the sports section

The Mets at Mid-Season: Let’s Keep Hope Alive

Yesterday Newsday introduced us to the Bristal All-Stars, a Long Island senior softball team funded by an assisted-living company. After “grousing” about the Mets’ lack of fundamentals, the team decided to make a video to send to the team showcasing “a number of basic plays.” “We are not doing it to embarrass anyone,” one of the seniors said. “We are doing it because we care about them.”

So, yeah: That’s pretty much how the first half of the season has gone for the Mets.

The Mets are not only losing, they’re losing with the aesthetically displeasing and dispiriting combination of sloppy play and nearly nonexistent hitting. But for all the frustration for fans — including this poor bastard, who went to five consecutive Mets games in which they did not score — and all the annoyance with the seemingly endless parade of mental errors, the reason the Mets are struggling is because three of their best five players are hurt. Complain all you want about how “top heavy” general manager Omar Minaya constructed his roster, but there isn’t a team in baseball that could lose Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado and expect to contend the way everyone had hoped. It is to Jerry Manuel’s credit that the boat hasn’t completely capsized.

And as a matter of fact, the Mets are only three games under .500 and six and a half games out of first. (Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA Playoff Odds Report puts their chances at making the playoffs at a somewhat encouraging 13 percent.)

So have hope! We have hope!

1. No one’s running away with the division. The Phillies had a five-game winning streak heading into the All-Star break, but their starting pitching, despite the addition this week of (an injured, elderly) Pedro Martinez, is the worst in the division (outside of Washington, of course). Unless they trade for Roy Halladay, that’s not likely to improve. Trailing the Phillies by six and a half games, the Mets are further behind than they have been all season — a direct result of the Phillies’ recent streak. They won’t stay that hot forever, not with their staff. If the Mets come within five games or so by mid-August, they will be close enough to make a run. Hey, maybe it’s the Phillies’ turn to collapse in September!

2. Those injured players are coming back. Reyes should return from his mysterious hamstring injury by the end of the month, with Beltran a week or so after that. Delgado? No one’s quite sure about him yet.

3. David Wright might hit homers again. It’s astounding that Wright, who hit at least 26 homers in every full big-league season, has only five this year. His average is starting to fall back to the level it should be (considering all his strikeouts), and it’s clear that the massive dimensions at Citi Field, which changed his strategy from Power Hitter to Free-Swinging Tony Gwynn, are still in his head. It’s time to start swinging for the fences again. The man has the ability to do it.

This week the Mets face Atlanta, Washington, and Houston, none of which are overpowering teams. If they can win six of those ten games, Reyes should boost them in the following homestand against Colorado, Arizona, and St. Louis. You can still see hope. If you squint.

The Mets at Mid-Season: Let’s Keep Hope Alive