By Rich Coutinho
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We were told the Mets were a team that had question marks. When they broke camp in late March, we were promised fundamentally sound baseball which would translate into winning baseball.

Well, 13 games into the season, we have seen a team that has failed to hit in the clutch, throws the baseball around like a hot potato, and has a pitching staff that refuses to throw strikes.

Not exactly a script for success.

So, the Mets head to Atlanta to try and right the ship in a place that has always been their own personal House Of Horrors over the years. Add in the fact they are handing the ball to D.J. Carrasco to open the series — and they are playing a Braves team many experts feel might be one of the top 3 teams in the league — and you can readily understand why the Met fans are scratching their heads.

Terry Collins is adamant that the team will rebound from this homestand where they dropped 6 of 7 games. He contends that a play here or there could have changed the outcome of many of these games. On that point, I agree with the manager but I also see some real danger signs. The lack of defense at second base will eventually kill this team. The Mets have too many pitchers who induce contact and rely on double plays to get them out of jams. And both Daniel Murphy and Brad Emaus have proven they are unsteady at best to handle the job.

So, in my opinion, the first thing I would do is summon Ruben Tejada from the minors to man the position. His glove is so superior to the present second base duo, it will save runs — especially the way the current pitching staff is constructed. I know they want him to play shortstop so he can replace you-know-who in 2012, but Tejada is actually a better second baseman than he is a shortstop and is the best option at second base in the entire organization.

Second point, too many games have been lost late and I think Bobby Parnell needs to be sent down to the minors to work on his pitches. I would add Pat Misch as another lefty in the pen so Collins has more than one southpaw at his disposal. Misch would also serve as the long man, freeing up both Pedro Beato and Carassco to share the 7th inning while handing the 8th inning over to Jason Isringhausen.

Last but certainly not least, Collins cannot be the only voice of leadership in that room simply because the Mets have more younger players in key positions than they have had in quite some time. Players like David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes need to get them through this tough stretch. Honestly, I have seen some of that inside the clubhouse from both Beltran and Reyes and pitchers like R.A. Dickey and Jason Isringhausen.

Nobody thought the Mets would do anything this year outside the organization, and in the critics’ eyes, the first 13 games have validated that viewpoint. The veterans need to use this as motivation so the younger players do not lose hope. They also all need to play better and make the simple plays that end rallies for the opposition. They have to hit in the clutch so they can extend innings when at the plate.

The Mets play 3 games in Atlanta followed by a 6-game homestand against the Astros and Diamondbacks. At 4-9 they need to be closer to .500 when they complete this 9-game stretch.  To do that, they must start winning series, and Atlanta would be a great place to start. If for no other reason than the symbolism of what a torture chamber Turner Field has been for this organization.

If they don’t turn this around, the Mets could be headed for a long summer complete with empty seats, salary dumps and a dwindling fan base. My sense is they will respond, this team is better than they have shown. But it does not really matter what I think–it matters what they think.

The good news is there are lots of games yet to play. The trick is to win some games now so those contests in the summer will actually mean something.

Will we see the Mets string together some wins? Weigh in with Coutinho below…

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