'From the Pressbox'
By Ernie Palladino
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All right, class. Raise your hands if you thought the 2012 Mets would be sitting five games over .500 at this point.
Uh, no fibbing. That's better. Just one guy in the back wearing the Dillon Gee jersey and two pennants sticking out of his New York Mets beer helmet.
As improbable as it sounds, the Mets head into tonight's series opener against the Marlins at 18-13, in third place of the NL East, a half-game behind co-leaders Washington and Atlanta. And with Johan Santana going against Mark Buehrle in a highlight matchup, there's a better than even chance for the Mets to go six over .500.
All of which brings us to the point. If the season ended today, there's no doubt Terry Collins would be in line for a Manager of the Year nod. Should the Mets continue this pattern of big wins, even if followed by intermittent dips, and the end result is a better-than-even season, the Wilpons should probably build a monument to Collins.
That guy has already suffered the trials of Job with his young but gritty squad. He's seen two starters go down in the last five days -- catcher Josh Thole with a concussion in the middle game of their improbable three-game sweep of the Phillies, and shortstop Ruben Tejada with a strained quad in Sunday's 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks.
But conversely, he's seen their replacements deliver as Justin Turner rapped a run-scoring double and Rob Johnson, the catcher just called up from Triple-A, had a key walk in the comeback win.
He's watched his young team throw the ball all over the lot, their 26 errors ranking them the fifth-worst defense in the majors. Daniel Murphy and Thole have nine of those between them.
He's paced around the dugout as his relievers have pitched to a 4.73 ERA. If he was Earl Weaver, in the old Orioles manager's era, he'd have gone through a full pack of cigs Wednesday night. Up a comfortable 10-4, Jon Rauch and D.J. Carrasco gave up four hits and two runs in the final two innings to add to the aggravation of having to mount three comebacks against an even faultier Phillies bullpen.
Too bad you can't have tobacco in the dugouts anymore. Collins could have used a smoke.
Through it all -- the injuries, the slipshod pitching, the starters like Ike Davis showing life only occasionally during his .179 start -- the Mets have won five straight for the first time since 2010, and have swept the ever-bullying Phillies for the first time since 2006.
This was a team that dropped their payroll by $50 million. They were supposed to get blown away consistently from Day One. Instead, they've countered their losses when things looked most bleak, and now sit with a little breathing room between themselves and failure.
Give the players credit for staging 11 come-from-behind wins so far. But give Collins plenty of it, too, for keeping his guys' focus off the edge of the cliff and toward the safe, firm ground that fills the terrain before it.
If they keep this up and finish the season over .500, Collins will have done a job worthy of a Manager of the Year accolade. If this team goes on a miracle run and actually makes the postseason, it would be manager-of-the-decade stuff.
There's still a long, long way to go. But make no mistake, Collins is doing some job.
Let's see if his players can equal the level of coaching over the long haul.
Do you think Collins' squad will make this a season to remember? Sound off in the comments below...
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