Winning the World Series is the ultimate definition of a successful season, something Mets fans haven’t experienced in nearly three decades. The checkdown list goes to playing in the Series, to playing in the LCS, to making the playoffs and to just have a winning season.
When you’re the fan of a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since 2008, what is your definition of a successful summer?
Is it playing .500 or just playing competitive games? Tell me what will define a good season for you.
Last year, the Baltimore Orioles won 29 one-run games, which put them into the ALCS. That’s an extraordinary number. Last season the Mets were 20-22 in one-run games and 3-7 in extra-innings.
Winning close games is emblematic of improved clutch hitting and a better bullpen, of which the Mets’ record in one-run games shows they lacked both in 2012.
Next is being more competitive in the NL East, where they were 32-40 last year. Let’s face it; teams don’t get to the playoffs if they don’t win in their own division.
The Mets must also improve their road record, which was 38-43. Teams don’t become contenders if they lose on the road. Only two NL teams, Milwaukee and Arizona, finished with a .500 record or better and had a losing record on the road.
They also don’t become contenders unless they develop a home field advantage. Going 36-45 isn’t much of an advantage. Never has Citi Field given them an edge. Symbolically, the first batter at Citi Field, Jody Gerut, of the San Diego Padres, homered. It seems as if the Mets have always been behind since. There has never been the buzz that existed in Shea Stadium, pit that it was.
In contrast, Citi Field – despite its bells, whistles and multitude of grazing areas – is tame and sterile. There’s nothing that screams “Mets,’’ even when the crowd is prompted by the scoreboard. That has to change. Teams need to be uncomfortable when they play in New York. As it is now, it is dinner, shopping and a stopover at Citi Field to beat the Mets.
Improvement in all areas will make the Mets a better team, if not a contender. If I were to choose one category, it would be playing a lot of close games and compiling a winning record. That would encompass improved fundamentals across the board and progress in every area. It might make for a frustrating summer, but it should make for an exciting one.
The Mets won 74 games last season; roughly one less loss per month would have put them at .500. That’s doable with minimal improvement in all areas.
The Mets made no significant acquisitions to compel one to believe they are able to make that improvement, but stranger things have happened. One only needs to look at what Baltimore and Oakland did last year to know it is possible.
The Mets’ hope is for healthy bodies and improved production from within to offset the loss of 20-game winner R.A. Dickey.
I’m not saying it can’t happen. I’m just saying it is February and too soon to be thinking about football season.
ON DECK: Mets Notebook around noon