By Rich Coutinho
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The long anticipated Carlos Beltran trade has been executed by Sandy Alderson and most Met fans think while in the long-term this deal could help the Mets, it will mean that the next two months will be painful to watch. I say — not so fast.
Terry Collins has shown the ability to keep this team motivated through spring training negativity, disparaging comments from the owner about his players, the Bernie Madoff mess, the annual rash of Mets injuries, and the anticipation of trading deadline transactions. I have no reason to think this team will not continue to play hard and do more with less.
Carlos Beltran is a huge run producing loss, but I feel that David Wright can pick up the slack and Daniel Murphy has begun to emerge as a run producing force. Murphy’s play has lessened the impact of another sub-par season from Jason Bay. The starting pitching continues to be serviceable with each of the hurlers showing flashes of excellence and Johan Santana’s return could be a big boost for that group, both on and off the field. The bullpen is really rounding into shape with Jason Isringhausen providing so much coaching with youngsters like Pedro Beato and Bobby Parnell. I have said on many occasions in today’s baseball, your bullpen will make or break your season and this group has a chance to be real good.
But the key here is Terry Collins. He honestly believes the Mets have a legitimate shot at the wild card even without K-Rod and Beltran. Now don’t get me wrong — he’d prefer to have those 2 talented players but he knows there’s no use crying over spilled milk. And every single time he has pushed the envelope with a young player to replace a fallen star, the results have been very good. Justin Turner has solved the second base problem, Daniel Murphy has capably replaced Ike Davis, Dillon Gee’s emergence occurred right after Chris Young’s injury, and Bobby Parnell has stepped up his game. And you know what? I expect Lucas Duda to do his part as well. In every single case, Terry Collins understood that young, hungry players crave a chance to show what they can do. He also knows that yanking them out after a misstep is counter-productive as evidenced by his usage of Bobby Parnell this week.
Now, catching the Braves is a tall order and the task seems daunting. They have better starting pitching than the Mets, a killer bullpen, and a seven game lead. But the loss of Brian McCann will make them offensively challenged in the next few weeks and Chipper Jones is always one wrong turn from returning to the disabled list. The Mets have three in D.C. this weekend and then return to Citi for a 10 game homestand which includes three games with the Braves sandwiched between series with the Marlins and Diamondbacks. The Mets will have an opportunity to shave that lead when they face the Braves and if they pick up a game or two in the standings in the next week, they might have a chance to make the rest of the summer interesting.
Do I think they can? It doesn’t matter what I think, but I can tell you the 25 players in the Mets clubhouse believe it even though the rest of the world does not. And they believe it because their manager has changed the culture inside that room. And whether they achieve that goal or not, that attitude and focus will keep the Mets relevant through the summer. And Terry Collins will deserve all the credit for that.