The 18-16 Mets currently find themselves in third place, two and a half games behind the first place Philadelphia Phillies. Back in March, while the Mets were getting ready to close out Port St. Lucie and head north for Opening Day, I felt that the Mets stood a good chance of going to the post season so long as they did three things.
The first was to get productive seasons from two out of Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine. Second, the Mets needed to regain the power that was missing in 2009, and third, the Mets needed to stay in the hunt until they could get their best player, Carlos Beltran, back on the field.
It’s still too early to tell for sure, but John Maine and Mike Pelfrey seem to have turned a corner and may be able to give the Mets the reliable innings they so desperately need from them if they are to make a go of it this season. Oliver Perez is still maddeningly inconsistent as ever, but as long as the other two continue to grow and improve we have time to figure out what to do with Ollie’s place in the rotation.
It’s obviously apparent to all that the power that was in such short supply last season, has returned much to the relief of many who were convinced that Citi Field had struck a mighty blow to the bats of David Wright and company. In just over one month of games, the Mets have already hit one-third of last years home run total. Furthermore, Wright is just three home runs away from eclipsing his 2009 total and it’s only May.
Finally, the Mets are exactly where I wanted them to be in mid-May when Carlos Beltran was first projected to return. According to the latest encouraging news (MetsBlog) on Beltran’s knee, he is now running without pain and a plan is now being worked out for a return to baseball activities. We could be looking at a possible June 15-18 return according to one optimistic report.
What the Mets must do now is continue to stay in the pack and in the hunt for about another month if we’re gonna make the dream work. While many fans look down at this latest Nats series, I ask you to get those chins up and remember that the Mets have accomplished much without their team MVP. Much of the doom and gloom expected by many has not come to pass, and we’ve learned some new things about these Mets that we didn’t know before the season started.
1. These Mets have a lot of fight in them. They have retaliated when one of their own is knocked down, they run hard, they continue to break up double plays, and they have shown a new ferociousness when there’s a play at the plate. I love it.
2. These Mets can, and often do, add on runs late in the game which is a big departure from season’s passed. Except for two blow-outs, the Mets have been in virtually every game right to the final out. They have lost some heart breakers no doubt, but they have had a great ability to come back when they are behind.
3. The catching has made huge strides calling games, keeping pitchers focused, and producing at the plate. Nobody could have expected such a solid performance from the tandem of Barajas and Blanco.
4. The Mets finally have some quality depth. Not too many teams can reach down to their minor leagues and add a player as good as Ike Davis, or Jenrry Mejia, or Chris Carter. They still have some quality options they can turn to for the rotation, bullpen and bench.
It’s imperative that the Mets stay afloat for one more month. Even though they are not yet firing on all cylinders, we have seen how good this team can be this season. They have all the parts that good teams need to make the post season. This team is very competitive right now and will be even more-so when their gold glove centerfielder joins them some time next month.
Jerry Manuel has toyed with the lineup incessantly in order to compensate for the loss of their true elite slugger. This will be restored to order when the switch hitting Beltran resumes his spot in the middle of what will be a very potent Mets lineup.
In the three season prior to his knee injury, Carlos Beltran averaged 33 home runs, 113 RBI, 110 runs, 22 stolen bases and a .905 OPS. Even in an injury riddled 2009 season, Beltran was on the verge of an MVP season before he went on the DL. Before the injury, Carlos Beltran was leading the National League with a .336 batting average, ranked second in the NL with a .426 on-base percentage and .952 OPS, and third in the league with 40 RBIs. How many teams can sustain a prolonged loss of a player of this magnitude? Would the Cardinals be nearly this good without Albert Pujols or the Phillies without Ryan Howard?
These Mets are poised for a tremendous season. The clubhouse is very positive and above all they believe in themselves. They battle hard in every game. They are not short on outspoken leaders and they have displayed some guts and guile on the field. Once Beltran returns they will have that dangerous presence in the lineup that they have been missing all season long. Things are going to get better and the Mets will make a strong run and give us meaningful games in September, and yes October too.
Until then, the Mets have to keep hanging in there… as do their fans…