MOST IMPRESSIVE: Not really impressive, because it's what the Mets were supposed to do coming into this past week, but they cleaned up against Washington and Pittsburgh to take over first place. With a lead in Monday's game, the Mets could end the day 2-and-a-half up on Philadelphia. The Mets always said they were through the tough part of their schedule - they didn't have to go west again, while the Phillies just completed a 2-5 west coast swing. Things don't get too much tougher for the Mets this week, with Atlanta and Houston coming to New York - but both of those teams have given the Mets fits in the recent past.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: I haven't spent much time writing about Daniel Murphy, but what a breath of fresh air. Besides the fact that he's 17-for-41 (.415 avg.) since being called up, he's been doing everything right. I put him in "Surprise" rather than "Impressive" only because I didn't hear a mention of him before he was called up. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention....but you'd have thought I would have heard something. FYI - he spent most of the year at Binghamton (AA), playing third base. And perhaps that's why he wasn't talked about very much - because he's behind David Wright on the organizational depth chart. But he's made a seamless transition to the outfield and solved the Mets' outfield problems. Good job all through the Mets organization for making that work.
LEAST IMPRESSIVE: There's no reason I should fear a comeback by the other team (especially when it's the Pirates) when the Mets take a 7-1 lead into the 9th inning...but because of the bullpen, I do. They hit that hot streak right around the All Star Break, and it looked like everything was better...but it's even worse now, without Billy Wagner, than it was at any point of the season. Problem is, people talk like all the problems will be solved when Wagner comes back - I still don't see him coming through in clutch situations.
And while we're on the topic - the Mets pulled the trigger on the Luis Ayala deal. (I commented on this deal when it looked dead last week.) It will cost them Anderson Hernandez, who didn't look like he had what it takes to be a major leaguer, so it might not end up being too costly, but I don't love the move. It's an extra arm out there, though, so I guess that can't hurt.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: I know he's having a decent season, but I just wish Carlos Beltran was more explosive. He's hitting .272, with 17 homers and 82 RBI. I mean, that's OK - he'll finish with 25 homers and 100 RBI, probably...but I want him to be doing 30+ homers and 110+ RBI every year...plus hitting .300. He's overpaid. That's the bottom line. And I will continue to be disappointed in him because of his salary, unless he puts up exorbitant numbers.
MOST IMPRESSIVE: I feel like the St. Louis Cardinals have gotten by this season on smoke and mirrors. They've fallen back a bit (7-and-a-half games behind the Cubs, but only 2 behind the wild card-leading Brewers) - but they're still good enough to be leading the East or West divisions. Their bullpen is a disaster, they don't have a tremendous lineup, they have injuries to key players - but they're having a great season.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: I know I spend a lot of time in this part every two weeks talking about the Tampa Bay Rays, but they deserve it. But the biggest surprise for them is that they're getting production from Rocco Baldelli, which is a nice story. He's suffered from a weird fatigue that no one's really sure about, I guess, but his career was in jeopardy. It's nice that he's come back, and it's also nice that he comes back at a time for the Rays when they're getting decimated by injuries - so he could play a key role in this big season they're having.
LEAST IMPRESSIVE: The Seattle Mariners are having an awful season, and it doesn't look like things are going to get better out there anytime soon. They want to break up the team, but I guess their asking price for their players is too much, and teams are unwilling to deal with them. That can't do too much for team chemistry...and it can't really help a team improve.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Tom Glavine is back on the DL, and may face career-ending surgery. I still hold a grudge against Glavine for the disaster that was the final game of last season, but I never wish injury on someone. What this makes me think, though, is that maybe he was hiding something that was more serious than he knew. Because he really hasn't been the same Tom Glavine since. And the Braves have to be disappointed that he's given them nothing this year...as so many of their players have.