June 14, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Mets left fielder Jason Bay (44), center fielder Andres Torres (56) and outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (9) in the outfield against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. New York Mets defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Last 12 Games Before All-Star Break Vital to Mets Season

Three weeks ago today, I confidently pounded my chest as the Mets roared into Washington only a half-game back, firmly believing they had what it took to be a 1st place team. Since then, reality has set in. This team will most certainly battle night in and night out, but might not be ready to take over the division. They weathered the storm that was a tough 22-game stretch against teams all over .500 with an 11-11 record. They are 1 game into a 13-game stretch, mostly against teams with mediocre records, that leads into the All-Star break. Last night, they looked as listless as they have all season against the last-place Cubs, losing 6-1. If the Mets are not careful, they will lose a lot of the goodwill they have gained by the time the break rolls around.

This is the time to fatten up the record. This is not the time to shrivel up and say, “Well, it was fun while it lasted.” Terry Collins warned of a let-down game after all the emotional hoopla that is the Subway Series, and unfortunately he acted as a prophet. While they are not

the 1st place team I boasted they could be going into Washington, an 11-11 record is nothing to be upset about. Yes, they could have won at least 6 more games, but they fought hard and clearly have what it takes to compete every day. It is too easy, however, to fall into a pattern where play like last night dominates their game. The Mets need to face each and every opponent as if they are the Yankees, because if they think the Cubs (who they play 5 more times before the break) aren’t a worthy opponent,  the Mets need to adjust their mindset. They clearly could take full advantage of a Mets team with lackluster energy. And the Phillies roll into Citi Field for a July 4th 3-game set, a time that could help them turn their season around. By the time the break rolls around, the table could turn, with the Phils back over .500 and us back where most people think we belong.

Look, I am normally a very optimistic Mets fan. It’s the reason I thought they could take 1st from the Nats. The defense and the bullpen proved me otherwise, but still. Both those issues, however, have me worried today. Last night, Jon Rauch was actually quite good. He made the pitches, got pop-ups and ground outs, but the defense helped turn a game we could still come back from into what felt like a 22-0 blowout with the way we were playing.

The Mets have got to make sure they don’t turn a let-down game into a let-down series, and a let-down series into a let-down stretch. Clearly, if the Mets tanked over the next two weeks, it wouldn’t be something they couldn’t come back from.  Going into the break at least 2 games farther away from .500 on the left side of the record, however, would go a long way to continuing to build the confidence of the fans and the confidence of the team.

While I’m more based in reality than I was 3 weeks ago, I know that the Metropolitans of New York are in better shape to battle this year than any year in recent past.  With  a new environment and better philosophy surrounding the team, the Mets are primed to make a lot of people eat their words come October.

But for now, we’ve got 5 more against the Cubbies, 7 against the Phillies and Dodgers.

Don’t drop the ball, Metsies.

Thanks for reading! You can read Sam Maxwell’s personal Mets Blog here.

Tags: Converted Mets Fan Cubs Dodgers Jon Rauch Lackluster Defense Mets Phillies Yankees

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