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LATE & GREAT
TOM VERDUCCI
October 01, 2007
SUMMER'S OVER, BUT THE HEAT'S BEING TURNED UP ON SOME OF THE GAME'S BIGGEST STARS AS THEY TAKE THE OCTOBER STAGE. JONATHAN PAPELBON'S REPLY: BRING IT
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October 01, 2007

Late & Great

SUMMER'S OVER, BUT THE HEAT'S BEING TURNED UP ON SOME OF THE GAME'S BIGGEST STARS AS THEY TAKE THE OCTOBER STAGE. JONATHAN PAPELBON'S REPLY: BRING IT

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NEW YORK METS

DAVID WRIGHT

Third Base

AND

JOSE REYES

Shortstop

AS MANY of Flushing's finest suffered through an insidious case of the dog-day doldrums (seven losses in 20 days to the Phillies, three blown leads of three runs or more last week alone), David Wright refused to allow the Mets to completely crumble. Alex Rodriguez likely won't be New York's only third baseman to win a Most Valuable Player award in 2007, due largely to a second half in which Wright, at week's end, was first in the NL in batting average (.360) and OPS (1.078), second in runs scored (58), sixth in RBIs (54) and seventh in steals (16). With 30 homers, 34 steals and his 25th birthday still three months away, he's the fourth-youngest member of the 30--30 club. "For me, yes, he is the MVP," says Jose Reyes, the Mets' other 24-year-old star. "He comes through in the big spots for us. He deserves it." The Mets must have continued productivity from Wright if they hope to play deep into October, but they'll also need Reyes—the major league leader in steals, with 78—to maximize his pitcher-disrupting, run-creating abilities. "He's the igniter," says Wright. "For us to be at our best, we need Jose to get going." Reyes's April, in which he reached base at a .442 clip, seemed to corroborate the widespread belief that he's the game's most talented shortstop, but that figure has plummeted to .305 in September. In fact, Reyes has arguably been just the third-best shortstop in his division, behind Florida's Hanley Ramirez and Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins. Although a slumping Reyes is better than most ("When Jose's not at his best, he's still close to a .300 hitter and stealing bases," says G.M. Omar Minaya), he'll have to recapture his early-season magic for the Mets to reach their first World Series since 2000. "He knows that this team needs him," says Wright, "and he's preparing himself."

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ

Pitcher

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