2006 WBC Led To Great Mets Season
When the World Baseball Classic rolls around, there is a fear it is going to negatively impact the players. Certainly, Buck Showalter has spoken out about that recently. If you are a defeatist New York Mets fan, you can point to J.J. Putz participating in the 2013 WBC before having the worst season of his career.
However, to be fair there, Putz was already injured. As had been reported, Putz wasn’t really given a physical, and that he was pushed to pitch through a painful bone spur which hindered his performance. That was back in the days of Jeff Wilpon making medical decisions which included forcing an injured and shut down Pedro Martinez to pitch and attempting to prevent Carlos Beltran from having career saving knee surgery.
Going back to Beltran, he participated for Puerto Rico in the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic. In fact, the Mets had a heavy contingent of players at that event, which included:
- Carlos Beltran (Puerto Rico)
- Endy Chavez (Venezuela)
- Carlos Delgado (Puerto Rico)
- Pedro Feliciano (Puerto Rico)
- Jose Reyes (Dominican Republic)
- Duaner Sanchez (Dominican Republic)
- Jose Valentin (Puerto Rico)
Looking at that list, each and everyone one of these players had a great 2006 season, and their great seasons started by playing in the World Baseball Classic.
Beltran went from the biggest free agent bust in baseball history, even worse than Bobby Bonilla. Beltran probably should have won the 2006 NL MVP as he was an All-Star while winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. He probably should have won the MVP award with his finishing second to just Albert Pujols in WAR. Arguably, this remains the single best regular season in Mets history.
Chavez would also have a career year. He was always a great fielder, but he could not hit. He would have a 101 wRC+ while playing great defensively. We still talk about that catch robbing Scott Rolen of a home run to this day.
Delgado had a very good year in his first year with the Mets. However, he would be special in the postseason hitting four home runs.
Feliciano was almost left off the Mets Opening Day roster after returning to the organization after a year in Japan. He stayed on the roster, and he would have a breakout season which led him on a path to becoming the best LOOGY in Mets history.
Sanchez was a reliever Omar Minaya gambled on when he traded Jae Weong Seo to get him. Minaya looked like a genius as Sanchez might’ve been the best set-up man that season, and if he didn’t get in that cab, the Mets probably win the World Series that season.
Entering 2006, Reyes was still this great raw talent who had not been able to harness his ability. That 2006 season was the season which Reyes became that dynamic lead-off hitter and shortstop the Mets knew he could be. He learned plate discipline, hit for power, and of course, stole bases. He was a first time All-Star, and he had what proved to be the best season of his career.
Finally, there was Valentin. In the previous season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the then 35 year old looked done as he hit .170/.326/.265. To be honest, things didn’t look all that great in April for Valentin. However, due to a myriad of injuries at second base, he was given the job, and he was the missing piece that roster needed. He capped off a great season by hitting two homers in the NL East clincher.
That Mets team was a special team, and it still goes down as one of the best regular seasons in team history. For that to happen, they needed almost everything to break right, and it did. That process all started with these Mets players participating in the WBC.
Looking forward to 2023, the Mets are sending a heavy contingent of players including very important ones like Pete Alonso, Edwin Diaz, Jeff McNeil, and Francisco Lindor. If 2006 is any guide, this should be a springboard for these and the other Mets participating meaning we are about to see another great Mets season.