With the All Star break approaching, the Mets surprisingly find themselves only a few games behind the Braves in the race for the wild card. At the beginning of the season, no one expected the Mets to be anywhere near the playoffs. Despite the injuries that have hit them, these Mets are playing some inspired ball, scoring runs at a great rate, and are in contention for the National League’s final playoff spot.
The road to the playoffs will not be easy. This team of young players will have to prove themselves during the dog days of August. There are some obstacles this team will have to overcome, and their quest to the postseason depends on their success in dealing with these hurdles.
Here are the five toughest problems that will face the Mets in the coming months.
It is fair to say that the Mets have overachieved to this point in the season. Jose Reyes is playing at an MVP level, and fill ins such as Justin Turner and Ruben Tejada are playing better than anyone could have expected. On top of that, Carlos Beltran, plagued by leg injuries, is having an All Star season, although he probably will not make the game.
The pitching staff, led by rookie Dillon Gee (8-1), has been doing an admirable job of keeping opposing teams at bay. Although the bullpen has been predictably shaky, Francisco Rodriguez has bounced back from a controversial season last year to provide the Mets with a reliable closer.
Unfortunately, if any of these players starts to slump, the success of the team will be in jeopardy. The Mets are a team of role players, who to this point have all brilliantly done their part. If one cog to the machine breaks down, the whole operation may come to a halt.
Two players especially need to continue to perform well. The first of these players is Jose Reyes. Reyes has been the catalyst for the Mets offense all season and has carried this team on his back. Without him they would not be anywhere near where they are now. The second is Dillon Gee, who has undoubtedly been the ace of the staff thus far. In the second half the teams needs him to settle into his role as the ace and lead the starting rotation.
It’s tough to base your future on overachieving, but if the Mets want any shot at chasing down the Braves, they will have to continue to overachieve at the plate and on the mound.
Although they’ve been able to overcome it, the Mets have been no stranger to the injury bug. Johan Santana has been out all season due to elbow surgery, David Wright has missed significant time with a fractured back, and Ike Davis might be shutdown for the season with a microfracture injury.
In the face of these injuries, back ups like Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, and Dillon Gee have all stepped up to cover the Mets losses. If the injury bug strikes again though, the team may not be able to catch lightning in a bottle twice.
If the Mets lose anymore players to injury, or even if they lose any of the fill ins to injury, they will most likely not be able to fill the hole. Sure they have proven to be a deep team with viable replacements, but how deep can one team be? Let’s hope the Mets don’t have to find out.
The Wilpons are tangled up in a messy situation. They lost a couple hundred million dollars to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and are now being sued for an extra billion in damages. If they lose the lawsuit, simply put, they lose the team.
Fred Wilpon has also been controversial in the media recently. He has been quoted as saying the Mets are “bleeding cash,” and has criticized players like Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright publicly. These actions were not smart, and provided an extra distraction that the team did not need.
The monetary struggles are enough of a distraction without Wilpon running his mouth in the papers. If the Mets want to succeed, their owner needs to be as little of a distraction as possible.
July 31st is the MLB’s trade deadline, and the trade rumors
have been circulating around the Mets. Jose Reyes, being in the final year of his contract, is a popular target for the buyers on the market. Carlos Beltran has gone on record saying he would okay a trade to a contender. Francisco Rodriguez even suggested he would accept a trade to the hated Yankees.
Hold on a second, the Mets ARE contenders. They are above .500 and currently sit a few games out of the wild card. If the Mets begin trading away players in the midst of the playoff race it would be a slap in the face to an already battered fanbase.
With everything the Mets fans have endured these past few years, the front office owes it to them to let them to let this team compete for wild card spot. Obviously they have no money to be buyers, so I say keep this unit in tact and ride it out with them.
My biggest worry though, is that the team cools off. Let’s say they go on a 3 or 4 game skid and the team hits the panic button and starts trading away key contributors. That scenario seems all too likely. The front office needs to keep its cool and let this team play.
Normally the return of your All-Star caliber third baseman would not be an obstacle. But hear me out.
This team is on a roll right now, setting a club record for most runs scored over a four-game stretch. They are hitting the cover off the ball and are scraping out tough victories. This team has a rhythm and flow that has been formed during Wright’s absence. His return could disrupt the entire thing.
Before he went on the DL, Wright was hitting .226 and was striking out at an astronomical rate. His strikeout totals have climbed the past few years in general. His power was absent, as he only hit a couple home runs in the few games he played this season.
I know that for a portion of those games he was trying to play hurt. But I’m still nervous about his return to the lineup. His return means Justin Turner will most likely be pushed to second base, which pushes Ruben Tejada out of the lineup. Although I would rather have Wright’s bat in the lineup than Tejada’s, if Wright continues to underperform, he will be a detriment to what is currently a very potent offense.
If he doesn’t raise his average and he continues to strike out at such a heightened rate, he will become a black hole in the heart of the lineup. Even if he struggles it is highly unlikely that Terry Collins will bench the star.
Unfortunately, Wright’s return may ruin the chemistry that the lineup has been succeeding with.
Here’s hoping that he proves me wrong.