There is no question that the 2011 New York Mets have had one of the most bizarre first halves a team could have. From 5-13 to 46-45, the Mets have had to endure simply bizarre circumstances through the first few months of the season. All of their top hitters (David Wright, Ike Davis, Angel Pagan, Jason Bay, and Jose Reyes) besides Carlos Beltran have spent significant time on the disabled list. They have had to make due with an average pitching rotation at best, and somewhere along the way Bobby Bonilla somehow appeared on the payroll again, earning over one million dollars every July until 2035 while the Wilpons are in the midst of a one-billion-dollar lawsuit. As the Mets head into the All-Star Break, they will be 7½ games behind the Atlanta Braves for the wild card and 11.0 games behind the first-place Philadelphia Phillies.
Now, people are going to look at these numbers and conclude that the Mets are too far back in the standings to make a playoff run. They are going to say that GM Sandy Alderson should accept the fact that while he and the Mets have given their fans an entertaining couple of months, they should give up on this year and focus on 2012. Finally, some of my fellow Mets fans are going to try to convince me that though guys like Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada, and Daniel Murphy have all been contributing as of late, there is no way that they will be able to have this success on a consistent basis in the second half with the little experience that they have playing in the Major Leagues. The reality is, though, the Mets are much more in this pennant race than people realize.
Every year, the National League wild card team wins an average of 90 games. Sometimes it's a little more, and sometimes it's a little less, but it is very rare that 90 wins in the National League does not get you a playoff spot, and it is the magic number of wins I look for every year. Over the past six weeks, despite what many people are calling a "minor-league" lineup, the Mets have been playing over 90-game pace and have proven that they can compete with any team in the Major Leagues. They have beaten multiple All-Star pitchers, and in a sixteen game stretch that many predicted would kill their season, they went a very respectable 9-7, including a 4-3 west-coast road trip. The Mets gave themselves a chance to win in nearly every single game and they never gave up, possibly best proven through Scott Hairston's go-ahead home run against Giants' closer Brian Wilson on Friday night.
Moreover, when I look at the Atlanta Braves and see that they are on pace to win 95+ games, I know that statistics just won't let it happen. Interleague, which gave a very favorable schedule to the Braves this year, is now over, and they are finally going to be facing some winning teams on a more regular basis. And with Reyes, Wright, and hopefully Davis and Santana coming back in the near future, much of the pressure will be off on the younger players, and the Mets can really start to finally pick up some ground in this race and potentially play what owner Fred Wilpon likes to call "meaningful" games in September.
I think it is very easy to look at the Mets and decide that based on their reputation and their original expectations, they should trade valuable chips like Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez before the July 31 trading deadline and get what they can before losing them to free agency. But as an optimistic Mets fan, I am just not ready to give up on 2011. The Mets have just been playing too well as of late for the front office to dismantle the roster at the deadline. I think to not give this team a chance would be very unfair to not only the fans but also the players.
As quoted from the Daily News yesterday, reliever Jason Isringhausen said: "To be able to get close, or maybe even make the playoffs, coming from a team that wasn't supposed to do anything, that's fun. If there is a chance we can do that, I want to be a part of that." I hope I speak for all Mets fans when I say that we would like to be a part of it too.