Seriously folks. If I were to have told you in April that the Mets would be eight games over .500 (48-40), four game out of first in the NL East and a mere game out of the Wild Card lead at he All-Star break, you’d have signed up that in a heartbeat. With all the negativity lingering from last year’s calamity, the uncertainty in the starting rotation and Carlos Beltran’s knee surgery, the Mets seemed destined for more disaster in 2010. But a few season-altering events happened along the way:
- Ike Davis arrived: After getting off to a 4-8 start, it appeared as if we were witnessing Jerry Manuel’s final days as Mets manager. Then the team inexplicably went on a 10-1 run to end April, including an astounding 9-1 homestand during which they swept the Atlanta Braves and the L.A. Dodgers. I wrote inexplicably in the last sentence, but I probably shouldn’t have because I am convinced the infusion of Ike Davis into the lineup and into the clubhouse was the primary reason for the turnaround. As has been detailed in this space before, Ike brought some excitement to the fanbase, some much-needed power to the middle of the Mets order and steady glove at first base. The kid is here to stay for years to come, which is good news to anyone who bleeds blue and orange for this team.
- Angel Pagan began to blossom: There were many frowns in Metville when it was revealed in January that Beltran had surgery on his balky right knee and would not be ready for opening day (or as it turns out the entire first half of the season). Gary Matthews, Jr. to the rescue! Errr, maybe not. After Manuel installed Matthews as the opening day CF instead of Pagan, many of us in the media shook our heads in disbelief. It didn’t take long for Manuel to see the error of his ways by mid-April Pagan was soon manning CF for the Mets on an everyday basis, and doing it splendidly. Heading into the break, Pagan is batting a robust .315, good for fifthin the NL. His 19 steals tie him with fellow lineup mate Jose Reyes. To top it off Pagan has played a flawless CF filling in for Beltran. In fact, Pagan has been so good, Manuel has already decreed that Angel will supplant Jeff Francoeur in RF when Beltran returns to the lineup on Thursday in San Francisco. Not really a tough decision considering it would be lunacy to remove the team’s first-half MVP from the lineup.
- Mike Pelfrey turned into a top of the rotation starter: There have been a few bumps in the road as of late, but clearly Pelfrey has quieted many of his critics (me included) with his performance thus far in 2010. Before this recent rough patch over the past five starts or so, Pelfrey(10-4, 3.58 ERA) was stood at 9-1, with and ERA in the 2’s. It wasn’t just the stat lines that Big Pelf was putting up that were impressive, it was the way he was doing it. He battled through adversity and continually escaped jams. The Pelfrey of the past few years did not have the mental fortitude to have some of the success he’s enjoyed through the first 3 1/2 months of the season and the Mets are in a whole lot better position for it. As Jon Niese continues to sparkle and Johan Santana begins to find his form as the ace of the staff, the trio at the top of the Mets rotation seems primed for a run at the postseason.
- R.A Dickey fluttered down from Knuckle Ball Heaven: The argument can be made that Robert Allen Dickey, yes R.A. “freaking” Dickey saved the Mets season. Since entering the starting rotation on May 19th following John Maine’s expulsion from the quintet, Dickey has been nothing short of spectacular. His 6-2 record and stunning 2.77 ERA in 10 starts really don’t even tell the whole story. At a point when the Mets entire season could have gone down the tubes because of the disarray in their pitching staff Maine and Ollie Perez cause, the 35-year old knuckleballerarrived from Triple-A and stabilized the rotation (with an assist going to Hisanori Takahashi as well). The best part is it that is doesn’t appear as if the bloom is set to fall off R.A.’s rose anytime soon. His knuckleball is evolving each time he takes the hill and hitters (and the Mets catchers for that matter) still look baffled. I know the Amazin’s are seeking to add another arm to their rotation (Ted Lilly, Brett Myers, Fausto Carmona) but you gotta believe Dickey is here to stay in 2010. Knowing that Dickey is a devoutly religious fellow, it would be proper to say that he has been Godsend for the Mets.
- Jose Reyes is back to being Jose Reyes: Though I might need to revise this statement basedon how Reyes’ oblique injury progresses in the coming days (he was scrathced from tonight’s lineup in San Francisco), it is clear that Jose provided the major offensive spark during the Mets recent extended period of success. As discussed previously on this blog, Reyes missed almost a year before returning the Mets lineup in April, and frankly, the ramificationsof that layoff were evident early on. He was clearly out of sync both at the plate and most importantly, he looked timid on the basepaths, which for Reyes is like sending a soldier to battlefield without his gun loaded. Jose’s game is centered around his indomitable wheels, and once he got them churning again, the rest of his game (and the Mets) took off. After Reyes’s average dropped to .211 following a 2-1 loss to the Yankees on May 21, he caught fire in a big way. By June 25th, a little more than a month later, Reyes had raised his average to a season-high .288. During that 30-game period Jose compiled a whopping 18 multi-hit games and swiped 10 bases, Not coincidentally, the Mets went 21-9 in that stretch and vaulted themselves back into contention in the NL East. I know I sound like a broken record, but I’ll say it again: As goes Jose Reyes, so go the Mets.
- David Wright decided to be awesome again: After a disastrous 2009, David Wright has returned to being the Golden Boy of the Mets franchise. It wasn’t all roses for David early in the season as he got off to a slow start, batting just .273 in April with 4 HR and 16 RBI. May wasn’t a whole lot better for Wright as his average dipped to .258 by month’s end and his power numbers remained somewhat mute (4HR, 18 RBI). More concerning was his whopping strikeout total of 65, not a good sign for a guy who is supposed to be one of the best two-strike hitters in the game. In fact, Wright heard some boo birds from the Citi Field faithful and you just had to wonder whether this was going to be a repeat of last year. Not so. As the team took off in June toward the top of the NL East, so did the Mets all-star 3B, in a very big way. By July 1, Wright had raised his batting average 53 points to .311. His most impressive stat from June was the 29 RBIs he collected. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Wright was the first player in Mets history to hit over .400 with25 or more runs batted in in a calendar month. That is how good his June performance was. Fresh off a starting gig for the victorious NL All Star team (where he went 2-2 with a SB), Wright has once again regained elite status in baseball circles and seems primed for an MVP caliber run, or one can only hope.
So it all starts again in a few hours in San Fran, where the Mets embark on what may be a season-defining 11-game road trip. A playoff run for this team is not out of the question in the very wide open National League. Regardless of the final outcome of this second half, the future looks much brighter for the Amazins’ than it did last July, that is for damn sure.