A week ago, after the Mets won their third straight game against the Cardinals to improve to 31-23 and move into a mathematical tie for first place, I listened to several Met fans on WFAN say they thought this team was going to make the playoffs. I’m pretty sure they meant it.
Now, the Mets have lost five of their last six. They’re 3.5 games out in the division and very much in contention, but the high of Johan’s no-hitter has dissipated, and reality — cold, harsh reality — has started to set in.
To really, truly believe that this team is going to make the playoffs, you’d have to be somewhat delusional.
What the Mets have done so far is a minor miracle — an optical illusion, almost — and I’ve loved every minute of it. They’ve played so far over their heads that they’ve convinced fans they’re a playoff contender, and that’s a beautiful thing. If you’d told me before the year that the Mets were going to lose five of six in early June and still be four games over .500, I would have called you crazy. And you would have been crazy to say it.
The Mets believe in themselves, which in itself is a bit delusional. But that’s the athlete’s job: Ignore the numbers and the naysayers and just play hard. And yet, playing hard can only take you so far. When I look at the Mets’ roster, I marvel at the fact that they have won more games than they’ve lost.
As much as it hurts to say, the team itself — the 25 individuals taking the field — is almost shockingly bad.
The bullpen is inconsistent, the defense is shaky, and the offense alone is enough to make you want to pick up a bat and get in the box yourself.
Consider today’s lineup against the Yankees. A mind-boggling five of the nine players set to face Andy Pettitte have batting averages this season of .211 or below — Andres Torres, Mike Nickeas, Jason Bay, Jordany Valdespin, and Vinny Rottino. Based on stats and MLB experience alone, today’s lineup might be one of the worst in major league history. And Ike Davis isn’t even in it.
This hurts to say even more: David Wright is probably the only player on the Mets who would play every day for the Evil Empire.
The Mets have no business doing what they’re doing. They are not a playoff team. Rather, they are a bad team doing not-so-bad things. The fact that they are 32-28? Incredible. Every time this cast of Quintinillas and Valdespins and Baxters wins a game, it’s incredible.
The point is that, while the Mets have defied all reasonable expectations, eventually they are likely to come back down to earth. When they do, we won’t have any right to blame them.