It's been written, ad nauseam, that there are numerous injuries affecting the New York Mets in 2009.
The list is an impressive one, with three superstars, two good relievers, a No. 3 starter, and various role players all seeing extensive time on the disabled list. The result has been a lineup that looks like it should be playing for the Brooklyn Cyclones, with one quality player (David Wright) currently batting cleanup.
While Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran have both proved to be huge losses for the Mets, it has been proven over the past few seasons that the most important Met is the shortstop who ignites the offense and can change the complexion of a game without getting a hit.
Yes, it's true—as Jose Reyes goes, so goes the New York Mets' offense.
However, he's not the shortstop who holds the key to the Mets' playoff hopes.
That would be Jimmy Rollins.
It started prior to the 2007 season, when Rollins prodded the Mets by claiming the Phillies were the team to beat during spring training.
Rollins would back it up with a monster season, leading the Phillies to the division crown (with a little help from a monumental Mets collapse) on his way to winning the NL MVP award.
In 2008, Rollins again made a preseason prediction, claiming the Phillies would win 100 games.
Despite a dip in production, Rollins again was correct, if you count the playoffs and World Series.
So this season, with the Phillies as defending world champions, the Mets desperate to not have a third straight late season collapse, and improved teams in Florida and Atlanta, the NL East looked like it would be the most competitive in the entire sport.
That's not exactly how it turned out. The Marlins started off hot but then cooled off considerably. Atlanta has had very little offense all season. The Mets, even when healthy, were inconsistent and sloppy.
The Phillies, while holding on to the division lead for most of the first half, seemingly tried to give away the division every chance they got, only to find no takers.
As the Phils' poor play kept the rest of the division's hopes up, including the Mets, Rollins was suffering through one of the worst slumps of his career.
Rollins' first half performance was dismal. He just seven home runs while driving in 34 runs. His batting average was at .229, including only .167 during the month of June, and his on-base percentage was so low at .287 that Charlie Manuel was forced to remove Rollins from his customary spot atop Philadelphia's lineup.
In the month of July, however, Rollins' production has picked up, and not coincidentally, so has the Phillies' play.
Philadelphia has played much better baseball, winning 13 of their last 14 games and increasing their lead to six-and-a-half games over second place Atlanta (nine games ahead of the Mets).
Rollins has been on a tear, batting .375 with nine RBI, 14 runs scored, and a .461 on-base percentage during the past month. His production has continued since the All-Star break, having scored four runs in four games while batting .368.
Rollins' numbers for the season are still unimpressive (.236 average, .290 on-base percentage), but his play the past month has helped Philly finally take control of the division. If he continues to play at a high level, no one may catch the Phillies.
So while most Mets fans continue to wait for the return of their shortstop Reyes, hoping his return may help save their season, they need to look at his counterpart down the Turnpike and hope that his return doesn't put the final nail in the Mets' coffin.
Because as we've seen, as Jimmy Rollins goes, so go the Phillies...and the Mets' playoff chances.
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