(Long Island, N.Y.) Everyone had the 2012 New York Mets dead and buried before the season even began (this writer included). There was no way that their pitching would hold up and their offense may have even been worse than their defense. Since the start of last season, the team has parted ways with a number of their higher salaried players and the commitment to youth is in full bloom – either by choice or from financial hardship.
That usually spells disaster for most ball clubs, especially ones that have to share a town with the almighty Yankees. But something strange has happened since this young baseball season has begun, and perhaps even the Mets themselves are doubting the veracity of it.
The team is actually winning and playing well doing so. They have been able to defeat their divisional nemesis’ from Atlanta, Washington and Philadelphia in stunning fashion, with excellent starting pitching, good defense, timely hitting and even a pretty good bullpen. If you want to nitpick, their base running still leaves a lot to be desired, and those bad habits have been around since Willie Randolph was manager here.
At the time of this writing, the Mets were trailing the first place Nationals by a mere half game in the National League East with a 7-3 record. The Yankees? Tied for third place in the American League East at 5-5.
No one knows how long this will in fact last, but the Mets and their suffering fan base surely deserve a little fun in the sun. Perhaps the early summer-like weather is making it feel closer to the dog days than it really is and folks are getting a bit too giddy this early in the campaign.
Especially because Major League Baseball has added a second Wild Card team to the playoffs in each league, dreams of the postseason at Citi Field have been dancing in the minds of the Flushing Faithful. But there’s so much baseball to be played and it would literally take a miracle for the Mets to even hang around the .500 mark by the time the trading deadline rolls around. Even if they were somewhat in contention, would general manager Sandy Alderson get the green light to pull the trigger on a deal for a veteran with an expensive contract?
None of that matters now. Taking this thing day-by-day or even one series at a time is the right strategy. Alderson has done what was asked of him and lowered the payroll. He has been able to do so and utilize the farm system to replace some of the overpaid veterans that have been shown the door.
Some mid-to-lower tier free agents were signed to modest contracts and the team seems to be coming together nicely. The best ‘surprise,’ if you will, has been the reemergence of Johan Santana, the ace lefthander who missed all of 2011 following shoulder surgery.
“I’m still working, but just have to go out there and not think about it,” said Santana, who has looked very sharp with an 0-1, 0.90 ERA after his first two starts this year. “Pitching is (all about) keeping hitters off balance, and I have to mix my fastballs up with my change-ups and sliders.”
Not having the same ‘zip’ on his fastball has not been detrimental to Santana and he is once again leading a staff that had been very inconsistent in his absence. If he can stay healthy, maybe this magic carpet ride can last a little longer than anyone expects now.