At this point, Mets fans have to be losing their mind – and rightfully so. Another multiple game lead in September has been blown. Once again, the Mets are struggling against 4th and 5th place teams when they can least afford to do so. Once again, the bullpen looks ugly, and once again, the starting rotation appears to be running out of gas, with the added wrinkle that the team isn’t hitting on top of everything else. On top of all of this, the amazing story of Fernando Tatis came to a sudden, sad end last night. Yes, it is looking all too familiar like 2007, and that is something no Mets fan is particularly eager to live through.
I do think, however, that there is a silver lining to 2008. There are a few, actually, and I am going to list them all here. I know no Mets fan is looking for optimism today, but here are a few reasons why some optimism may be warranted:
The Mets have 12 games to right themselves this year instead of 2
Last year, when the Mets blew their 7 game lead, they had only two days left in the season to right the ship. In fact, they won on Saturday before being bombed by the Marlins on Sunday in a game no Mets fan will soon forget. That isn’t a whole lot of time to recover from. This year, they have 12 games to make up a half-game in the standings…that’s doable, right? Certainly, this lead is far from insurmountable, and eventually, they should play better against second division teams like the Nats and Braves. There is more of a sense of urgency this year, because they have now what they didn’t have after they blew the division last year; time.
The Wild Card is in play
At this point, the Mets have a comfortable enough lead on the Astros, Marlins, and Cardinals, to where it would take a superhuman effort from one of those three teams to get back in the race. The Astros probably shot their wad getting back into the race to begin with, and the Marlins and Cardinals have been playing over their head since the season started; one would have to think that, barring a big 12 game run, that these teams will probably not win the wild card. That leaves the Brewers…in fact, let’s give them their own section…
The Brewers are playing worse baseball than even the Mets
It’s usually a good thing when the Mets’ primary competition for the wild card is the one team playing worse than them, right? I mean, even CC Sabathia is no longer immune to the Brewers’ woes; factor in that the Cubs are playing this week to clinch at home, and the Brewers are in deep trouble. This is a team in disarray; they’ve lost 12 of their last 15, they just changed managers with 13 games to go, they have seen their wild card lead completely evaporate, to where they are currently trailing in the standings…I mean, as bad as Mets fans have had it, Brewers fans have had it even worse.
They have an exceedingly competent manager
This is something they didn’t have last year. Now, I wish they didn’t rely on Luis Ayala so much as their closer, and I wish they would give more of a chance to Al Reyes and Bobby Parnell, but I think overall, Manuel has a better grasp on what is working and what isn’t in the bullpen. Any managerial decisions that are debatable are probably nitpicks at best (although they might have been able to force extras if they had used Endy to pinch run last night instead of Ramon Martinez). I also think Manuel has a better read on the clubhouse than Willie Randolph ever did; he is quick to nip things in the bud. I feel better with Manuel managing this team in this situation than I would have felt with Willie in the same predicament. Maybe it’s misplaced, but I think we’re in better shape in the dugout.
We’ve got Johan now
Last year, our “ace” was Tom Glavine. He really wasn’t anything more than a guy who gave the Mets innings; Maine and Ollie were probably better pitchers. This year? We have a real ace. And we got three more starts out of him, including the last regular season game at Shea. If I had to bet my life on “sports events I cannot guarantee,” I would bet that the Mets win all three of those starts. Really, we can’t expect Mike Pelfrey, Ollie Perez, Brandon Knight, Jon Niese, and Pedro Martinez to get us at least another 3-4 wins between the five of them in the other 9 games? Finish 7-5, and the Mets are 90-62; that forces the Phillies to finish 6-5 or better to tie or win the division, or it forces the Brewers to finish 7-4 or better to tie or win the wild card. This isn’t impossible.
I know it’s easy to be negative after all that happened in 2007. I am often very guilty of this myself. It’s easy to see the reminders of 2007, especially when they have manifested themselves so much. But this isn’t over. This year, we have time to right the ship. The Brewers’ fade has opened a door for the Mets, and the Phillies are just as capable of a fold this year as the Mets were last year; in fact, they already blew a 7.5 game lead against the Mets this season. Twelve games to make up a half game is far from impossible. We can do this. We just have to keep the faith and not let us get down after all that has happened. Chin up, Mets fans; it’s not over yet.