As the Mets approach the midway point of the season, you might be inclined to celebrate how far they’ve made it without having a total meltdown. Seventy-six games in, they’re four games over .500, 4.5 back in the NL East, and tied for the newly implemented, ever-coveted second wild card spot. For a team of which nothing was expected, they have defied expectations by doing anything at all. You have a right to be proud.
And yet, recent history suggests the Mets have a big test ahead of them in the next few weeks.
Despite all the talk of the 2012 team providing an energy unseen in the last few years, the truth is that, in each of the past three seasons, the Mets have arrived at today’s date — June 28 — with legitimate playoff hopes.
The same “new energy” referred to now was actually all the rage in 2011, when Terry Collins injected new life into a franchise in turmoil. One year ago today, Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran hit grand slams in the same inning to lift the Mets past the Tigers, 14-3, and over the .500 mark. The next day, the Mets topped Detroit 16-9, completing a four-game winning streak in which they scored a whopping 52 runs. At that moment, they appeared to have a shot at the wild card.
But instead of carrying that momentum forward, the Mets came back down to earth, their bats quieted, and they ultimately proved to be nothing more than a .500 team. By July 18, Beltran had been traded and the Mets’ playoff hopes were merely a pipe dream.
What about June 28, 2010?
Two years ago today, Jerry Manuel’s Mets were 10 games over .500 at 43-33. Ten! Heading into a June 28 game against the Marlins, they were 0.5 games back in the division. This team was legit.
But it was all downhill from there. After dropping two of three to the Fish to close out an 18-8 June, the Mets went a pathetic 9-17 in July, culminating in a 2-9 West Coast trip. And to think, they were 10 games over on June 28.
Even the injury-ridden ’09 squad hung in there until late June. Entering the home half of the Subway Series on June 26, the Mets were 37-34 and a half-game out in the NL East. You better believe there was hope. And then, boom — a 3-9 skid left them at 40-45, treading water on July 10.
The same thing may or may not happen to the 2012 Mets. However, if these Mets really are different than those Mets, they will prove it in the coming weeks. If they’re not — and who could blame them? — don’t be surprised if they start to fade soon.
Luckily, the second wild card spot makes it more likely that they will stay in the playoff race longer, even if they continue to hover around .500.
The question, though, is whether they can do what those Mets have failed to do: Avoid a meltdown. Stop each potential losing streak dead in its tracks. Stay relevant.
And not just until June 28.