By Rich Coutinho
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No matter how long I report on sports in this town, the way it is covered never ceases to amaze me.

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When the Mets broke camp, many people out there said they were headed for doom and gloom — some even theorized the Mets would come close to losing 100 games. The health of Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran were big question marks, which looking back on it, now seem comical. Johan Santana would definitely not pitch this year and although it is not a foregone conclusion that he will pitch it is much more likely he will than he won’t. And then there was the issue of team finances — the critics of the Mets said things were so bad that by June 1, Beltran, Reyes, and K-Rod would become salary dumps because no minority owner would view the Mets as an attractive investment.

Well, here we are on June 21 (the first day of summer) and the “experts” now think the Mets won’t be sellers. In fact, they could be buyers — a notion I talked about over a month ago on this very site. There have been many theories as to why David Einhorn would invest in the Mets, but the truth is NOBODY knows the arrangement except the parties involved and maybe — just maybe — some of the cash flow will go towards payroll.

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Given the Mets level of debt, it would not be large amount but lets say its 15%. News flash Met fans — 15% of $200 million is $30 million. And you don’t think $30 million could help the Mets add salary AND pay Jose Reyes especially considering they will be losing Beltran, Castillo, and Ollie Perez dollars among others come 2012.

Now don’t get me wrong here — the Mets won’t add a huge piece at the deadline but might pick up some bullpen depth, power for the bench, or maybe a starting pitcher if any of the youngsters pitching so well now hit a wall come middle of the summer. The point here is the Mets are a playoff contender right now and if they are within five games of a playoff spot, they will not be sellers. I know the public perception of the Wilpons is they do NOT spend, but that is a bunch of nonsense. Their payroll level is among the highest in the sport and has been for some time. You could certainly question how they spend it but never if they spend it.

The National League is a watered down league and the injury to Albert Pujols could be a big factor in not allowing the one team I believe could take off in the Wild Card race to do so — the Cardinals. Do you really think there is a Wild Card team out there much better than the Mets? The Brewers you say? The team the Mets just won 2-of-3 from in Milwaukee? The Braves you say? Oh, that’s right the Mets just took 4-of-6 from them and with an extra bullpen arm might have taken all six. There is one team that is clearly better than the Mets in this league and that is the Phillies, but the Mets do not have to overtake the Phils to make the playoffs. In fact, down the stretch the Mets might be rooting for the Phils to knock off some of the wild card contestants.

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The Wilpons fully realize that a playoff run in August and September could provide them with a much better cash flow than the relief they would get from dumping salary. It would also give the Met fan some fun in a summer many told them would be awful. But then again I told you that back in the middle of May.