With the second half of the baseball season rapidly approaching, the time is now for Major League teams to evaluate where they stand in their pursuit for the post season.
In other words, if a team feels they are still in playoff contention, they will probably opt to fill their holes with a quick fix aimed at putting them over the top for this season. If a team feels they are a long shot to be playing baseball into October, they may make moves that focus on building a team to contend in the future.
While it may be obvious to many teams which category they belong in, the Mets are currently walking the fine line between striving for October and planning for next season.
The Mets have shown signs of promise and grit all season (winning three of four games against the Cardinals last week), only to immediately follow it up by stretches of sloppy, uninspired baseball—losing five straight to the Yankees and Brewers following the Cardinals series.
In the end, the numbers don't lie, and the only two numbers that matter are wins and losses. Those numbers for the Mets are 39-39—the definition of an inconsistent team.
The Mets have three everyday star players out until after the All-Star break, as well as their No. 2 and No. 3 starters, and eighth inning set-up man.
Most teams in the Mets' position would start thinking about next season, but that's usually not an option for a big market team—especially not in New York. Especially not for a team who has ripped their fans' collective hearts out the past two seasons.
There is good news, however.
As bad as the Mets have been the past month, and as inconsistent as they have been all season, the entire division has been in the same boat all season. In fact, despite being a .500 team currently sitting in third place, the Mets are only a game and a half behind the division leading Phillies.
With all that in mind, and all the games left to be played, there still is a chance for an Amazin' second half in Queens. All that Manuel, Minaya, and company need to do is stick to this list of five key ingredients to a successful final 81 games.
1. Embrace "Small Ball".
So Citifield hasn't exactly proven to be Coors Field east. David Wright's and Carlos Beltran's power numbers are way down. The team leader in home runs, Gary Sheffield with 10, is only on pace to hit about 20 home runs. That's fine, but the Mets need to realize how to play in their new digs.
Embrace the small things on offense. Take the extra base. Run heads-up on the basepaths. Hit-and-Run. Don't give away outs on defense. Most importantly, however, hustle on EVERY play.
The Mets as a whole have shown signs of this from time to time, but they need to do it all the time.
2. Do not count on the returns of Carlos Delgado and/or Billy Wagner.
Anyone who listens to sports talk radio in New York has heard almost on a daily basis how well Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado are coming along in their respective injury rehabs.
Don't believe the hype.
Injuries are tricky things, and even the smallest set back can mean a delayed return. As of now, the Mets expect both players back around early September.
If both former All-Stars can return for the stretch run—with Delgado adding some much needed pop to the stagnate Mets offense, and Wagner filling the role that JJ Putz proved unsuccessful in—the Mets will be in great shape.
But that's still a big "if".
3. Realize that it may be time to give up on Daniel Murphy.
Talking to many Mets fans prior to the season, Daniel Murphy was being compared to players like Don Mattingly and Paul O'neil.
It's obvious now that those may have been unrealistic expectations. But despite having some decent moments, Murphy has not been good.
He was a horrible in the outfield, and not much better at first base.
He has been a little better at the plate than in the field, but he has had trouble producing unless he is batting in the No. 2 slot of the order—a spot where he sees a steady diet of fastballs batting between Jose Reyes and David Wright.
Murphy is still young with upside, so the Mets may not want to give up on him completely, but if the Amazin's plan on contending this year, Murphy's time on the field needs to be limited down the stretch.
This move relies greatly on the Mets completing number four.
4. Do whatever possible to add a bat at the trade deadline.
It seems that it may be a very quiet trade deadline this season. However Mets management needs to do whatever it can to add a potent bat to the lineup—even if the trade includes Fernando Martinez.
Every team needs pitching, including the Mets, but let's face it—Roy Halladay is not getting traded.
Jake Peavy is injured, and even when he is healthy, the Mets do not have the chips to get him. The best a team may be able to do in the pitching department may be the over-sensitive Erik Bedard or the oft-injured Kerry Wood.
There will be plenty of bats available—some who may not even cost the Mets their top prospect, Martinez. Players such as Aubrey Huff, Adam Dunn, Nick Johnson, Brad Hawpe, and Matt Holiday may all be available if their respective teams continue to underperform.
Any of those players would significantly bolster the Mets offense.
5. Get Healthy !
This may be stating the obvious, but no team in the majors—no matter how good—could lose as much talent as the Mets have lost to injury this season, and still compete for an extended period of time.
In fact, if the rest of the division wasn't as flawed as the Mets, this team could be in a huge hole. They're not, and Jerry Manual needs to express to his players constantly that every missed opportunity by their division foes is a victory for his team.
If the Mets can keep it close until their stars comeback at 100 percent, this September may be different from the last two.
So there it is Mets fans—the blueprint to a successful second half and a possible playoff birth. All is not lost, and there is still plenty of baseball left to be played.
It's time for an Amazin' second half !