A Major League Baseball season doesn’t have many scheduled off days for players from April to October, and if some teams are lucky enough, through October. Organizations can only hope that rain outs and rescheduled games won’t take up the few precious days that they have to allow their players some time to breathe during this tremendous grind. For the Mets, it seems as if their off days are coming at the perfect times this season.
The Mets have surprised most of the MLB this year with their 7-5 start as they prepare to host the San Francisco Giants and Barry Zito tonight at Citi Field to start a four-game weekend series. How have they been able to win more often than predicted? Well, there are a lot of reasons why, but the overlying reason is that they have been able to minimize their bad games. When a team is hot, not much can stop them from winning a game. The difference between a playoff contending team and one at the bottom of their respective division is how the not-so-good streaks are handled. If they only come few and far between, then we have a good team on our hands. If it ends up affecting the entire team, then they’ll never be able to come out the other side alive.
That has been the one characteristic that has plagued the Mets in recent years; when something unfortunate happens, it snowballs into many more areas, whether it be ineffective play or injuries. New York hasn’t lost more than two games in a row this season, and I’m crediting the off days for causing this. Let’s use their April 12th off day as an example, the day before they squared off against the Phillies in Philadelphia. At the beginning of the week, the Mets took the first game from the Nationals, but lost David Wright to a fractured pinkie, unsure if he would be going on the Disabled List or not.
With that uncertainty, the New York offense became virtually non-existent, scoring only two runs in the next two games, and being shut out for the first time this year in the series finale. A collective breath was then taken as they traveled to Philadelphia, and their offense came back out of nowhere, scoring five runs in each game. Then, it was time to travel down to Atlanta; winning the first game was one of the few positives for the team because Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey made early exits, and the entire pitching staff saw 23 runs score in the final two games after only surrendering one in the opener.
After these two frustrating games, the Mets received another day off while traveling Flushing to face the Giants. Which team will show up tonight…will it be the one that we saw sweep the Braves at home and beat the Phillies at Citizen Bank Park, or will it be the anemic offense of the Washington series, or even worse, will the poor pitching follow them home all the way from Atlanta? For a team that is very young overall, off days are a tool for managers to use to help their players hit the reset button and forget about yesterday. Terry Collins was able to do just that back on April 12th, which was integral in his team re-grouping before they took the field against the Phils.
I have to believe that Collins and his pitching staff used yesterday’s off day to get things back on track. Baseball seasons are marathons and not sprints; it’s just a matter of relaying that to his younger players. There will be plenty of times when they are ineffective as a team or everything is not firing on all cylinders, but whomever is able to minimize the bad streaks will end up being the ones to make it to October baseball. Let’s hope we see a recharged pitching staff on the mound tonight, led by Jonathon Niese, leading our Mets to their eighth victory of the year.