By Ryan Chatelain
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The Mets have had enough injuries to help some doctors upgrade their yachts. Michael Conforto, Travis d’Arnaud and Jay Bruce have been more disappointing than “Batman v Superman.” And Matt Harvey’s season was, to borrow Donald Trump’s favorite word, a “disaster.”
It’s easy to fall into the trap of defining the 2016 Mets by their misfortune — and there’s certainly been plenty of that. But doing so ignores one important fact: The Amazins have also been amazingly lucky.
If the Mets were indeed historically unfortunate, they would not be sitting where they are now: in position for a National League wild card spot with just a weekend’s worth of games to play.
How else do you explain James Loney and Jose Reyes? The Mets lost first baseman Lucas Duda for four months and third baseman David Wright for the season and were miraculously able to grab Loney, a career .286 hitter, and Reyes, a four-time All-Star, for peanuts without having to sacrifice any prized prospects. They were moves that resembled fantasy baseball more than real life.
What about the career years some players have enjoyed?
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is two homers short of his career high, has his highest batting average in eight years and is on pace to set a personal best in OPS.
Before he suffered a season-ending back injury, second baseman Neil Walker provided the Mets with 113 games of greater production than their front office could have ever expected when it traded for him. He matched his career high in homers and had his highest batting average in six seasons.
Curtis Granderson is supposed to be in the twilight of his career — and played like it at times. Yet he’s belted the most homers he’s hit in four years and the third most he’s ever hit.
And then there are the out-of-nowhere rookies.
Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, in fact, are the poster boys of the Mets’ blessings.
Before the two right-handers were called up this summer and plugged holes in the decimated rotation, they were struggling to prove they even belonged at the Triple-A level.
Lugo, a 34th-round draft pick, was 3-4 with a 6.50 ERA in Las Vegas. In the majors, he’s 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA.
Gsellman was 1-5 with a 5.73 ERA in Triple-A. He’s 3-2 with a 2.56 ERA with the Mets.
Consider this: Not only have Lugo and Gsellman filled in admirably, their combined ERA is 1.37 runs lower than the combined ERA of Harvey and Steven Matz.
If that’s not lucky, what is?
Similarly, the Mets stumbled upon some good fortune with T.J. Rivera, who was passed over with all 1,530 picks in the 2011 draft. Mostly subbing for Wilmer Flores at second base lately, Rivera is hitting a whopping .340 through his first 31 big league games.
That kind of stuff is not supposed to happen. At least not this many times on one team in one season.
Then there’s the schedule and the competition.
In their final 35 games — otherwise known as “crunch time” — the Mets had just six games against teams with winning records. In some of those contests, it was painfully obvious that one squad’s players were competing to lengthen their season while the other’s might as well have called their travel agents from the dugout to coordinate their offseason itineraries.
In September, the Mets faced very few pitchers who qualify as aces and plenty who could soon qualify for unemployment — Atlanta’s Aaron Blair (1-7, 8.02 ERA), Minnesota’s Jose Berrios (2-7, 8.61) and Philadelphia’s Adam Morgan (2-11, 6.04), just to name a few.
And at times, the wild card race has resembled a game of hot potato. Entering Thursday night, the Giants had lost 10 of their last 16 games. The Cardinals had won just two of their previous seven.
Since baseball expanded its wild card in 2012, no National League team has earned a spot by winning fewer than 88 games. The Mets need a sweep against the Phillies this weekend to reach 88.
In other words, in any other year, the Mets’ buzzer might have sounded by now.
Of course, this season has not been strictly about bad luck versus good luck. There’s nothing lucky about Yoenis Cespedes’ performance. He’s a special talent, and it’s not coincidental that the Mets seemed to finally find the right gear just as he started to get over his nagging quad injury.
Noah Syndergaard is the real deal, too.
And Terry Collins obviously deserves much praise — Manager of the Year praise, in my opinion. At the Mets’ lowest moment, he still had them in striking distance in the playoff hunt. With star after star going down, the season could have easily spun out of control. But Collins never let that happen.
However, even the Mets’ skipper has to admit he received plenty of help from unexpected places.
Now the question is whether the Mets have enough good mojo on their side to keep things going, or if their luck is about to run out.
Please follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanchatelain