Now, before anyone jumps off the little pretend bridge out in Citi Field, a few positive facts to keep in mind about the New York Mets:
• The season is only 47 percent over.
• Carlos Beltran doesn’t need microfracture surgery on his right knee. In a perfect world, he could return in three weeks, though it’ll likely be somewhat longer, maybe coinciding with an early August return of Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes.
• Perhaps most important, thanks to the Phillies’ struggles, no one has run away with the National League East.
That said, the Mets look as awful as they have in five years, when they were finishing twenty games under .500 for Art Howe. Last week, the team wrangled some respect by winning three out of four against the Cardinals, generally considered legitimate contenders this season, though they’re 24–31 since May 2. Those “impressive” wins by the Mets were followed by five straight losses, three to the Yankees and now two to the Brewers.
The worst is that the Mets haven’t even looked particularly competitive. They scored a total of just three runs in the Yankees series and embarrassed themselves last night in Milwaukee, committing two ugly errors, one by Johan Santana, who lost to a journeyman 31-year-old making his second career start. The Mets are now two games under .500 and have been passed by the Marlins for second place. And the Braves are only a game and a half behind them.
Obviously, injuries are a major factor, but baseball manhood won’t allow anyone to admit that, so manager Jerry Manuel pulled the last tool out of his belt last night, the infamous closed-door meeting. Managers always call “closed-door meetings” when their team is playing horribly but they can’t do anything about it, because they’re managers and do not actually play. “The whole key was to say that we have enough,” Manuel said. “We’ve got enough in here to do what we need to get it done. Let’s get it done.” If that won’t inspire you, Mets, dammit, what will?
The Mets are still only three games out of first place. But there are few reinforcements coming until August, and none of the sort of big-ticket trade acquisitions out there who could truly make a difference. (At least no one worth giving up legitimate prospects for.) The Mets are going to have to make do with what little they have for another month, and hope no one in the division has pulled away. It’s not the best plan, but it’s the only one.