When the Mets beat the Braves last Wednesday for their ninth win in 12 games to get back to .500, some of us were convinced this team is for real. They were tied for third place in the division and 3.5 games back in the Wild Card race, and we uttered phrases like, ‘The Braves got nothin’ on us,’ and, ‘We’re gonna make a playoff push.’ Who knows — maybe the latter is true. But since then, the Mets have gone 2-4 and have shown signs that they are nothing more than an average ballclub, albeit one with some key injuries.
As the Mets have leveled off, so have some of the young guys whom we were starting to rave about. Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee have all stepped up and shined at various times this season. But we have to be honest with ourselves. Are they stars?
Let’s start with Tejada. We knew he was a great fielder, but he also has made great strides at the plate this year. He was called up on May 18, and on June 11 he was hitting .338. Since then, though, he’s gone 3-for-29 and is now hitting .272. Tejada is just 21, and he may become a strong-fielding, singles-hitting second baseman. But right now, there is no reason to be convinced he’s much more than that.
How about Murphy? From May 20 to June 5, Murph raised his average from .234 to .309 and was as tough to get out as anyone in the league. Now, he is just 4-for his last 31 at-bats. I’m a big fan of Murphy, who has overcome a lot in his career, but with no true position he may just be an above average platoon player. If he can learn to hit for power (he has 4 HRs in 234 ABs), he might become something more.
I’m a fan of Justin Turner, too. He takes a great approach with runners in scoring position (.400/.481/.578 in those spots), and he’s still getting about a hit-per-game with his thumb bothering him. But he’s already 26, and he’s no David Wright. (Say what you want, Wright haters, but he’s not.)
Out of all these players, Niese is the one I’m most confident about. He’s truly come into his own this year, utilizing his curveball and solidifying his command. Still, he’s had his share of rough outings. He’s not dominant, and he’s no ace. That being said, I think Niese is part of the long-term solution, as a number two or three starter.
And what about Dillon Gee? Like Niese, he knows how to pitch, and he’s shown that he knows how to win. But his first loss on Tuesday, in which he gave up four runs in four innings and walked six, was a bit disconcerting. I think it’s too soon to say whether he’s part of the solution, but if he is, it will probably be as a middle-to-back of the rotation man.
I don’t want to sound too cynical, because most of these players are guys we had no right expecting much out of in the first place. It’s been great to watch them overachieve. (This is the same guy who recently wrote “10 Mets To Feel Good About.”) Nonetheless, I want the Mets to be a winning team — and eventually a championship team — in the future. I’m not so sure all the answers are on the field just yet.