NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The Mets have been thoroughly disappointing in the second half of the season — their 46-39 record on July 7 seems like a lifetime ago — but manager Terry Collins insists that his club still has plenty to play for.

Professional athletes always play for pride, sure, but with the playoffs clearly out of the question in 2012, Collins has set a particular goal for his team with 34 games left to play.

A benchmark, so to speak.

It may not be what Mets fans want to hear, but Collins has his sights set on finishing in third place in the National League East ahead of the Phillies and Marlins.

“We talked, how it would be great for us — with the way we started the season — to finish third,” said Collins, according to the New York Post . “We played so well so long, (so) let’s get back and at least play for third. Even though that’s a statement I don’t like to hear, it gives us something to shoot for and certainly it goes into winter time with a better taste in your mouth.”

Reports surfaced on Monday that, despite the Mets’ horrific free fall in August, there is “no chance” that general manager Sandy Alderson will fire Collins in the offseason.

The Amazins’, who have finished fourth in the NL East in each of the last three seasons, are currently 18 1/2 games behind the first-place Nationals and 11 games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot.

“Ultimately when you finish in third place, it’s still third place,” Collins said, according to the newspaper. “It’s not good enough, and we’re aware of that. We have to get better. But for all intents and purposes it would be good for guys to say, ‘After that real bad August we had, we fought back and finished it [strong].’ That might be something.”

New York has 15 games remaining against the Phillies and Marlins, six of which will be played this week. The Mets kick off a three-game set in Philadelphia on Tuesday night before heading to Miami on Friday for a weekend series.

Heading into Tuesday night’s series opener, the Mets sit at 59-69, two games behind the third-place Phillies and a game-and-a-half ahead of the last-place Marlins.

Mets fans, would you really like to see the Amazins’ finish in third place, or could you care less following the disappointing second half? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

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