The Mets have a problem. How can they put fans in the stands without winning many games?
They don't have a great team or the money to acquire players who would make it better.
Obviously, the money problem could be taken care of if the Wilpons would sell the team to an owner who has deep pockets. But that is a separate argument.
In terms of the rest of the 2012 season, are Mets fans more interested in barely finishing over .500, which would be an improvement over the year before, or finishing much lower in the standings and receiving a top-10 pick in the 2013 Rule 4 Draft, which would allow them to add another blue-chip prospect to the system?
Given the excitement generated by the team's improved play the first half of this season, highlighted by a no-hitter, several walk-off hits and gutsy victories, I think that fans would be content seeing the team finish with 82 victories.
Clearly, that type of season will not be remembered for decades to come, but it would be unacceptable for this team to finish with fewer victories than the season before.
In the event that they do tank the rest of the season and finish with, say, 76 victories, I think fans would find it even harder to buy into a successful first half next season.
That's because so much emphasis was put on the Mets getting off to a quick start this season, and we would have seen how that turned out.
Are the Mets making strides as an organization towards being contenders?
Yes, they got off to a hot start, but by performing dismally in July and August, they essentially negated much of the feel-good vibe they created.
Baseball is a long season, and in order to make the postseason, it often takes at least 88 wins.
The Mets won 46 games in the first half, but have won only 11 of their 36 contests since. That will not get the job done.
In terms of historical perspective, Mets' fans would really like to know whether 2012 is similar to 1983, a a year when the team suffered through a putrid season before posting seven consecutive winning seasons, including a World Series title.
Or, is it similar to 1974, a year when the team struggled to the finish line and experienced moderate success before falling back into the doldrums?
As currently constituted, the team does not have the type of impact players who instill confidence in a fanbase.
With a crop of young prospects on the horizon, however, that could all change in a hurry.
If they are able to snag a college outfielder that is on the verge of big league stardom in the 2013 draft, that could go a long way in improving this team.
With an infield of Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada and David Wright, the Mets have some pop.
Adding competent bats to the outfield is the next step in order for the Mets to become competitive over a sustained period of time.
Realistically, the Mets are looking at another top-15 pick in the draft next season.
While they have opted to select high-ceiling high school players the past two seasons, it is important they begin selecting players who can help them win immediately.
If they hope to contend by 2014, the Mets must start adding players who will be viable options at that point.
Perhaps center fielder Brandon Nimmo will be ready at that point, or maybe not. But they will need to field an improved crop of outfielders at that point. There will be no room for more dead weight in the lineup such as Andres Torres and Jason Bay.
The book is virtually closed on another losing season for the Mets, but the real story is how they will approach building a winning team.
Will they hover in obscurity or make actual strides?
For the time being, the Mets need to finish this season near .500 in order to give the fans something to cheer about entering the next stage of their rebuilding process.