Previewing the New York Mets' Run into the All-Star Break

Bryan Kalbrosky@@BryanKalbroskyCorrespondent IJune 25, 2014

New York Mets use rally towels to keep them motivated vs. the Oakland A's.
New York Mets use rally towels to keep them motivated vs. the Oakland A's.Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With 18 games left before the MLB All-Star break, the New York Mets are bottom-feeders in the NL East and just half a game ahead of the last-place Philadelphia Phillies.

There are glimmers of hope for the Mets, however, to remind fans that the season has plenty left to look forward to—Tuesday's 10-1 interleague victory over the Oakland A's, for instance.

Behind a stellar performance from former Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon (8-5, 3.67 ERA), the Mets saw their bats come alive in the blowout, which featured two home runs from an otherwise slumping Chris Young, as well as bombs from Curtis Granderson and Travis d'Arnaud, playing in his first game with the team after a brief trip to the minor leagues.

Chris Young celebrates one of his two home runs vs. the Oakland Athletic's on June 24.
Chris Young celebrates one of his two home runs vs. the Oakland Athletic's on June 24.Mike Stobe/Getty Images

"They’re starting to hit," said Bill Maher on the June 23 episode of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Maher is a Mets fan and partial team owner. "I'm telling you, weirder things have happened. Remember the '69 Mets?"

Host Jon Stewart, a lifelong Mets fan, proceeded to recall the 1973 Mets team that was 12 games below .500 with only 44 games left. They went on to win the NL East title with a record of just 82-79 behind legendary pitcher Tug McGraw's "You Gotta Believe" campaign.

Their .509 winning percentage may have been one of the lowest of any pennant-winner in the modern-era MLB, but they still somehow found their way to the World Series.

Due to the fact that, much like the '73 Mets, the 2014 Mets play in a division plagued with poor performances, Stewart said he believes they could end up with a similar fate. Maher agreed, stating that this year's Mets are a "come from behind" team like their predecessors.

Some fans are beginning to wonder if the front office will pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal that will help them reach these lofty expectations. 

Daniel Murphy, the Mets second baseman—who is currently enjoying a career season in several offensive categories—has reportedly gained trade interest, according to NY Daily News, from teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays and the San Francisco Giants.

Murphy currently leads Mets regulars in batting average (.300) and runs scored (48). Packaged with the right pitching prospect, Murphy could help the club land a long-coveted slugger like Giancarlo Stanton or Carlos Gonzalez.

Sources close to the organization, however, maintain that this kind of trade would be fairly unlikely from general manager Sandy Alderson, according to Andy Martino of The New York Daily News

Team insiders acknowledge that a signature deal is unlikely to occur, and that the vision for contention under Alderson looks more like Oakland and Tampa Bay than the 2000 Mets: Keep most of the high-end pitching, and construct an offense around more interchangeable pieces.

Daniel Murphy is currently enjoying one of his best MLB seasons, and is garnering trade value from across the MLB.
Daniel Murphy is currently enjoying one of his best MLB seasons, and is garnering trade value from across the MLB.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

This means that—despite their record moving toward the All-Star break, and the fact that they fired hitting coach Dave Hudgens after losing 5-3 to Pittsburgh on Monday—the Mets hope to be looked at as "contenders" rather than "sellers" in the 2014 trade market and beyond.

It's possible they already have some of the tools they'll need.

Murphy's on-base percentage has improved thus far this season: He is at .355, and he finished 2013 at .319, and he is even on pace for a 200-hit season.

With 10 home runs and a slugging percentage of .459, Lucas Duda seems to have found a bit of the power scouts saw in him. Despite his age, Colon has a team-leading eight wins, and young Zack Wheeler leads Mets pitchers with 87 strikeouts. He also threw his first career shutout June 19.

"You stay positive, you stay upbeat, have some fun, get the guys ready to play, and go out and play hard and see if you can win," manager Terry Collins told Adam Rubin of

Take, for example, the latest success of the Kansas City Royals. After a nine-game winning streak, they overtook first place in the AL Central from Detroit on June 18. It was the latest in the season they had held the top spot in the division since 2003.

Though the Tigers' recent surge has them back at the top of the division, it's a good illustration that anything can happen with this much time left in the regular season.

According to Baseball Prospectus, the Mets only have a 3.3 percent to 4.2 percent chance of making the playoffs as it stands with 85 games left. But that's not what the club should be focusing on.

Right now, it's important to take a season like this one day at a time. That means that there's no rush to move Noah Syndergaard up to the majors if he's not ready, and there's no rush to ship Daniel Murphy out of town if they like his production. 

If the Mets play well with the cards that they've been dealt, they could start to win enough games to put themselves in the playoff picture by the time All-Star break rolls around.

After their series with the A's, they have two entirely winnable series against the Pirates (39-38) and the Rangers (35-41).

In divisional play before the break, they have seven games against the Braves—considered one of the favorites in the NL East—and three against the Marlins, who are currently just two games ahead of the Mets in the division.

If the Mets perform well in the coming few weeks, the momentum could lead them to be taken seriously heading into the second half of the season.

If they fall on their face, it could be yet another long season in Queens.

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All statistics and standings are current through the games of June 24, 2014.