One Thing the Mets Cannot Do

After dropping three straight in Atlanta, there is one thing that the Mets cannot do in D.C.: get swept again.

This might be obvious to you, since another three-game sweep would put them nine games behind the frontrunning Nationals, and set their record at exactly .500 (46-46). Such a situation makes their postseason hopes bleak, and increases the hopes of the Miami Marlins — who are currently 43-46 and, only a week ago, seemed to have no chance at all of crawling back into the playoff race.

What may not be as obvious is that the Mets will be OK with any other result from this series with the Nats. If the Mets sweep the Nats, of course, that’s best-case and changes the complexion of the NL East entirely. If the Mets take two, they’ll cut the Nats’ lead over them by a game. And if the Mets lose two, they only fall back one; behind by seven isn’t ideal, but it’s no reason to hit the panic button, either. Further, losing two of three means the Mets still have a winning record (47-45). It may not seem like much of a difference on paper, but in the mind, there is a tremendous difference between being a .500 team teetering toward oblivion, and a team that’s two games over .500. That .500 figure is something of a milestone — and can be viewed either negatively or positively. A losing team reaches for .500, and starts to feel good about itself when it gets there. But when a winning team sinks to .500 — a place where it takes only one game to become a loser — confidence is crushed, players press, and managers panic. Suddenly, a team does whatever it can to avoid losing, rather than play to win.

Ironically, if someone told you in March that the Mets would be a .500 a week after the All-Star break, chances are you’d be thrilled. But the Mets’ surprising first-half surge has created expectations in Flushing; now, a losing season will be a disappointment. Falling to .500 will completely obliterate all the “feel-good” buzz that surrounded the team a week ago. It will also remind everyone of the past two seasons, when similarly successful first-halves were followed by second-half swoons that began immediately after the All-Star Exhibition. “Deja vu all over again,” as Yogi might say.

From D.C., the Mets return home to host the Dodgers and the Nats before embarking on a grueling, 11-game Left Coast trip. It won’t be the same Dodgers team that gave the Mets three wins in four games; these Dodgers will have both Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp in the lineup. On paper, the Mets still seem to have more quality and depth than Los Angeles, but it’s going to be more difficult to beat them than it was at the end of June — it won’t help their psyche if they go into that series as a .500 club. As a team that’s two games over .500, the feeling is much more positive. Much.

Nats – Dodgers – Nats again – 11-game western swing … this could be the most difficult part of the Mets’ 2012 season. Will they come out of it still in the playoff race, or looking toward 2013? Post your thoughts in the comments.

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. Walnutz15 July 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm
    At least from the initial reports, it looks like Bay will be back tonight.

    (I had been wondering as late as this morning, as to whether or not they made a decision on him yet?)

    Have to imagine that they’d like to get him into the lineup vs. Washington, with a few lefties coming up – and Duda nursing the hamstring soreness.

    This is as good a chance as they’re ever gonna get, in expecting some kind of production from him — IMHO. And yet, I’m still not very optimistic – considering they’re no slouches….especially vs. the Metsies.

    Just strange to me – that they’ve waited so long to get the official word out. Last time they waited until the last minute, Bay was throwing up in the locker room. LOL

    I’d presume we’ll also see guys like Nickeas and Hairston in the lineup tonight, as well. Just don’t throw Turner out there at 1B over Ike — please.

    No matter what he’s doing at the plate, I’d rather see a real 1st Baseman out there – than crossing my fingers that Turner doesn’t cost you with “defense” at any point.

    I agree, Joe — gonna be a test comin’ up. They need at least 1 bullpen arm to stick around….to my eye.

  2. MikeT July 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm
    The Mets have yet to play particularly well against the Nats. And, the Mets have managed to bounce back after getting swept with a winning series of some kind. So, it seems like something has to give. Mostly though, they need to get good pitching for the first time in a while, and while the Nats are good, their offense is not exactly intimidating. So something has to give. Lets Go Mets!
  3. DaveSchneck July 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm
    No better time than now to see what Jay Bay has left. He is their acquisition of a RH bat, so Mets need his bat alive and well desperately. That, another quality pen arm, Franky Frank to heal pronto, and Harvey to hold his own when he gets the call.
  4. argonbunnies July 17, 2012 at 5:26 pm
    Bay never found his timing at the plate, then got hurt, then has had only 14 ABs in the minors. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that he’s going to suck right now, and I see Terry’s put him in the #5 spot tonight, so that’ll probably hurt us. This after saying “we want to get him ready and not have another 0-for-17”. Smell like panic, anyone?

    Niese v Detwiler
    Young v Zimmermann
    Dickey v Gonzalez

    If we lose the first game, I predict a sweep. Tonight is crucial.

    • Steven July 17, 2012 at 11:38 pm
      I think you are all right
  5. Mike Kelm July 18, 2012 at 11:19 am
    Bay is obviously not ready, and furthermore I think Collins knows it. He singled his way through in the minor leagues- no show of power, no show that he was dominating. In fact, he was hitting terrible 5 hits in 25 at bats with no extra base hits and one rbi, 9 strikeouts versus 8 walks, and he’s supposed to help you in the big leagues?

    Throw in the bullpen, where your “closer” blew another save. Having seen him both in person and on TV, I can’t remember Parnell ever looking dominant- no 1-2-3 innings, no overpowering guys despite his fastball. At this point I more or less expect the bullpen to blow a lead every single time.

    I’d say that at this point we should all be prepared for our annual trading deadline crash. I’d say this would be a great time to find some position playing prospects, but who would you trade. At the moment the Mets pitching prospects are good, but position player wise the cupboard is completely bare.