These Mets Are Not Finished

The Mets have been bouncing around between just good enough and mediocre for most of the season now.  They’ve been unable to take that next step to great, but they’ve also never fallen off the cliff towards bad and it’d be foolish to read into their current state, again, as the beginning of the end unless you’re more concerned with your preseason predictions being correct than with how the Mets are actually doing.

 

There are plenty of times that if the season were to end the Mets would’ve been in the playoffs.  Some as recent as four games ago.  Losing three to a division rival is a rough way to start the second half, but it’s hardly the end of the world.   The Mets are actually only 4 and 5 against the Braves this year.  Those first three games are as important to the standings as these last three.  The Mets will clearly need to made some adjustments, play better, and have some better luck to win more games. These are all things the Mets have proved able to do.  R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana are human, apparently.  Everyone slumps.

 

Everyone streaks too.  Santana and Dickey will have other stretches of dominance.  Other players will get hits, pitch well, catch the ball and beat the opposition.  The Mets will win again.

 

If I were to judge this Mets team at this point, I’d say it might be a 50% chance they make the playoffs.  If the season happens to end while they’re on a hot streak, they’ll likely be in.  If not, they’ll likely miss out.  The margin of error may be that small, which was also the case in the series in Atlanta.  The Mets number one goal for the second half is to create situations where they have a margin for error.   Multiple run leads when the bullpen is struggling.  Less walks so that one error or poorly defended ball doesn’t lead to runs.  Most importantly, getting into playoff position and building a lead so every loss isn’t a possible elimination event.

 

 

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Free Falling

The Mets have been in a free fall, plummeting towards worthlessness and erasing all the good will they achieved this season. It’s not totally their fault; They’ve been struck with a lot of injuries, and Sandy Alderson traded two expendable, but useful, parts for prospects once it was obvious the Mets weren’t going to make a real run at the playoffs. Still, despite the occasional fight they show, they’ve also showed a fair amount of looking flat too. They misplay balls, take bad approaches at the plate, and make bad decisions.

Take last night’s game. The Mets got guys on bases with plenty of opportunity, and turned around and let Worley off the hook. They refused to swing the bat and struck out five times looking, all with runners in scoring position. They worked Worley, but as soon as they gave up the lead they made 12 consecutive outs letting Worley go deeper in the game than he probably should’ve. They misplayed balls in the outfield and made bad throws.

This isn’t to say the Mets have quit. They look more depressed than disinterested. They press and make desperation plays or throws, or look almost fearful at the plate. The word I would use is lost. They look like they don’t know what to do, and have lost some of the routine and instinct that guides most baseball play in an effort to try to do too much.

You can see the effects already. People talk about the Mets as if they’re a horrible disaster of a team, despite playing competitively for a good chunk of the year. The stories about financial disaster are back, false rumors about not being able to spend money and sign players. They’re writing off 2012 without having any idea what will happen with the prospects or free agents this offseason.

Just like the Mets bounced back from 5-13 early, they’ll bounce back from this as well. They won’t play this badly the rest of the way, and that last month will set a tone and provide a lot of info about the off-season direction they need to take. But they have erased much of the goodwill they got for playing hard and being resilient during the midseason. Some may write a positive story overall about the season, but most will dismiss the Mets as anything worth thinking about no matter how this season ends.

 

Faith and Fear in Flushing also has a post today, as probably many Mets bloggers do, about free falling and not being able to get up.  Great minds thinking alike and all that.

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Hope, And The Hardest Time To Watch The Mets?

Optimistic or not, the best chance for the Mets to be serious contenders or fade out of it is coming this weekend.  Fans often aren’t competitors, and give up before it’s seriously over.  They make judgement based on what they believe will happen, and based on what has happened already, or based on small samples or bad losses.  That doesn’t mean it’s true, or that the Mets are eliminated, but right now the signs do seem bleak as the Mets have had dozens of opportunities to climb back into the race and haven’t.

 

So with the chances slim and the pessimists laughing at you for holding out hope while the Mets still have their own destiny in their hands, each loss becomes a nail in the coffin of this season, each opportunity to gain a game missed hurts all the more.   The Mets aren’t competing for a wild card spot although they’re not eliminated either.  The Mets are one losing streak from the season being all but over, but right now they’re a tease of maybes and what-ifs.  The Mets could host Atlanta seven (or six or eight) losses back in the wild card race, and sweep the series to get to four losses out with 50 games left to play, which is certainly on the fringes of the race.  They’ve played the Braves well this season so it wouldn’t be shocking to see that happen.

 

It’s too early, perhaps only days too early, but too early nonetheless to give up on the season.  Still, many see the high probability of the Mets staying home in October and start thinking about the future.  They opine about where Murphy should play in 2012, and if he should be getting more time at 2B or RF right now.  They think about which players will be here, and which won’t.  Who will be a free agent?  Which teams should we root for in the playoffs? (that’s easy, the Carlos Beltran Giants)

 

All that discussion is certainly fair given how the Mets have looked lately.  But they’ll go through a stretch where they look good again too.  Maybe it comes at the right time and they play the Braves tough.  Maybe it doesn’t and they’re all but eliminated on Sunday.  There will be plenty of time for player development discussion when the rosters expand and in the offseason.  It’s a long offseason.  You may believe it’s better that the Mets get knocked out now to save us the heartbreak later, but the offseason is long enough as it is and I’ll cling to that small glimmer of hope as long as I can.  Stranger things have happened than teams like the 2011 Mets suddenly making the playoffs.

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