The New York Mets have 40 games remaining in their 2010 season. Their elimination number from playoff contention stands at 33, as they trail the Phillies by 8.5 games in the NL Wild Card race.
If you ask manager Jerry Manuel, he'll tell you his team still has a shot. Not once during any press conference, even after a rough loss, has Manuel declared his team dead.
But realistically, the Mets would have to pull off a 2007 Rockies-like effort to reach the postseason, and that happens once in a generation.
The Mets pulled it off themselves a couple of generations ago in 1973, as they were actually six games worse record-wise than they are now. Through 122 games in 1973, the Mets were 55-67 and seven games out of first place. This year's Mets through 122 games are 61-61 and 8.5 games out of a playoff spot.
There wasn't a Wild Card in those days, so the Mets had to fight hard over the last 40 games, and they stunned the world. They ended up losing Game 7 of the World Series that year to the Oakland Athletics, as Oakland won their third straight title.
So, comebacks have been made, and the Mets know about them first-hand, but with the way they've been playing since the All-Star break this season, it's hard to imagine a miracle.
After all, both the Braves and Phillies would have to slip up, since the Mets can't finish any worse than second to make the playoffs.
Assuming they don't get to play in October for a fourth straight season, what are the last 40 games going to be about for the Mets? Are they going to fight tooth and nail every night with their best players until they're mathematically eliminated? Or, are they going to play all the young guys every game starting September 1?
They have exactly 10 games to play before the date where teams can expand their rosters up to 40 players. Most likely, the Mets are going to see where they are in the standings after those games are completed.
Right now, they can try to take advantage of playing an awful Pirates club, and perhaps jumpstart a run. Where is the line drawn? Is it five games behind for a playoff spot? Can it still be eight? That will be up to Omar Minaya and the front office to decide, but the bottom line is, unless the Mets go on a tear and get some help, it's a lost cause in 2010.
The Mets schedule isn't that easy in September either. Their next road trip includes a trip to Atlanta for four games. An awful time on the road can end all hopes for good.
13 of the Mets last 40 games will come against the Braves and Phillies, so the Mets can look at it two ways. Either go 10-3 to make up some ground, or go 3-10 and play until they're mathematically eliminated.
The best thing for the Mets to do is to play their young guys immediately. They can't be fooled by beating up on a hapless Pirates team that just clinched it's 18th straight losing season.
What Major League teams use this time of year for when the playoffs are a longshot, is to take a look at some future pieces.
How can the Mets ever expect to get an idea of Fernando Martinez if they send him down after two weeks? By sending him down on Thursday for a veteran catcher who won't be here next season, Rod Barajas, it's as if the Mets really think they're going somewhere.
There are plenty of teams who think they're still in it, but why should a .500 ballclub even deserve to make the playoffs? Heck, before their win against the Pirates last night, they had a losing record.
What is this, the NBA or NHL? Teams with losing records back in as an eighth seed? No, it doesn't work that way in MLB. Teams that are .500 regroup the following March.
So, it's time to see Ike Davis play everyday, including against lefties. It's time to see Josh Thole get the majority of playing time behind the plate.
Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco are older catchers in their mid-to-late 30s, not guys who hold a long-term future on the club.
It's time to see Ruben Tejada play everyday at second base. He's one for his last 32, and if he doesn't hit, his glove won't even keep him in the big leagues. It's time to see Fernando Martinez replace Jeff Francoeur as an everyday outfielder to see if he's worth keeping, trading, or demoting.
Two nights ago, pitcher Jenrry Mejia pitched an excellent game in the Minors. The Mets have said they will give him a shot to start if they're out of it in September, and will make him a reliever if they're still in it.
The bottom line is, the Mets would be better off forgetting about a miracle run this season, and seeing what they have for a realistic run next season.
2011 will mark five years that the Mets last went to the playoffs. They need to take these 40 games to position themselves to end the drought and play October baseball again.