Putting Things in Perspective

The Mets have scored 14 runs in a game twice in three days, they’re finally over the magical .500 mark, Jose Reyes is having a historical year, Carlos Beltran is his old self, the starting pitching has been spectacular, and now even Jason Bay is getting into the act. The Mets are running on all cylinders, winning like a habit, and they’re doing it WITHOUT David Wright, Ike Davis, and Johan Santana.

So why am I still pessimistic about the team’s chances for a postseason run?

Probably because I’ve seen this movie before — as recently as 2010.

As of today, the Mets are 40-39, tied for third place in the NL East and quickly climbing up the ladder. But before you start dreaming about a run at the Wild Card, consider that this time last year — on June 29, 2010, to be exact — the Mets were 43-34, nine games over .500, in second place, and only 1.5 games out of first. They were ahead of the Phillies, for goodness sakes! Remember where the Mets finished by the time the 2010 season ended?

I know, I know — you’re going to start talking about the injuries, and the ones to Johan Santana and K-Rod in particular. It’s different this year, because the Mets are having great success without Wright and Davis, without Santana, and with Bay basically being a no-show until about a week ago. And if the Mets can just stay around .500 — maybe a few games over — for just a few more weeks, just wait and see what happens when Wright and Davis return … and maybe we’ll even see Santana for the final stretch!

Stop. We were here before, remember? In 2010 AND 2009, in fact. Remember the goal of staying around .500, until the cavalry would arrive and save the season? Remember how the Mets were going to stay competitive until Carlos Beltran came back after the All-Star Break? He was going to be the in-house “deadline pickup” to give the team an extra jolt and push them over the top — remember?

But it didn’t happen that way. The team went into a funk right before the All-Star Game, then into a tailspin to start the second half. They eventually finished four games under .500, a dozen games away from the Wild Card. Why? Because when it came down to brass tacks, the Mets were an average team — a team that, with a little luck and a few breaks, had a shot at winning 80-84 games; but with some bad luck, they might win only 75-80.

That’s exactly what the Mets have this year: an average team. With a little luck, they might get to 84, 85 wins. Heck, they might even get up to 87. But that’s not going to be enough to win a postseason spot. Despite the parity and mediocre baseball we’re seeing this year, there are several NL teams that are better built for the long haul than the Mets — and a few might be behind the Mets right now. What does that mean? It means there could be a few clubs who have yet to hit their stride, and will pass the Mets at some point in the second half. I’m talking about the Rockies, Reds, and Marlins in particular, who are all underachieving at the moment. In contrast, the Mets are peaking right now — just as they did this time last year.

Why are the Mets peaking? Because there are men on the team who will not sustain what they’ve been doing over the last month or so. Dillon Gee, for example, is not going to finish the year 18-1. I love the kid, but I just don’t see him continuing to do as well as he has. Similarly, as much as I like Ronny Paulino and Dan Murphy, they’re unlikely to finish the season hitting .300+. Ruben Tejada had been hitting way over his head, too, and he’s already starting to regress. And soon enough, the bullpen is going to show its cracks again and frustrate us the way it did just a few weeks ago.

Sure, as some guys cool off, others will heat up. Maybe Wright and/or Davis will eventually return and pick up the slack. Maybe Bay will become the monster he was in Boston. But it’s still not going to be enough, mainly because there are too many weaknesses on the pitching staff.

And before you say, “oh, but it’s different this year, because we have a new front office in place”, remember that most of the guys behind this recent surge — Gee, Murphy, Tejada, Turner, Reyes, Beltran, Niese, Dickey, K-Rod, etc. — are “Omar guys”. Other than Chris Capuano and Paulino, there haven’t been many “Sandy guys” who have had a significant impact on the Mets’ success. Chris Young, Brad Emaus, and D.J. Carrasco have been massive failures in judgment, and of the myriad relievers brought in, none have showed any kind of consistency or reliability (though Pedro Beato looks to have a future ahead of him). In other words, I’m not counting on this new front office to work miracles; even if they could, I’m not sure the Mets have the wherewithal to make it happen.

Why am I raining on the parade? Because I’m a realist, number one, and number two, I’ve grown too old to ride the emotional rollercoaster that is required to follow the Mets with all of my heart. When I was young, it was fun to ride high with the success, and the low points didn’t seem so low. Then came the collapse of 2007, and a repeat collapse in 2008, and those two heartbreaking debacles made me look more closely at all the disappointing seasons prior (and since). Suddenly, seemingly subtle weaknesses became glaring. Patterns were picked out. Body language was read. I began to understand the power of momentum and the importance of timing, and how those two elements could fool you. The stat guys will point out things like BABIP to explain it all scientifically, but I don’t need numbers to see what’s real and unreal.

Some call it being cynical; others say it’s being level-headed. Certainly, it’s not being the same kind of fan that I was before, and how many of you are today. It doesn’t make me any better; it probably makes me worse. Maybe it’s simply a function of getting older. In any case, I’m still obsessed with the Mets. But they’re like a jilting ex-girlfriend: I just don’t trust them anymore.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. norman June 29, 2011 at 7:05 am
    One day at a time
  2. Paul June 29, 2011 at 7:33 am
    You’re right – the Mets, as currently constructed, probably can’t win the wild card.

    That’s why Sandy Alderson should consider shopping some of his marginal prospects for rent-a-players to improve the roster. The way the team’s finances look, it may be a few years before they have another shot.

  3. Joe June 29, 2011 at 8:06 am
    I’ll be quite happy if the Mets win 82-85 wins.

    If they have a bad stretch, they should not pack it in totally, which seemed to be the case at times last year. I thought .500 mattered last year, even if it was only a few games, a number maybe to some people. I was annoyed they didn’t reach it.

    If the Marlins, 11 games under .500, is going to pass the Mets, either the Mets are going to a bigger freefall than last year, or the Marlins will have to have some second half. I totally agree teams like the Rockies/Reds, who are around the Mets record, can speed past them with a good few weeks.

    The “two heartbreaking debacles” should not happen. It took a special disagree of bad (including losing all seven, all seven, games against the Phillies — there is no real excuse there) to do that. Another year it was the inability to fill in for a closer for a month. A bit easier to take, but there was enough talent there to eke it out, at least to the postseason.

    I’m not drinking the Kool Aid. But, I think this team very well could have won one of those games against Phillies. Just saying.

  4. Jeff June 29, 2011 at 8:11 am
    I agree that the Mets don’t look like a playoff team, but I do want to say that there is at least one difference between last year’s team and this one: fewer marginal to bad players are getting regular playing time. Francoeur was the worst right fielder in baseball by a substantial margin. Beltran is a massive upgrade over Frenchy. The 2010 Mets got nothing from their catchers: I’d take Thole/Paulino over Barajas/Blanco any day of the week. 19 year old Tejada, Alex Cora, and Luis Castillo combined for the worst offense out of 2B of any major league team. Again, Turner/Murphy/Tejada isn’t All-Star caliber, but it is an improvement.
    The thing to believe in here is that the Mets trot out mostly decent players every night. Does that make them playoff-worthy? No. But I don’t see regression like we saw last year.
  5. JerrysKids June 29, 2011 at 8:12 am
    “I don’t need numbers to see what’s real and unreal”

    Uh… yes you do.

    The 2010 Mets “collapsed” because they scored an unusally high percentage of their baserunners early on and because they couldn’t get on base to save their lives.

    The 2011 Mets might regress (Jose is hitting .350, etc.), but they are a completely different team and will do so for completely different reasons. This year, they’ve done a wonderful job of getting on base and stealing bases frequently and at a high rate. Other than perhaps Gee, nobody on the starting staff is a candidate for major regression.

    So, yeah. Who knows what’s going to happen? Instead of worrying about what’s going to happen, i’m simply going to enjoy what is and leave it at that.

  6. Dan N. June 29, 2011 at 8:15 am
    You talk about how “the power of momentum and the importance of timing, and how those two elements can fool you.”

    Look at the Giants last year. They were 41-40 during the beginning of July. If I learned ANYTHING from last season it’s the important of timely hitting and momentum into the playoffs.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know the Mets have their work cut out for them.

    I know the Mets blew a seven game lead during September in 2007. I saw Tom Glavine give up seven runs in the first inning of their last game against the Marlins. A game that would have forced a one-game playoff game if they’d won.

    I know how bad the bullpen was in 2008. If all the Met games had ended in the 8th inning that year, they would have won the NL East by 12 games.

    I know the Mets are notorious for melting down. I just honestly think the Mets have a chance though if the Giants are any indication. It has nothing to do with the denial ridden inevitability of being a Mets fan.

    Granted their pitching isn’t as flashy as the Giants was last year, but if you win a game 10-9 it’s still the same as winning 10-0.

    Is it really so farfetched to think that Jose Reyes can do this for a whole season? Or that Carlos Beltran will stay consistent? Or that David Wright will be able to contribute anything upon his return? Or that Santana and Davis can add stability if they get healthy? Or that Jason Bay will stop “pondering the meaning of life” and be a decent power hitter throughout the remainder of the season?

    Who knows, they could even claim a mediocre regular season player/unimaginable postseason hero off waivers because they want to stop another team from getting him.

    Sorry for such a long post.

  7. John June 29, 2011 at 8:26 am
    I generally agree with you that this team is probably not talented enough to win the wild card. But where I disagree with you concerns the mental makeup of this team.
    And a lot of it has to do with leadership. Minaya and Manual were very complacent and tolerated poor performance. Merit wasn’t really considered when it came to playing time or even a roster spot. And since those teams where loaded with fading veterans, who were quite frankly on the downside of their careers, it was easy to mail it in when things got bad. Injuries were mishandled leading to further discontent.
    But this management team has made it clear that performance is what matters. They have filled the roster with younger guys who have something to prove (yea, I know about Harriston and Harris, but their playing time has varied depending on performance also.)
    You mentioned Emaus and Carrasco. Do you think that Minaya would have cut Emaus or sent Carrasco down to AAA when they didn’t perform? The kids may have been signed in the previous regime but they were also buried in the minor leagues.
    Gee and Niese may not have ace stuff, but they have done one thing during their entire professional career at every level….won. Who do you feel more comfortable with on the mound with the game on the line and runners on; Pelfrey with all his talent or Gee with his guts?
    Last night’s lineup was very telling. When asked why Turner was moved down in the order Collins said that he wasn’t swinging the bat as well lately. I can’t imagine Manual moving Bay down in the lineup if he didn’t hit.
    So I agree that this team won’t make the playoffs. But I don’t think this team has the same temperament as the teams that collapsed in September in 08 and 09.
    Rather this team reminds me of the 1983 team. Not enough talent or experience but clearly showing signs of what they could be in a couple of years. Any trades made in the next month (and I don’t think there should be) should not be with an eye towards this year or 5 years out but rather the next 2 or 3 years.
    Keep Reyes and try to sign him. Two first round picks are probably more than you will get for a rental player. Or if there is a team like the Red Sox who overwhelm you with young guys who can step in right away, consider it. Keep Beltran at least until August. I would consider moving K-Rod if the package was right which I don’t would be out there.
    This year meaningful September games that don’t amount to a playoff spot won’t be disappointing. Rather it will be meaningful experience to the young guys like Turner, Duda, Tejada, Gee, Thole etc. and Davis (if he is playing).
    • Joe Janish June 29, 2011 at 10:43 pm
      Refresh my memory: did Minaya get rid of MIke Jacobs and replace him with Ike Davis after a fairly short stint last year? Did Minaya drop Frank Catalanotto in the second week of May?

      I’ve heard that argument before and it doesn’t hold water, especially when you consider how long the Mets stuck with Emaus despite his inability to hit anything during the entire spring. The Wilpons did not allow Minaya to cut several players due to their contracts (several of which they, and not Minaya, negotiated); he did not have anything close to autonomy and the only reason Alderson has slightly more reign is because Bud Selig more or less took control of the team and appointed Alderson.

  8. izzy June 29, 2011 at 9:40 am
    Sandy Alderson and Jeffy Wilpon’s worst nightmare. The Met fanbase discussing playoffs. No salary dumping for kids Sandy. No draft picks for Beltran next year. 17 million dollar check to the KROD next year. Just two draft puicks for the 2011 NL MVP. Do you guys have a make the playoff playbook? Better have because the rebuilding trategy was blown by Beltran and Reyes.
  9. MarathonMet June 29, 2011 at 10:16 am
    As always great post. There isn’t anything to agree about though. You make your point clearly. Your tired and you want to take it easy this time around. You don’t want to get your hopes up. I can understand that.

    In my view, the only real question mark will be the pitching, both starting and relief. At all positions you have choices but pitching I’m not sure. Then comes the front office factor. Can they and will they make a difference? I agree most of the players are Omar’s guys but this FO has made decisions that have helped the team until now.

    To conclude, let the IFs begin:
    if Reyes, Beltran and a couple starting pitchers stay healthy
    if Wright comes back and makes a splash
    if Bay continues to get his act together
    if Omar’s guys continue to perform (even with a slight drop off)
    if the FO brings in some pitching insurrance,
    Then maybe we can get Joe to believe again.

    Regards and thanks for your great analysis and posts.

  10. Kenny June 29, 2011 at 11:34 am
    one thing we can all agree on – Omar deserves a TON of credit for what’s happening right now. these are all omar’s guys! sandy who?

    oh, sandy is the guy who is going to dismantle this thing in a few weeks. got it. thanks.

    • FrankTaveras June 29, 2011 at 3:29 pm
      Yeah wasn’t Sandy the guy who wouldn’t even give Turner a chance in spring training because his “braintrust” chose Brad Emaus for the All-Star ballot?

      And Sandy was the guy who made sure Gee didn’t get any ST innings, either, by bringing in wastes of space like Boof Bonser and DJ Carrasco.

      Can’t wait to see who these very smart Ivy leaguers bring in after the fire sale.

      • Kenny June 29, 2011 at 8:37 pm
        sandy never won anything without the help of steroids and a big payroll. the other two ivy league twits never won anything, period.
        • CatchDog June 30, 2011 at 8:50 am
          You guys also realize that Sandy spent the least amount of money in the winter than any other team in baseball. The payroll is going the other way.

          Chris Young & Chris Capuano were decent additions. As was Paulino, Beato & Izzy. But right now, the best addition has been Terry Collins.

          Sandy has been straight forward and accountable in his short tenure. He’s also communicated well to the media and fans without the excuses or shoulder shrugs we’d been getting from Omar the last four seasons. Not to mention, he’s got to deal with the entire Wilponzi mess.

          Personally, I’ll judge Sandy after a full season. Anything less would be both unfair and unreasonable.

  11. Mike June 29, 2011 at 11:42 am
    I think I agree with the majority of the commentators here. I think we all sick of being let down and think that the emotional rollercoaster is draining. But this is why we follow sports, is it not? Why bother being a fan at all if you don’t ride the rollercoaster? That’s my view on it. I’m along for the ride. For better or worse. Will make victory all the sweeter when it finally comes.

    *Note I’m a Jets fan too, I make the same argument there as well. At 26 I might have seen more sports heartbreak than any other fan my age, and even many older than me. The Knicks used to be my second favorite team to the Mets, and when they were still relevant they just never could break through and finish the deal. Heck even Penn State got screwed out of a National Championship game when the Big Ten refs gifted Michigan 2 seconds in 2005. Some day I think I will see at least one championship for one of my teams, but you never know, so I treat every year and every team as if this is the year, because when it does happen I want that full exhilarating feeling that comes with finally being on top. I think I’ve earned it.

    • JoMama June 29, 2011 at 3:46 pm
      (this really isn’t a Met rant, sorry)

      Mike: I root for, in order: MICHIGAN football, Mets, Jets, Knicks and the Islanders so I feel your pain. But let’s get one thing straight here – that ’05 PSU/UM game was NOT won because M got 2 seconds on the clock, it was because your special teams let Breaston get to midfield! Then PSU went to that idiotic “prevent” and were giving up 10-15 yards at a clip. Mario made that incredible catch with no time left – end of story. If you want REAL clock homerism, check out the UM/MSU from 2001.

      Now in terms of the Mets, I’m just waiting for the collapse. Anyday now…

  12. Garett June 29, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Your point is well taken as I’ve lived and died with the Mets every year since 1986, when they were etched into my heart and mind as a 10 year old kid.

    That being said, we will win another World Series before our time is up here. This is the great thing about baseball- the science is all BS when you have a team that plays together, picks each other up and has a manager who has the heart of a mountain lion. Terry Collins is taking this team to the playoffs*

    *within the next 3-5 years.

    • Mike S. June 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm
      I agree with you here. Wasn’t a big fan when the Mets hired TC but I really like the job he’s doing with them this year. A few questionable in-game decisions every once in a while, but still way better than Jerry Manuel. His players really seem to trust him and enjoy playing for him (you can argue about the true effect his outburst a few weeks ago had, but the team is playing much better since). Also, the way he’s handling the Jason Bay situation really reminds me of the way Terry Francona treated David Ortiz the last 2 years, and we all know how that worked out.
  13. Mike S. June 29, 2011 at 1:16 pm
    I think the difference between this year and the last few years is the depth of the team this year. In the past, when players like Beltran, Bay, Reyes, and Santana went down, look at the players that replaced them in the lineup – Alex Cora, Jeff Francoeur, Fernando Tatis (and don’t even get me started on Gary Matthews Jr.). That’s not even taking into account the amount of playing time the team gave to Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. While I agree that players like Justin Turner, Dan Murphy, and Dillon Gee won’t continue to produce like they have been this season, they are still a pretty significant upgrade over what we’ve had the last 3 or 4 seasons. Besides with so much bad luck the past 4 seasons (and even then we only missed the playoffs by a game in 07 and 08) karma is bound to pay us back eventually. Right? Maybe? (Probably not.)

    All I know is that back in 06, you went into every game honestly believing the Mets had a real chance to win the game, no matter who they were playing. It seemed like they had every player in the lineup, 1 through 8, stepping up. Even Jose Valentin posted a .820 OPS out of the number 8 hole. It just FELT like that team had some kind of magic going for them, and as long as I still feel that way when I watch the team this year I’m not going to give up on the season.

  14. Rob June 29, 2011 at 2:32 pm
    We’re doomed….DOOMED, I tell you.

    All kidding aside, part of the fun about baseball is that it lets me be a kid again. Hope springs ever eternal. Cynacism has no place on a baseball field or in the stands. Just relax and enjoy the ride. If they lose, no expectations to shatter…if they win…wow…what a great year it will have been. They’re certainly more exciting and more determined a team than I’ve seen in quite some time. They aspire to be the 1999 can’t quit Mets…which is something that I can appreciate and root for without any concern for the “ex-girlfriend” syndrome.

    Anyway, keep the faith and take it one game at a time.

  15. Mic June 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm
    Izzy. Nice

    The big change i see is risp. Plus terry collins, strategy wise he might be an upgrade ala bobby v. However his temperament is a plus.

  16. BCA June 29, 2011 at 5:08 pm
    anything can happen in general. I don’t at all expect the Mets however to make the playoffs. They will win some and loose some keeping them around 500 I think. Way to may “Ifs” going on here as usual. I like the grit of this team and their manager. I hope they make Reyes a good offer of lets say about 16 Mil a year for 5 years. He will probably end up with the Giants howerver for more.
  17. Matt June 29, 2011 at 7:46 pm
    Your commentary is very honest and your expectations are quite realistic. The chance of Reyes, a .286 hitter prior to 2011, hitting over .340 for a full season is small. But the biggest issue here is that many Mets fans have a case of the “if’s.”

    IF Reyes hits .340+
    IF Beltran continues and has a solid season
    IF Bay returns to All-Star form
    IF Wright and Davis come back and
    IF Wright hits like he always has and not like his 2011 numbers and
    IF Davis continues on the pace he was on before he was hurt
    IF Gee continues on a similar pace
    IF Johan comes back and pitches up to his potential
    IF K-Rod continues to save games as he has been

    But the chance of all these if’s becoming realities is beyond minute. Yes, the Mets need to continue to build around slap-hitting, base stealing, solid defense and pitching but they are clearly not at that place this season. Look at the career numbers of the players on the Mets and how much some of them have over-performed. It’s not likely that they will be able to turn this season into a playoff berth. A winning record maybe, but not a playoff berth.

  18. Joe June 30, 2011 at 8:07 am
    Andy Martino joined the party today (TH):

    “They also clinched a series win and, at 41-39, rose to two games above .500 for the first time since April 5. This is a team that was not expected to contend, and is still not contending – but it is playing respectably, and enjoying the moment.

    What does this modest success mean, and how far will it take this team? It is useful to remember that, exactly one year before Wednesday night’s game, the Jerry Manuel Mets were 43-34, and that record did not even represent their peak. They finished the year 79-83, lousy enough to cost the manager and general manager their jobs.

    Our point? These Mets have not proven anything yet.”

  19. Jack June 30, 2011 at 4:06 pm
    Whoa, whoa, whoa – huge exaggeration when you say this, Joe:

    “Bud Selig more or less took control of the team and appointed Alderson.”

    That isn’t even close to reality.

    • Joe Janish June 30, 2011 at 11:23 pm
      You know something I don’t? Pull your head out of the sand. It’s so obvious it’s obnoxious.