By Rich Coutinho
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When the Mets completed their last homestand with a brutal 0-6 week — putting them five games below .500 — manager Terry Collins said that he demanded better from his team, and that you would see a different version of the Mets. The critics snickered because, after all, they were going to play out west, which has never been a venue for success for the Mets. But when I spoke one-on-one to Collins at that time, I got the distinct impression that he’d get his point across.
I have always said that you learn more about a manager when times are tough than you do when everyone is patting him on the back. The thing that I like about Terry Collins is that you never see him publicly berate a player, and he never uses the media to get his message across.
But make no mistake about it — he gets his message across.
And I find that to be his most impressive quality, especially since that was the knock on him in other places.
“I believe in this team”, Collins said, “and that does not waver when we are on a losing streak. I do think our approach to certain situations needs to change, and you will see that on this next road trip.”
To a certain extent we have, as the Mets have gone 5-3 in Arizona and San Francisco, beating quite a few top-notch pitchers in enemy territory. There is still much work to do to eradicate the hole that the Mets dug for themselves with a 1-11 start to the second half of the season, but there is much baseball left to play. And if 2011 taught us anything, it showed to never bury teams prematurely — especially in a year where two Wild Cards make the postseason dance.
The first order of business for the Mets is to get back to .500, which they can do with a weekend sweep at San Diego. If they pull that off, then they can start thinking about making up some ground on the Braves, who invade New York next weekend.
Is it a long shot?
Of course it is, but I can honestly tell you that this Mets team has not quit. Not a single person in this clubhouse feels the way that the rest of the baseball world does, and that is because Collins will not allow it.
What gives me hope is that this team seems to have been rejuvenated in the last few days, and I think there are a number of reasons for it. Matt Harvey has given the starting rotation a dose of energy, and the return of Johan Santana in the coming days will also give this team a shot in the arm. Their closer returns this weekend, and the mere presence of Frank Francisco coupled with the emergence of Josh Edgin will allow the rest of that bullpen to return to roles better suited to their skill sets.
So what does Rich Coutinho think?
I think that this team had an awful July, but July is over. August is off to a good start, and many a team has reclaimed their season in August. The Mets had winning records in each of the first three months of the season, and I think that they will return to those numbers in the final two months of the year.
That still might not be enough to earn a playoff spot, but finishing strong is important for an organization that is trying to build a winning attitude. The first step is to get back to .500, which they can hopefully do in short order. If they do, Collins will be a big reason why they did.
Mets fans, do you see this team getting back into the playoff hunt this month? Sound off in the comments section below…