On June 2, an article appeared on Bleacherreport that declared New York’s most beloved team, the New York Mets, were almost in a position to make a serious run at the wild card. Well, they have accomplished that feat.
After last night’s wonderful shutout of the Atlanta Braves, the Mets are a mere three and one-half games behind the Braves and the suddenly reeling St. Louis Cardinals, the teams that are the wild card leaders.
Ever since the Pittsburgh Pirates led the Mets 7-0 on June 2 and then lost, 9-8, Mets starting pitchers have been dominant.
Dillon Gee, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese have ERAs under 4.00. Chris Capuano, who has done well after some rough starts, has said that he hasn’t pitched this well in four years. Mike Pelfrey still has the potential to become the best pitcher on the staff.
The bullpen has been less spectacular, but Frankie Rodriguez appears to have put his problems behind him. He has 19 saves, which is three more than the closer on New York’s other team, the New York Yankees, has achieved.
Jose Reyes, clearly the best shortstop and possibly the best player in the game. leads the majors with a .345 batting average. He leads the National League in hits, doubles and triples, and is second in stolen bases.
A rejuvenated Carlos Beltran, is hitting .281/.364/.489 and leads the team with 40 RBIs.
David Wright, the best third baseman in New York, and young Ike Davis have not played in weeks. The Mets have reached the .500 mark (34-34) without them. When they return, it will be as if the Mets added two .300 hitters to an already decent batting order.
And the great Johan Santana, despite recent problems, is always lurking in the background.
Historically, the Mets have surprised.
Few thought that they had a chance to win the Eastern Division in 1969. Few thought they had a chance to beat the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs. Only die hard Mets fans thought they would beat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. We all know what happened.
In 1973, the Mets were in last place at the beginning of September. They won the pennant. The Boston Red Sox are still waiting for one more strike in order to win the 1986 World Series.
As a former occupant of the White House once said, let’s make on thing perfectly clear. It is not being claimed that the Mets are an outstanding team.
The Philadelphia Phillies are the overwhelming favorite to win the Eastern Division title, but the wild card contending Braves, Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks are extremely flawed.
The Braves lack consistent offense. They have gone through spells where scoring more than a single run in a game is a challenge.
The Cardinals starting pitching is suspect, especially with Chris Carpenter having won only one game while losing six. He has an obscene 4.47 ERA. Jake Westbrook’s ERA, at 5.16, is even worse. Can Fernando Salas continue to be effective as the closer?
The Reds have an offensive black hole at shortstop with Paul Janish and lack consistent starting pitching. The Diamondbacks will soon fade into the oblivion to which they have become accustomed.
Since the introduction of the wild card, it has been realized that how a team gets to the playoffs doesn’t matter. Wild cards have won the pennant four times, twice in each league.
Each time the wild card won the pennant, it went on to become the World Champion (Florida Marlins in 1997 and 2003, Anaheim Angels in 2002, and Boston Red Sox in 2004).
The Mets are the most exciting team in New York. With Jose Reyes at the top of the lineup, the excitement is almost instantaneous. They will not go away as the other National League teams are discovering.
Some “experts” believe that the Mets will trade Reyes, Beltran, and Rodriguez because they cannot afford them. The “experts” will be wrong because the Mets are winning, their fans are starting to believe, and attendance will pick up.
From a baseball standpoint as well from a financial standpoint. with the team having a real chance at the playoffs, management cannot afford not to keep all three.
The fun has just begun.