Chik Chatting: Mets remaining in contention
There probably aren't a lot of readers of the "New Canaan News" or "Darien News" who are aware of this, but in addition to my work for both papers, I also cover the New York Mets part time for a website. With high school out for the summer, I should have more time to cover a few more Mets games. Shameless plugs aside, I thought this week would be an appropriate time to assess what the Mets have done in 2011 as we approach the midway point of the season.
Going into the season, few gave the Mets any chance to remain in playoff contention, and many believed they would be among the worst teams in baseball. And that was before David Wright, Ike Davis, Angel Pagan, Jason Bay and Chris Young all had stints on the DL (Wright and Davis are still there and may not be back before the All-Star break, and Young is out for the season).
Injuries haven't been the only hurdle for the Mets to overcome. They've also had to deal with bizarre comments from owner Fred Wilpon regarding some of his best players, the constant trade rumors that swirl around Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez and Wright, a brutal 5-13 start to the season and an increasingly restless and dissatisfied fan base. All these elements sounded like a recipe for disaster.
Between the white lines, however, the Mets have been one of baseball's biggest surprises. They've managed to shake off the poor start to the season and currently sit at 36-38 (at press time). And while the idea of New York making the postseason may seem slightly farfetched, at least it isn't absurd. Despite their sub-.500 record, the Mets are only six games out of the Wild Card.
Of course, much of the credit for New York's swift improvement has gone to manager Terry Collins, and rightfully so. Along with general manager Sandy Alderson, Collins has made his players accountable, and it's clear that neither Collins nor Alderson will tolerate a player who consistently fails to get the job done. Since the beginning of Spring Training, New York has cut ties with Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Brad Emaus, Chin-lung Hu and Blaine Boyer.
Doing so has allowed the Mets to give playing time to guys like Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada and Jason Pridie. All of these players have made the most of extended playing time. Most importantly, the unexpected productivity of these unheralded players has allowed the Mets to sort of "keep their head above water" while they wait for Wright and Davis to return from the disabled list.
Having been inside the Mets clubhouse the past two seasons, I can tell you first hand that there's a better energy amongst the players. The clubhouse has a much more positive and vibrant feel, even after a loss in 2011. By the season's conclusion in 2010, the locker room seemed sapped and unable to come up with answers for what had snowballed into another losing campaign (79-83) after a promising start.
New York's performance over the next four or five weeks could go a long way in determining the team's strategy at the trade deadline. If the Mets continue to win and remain in playoff contention, they could easily opt to hold on to impending free agents such as Reyes and Beltran. If they tail off, however, a fire sale -- and another late-season collapse -- could be imminent.
To read my Mets stories, visit www.allheadlinenews.com/briefs/sports.