By Rich Coutinho
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Just two short months ago, when the Mets were preparing for the 2012 season in Port St. Lucie, all we heard was that they were a mess. New York was facing the uncertainty of the Bernie Madoff trial, fans were upset the team did not re-sign Jose Reyes, and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
To be honest, that seems like an eternity ago.
The Madoff case was settled with minimal damage to the organization. I firmly believe that on that very day things started to change for this team. Players could now relax as the financial uncertainty was removed, and they could go about the business of competing.
They were also fully cognizant of the fact that most people thought they would be the doormats of the NL East, with one media member even predicting a 100-loss season for the team. Fans were forced to buy this media snow job hook, line and sinker. It was fashionable to kick the Mets. A snappy headline criticizing the team sold papers and produced page views on websites.
The Mets got off to a 4-0 start and most people passed it off as luck, saying once the Mets started playing the meat of their division they would be smacked down and put in their rightful place. Well, I have news for all of you: the Mets have now played 17 games in the NL East, which comprises about 25 percent of their in-division schedule, and they are 12-5.
How good is that record? Nobody in baseball has fared better inside their own division.
And last night in Philly, the Mets came from behind yet again, this time getting big hits from Lucas Duda and yet another clutch performance from David Wright, who just might be one of the top players in all of baseball. Terry Collins is doing it with a mixture of veterans and kids, and has been very patient with those young players who have been put in the spotlight much earlier than the organization had planned. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is one of those guys and he had two key RBIs last night -- one extended their four-run seventh inning and the other gave the Mets a tack-on run that made this the ninth a very comfortable final frame.
This roster is loaded with young players who are being given the opportunity to perform, and each of them has responded in some way. This speaks to a minor league system that was vastly underrated by all of the experts, but more importantly, the coaching on this Mets team is top-notch. Saying you believe in your players is one thing, but showing them is quite another. Most big league managers are usually reticent to do that, but Collins is not. Maybe it was due in large part to necessity, but that's beside the point.
He believes in his players, something his predecessor failed to do.
But don't take my word for it -- ask a hated rival. Chipper Jones said to me recently, "I think everyone underrated the Mets coming into this year. I just hope we all don't wait too long to get the message because they are a determined team."
Determined to prove the world wrong. At 17-13 after 30 games, the Mets have more than a good head start toward doing just that.
Do you think the Mets can keep it up? Sound off in the comments below...
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