Jacobs was called up as an emergency back-up; he promptly made history. "Jake" became the first player ever to hit four home runs in his first four games, including a pinch-hit home run in his first big league at-bat that put him on the map. And though it would have been impossible to keep up that kind of production, he continued to impress. He went on another power surge at the end of the year to finish with 11 total home runs and a batting average of .310 in 100 at-bats. While Jacobs may have been a bit of an unknown to those outside the Mets, he has been on the organization's radar for years: this year he won his second Sterling Award as the top position player in our minor league system.
* The New Faces. When we acquired Pedro Martinez, and then Carlos Beltran, the identity of the Mets changed overnight. Those two players made us serious contenders, not only on the field, but also in the free agent and trade markets. We will continue to see the benefits of those signings for years.
o What can you say about Pedro? He is one of the greatest pitchers of all time, and he injected our team with pride and energy, both on the mound and in the clubhouse. He has the ability to light up a room with his personality, and to carry a team with his talent. Each time Pedro pitched for us, it was more than a game. It was an event. He responded to the challenge, and turned in one of his finest overall seasons in years. He gave us a chance to win in every time out. He tossed four complete games, and piled up 217 innings. Pedro finished the year with 15 wins, a 2.82 ERA (fourth lowest in all of baseball among starters), an opponents' batting average of .204 (second lowest in MLB) and 208 strikeouts (tied for fifth-most in baseball). He showed us that his brilliant Hall of Fame career is still going strong, and that we are in store for much more from him in the coming years.
o Coming into this season, expectations were set perhaps unreasonably high for Carlos Beltran - in part because of his salary, and in part because he hit .435 with eight home runs in 12 postseason games last year. He was viewed as a savior to the offense, and that expectation is unfair to any player. Carlos remains a special player ... one who can change a game with speed, power or defense. In addition, at 28, he is still a young man and now has under his belt a full year on a new team in a new city. We are all tremendously proud of the effort he gave and the way he handled himself this season, and recognize that he played through pain for most of the year - first, playing with a strained quadriceps, and then with a facial fracture after the horrific collision with Mike Cameron. Even so, he finished the year with respectable numbers, hitting .266 with 16 home runs, and 34 doubles, while scoring 83 times and driving in 78. As I said, I think expectations were too high for Carlos before the year, and right now, they may be too low. Next season I am confident we will all see his true abilities shine through.
* Valuable Veterans. Cliff Floyd and Tom Glavine enjoyed resurgent seasons in 2005.
o The chants of "MVP" that filled Shea when Cliff stepped into the batter's box illustrated his capability when healthy for a whole year. He was a leader on this team, nurturing some of our younger players and coming up with clutch hits to help us win ballgames. Cliff has heard the word "potential" used all too often, as injuries have robbed him of years of production. He has a fiery desire to win, and seems to respond best when the spotlight is on him - a trait that is invaluable on a stage like New York. Cliff's big bat slugged a career-best 34 home runs and drove in 98, and was a consistent force in the middle of our lineup. In addition, he made more than one highlight reel with his defense in left field and led the National League with 15 outfield assists. Despite being a big leaguer for more than decade, Cliff turns just 33 this winter. When he stays on the field, we can count on him to produce.
o Tom Glavine continued to build upon his Hall of Fame credentials. Glavine, who is closing in on 300 career wins, became the 29th major league pitcher to win 275 or more games with a brilliant, two-hit, 11-strikeout performance in an 11-0 victory over Colorado on September 29th. Tom relied more on his curveball and splitter to baffle National League hitters. The results were simply amazing. Tom posted a sparkling 2.22 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break.
o I also want to acknowledge the contributions of our perennial All-Star and future Hall of Famer, Mike Piazza. It is unclear what the future will hold, but there is no question about Mike's many accomplishments in a Mets uniform. Mike's arrival in 1998 turned our team around. His big bat and on-field leadership sent us to the playoffs in 1999, and to the World Series the following year. Mike Piazza has given us many great Mets memories. It was a personal privilege to witness the warm reception by our fans during our two final homestands and the extraordinary honor of a 10-minute standing ovation during our final game this season. An ovation like that says it all.
* Rookie of the Year. Willie Randolph did as much as anyone to change the direction of the Mets this year. He is a perennial winner who helped every member of this team believe that they had a chance to win every time they took the field. With 83 wins, Willie finished tied for the fourth highest win total in Mets' history for a first-year manager. The last two MLB rookie managers to finish with a winning record after inheriting a team that finished at least 20 games below .500 the previous year were Mike Scioscia (2000) and Davey Johnson (1984) - each went on to win the World Series two years later. Willie's poised demeanor helped our young club ride through some slumps and keep the resolve to bounce back every time. With that being said, I also know that Willie is not happy to be on the outside of the playoffs looking in, and that he will do everything in his power to change that situation by next October.
Like many Mets fans, I am a dreamer. I have always tried to think big and reach for goals that may, to others, seem beyond reach. However, I am also a realist who knows that dreams often go unrealized without hard work to back them up. In baseball, that means bolstering your strengths and addressing your weaknesses. This off-season, I will continue to dream big dreams for the future of the New York Mets. I can promise you that our entire organization, with the support and resources provided by our committed owners, will be working tirelessly to ensure that we are doing all we can to turn those dreams into a reality.
I thank you again for believing in the Mets, and look forward to a productive winter. I hope to see you back at Shea in a few months.
Executive Vice President & General Manager
New York Mets