With a half-season gone by, the Mets are in third place in the NL East with a 46-40 record, only 4.5 games behind the first-place Nationals and a half-game behind the second-place Braves. There is no question that this is a surprise — everyone, including yours truly, expected the Mets to be closer to the basement than the top of the standings by the All-Star break. But can the Mets keep it up? Rather than blow my hot air, let’s start with three opinions from the teeming millions who read MetsToday.
From the comments thread of Sunday’s game against the Cubs:
July 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm
Losing 2 out of 3 to the sad sack Cubbies is not the way to enter the break. I hope I’m wrong, because they are a resilient bunch, but this team might’ve peaked. The two post-break series on the road in Atl. and Wash. are crucial. In fact, the rest of the month (with a majority of games on the road) looks to be challenging. But this team has been full of surprises this year, so LGM!
July 8, 2012 at 7:40 pm
I agree that the six games in DC and Atlanta will set the tone for the team, and more importantly, the front office. If the Mets can manage to win 4 our of six, I think the FO should make some trades to improve the bullpen and the catching.
July 8, 2012 at 8:11 pm
Don’t get me wrong, I like this team. I mean, I really like this team. They play with lots of gusto. However, they have 4 really big problems right now that simply cannot be overcome except at the expense of valuable minor league prospects, in this order:
1. the fielding and base running (i.e., poor fundamentals!!!!)
(duda will be in american league by 2014, and lots of stupid base running mistakes, poor outfield fielding, etc)
2. 7th inning is 2nd biggest problem (no relief)
3. 8th inning is 3rd biggeset prob (no relief)
4. 9th innning is 4th biggest prob (though Francisco has at least been about average when healthy)
So I ask you, is this team really any better than the team that was 48-40 at the break in 2010, also upstarts, etc? I don’t think so.
SiddFinch, Steven, and James all bring up excellent points. As well as the Mets played in the first half, they didn’t exactly build momentum going into the break by losing two out of three to the lowly Cubs. It could be seen as bad luck for the Mets, in that they caught the Cubs at a time when they were doing well; the Cubs won 7 of their last 10 going into the break, and had won 7 of the 10 games immediately preceding their most recent series with the Mets. Further, on Sunday they had Ryan Dempster come off the DL to give them both a physical and emotional boost. But if you look at it that way — that the Mets just hit the Cubs at the wrong time — then you also have to consider that the Mets hit the Dodgers at just the right time. Which of those two series is more reliable in measuring what kind of team the Mets have right now, and will have in the second half? I’m not sure, but as pointed out by SiddFinch, the first six games after the All-Star Exhibition — against the two teams immediately above them in the standings — will be something of a litmus test for the Mets.
If the Mets take four of the six games against the Braves and Nats — heck, if they split — it can be argued that they’re very much “in the race.” As much as fans love this team as it’s currently constructed, I think most will expect the front office to make a few moves addressing current flaws. Certainly, at least one if not two bullpen arms need to be acquired from outside the organization. Perhaps a righthanded bat, if Jason Bay isn’t seen as the answer. Maybe another move.
But what if the Mets lose four of those first six? Should the white flag go up? James jogs our collective memories, taking us back to 2010. Johan Santana had spun seven stellar innings in fronting a 3-0 shutout over the Braves on July 11, giving the Mets a 48-40 record — in second place, only four games out of first — going into the All-Star break. Was confidence high? You betcha. Santana’s shoulder hadn’t yet failed, and the team was getting Carlos Beltran back immediately after the break. There was buzz about an improved clubhouse, which had been injected with energy and enthusiasm by youngsters such as Josh Thole, Jonathon Niese, Ike Davis, and Ruben Tejada.
However, the second half of 2010 did not fulfill the promise suggested by the first.
After the break, the Mets lost their first three to San Francisco and dropped nine of their first eleven. By August 2, they were 53-53, in fourth place, 7.5 games out of first. Many valid factors as well as questionable theories abound as to why the Mets failed. There was the #BlameBeltran meme; there was Jose Reyes playing through an oblique injury; there was Jason Bay underperforming; there was Jerry Manuel making head-scratching decisions; there was the series in Puerto Rico prior to the break that many point to as the beginning of the end. Mind you, this crash came before K-Rod’s meltdown and before Santana’s shoulder gave out. So why did the Mets fail in 2010, and is there anything that can be learned from that catastrophe to be applied now?
The 2010 team — like this year’s vintage — was flawed. In 2010, though, the flaws were swept under the rug, and as a result the Mets didn’t make any moves at the July deadline to address them. It seemed as though everyone was more worried about their jobs and saving face than in putting a solid “product” on the field. We didn’t yet know for sure that the Mets were on the brink of bankruptcy — that everything was spinning out of control, not just on the field, but off of it, too.
In 2012, the Mets acknowledge their flaws and presumably are past their financial problems. Maybe that means a deal or two will be made before the end of the month. Maybe it means decisions will be made to keep the team “in the hunt.” Whether they do stay in the postseason race or not is up for discussion.
What do you think? Have the Mets reached their peak, or are they just a few, obtainable pieces away from a playoff berth? Will they — can they — make the necessary moves? Are they fine just as they are, and yet to reach their 2012 apex? Does past history, and 2010 in particular, make you less optimistic about this club? Why or why not? Post your notes in the comments.
About the Author
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.