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NEW YORK, NY - JULY 15:  Manager Terry Collins of the New York Mets looks on as his team plays against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on July 15, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Phillies defeated the Mets 7-2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) Sad Terry.

Season Starting to Get Away From the Mets a Bit

The Mets were truly thrilling just about eleven days ago. Not a dominant team, not even a particularly successful team, but thrilling nonetheless, reaching a zenith of three games over .500 and charming fans with an injury-riddled group that just refused to go away. They look ready to go away now.

We know that MCU Park in Brooklyn has only about a sixth of the capacity of Citi Field, but man, there had to have been more people watching Jose Reyes and the Cyclones yesterday than there were at the end of the Mets' dreary 4–1 loss to the Marlins last night. The game was a rainout makeup, a pointless game against the layover Marlins in between series with playoff-contending teams, and the Mets played like it, not hitting, not fielding, not really paying attention. Filip Bondy has a nice roundup of the drudgery in the Daily News this morning:

The standings are hopeless, the weather lousy. The lineup was still missing all the big names, at least for one more game. The stands at Citi Field were half-empty for the rainout makeup game. The only buzz emanated from those Carlos Beltran trade rumors, which only represent another challenge for Collins.

"It's a little awkward for me, I've never been in this situation before," [manager Terry] Collins said. "The only time we weren't in the pennant race was in '99 (with the Angels), and all the players who could have been traded then were hurt. (Beltran) just knows it's all part of the business. He's very bright. He knows it might happen."

Yeah, it's just a party out there right now. The Mets are now under .500 for the first time since June 25, when they started a four-game winning streak that got everyone briefly excited. (To be sadistic, the Mets' playoff odds are now at one percent.) They suffered another injury last night, with Scott Hairston being taken out by the invisible injury snipers; as Bondy points out, that left the Mets lineup with nine players owning a total of eighteen homers between them.

Also missing last night: Carlos Beltran, who's in the news because the Mets are willing to pay out the rest of his contract this year if they can get a worthy prospect in return. This is encouraging, in that the Mets are acting like the big-market team that they supposedly are, not doing salary dumps, trying to maximize future value. Of course, Beltran has the flu right now. "I hope it doesn't spread," Collins said.

But tonight, it might be slightly brighter, if just because of the return of Reyes. It's just in time for a visit from the Cardinals, those hated Cardinals, the ones who started all this mess in the first place. As we suspect you know, we are not-so-secret die-hard Cardinals fans, so the yearly St. Louis trip to Citi Field is a signpost every year for how both teams are doing. We try not to miss a game any series, so we can tell you that, generally speaking, no matter how each team is playing heading into the series, the Mets, even during their darkest hours, are a sore in the Cardinals' side every season. (It is difficult to argue, after 2006, that the Cardinals don't deserve it.) The Mets' season is essentially over, with Beltran (and maybe some others) out the door any second, but we suspect the Mets have one more lively series left in them. We bet it's the one that starts tonight. Sigh.

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Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images