Just three years ago, the Mets appeared to be set.
They had depth in their lineup. They had clutch hitters. They had a solid pitching rotation and bullpen across the board. Injuries were scarce, and the baseball gods looked down fondly, as they were to honor the 20th anniversary of arguably the most exciting New York baseball team in history.
Simply put, it was their year.
However, magic took a backseat to reality. The St. Louis Cardinals, the same squad who nearly collapsed as suddenly as the Mets have the past two seasons, came into October with little hope. All the 83-win team had to their names was a dominant hitter and an ace.
With a little help and some luck along the way, it proved to be enough.
As opposed to his predecessor Willie Randolph, Jerry Manuel had little reluctance to acknowledge the Mets' demons of the recent past—demons that include these very Cardinals.
In order to clear the hurdles that have dashed away hopes of a championship, he stated, they would have to learn from their past.
But in times as dire as these for the Amazins, the personal past for the Mets won’t do this Mets team any good. Most of the faces on the Mets that watched in bewilderment as the Cardinals stormed the field, or bleakly peered on as the Marlins sucked the life out of a packed stadium in back-to-back years, are gone. They’re either on the injury shelf or were dumped to a small market team out of necessity.
If they want to believe, they’ll have nowhere to look but to the team that sent them down this spiral. Instead of ignoring Scott Spiezio’s patronizing red mark on his chin (I can’t call it a beard), they must use him and his teammates as an example. As hope.
You won’t hear them admit it, but barring a trade that would require the Mets to unload an unreasonable number of prospects, the Mets likely won’t reach 90 wins. They may have trouble reaching 85.
To make matters worse, the Mets have a schedule looming that consists of 28 games against winning teams in their next 32 games—all without their best power hitter and their table setter.
If the Mets can attain a .500 record in this period, it would be considered a colossal success. Yet, even if they do compile the same number of wins as losses, they likely will be six or seven games behind the defending champs by the All-Star break.
Right now, Carlos Delgado’s comeback is looked upon as iffy. His comeback won’t bring anything to the Mets lineup until he rips off a two-week streak highlighted by extra base hits and clutch RBI. Until then, which could take a while for Delgado, their lineup will not instill any semblance of fear into opposing pitchers.
Simply put, this is a .500 team. But the Cardinals proved in 2006 that being .500 does not eliminate the chance of making the playoffs. Or winning the National League. Or the World Series.
After the Phillies and Dodgers, no team in the National League has a record 10 games above .500. In fact, standing at a record of 30-25, the Mets are in a virtual tie for the Wild Card with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Mets have been on the wrong end of impossible stretch runs before. But now it’s time to learn from the Cardinals and the Phillies coming from nowhere to dethrone them. With the mindset of “anything can happen,” these next couple of months need to be spent placing themselves in a position where a successful September to October to the Canyon of Heroes journey is possible.
As long as they use their history the right way.