Welcome to Opening Day II of the New York Mets.
This is the time last year when the great collapse began. In early June in 2012 the Mets were eight games over .500, and seven games over heading into the last game of the first half, but were routed, 7-0, by the Cubs at home. They went on to lose 10 of 11 coming out of the break. The chance to upgrade was lost and the season spun out of control.
That would be a valuable reminder for Terry Collins to tell his players. Nobody is thinking playoffs, but .500 is a reasonable and realistic goal. GM Sandy Alderson seems inclined to keep a pat hand to see if the Mets can sustain their recent play. Adding a bat would be helpful, if for no other reason, to demonstrate his confidence.
The Mets have had four straight losing seasons in which they finished in fourth place. The Mets open the second half 4.5 games behind third place Philadelphia and five behind second place Washington. Both are within reach.
If Matt Harvey can sustain and Zack Wheeler gains command of his fastball, improvement is possible. Yesterday, I asked several questions the Mets must answer in the positive if they are to lay the foundation for 2014.
“I don’t think there is any question about it,’’ manager Terry Collins said after the team won in Pittsburgh to close the first half. “We’ve been preaching, ‘Hey, it’s coming.’ We have to fix our minor leagues, we have to find some players, and they’ve done that.’’
We’re not going to see Noah Syndergaard, but perhaps he can show he’s worthy of Triple-A next year.
The forecast wasn’t positive after the R.A. Dickey trade and coming out of spring training, but the Mets broke the gate at 7-4, then went on a long slide that had them bottom out at 15 games under .500. They are nine games under now, but it’s not totally gloomy.
“You have a star at third,’’ Collins said of David Wright “You have a star on the mound in Harvey and you have another one coming in Zack Wheeler. I plan on seeing a lot more games like the one [Wheeler] pitched the other night in San Francisco. The more confidence he gets, the better he is going to be.
“We’re not by any means happy where we are,’’ Collins said. “We know we have to get better.’’
Ironically, they have gotten better despite three major disappointments in what was to be their core. Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda have not come close to producing as expected. Davis is now in a platoon with Satin, Tejada is in Triple-A, and Duda is on the disabled list and they shouldn’t even be thinking about cutting into Young’s playing time.
Answers to those three players, and the center field platoon of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, are something Alderson wants to get. Plus, there’s the question of Jon Niese’s shoulder, whether the bullpen will continue to improve and if Marlon Byrd is worthy of an extension.
Not all of things will be answered in the positive. It rarely happens that way. But, if enough are getting out of fourth and a winning season are possibly, and that’s something few of us could have predicted.
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