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.