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miércoles, julio 04, 2012

The Mets At The Halfway Point

The Man Of Mystery

What a surprise. After a dreadful year in 2011, the Mets, everyone including your Bloguero said, were going to be terrible in 2012. They had after all traded away two of the best players on the roster, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. David Wright remained but he was striking out constantly. Johan Santana was injured. They were in financial distress because of Bernie Madoff. And this collection of nameless nobodies was destined to win at most 75 games, everyone said. If that. Maybe that was too optimistic. Anyway, they were going to be at the bottom of the division. They were going to be terrible. And nobody was going to watch them. And Citifield would remain empty.

The surprise: with half of the season (81 games) complete, the Mets are 7 games over .500 and 3.5 games behind the division leading Nationals. RA Dickey, the knuckleballer and “as told to” writer, is 12-1 and an All Star. Johan Santana pitched the Mets’ first no hitter. David Wright, also an All Star, is batting .351 and has 10 homers and 51 RBIs. Ike Davis (who didn’t hit anything for the first 2 months of the season even in batting practice and was surely destined for Buffalo or A ball) and Lucas Duda (who?) both have 11 home runs. Somebody named Scott Hairston has 10 home runs. And on and on and on.

And the surprise is not just in the stats. No. This turns out to be a very scrappy team. They don't give up. They don't seem to have the egocentric psychoses of previous Mets teams. They lead the league in two out runs. And two out hits. Apparently the manager, Terry Collins, knows what to whisper in their ears, knows how to get these players to perform. Maybe he's hypnotized them. And the opposition. No matter. He's the man of mystery: they are playing for him better than anyone had the right to expect they could.

Yes, sometimes they are utterly terrible defensively. Their last game in LA was a towering disaster. You could hear the echoes of Casey Stengel yelling, “Can’t anybody here play this game,” throughout Southern California. They made stupid errors like a poor high school team, they kicked the ball around, they were awful to watch. Then the bullpen collapsed and pitched batting practice to the Dodgers, or maybe they thought the Home Run Derby was early this year. In other words, the Mets looked the way we expected them to look back in March. Losers. A team that would win 75 games. At the most. A team at the bottom of the division, always out of contention, never exciting. A team with an empty ballpark. And then last night, an entirely different team: tons of runs against the hapless Phillies, at least 5 fielding gems. Hits galore. Error free play. A team that appeared to your Bloguero's delight to be a contender.

Everybody knows that teams can collapse in the second half of the season. Just ask the Red Sox. Just ask the 2010 Mets. That could happen here. It could definitely happen here. The spell cast by Mets starting pitchers could be vaporized. Hitters could decide no longer to be fooled. There could be injuries. The hitting could slump. The fielding could again lead to frowns, crying, despair, hair pulling. Sure, that could happen. That wouldn't be much of a surprise. Or the team could be inspired by winning 44 games in the first half and win, say, 46 in the second. That would probably get the Mets into the post season. Did you hear that? did you hear what your Bloguero said?

It’s not completely a sign of dementia or rabid Metsphilia this year to say the two “p” words: Playoffs. Post season. But there’s the usual caution that comes with following the Mets: at any point all of the good things, all of the exciting things, all of the high expectations for the team could vanish, and all of the fans, your Bloguero included, could again be watching a double AA team as it attempts to compete in the major leagues. Your Bloguero hopes that won't happen. He wants to see this surprising team playing deep in September and even into October.

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