1. Who's worse right now: Mets or Phillies? Please consider this an open-ended question in which you can gripe about the Mutts, and laff at the Sillies.
The standings will tell you the Mutts are about a game worse than the Sillies. Given their current rosters the Mets should probably be quite a bit worse. Injuries aren't the only reason for the Mets' poor first half, but they're certainly a big reason. Take away three of the top four hitters and two of the top four starters from any team and they'd be in pretty bad shape. The Phillies have had their injury problems, too, but even with Lidge, Myers and Ibanez out they're still a Moyer, Howard and Werth away from matching the Mets malady-for-malady.
Given that, and the high expectations that come with winning the World Series, I would consider the Phillies a bigger disappointment than the Mets to this point in the season, though really we're just debating the relative merits of poop and turd here. (editor's note: I claim "turd" for the Phillies).
2. Assuming Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes return this year, which appears very likely, is it reasonable to assume they'll be close to full strength?
I actually think Carlos Delgado's injury has been the Mets' toughest obstacle to overcome. Beltran has only missed a couple of weeks so far, and in time his absence could be far, far worse, but the non-Delgados who have played first base for the Mets this season have a lower combined OPS than Albert Pujols's slugging percentage. Think about that one for a second.
The Mets are supposed to get Oliver Perez back next week (for better or worse), so if they can get Reyes and Beltran back after the All-Star break they'll certainly be in much better shape. They'd still be missing Delgado, John Maine and J.J. Putz, so it's not like they'd really have the team out there they were hoping to have, but every little bit helps.
3. Any idea what's wrong with Johan Santana? He's been less than his normally awesome self for the past few starts.
I don't know whether he is hurt, tired, both, or something else entirely, but his fastball velocity is down and his normally fine-tuned command has been off. The Mets have played godawful defense behind him, which certainly isn't helping things, but there's no question that Santana isn't at his physical best right now. He has had blister problems this season, which pitching coach Dan Warthen believes might have led Santana to change the grip on his fastball. We've seen blisters destroy whole seasons for guys like Josh Beckett, and I hope Santana's 2009 doesn't go that route.
4. With regard to John Franco's recent comments about the Mets' clubhouse and impugning David Wright's "leadership" (whatever the hell that means), do you sense that Franco is on to something, that there are clubhouse problems in Queens? Or is Franco off his rocker and should he shut his damn fool mouth?
I think David Wright probably is a good "leader" (http://mlb.mlb.com/news/
As a young star of this team I don't necessarily think it's Wright's job to be a vocal leader; some guys have the personality for it, others not so much. People assume that because you're the face of the franchise that you necessarily have to be "that guy", and I certainly question that rationale. The best part about this whole thing is that it's such a non-story. Who cares whether Wright is a team leader? If the Mets were in first place, healthy, and playing winning baseball nobody would give enough of a shit about leadership to bring it up. The Mets are hurt and struggling to boot, so media types want to blame that on things like leadership, grission, edge, etc. because they've exhausted the usual ways in which to say "the Mets have been shitty this year".
5. In light of your expecations coming into the season, how would you grade (A through F) the Mets so far?
Well, I *expected* them to be healthier, but I assume you mean performance-wise. Given what they have out there it's probably a C-. If everyone were healthy we'd probably have to find something worse than F to sum up this trainwreck. As it stands, the Mets are a game back with a lot of baseball to play. They could be in first by the end of the weekend, or four games back. They're fortunate that the Phillies and everyone else in the division has struggled as well, and if the Mets can hold things together until some of their guys return they could yet make something out of this season. I'm not particularly sanguine about those prospects, but stranger things have happened.