By Steve Silverman
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After losing Monday night to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Mets continue to sink further in the National League East, and the standings say they are already eight games behind the Washington Nationals.
The division championship appears to be as realistic as a Jets season sweep of the Patriots, and the team that appeared to have the National League’s best starting pitching rotation in the offseason is in tatters.
But it is the middle of May, not the middle of August. The experts we hear from on a daily basis tell us that nearly everything is lost and the Mets might as well start making plans for 2018 because the current season is over.
While everything looks dark as a result of injuries to Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo and closer Jeurys Familia and the ERA is the worst in baseball, all is not lost.
It will require a reboot and a short-term change of goals, but this team still has a chance to rescue its season, play effective baseball over the next two months, then turn it on in late July and early August and make a major move.
“It’s been shocking to me, shocking,” manager Terry Collins said. “Even though we lost (Matz), Seth Lugo and Noah went down, we still had what we thought was very good pitching here. But we’re having a tough time getting through the fifth inning. You’re going to struggle in this league if your starting pitcher can’t get you there.”
Several Mets pitchers are injured, and the bullpen has been getting hammered in recent days by the Brewers and Diamondbacks, so it’s all about withstanding the carnage, executing great plays on defense and making sure each at-bat counts.
The Mets have to start battling and stop feeling sorry for themselves, and this needs to start sooner rather than later.
The whole idea at this point is to tread water and find a way to remain afloat while the injuries to the pitching staff work themselves out.
That’s the beauty of the wild card, because teams that survive the gauntlet of the 162-game season have a chance to do damage in October no matter how painful April and May have been.
Much of the game’s history has been written by teams that were in the midst of a freefall throughout the first half of given seasons but somehow found a way to right the ship during the worst times and find their stride when it mattered most.
It doesn’t necessarily happen every year, but New York baseball fans know the stories of the 1951 Giants, the 1973 Mets and the 1978 Yankees like the backs of their own hands. All of these stories – especially the ’51 Giants and ’78 Yankees – are among the greatest and most dramatic in baseball history.
I’m not predicting that this will happen to the 2017 Mets, but don’t write them off at this point.
Collins understands that many of the things that have gone wrong with the pitching staff are not going to be fixed any time soon. But he also knows that his team is fully capable of making each at-bat count and finding ways to build big innings and scratch out runs when that’s what has to be done.
That’s the only answer for this team. It’s called leadership, and the Mets need to find it somewhere and do it quickly.
What that means is that they must find one or two hitters who are going to come through in clutch situations and rise up. It’s about looking forward to the big moment and not dreading it.
Someone has to look at the situation and ask himself what he has to do to come through and turn the situation around instead of thinking about the next disaster the team is likely to face.
That’s the thing about baseball that is so difficult. Playing every day makes attitude changes quite challenging. A decent NFL team can turn around a mindset after a humiliating loss because it has a whole week of practice, film study and game-planning to make changes.
In baseball, it’s often 24 hours or less to get things turned around.
It has to come from inside the clubhouse, and not the manager’s office. The Mets are going to have to find a way to stay afloat through the middle of the summer when the pitching will presumably get healthy and return to form.
It also has to happen right away. Whether it comes from Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker or someone else, the time is now for the Mets to get rid of the doom and gloom and start grinding out at-bats, innings and wins.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy