I kindly advised everyone not to panic after getting swept by the Reds. Our Mets in turn, responded by sweeping the Orioles; make that Buck Showalter’s 2nd place Orioles. And if I were him, I would have flipped over the buffet table at least twice during that series. But as it turns out, the Mets finished their stretch from hell one game over .500, with a 10-9 record, which incidentally is their record for the month of June.
On June 1st, the Mets embarked on a nineteen game quest to prove their worth, mostly in the disbelieving eyes of the Media. The fans were already on board. Even then, we fans knew the team was in for a very rough ride ahead. And it was. We encountered peeks and valleys at every turn. But on Wednesday evening, the Mets concluded their short term adventure one game better than when they started. That seems appropriate for a young team taking small, yet significant strides.
Many in the Media said it couldn’t be done. They believed the Mets would not be able to sustain their play. And now, as a matter of reference, the Mets are five wins behind the best record in baseball, and four games behind the National League leader. Forget that a preponderance of prognosticators predicted little to nothing from the Mets back in late March. And right up until June 1st, they declared little would come of the stretch ahead; that the proverbial shoe was about to fall off the Mets’ season; and that it was time to put this Cub Scout Troop to bed.
We established yesterday’s off day as the second check point in the Mets’ season; the first being the traditional Memorial Day report card. That said, it is a generally accepted principle, that by June 22nd, good teams start separating themselves from weaker teams. In the Mets’ case, they have now earned a rightful place within the conversation regarding the better teams in the League. They have earned that right based largely on the strength of fairly dominant starting pitching.
Simply said, so far, the Mets front four have owned June. During the month, they extended their league lead with their eighth combined shut-out of the season. But the month itself is highlighted mostly by Johan Santana’s no-hitter, and R.A. Dickey’s back-to-back one hit performances; not to mention R.A. spending the month becoming this season’s best pitcher in all of baseball. Do not let Dillon Gee taking a one-hitter late into Wednesday’s game, and Jon Niese’s efforts go under-spoken either. All four pitchers have routinely started to pitch into the seventh, and eighth innings now with high rates of effectiveness. For the latter two pitchers, the stats don’t tell their whole story. They’ve been a little better than the numbers say.
Since we have a broom in our hands, the Mets last four series played have been sweeps. They have swept five teams this season – the Braves, Marlins, Phillies, Tampa, and now Baltimore. The Mets have been swept three times, once by the Astros, most recently by the Reds, and by the Yankees during the last installment, and Bronx portion of the Subway Series.
The Mets have played seventy games thus far, with nine more games remaining in the month. Calendar wise, that will take us to the mid-point of the season. Game eighty-one will actually come on July 3rd against Philly. Between now and then, the Mets will host the Yankees this weekend, play in Chicago, then fly to Los Angeles to play, as of this posting, the National League’s top team.
So what’s the next short term goal? Where’s the next check-point? Eighty-one games? There’s only two series left after the Dodgers, and that would be against Philly and Chicago again. So let’s make the next landing spot the All-Star Game shall we?
What do the Mets need to do over this next sixteen game bloc? Being as all but the Phillies are out of division games…, Just Win Baby. Now that they’ve earned the respect they deserve, the Mets need to validate their efforts. They need to maximize these out of division games as best they can. The goal is to maintain their current standing, or improve it, because directly on the other side of the Mid-Season Classic lies a series with Atlanta, then a second series against the first place Nationals. And at this stage of the game, that would represent the Mets’ best opportunity of the season to make a move and shake up the N.L. East.
But they need to make those two series matter first. The Mets have the next sixteen games to give those games significance. By then, they will have determined one way or another, what grade of contender they will be heading into the trade deadline. Until then, the team must do much, maybe too much, in order to convince Sandy Alderson to somewhat alter his plan. Because isn’t that what the Mets are really up against? Sandy Alderson’s pragmatism, and principles?
As of today, the debate whether to significantly enhance or supplement this team at the deadline only exists because of what the Mets accomplished over the last nineteen games. And they should be applauded actually, for everything they have done since April. They disproved some naysayers by a one game margin. That’s short term success none the less. If they can keep their window of opportunity open until July 17th with any credible success, well, now you’re talking about bigger and better things. But before we get their, the Mets must validate what they’ve done.
The first in the next series of baby steps the Mets must take will be coming off the 7-train platform as everyone piles into Citi Field for the Roosevelt Avenue portion of the Subway Series.
So far the story of the 2012 Mets is a good one. But much is behind us now. Making the remaining season matter starts against the cross town Yankees. Sixteen games gets us to July 17th. See you there. In the mean time, enjoy the weekend.