By Rich Coutinho
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There is no sugarcoating the recently completed Mets road trip, as losing five-of-six to division opponents is unacceptable on a number of levels.
I have been around the Mets all year, and they are about as resilient as any group of 25 baseball players that I’ve ever seen. We were all told by the “experts” that this Mets team would unquestionably stink, and would do everybody a favor by just going away and leaving us alone. So I am not surprised at all by the “public perception” that this team is headed down a cliff. It only completes the narrative that all the “Met bashers” scripted way back in February.
First they told us that the Madoff case would ruin the season, but the case was settled. Then they told us that the Mets would never get minority partners, and they did. Then they told us that the Mets would not be able to pay back the bridge loan and the MLB loan which they have. Then they told us that this team might hit, but their starting pitching was so paper-thin that it would not last one month.
They said that Johan Santana would be lucky to make 10 starts, and certainly no Mets pitcher would make it to the All-Star Game. They told us that David Wright would be traded by July and he would never be the David Wright of 2006. They told us that Ruben Tejada could never be an everyday shortstop who could consistently hit. When Ike Davis slumped, they said he was headed to the Minors. So now, I am supposed to believe the experts that the Mets are done when they’ve gotten very little right about this team.
First and foremost, no team that trails the second Wild Card spot by 3 1/2 games is out of it in July, or even on Sept. 1 for that matter. And secondly, has anyone watched this team all year? After a doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Giants, they were done. Then came a winning streak. After being swept by the Yankees, they responded by sweeping the Rays. After being swept by the Reds, they swept the Orioles. After losing four in a row to the Yankees and Cubs, they won four in a row (including three against the Dodgers in Los Angeles). So after a 1-5 road trip, I am pretty sure about what’s around the corner.
Does this team have issues? Sure they do, but only one major one — the bullpen. And the Mets will make every effort to address that in the next 10 days. Some critics point to the offense — I don’t. This team scores runs, and the stats prove that point. No team in the National League East has scored more runs than the Mets, and they rank fourth in on-base percentage. We all know that they lack power, but no team in the National League has more doubles than the Mets, and we are very aware of how proficient they are with runners in scoring position. So don’t talk to me about the offense.
Their starting pitching has been great, and so my reaction to some poorly pitched games is: Let’s look at the whole report card, which shows that the Mets’ trio of R.A. Dickey, Santana, and Jon Niese compares favorably with every trio in the NL. So that leaves us with the bullpen, which I acknowledge is a horror show right now.
But to bury this team after a bad week in July proves that so many of the experts do not understand a baseball season. These are the same experts that buried the Cardinals last July and buried the Red Sox in 2004 after the Jeter “head-first dive into the stands” game. Both those teams hold World Series trophies from those years. Are the Mets flawed? Yes, but so is every team in the league. Burying them is silly talk, but then again that is the only kind of Mets talk that we’ve heard from the experts all year.
While the Mets certainly have plenty of fight, do they ultimately have enough talent to nab one of the two National League Wild Card berths? Let us know in the comments section below…