Beasts of the East

The Mets created a lot of goodwill with their loyal fans after a 9-1 homestand late in April.  It certainly seemed as though some things were working: Ike Davis was called up and created an impression on the team and the fanbase, Jose Reyes moved his spot in the lineup and it seemed to work for at least the short term and two of the so-called “big bats” in David Wright and Jason Bay were tearing it up.  The pitching was phenomenal, both starting and bullpen, with some notable surprises such as Takahashi in the ‘pen and John Maine starting to come around.

Of course, as a collective, Mets fans were absolutely SALIVATING at the thought of spanking the Phillies in the City of Brotherly Love and taking possession of first place by a landslide (at least, as much as a team can at this point in the year).  Well, we all know how that turned out.  A promising start by our homegrown pitcher in Jonathon Niese Friday night led us to believe that with our two aces starting the next two days in Mike “Big Pelf” Pelfrey and Johan Santana, we were certain to win at the very least one of those two games.

The Mets left on the Pennsylvania Railroad towards Cincinnati with a 1-2 record against the Phillies.

As of now, the Mets have faced every team in the NL East, and they have only won precisely one series so far against the Braves, that they swept.  The rest add up to a 3-6 record against the Marlins, Nationals and Phillies.  So far, the Mets sport a 15-13 record, with a 6-6 record against the other teams in the East.

Let me repeat that: the Mets are so far playing .500 ball against NL East teams. One would think that with the Mets start of the season (2-4 against the Marlins and Nationals) and subsequent road losses, leading to their win streak going into Philadelphia only to falter there, the record would look a lot worse than .500 against teams in the East.  Not only that, the division is still VERY close with the season well underway.

This leads me to my next observation: are things really all that bad with how the Mets have shown up against other teams in the East?  Are they just competitive?  Or competitively bad?  Let’s take a look, shall we?  As of May 6 after all games have been played (Mets had the day off), the standings are:

  • Phillies 17-11
  • Mets 15-13 (2 games back)
  • Nationals 15-13 (2)
  • Marlins 13-15 (4)
  • Braves 12-16 (5)

A gap of five games between first and fifth is not that bad.  In fact, it leads me to believe that the division is ripe for the taking.  In comparison, the only division that had a closer differential was the AL West, with three games separating their first and last place team (I’d also like to point out that only two of their teams are playing at or over .500).   The biggest differential?  The AL East, with a 13.5 game gap between first and last place.

I think we can glean a few things from these standings.

Even with the Phillies suffering from injury bugs, they are still a force with which to be reckoned.

The Nationals are providing more bite than bark this year, with a respectable record this point of the year.  Looking at standings from previous years, at May 6, 2009, they boasted a 8-18 record (7 games back) and 14-19 as of May 6, 2008 (4.5 games from first).  For those years respectively, they ended up 33 games from first and 32.5 games from first.

Even for fourth and fifth place teams at the moment, the Marlins and the Braves still have chances to make things “interesting” (as they are wont to do, especially when they play the Mets it seems).  The Marlins have always reminded me of the pup Scrappy Doo — “Lemme at ’em, I’ll splat ’em!”  The Braves are, well, they’re the Braves.  Atlanta had a respectable winning record in 2009 with 86-76 although finished well under .500 in 2008, 20 games back from first place.

Am I concerned about the Mets?  Of course I am.  I am concerned for situational hitting.  I am concerned that the bullpen will be run into the ground by May 15 (whoa!  That’s just next week).  I am concerned that Gary Matthews, Jr. will continue to start games because of the amount of money he is making while a dude languishes in AAA who should have been brought up with the team after Spring Training.  I am concerned that Carlos Beltran may return too late to tear things up enough in the division.  I am worried about Jason Bay and his perceived “streakiness” which is a nice way of saying “slumpiness.”

What I am not concerned about though is the competition in the NL East.  The competition looks close enough so far that the division is ripe for the taking.

Omar Minaya recently took a lot of heat (deservedly so, if you ask me) when he mentioned that he would be happy with taking one game against the offensively mighty and pitching rich St. Louis Cardinals.  Well, they did, but I was angry about the whole “aiming low” business.  Enough.

The division could easily be anyone’s.  Doing a few things right, the Mets could easily take it.  Do they have the brass though?  Discuss!