By Rich Coutinho
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When the Mets lost 13 of their first 18 games, most people said the season was over for them, the clearance sale was on and Citi Field would be a ghost town for most of the summer. The negativity was furthered by reports in the press that a minority owner was a pipe dream and the Mets and their fans were doomed. I guess the memo never got to Terry Collins, the team, and the AAA reinforcements from Buffalo that have proved to be key components for the team.
Tonight, the Mets could return to the .500 mark with a win over the Pirates, but in typical Terry Collins fashion nobody will be popping champagne because if the truth be told, this team has far bigger goals. Since that horrendous start, the Mets are an eye-popping 27-20 and have done it without key parts of their team. David Wright and Ike Davis have been out of lineup and Jason Bay has been awful but no team in NL East has scored more runs than the Mets. We hear how awful their starting pitching is but over the last 17 games, no starting staff in baseball has a lower ERA. They are over .500 on the road and have shown the resiliency of a good team in the way they rebound off tough losses.
The three players that everyone said would be traded at the deadline -- Jose Reyes, K-Rod, and Carlos Beltran -- might be the three best players on the team and have not sulked or brooded once about the trade rumors. In fact, Beltran's durability has been amazing considering most critics thought he would be lucky to play three out of every four games this year. He has done more than that, and oh by the way, leads the league in doubles. We all know Jose Reyes has been the best player in the NL so far and all K-Rod has done is blow his first save chance of the year and then proceed to convert every save opportunity since then.
The team has also found two gems in Jonathan Niese and Dillon Gee, who have been outstanding in the past six weeks. We all kind of expected Niese to step up his game but Gee has been a real shot in the arm with Chris Capuano and RA Dickey picking up the pace as well. Mike Pelfrey has still been inconsistent but even he has shown flashes in his last four or five starts. And so, as we enter mid-June, make no mistake about it Mets fans you are a playoff contender, especially when you consider David Wright, Ike Davis, and Johan Santana might all be back by the end of next month.
It leaves Sandy Alderson with an interesting problem. If the Mets are in it, can he resist the temptation to deal players? I just think you can not trade anyone because years like this don't come around often -- when a watered down NL could have a 86 win team holding the wild card because of all of the parity. The fans, though, have to do their part because if you start coming to Citi Field, that will make it even harder for Sandy to pull the trigger on deals.
It is awfully ironic that in the year AFTER Omar Minaya left many of the players he acquired and believed in, could turn 2011 into an exciting summer. Don't forget he brought Terry Collins into the organization, he picked up guys like Ruben Tejada and Justin Turner, he drafted Jonathan Niese, Dillon Gee, Ike Davis, and Daniel Murphy. He always believed in Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran.
Whatever the reason, this Mets team gives their manager 100% every day, even on the nights they lose. Still think the Mets in playoffs is a pipe dream? Well, all I can say is stranger things have happened in sports and if we've learned one thing about the Mets from their history -- it is wise never count them in (2007 and 2008) or count them out either. It is the rollercoaster ride of being a Mets fan.
When can we start taking the Mets seriously as a playoff team? Leave a comment below.
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