After a stretch of offensive ineptitude, the New York Mets are still in good shape … for a Wild Card birth, thanks to the Washington Nationals.
Five Mets wins. Five Nats losses.
That’s what separated the Washington Nationals (42-25) from the New York Mets (36-29) in the National League East standings, before and after the Mets pounded the Pirates on Thursday night at Citi Field.
That’s what separated a contending, upper-echelon club from a club that reeked of “pretender” and “disappointment” for the past month.
By Friday morning, the gap remained. The largest deficit New York faced in the National League East standings all of last year – which brought them a World Series birth – was a half-game short of the one staring them in the face right now.
Still, for some reason, this 2016 campaign feels a world away from the magic of 2015, the year that saw the Mets become Amazin’ again, when in reality we’re just seven months removed.
Could it be because the current 25-man menu, from which manager Terry Collins must pick and choose a major league lineup each game, is full of replaceMets?
Ty Kelly one day. Who? Matt Reynolds the next. What? Don’t even get me started on lifelong “next man up” Eric Campbell, who somehow, someway walks the line as most hated, yet most supported Met of all-time.
5 hits in 5 games for Kelly Johnson. 10 hits in 30 games for Eric Campbell. One of these players is useful, the other is trash.
— It's me, the Green Man. (@sschreiber13) June 16, 2016
Eric Campbell would have caught that fly ball, high fived De Aza, and donate his entire salary to charity all in one move
— Good Fundies is short for Good Fundamentals (@goodfundies) June 16, 2016
With the injuries racking up (see: David Wright‘s neck, Lucas Duda‘s back, Juan Lagares‘ thumb and the Human Disabled List himself, Travis d’Arnaud, with whatever ails this time), it makes for a good excuse.
Though, that’s not the true reason the Flushing Faithful are beginning to have their doubts about what the near-future holds. And by near-future, I mean the prospect of playing meaningful October and – dare I say – November baseball once again.
Deep down, you and I know, this year’s train to Panic City is powered by a juggernaut team in the Nation’s Capital that refuses to wither and destruct at the hands of New York’s Mets as they did last season.
As time goes by, the Panic City Regional train – driven by the ghost of Daniel Murphy, and ridden by those who don the Blue and Orange for a living – seems more like a one-way ticket to a winner-take-all N.L. Wild Card matchup than it does the 2015 Playoff Express, which makes stops in Los Angeles, Chicago and Kansas City, and picks up a pennant on the way.
New York began the season at a brisk pace, winning twice as much (15 times) as they had lost (7) after a month.
The starting pitching, aside from then-floundering ace Matt Harvey, was doing their part. Promising LF Michael Conforto was looking more like Yoenis Cespedes, all the while Cespedes was stirring the pot as an early-MVP candidate.
And then May came along, and the Mets began to fall apart, literally and figuratively. The injuries came one after another, at the same, if not, a faster rate than the offensive slumps piled on.
When June rolled around, the Mets had finished May under .500, posting a 14-15 record. Meanwhile, the Nationals kept on swimming.
From the start, everything appeared to be going as hoped and planned. For a month, at least.
Now, the same Mets – with the addition of old/new face Kelly Johnson – are jogging in place, which they can’t afford to do.
Let’s be real for a second. As much as we all want to blame this on Terry Collins, it’s simply not his fault the offense was slumping so miserably while writing Class AAA players into his lineup card. Although I certainly don’t support TC as a great manager, with his ridiculous bullpen management and improper use of valuable substitutions, I know better than to ridicule him rather than sympathize with the card he’s been dealt.
It’s hard to win consistently when the team ranks towards the bottom of nearly every single offensive category in baseball.
It’s hard to win consistently when a two-run 3rd inning deficit feels more like a 20-run deficit, the sky is falls, the game is over, and Donald Trump is elected President of the United States.
Nevertheless, have confidence, Mets fans, that management knows they need to re-evaluate the predicament they find their beloved team in.
Whether a sell-the-house trade for a guy like Jonathan Lucroy, or calling up prospects Dilson Herrera and Brandon Nimmo are the answers, only the Baseball Maverick, general manager Sandy Alderson knows.
However, all is not lost.
May I remind you that New York has a pitching rotation that compares to the best of the best, with anyone, even Bartolo, able to go out and pitch a gem on any given night. The rotation, still with room for improvement, that has the second best ERA in the world, at an impressive 3.14 mark.
Remember too that this team can hit, as they’ve shown once again in their past two games. We know they can. A “home run or bust” offense can only bust for so long.
Conforto can’t possibly hit to a .150 average for another month. TDA will be back behind the plate soon, with his above average bat in tow, as much as you want to bash him for his inconsistency.
Duda, who is good, is just about a month away.
Zack Wheeler, about to start his rehab assignment.
How often is a division race decided with 100 games left to play, anyway? While the Nationals continue to look dominant as they try to squeeze their northern rivals out of the division race, the Mets are in a position to attack.
So long as they take three steps forward for every one step back.