By Rich Coutinho
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I have heard all the objections.

Some say setting a goal of finishing third is nonsense. But taken in context, considering where the Mets are right now, it’s a realistic target to shoot for — and one the team should embrace.

I have managed many people in my life, and though that was merely in the business world, defining realistic yet impactful goals is the toughest job for a manager. The biggest thing in setting a goal? Motivating individuals to perform their best.

We all know the Mets’ season has gone in the dumpster with an awful second half. But we also know there were a bunch of feel-good moments in the first half. A strong finish might help fans — and the players — remember the highlights heading into the offseason. For guys like Ruben Tejada, Jonathon Niese, Lucas Duda and Ike Davis, finishing strong would help them understand that they could be part of a core group, one that may provide a solution to the woes in Flushing.

Finishing third is also important to the organization, because everyone predicted they would finish last. To end ahead of the Phillies, perennial NL East winners, and the Marlins, who took all the accolades for offseason spending, would mean something.

Look — I know how this town works. I realize that the media’s job is to kick a dog while its down. And I also know the Mets have issues they must deal with this offseason. Nobody is saying that you’d throw a parade for finishing third. But it’s a reasonable — and attainable — goal for New York to shoot for, and might just help them improve in these final games.

I certainly don’t think Terry Collins should skate away without some blame for the team’s second-half swoon, but in fairness, he has tried everything from tinkering with the lineup to experimenting with a six-man rotation. Has he pushed every right button? Absolutely not.

But criticizing him for the third-place comment? That just shows the naysayers have spent very little time with this team. For the record, I’m around the Mets every day and they have not quit — not a single player.

Have they played awful baseball? Yes. Do they lack depth and talent at some positions? You’d better believe it. They also haven’t received any breaks since All-Star weekend, not like they got in the first half of the season. There’s more than enough blame to go around for the Mets’ second-half swan dive– that includes Collins, the players and the front office.

But I’ll never be critical of Collins, or anyone else who sets a team goal that involves winning baseball games.

Isn’t that why he’s the manager?

Mets fans, here’s your chance to agree with Rich — or vent about the team’s goals. Be heard in the comments below!

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