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Talkin' Mets at the All Star Break

Written by Conor Reilly
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The term 'roller coaster' season has become a bit cliche for the Mets in recent history.  A new general manager and manager has not changed the culture of crazy injuries, outta-nowhere heroes, and the hot/cold stretches the Mets have made routine.  2011 has covered the whole spectrum of fan emotion.  From the rock-bottom low (doubleheader against Colorado) to the sky-high (besting Rivera and walking off against the Yankees) fans have really seen it all.
As a fun way of looking back, I present a hypothetical conversation between two Mets fans.  Their self-explanatory names will be Optimistic Oscar and Pessimistic Pedro.  After attempting the give these multiple views on what's transpired for the Amazin's so far, I will add in my two cents.  Enjoy.
Concerning Injuries to the Core Players
Pessimistic Pedro Says...
New year, same old story.  I don't care what kind of front-office changes are made; this team is forever snake-bitten.  Do you really think Ike Davis would have been injured in any way if he was on another team?  He barely bumped into David Wright on a pop-up on a play that seemed to be humorous.  Then we hear he'll be out 'a few days.'  But this is the METS.  It's exactly two months since the injury, and HE STILL CAN'T WALK!  Two months!  David Wright's been out nearly as long with a...lower back fracture??  Is he 27 years old, or 87 years old?  A leg injury to Jose Reyes was a real stunner.  They say he'll be out about three weeks.  Translation: see ya in spring training 2012, Jose!  At this point I have been given no concrete evidence that Johan Santana is still living and breathing.  Chris Young was awesome for four starts...a whole 3 more starts than all of us expected before his inevitable season-ending injury.  Even if these guys all recover fully...there will be more incidents in 2012.  This franchise can't escape them.
Optimistic Oscar Says...
Whoa, Pedro!  Your mindset certainly reflects your name.  Admittedly, the injuries have been real frustrating this year.  If you would have told me to name the players the Mets couldn't afford to lose significant time, Wright and Ike would certainly be 2 of the first 3-4 players named.  Davis in particular was really hitting his stride and becoming a presence in the middle of the lineup.  But there is always a silver lining-even when it comes to crippling injuries.  In this case: Hey, we got ourselves a farm system!  Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada, Jason Pridie, Dan Murphy, and several others have all come up and played like they belong.  In their final game before the All-Star break, the Mets trotted out a lineup of Pagan/Turner/Beltran/Murphy/Bay/Duda/Paulino/Tejada/Pelfrey.  Pretend you showed a Mets fan that lineup in April.  After they awoke from their coma, they would wonder if the team was 20 games under .500 or 30 games under .500.  With a winning record at the all-star break, this team is showing it's resilience and desire to compete while undermanned.  It's an enormous credit to the guys that have been forced into action and to Terry Collins as well.
Conor's Take...
Both guys make pretty compelling arguments.  Deep down inside, every single Mets fan is wondering what in the world is going on with the injuries.  The 'freak' injury is becoming way, way too common.  We are yet to get a diagnosis that is even close to accurate regarding how much time the player will miss.  That being said, I don't the fanbase has ever been more proud of a 46-45 team.  There is a definite charm to a team of mostly-backups.  More importantly, it gives that hope that if/when 'the cavalry' returns from injury, they can actually be within striking distance instead of in the cellar by 10+ games.  It's also been a fantastic showcase in the sense that the Mets definitely have assets down on the farm.
Concerning the Team's Performance So Far
Optimistic Oscar's Says...
It's really not hard for me to be optimistic on this one.  The Mets have won more games than they have lost so far.  That was the basic goal even before their team was gutted by the injuries we discussed.  Dillon Gee has saved the team's bacon by basically pitching ace-like for the entire first half.  Jon Niese and Chris Capuano have done their part.  Despite an inevitable step back, Dickey is coming on as well.  At the plate, we already talked about the replacements stepping up.  Besides them, Carlos Beltran is going to the All Star game for a reason.  Pre-injury, Jose Reyes was putting up perhaps the most special offensive season in Mets history.  He loves driving up the blood pressure, but Francisco Rodriguez has been capable for the most part.  Jason Isringhausen straightening out the bullpen has been great from a sentimental standpoint.  Granted, Mike Pelfrey and Jason Bay have been the dead weight so far...but even Bay is showing some signs of regaining his mojo.  Who knows how long it will last, but the Mets have exceeded everybody's expectations so far.
Pessimistic Pedro's Says...
Boy, oh boy!  When's the ticker-tape parade???  Listen, there's no denying the team has performed admirably.  But is that all we've come to expect from this big-market team?  The Mets are 7 games out of the wild card chase.  Here's the catch- fundamentally they should be wayyy closer.  Guess who has the second-most road wins in all of Major League Baseball?  Yep, you guessed it.  We're supposed to laud this team with praise when they play sub-.500 baseball in their own ballpark?  True, the Mets should be further down the standings than they are.  But right now the National League has two elite teams, and they both happen to be right smack in the Mets' division.  The Phillies and Braves aren't going anywhere- the pitching is too stellar.  Yep, if the Mets were in the Central or West they would be within 5 games of the Division lead.  But being with the beasts of the East, they better get real comfortable sitting in 3rd place.
Conor's Take...
As much as it pains me to say it, Pedro's points are quite hard to dismiss.  The Mets are competitive in a year where that's not good enough.  True, this season could have fallen apart a long time ago and they have fought through it.  To some--perhaps most--fans, that qualifies as a successful 2011 if they stay the course.  But looking at bigger goals, it is a definite advantage having the wild card leader playing in the division.  The Mets may not measure up to Atlanta...but at least they will settle it on the field.  At seven games back, all it takes is one dominant series to add some real juice to the race.  That's far better than the leader being from an outside division, where scoreboard-watching becomes almost as important as playing the game.
Concerning What's In Store for the Rest of 2011
Pessimistic Pedro Says...
Probably more of the same.  They can be red-hot one week then go scoreless the next week.  That's what .500 teams do, and the Mets are a .500 team.  In all likelihood, the Braves will flex their muscles and open up some real breathing room for themselves.  When that happens, it's bye-bye to Beltran and K-Rod for sure.  Due to his injury, they may have to wait on Reyes so they don't get shortchanged.  They will keep him until the end of 2011 and give fans the faint hope at re-signing him.  But in the end, the Mets don't want to give him Crawford-esque money.  And it may take even more than Crawford-esque money to get him.  This team will ride out this transitional year and look very, very different starting in 2012.
Optimistic Oscar Says...
I'm not giving in just yet.  Call me crazy, but I'm expecting Wright, Davis, Reyes, and maybe even Santana back by early August.  Call me crazier, but I think those guys coming back have the ability to make up seven games in the standings.  Atlanta has been tremendous, but are playing a bit over their heads.  At least we don't have to wait very long to see where the team stands.  The Phillies come into Citi in the first series after this break.  If and when the Mets fall 10 out of the race, I will concede defeat to Pedro.  Until then, there is simply too much season left to call anything 'decided.'  Nine games remain against the Braves.  The Mets will have their opportunity to make up ground, and make it up quickly.  If this is indeed the last hurrah for Reyes, Beltran, etc, I think this team is ready to be a nuisance well into August and September.
Conor's Take...
This team is only going as far as their arms take them.  Gee has become mortal in his last few starts.  Too offset this inevitable fall to earth, it is imperative for Dickey, Capuano, and Niese to produce quality starts each and every time they go out.  At this point, it seems that Pelfrey is what he is.  It's going to be an enormous task for the offense to stay afloat without Reyes.  Saying he has won 8-10 games on his own this year would be an understatement.  The Mets will need some serious luck and some serious Atlanta slip-ups to play meaningful games in September.  But again, there is indeed too much season left to be waving any kind of white flags.  Remember, the Giants were in 4th place at this time last season.  I'm not making any comparisons.  I'm just saying that baseball can be a crazy game sometimes...

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