For Floyd, it's all about the team in 2006

For Floyd, it's all about the team in 2006

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Unbeknownst to Cliff Floyd on Sunday was that the T-shirt he had chosen to wear to work had a large No. 9 on the back. It had no significance, he said, when told of his one-day numerical standing. By the end of the day, though, he acknowledged that the more appropriate number for him -- this year, if not this day -- was No. 6.

Without a trace of rancor or even disappointment, Floyd acknowledged that six -- a nine turned upside down -- probably would be his address in the Mets' batting order this season.

Willie Randolph is four days away from putting names on an exhibition game lineup card and weeks away from identifying his regular-season batting order, much less committing to it. Yet Floyd is batting sixth. He's certain of it, even if the manager isn't -- just as sure as Billy Wagner is when he asks, "Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?"

Floyd has, as he said, "done the math," and his figures add up to him batting sixth, directly after David Wright, two places lower than Carlos Delgado and the position from which he produced most of his numbers in 2005. He not only is agreeable to the reassignment, but he sees his accepting it professionally as a means of delivering the message he considers critical to the team's chances of meeting its aspirations.

"I want my boys to say, 'He's about us,' when they talk about me," Floyd said. "That's the way it has to be if we're gonna win. It's not about where I want to hit; it's about which way the team will be better off."

Floyd's words of selflessness came on Sunday afternoon after another rainy-day workout and during a brief television interview in which he and Wright playfully chided each other about their non-existent competition in the RBIs category. As he made his points -- few of them serious -- Floyd spoke of batting sixth as if it were a given, of how he would protect Wright in the order and how he expected his friend to "run me in some RBIs, like I did for him last year" --] when Floyd batted one place higher than Wright.

Floyd spoke more earnestly after the television lights were dimmed. "I hit fourth last year," he said, "And we have a new No. 4 man [Delgado]."

Floyd then extended his arms to the sides, palms up, as if no additional explanation were needed. But he continued: "No way D-Wright's hitting sixth. And Willie doesn't want me right next to [Delgado] -- you can't have two lefties one after the other -- so I'm not hitting third or fifth. And you know I'm not hitting second. Sooooooo..."

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The conclusion is foregone, in Floyd's mind. He certainly won't challenge it.

"I want to win this year," he said, conceding he could be displaced in the left field by Lastings Milledge in 2007. "Whatever's best for us is what we do."

He and Wright have discussed the circumstances in private, and each has come away speaking only in the first-person plural.

"No one's going to be selfish," Wright said. "Not this year. We can have a special year with all the talent we have here."

Wright even suggested a scenario in which Floyd would bat third, followed by Carlos Beltran, Delgado and himself. That's not likely, either. "But that would be fine," Floyd said.

Randolph has provided little insight into his thinking about the batting order other than stating last November that Delgado bats fourth. Speculation has been that the small-ball expertise of Paul Lo Duca will prompt Randolph to bat his new catcher second after Jose Reyes and before Beltran, then Delgado, Wright, Floyd, the right fielder and the second baseman (identities unknown). Were a reemergence of Bret Boone as a hitter to occur and Boone were to win the second-base assignment, that speculative sequence might change.

A hint of the Boone of merely two years ago -- 24 home runs and 83 RBIs -- could have the veteran right-handed hitter batting fifth and Wright third.

"But I'd still be sixth," Floyd said, laughing. "I thought all this out. And I wasn't going to say anything. That [television] interview was just fun, fooling around. I wasn't gonna say anything -- that I was happy batting fourth or sixth. It doesn't matter. If this is the way to go, this is the way we do it."

Wright saluted his teammate's selflessness.

"Cliff had a good year last year, and this is a free agent year," said Wright. "You won't hear that from him, though. He is so team-oriented."

As is Wright. And Delgado, at age 33, sees he may be in position to reach the postseason for the first time. He's had three seasons of 40 or more home runs and three of at least 130 RBIs. He could produce another of each this season. But his primary objective also is expressed in the first-person plural.

And if that sense of single-mindedness takes hold -- if it becomes fashionable in the Mets' clubhouse to think and play selflessly -- Randolph will have the kind of team he wants for a second straight season. He has pointed to the selflessness of Chris Woodward last season.

"He wasn't in my office once to say he was ready to play," the manager said. "He was just ready."

And now Randolph has Julio Franco, who already is spreading the gospel according to Us in the clubhouse.

And on Saturday, Ramon Castro spoke of "winning in New York." He said "I am happy to play not so much if we win. I'll be happier if we win than if I play more."

And Bartolome Fortunato, who is recovering from back surgery, expressed similar thoughts.

"I think about pitching more than I think about making the team," he said. "But if I make the team, I can be here to win. And that's what we talk about all the time -- win, win, win."

"I hear it when we talk," Floyd said. "We're putting the team first. That's the right way."

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.