The Mets went 12-8 over this latest segment. They had a winning 10 game road trip where they beat Milwaukee and Atlanta 2 of 3 and split against a vastly improved Pirates team. They would have swept Atlanta and gone 7-3, if not for Rodriguez choking away a 2-run lead. Tonight they ensured another winning road trip by winning 16-9. They're 4-1 with one to go. They've scored 52 runs in those 4 wins! In 3 of the 4, they scored 14 or more! They've won 10 of 15 on the road against 4 teams currently in first place in either their division or the wild-card. When was the last time, the Mets played that well on a long road trip? Then they go do it again on a shorter trip? Truly impressive.
The Mets are being led by their solid rotation( minus Pelfrey on the road), Jose Reyes and his amazing season and their plucky, reinvigorated manager Terry Collins. The latter deserves Manager of the Year consideration for getting this team to .500 and over despite losing their power corner infielders for over a month and not having their ace pitcher all year. Truly Amazin'.
This team is playing with confidence and without excuses. To me that stems from the top. Alderson doesn't make excuses and neither does Collins. All we heard over the last 2 years was injury excuses from Minaya and Manuel. That whining filters down to the team and lets them know their employers think little of them. Alderson and Collins haven't said anything about missing these players. They just gave the updates and moved on. No panic, no whining. They're real pros. Consequently, the players on the field have acted and played like real pros. Jason Pridie, Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda and Dillon Gee have all made great contributions and none of them were on the Opening day roster. That's a tribute to them and Collins. He's used them beautifully and they've responded.
Then there are guys like Daniel Murphy. What can you say about this guy? He's not the best defensive player anywhere they put him, but he plays well enough to stay in the line-up(he's no Conrad). He's not a good fundamental player, especially on the bases, but he's still aggressive and often helps builds runs. He's been hitting extremely well and better w/RISP. If Davis is gone the year( let's all hope not), Murphy can play 1B, with Duda and even Turner filling in as well. That's somewhat comforting.
Most of all, lets talk abot Reyes. I spoke of the rotation in another blog so I won't go on about them. They've been fantastic except for Pelfrey's ugly performance on the road. However, Reyes has been special. MVP of the NL special. Jose was coming off a pretty ordinary year. Sandy Alderson never offered him a deal because of that and his past injuries. When you factor in the Wilpons putting the Mets in chaos with their ineptness and possibly larceny, you could understand why. Jose to his credit didn't feel disrespected. He's gone out and played the best ball he's ever played. Reyes has never hit like this. He's hitting .349 as I type this and leads the NL in hitting and hits. He's swiping bases and is second in the NL. He's scoring runs and saving them. He still makes the occasional base-running blunder, or falls asleep and gets picked off, but they've been much rarer than in the past. He seems totally focused possibly for the first time in his career. He's making it virtually impossible for the Mets to deal him. If they do, they better get a king's ransom. He's been the engine that has made this patched-up line-up go. They've just scored 36 runs in the last 3 games against 2 first place teams on the road. That's impressive. Reyes has been the engine having back-to-back 4 hit games. He has 15 triples already. He's playing with focus and joy. No more dancin' in the dugout. He's dancin' his way around the bases though. He's been absolutely awesome and deserves to start the All-Star game despite a guy named Tulowitzki @ SS(who is having a pretty solid year himself). I know I voted 25 times for him. All fans should do the same. He needs to start.
Next, I have to talk about Beltran. Beltran seemed in a funk for awhile, but recently has amped it up. Maybe it was fatigue or maybe as we near the trade deadline, he's making a push to show contending teams he can play everyday and be productive. Nolan Ryan recently stated Beltran's past makes him a big risk. Carlos may have heard those whispers and turned it on. Whatever his motives, he's been helping the team of late again. I hope it continues and the Mets use that when he's dealt either @ the trading deadline or by August 31. I can't see him being here September 1. The only way is if the Mets were truly in a playoff race(wild-card only) and had a real shot. As great as the Mets have played, I don't see that happening that late. I can see being 5-6 games out, but that's really just the periphery. I thought that could happen and that's why I thought they'd win 83 games this year.
Lastly, I have to touch on some negatives. The bullpen is a concern and it's due to Rodriguez. Parnell, Beato and Izzy have pitched extremely well lately. Buchholtz is injured and sorely missed. He's a solid reliever. Carrasco to his credit, went to AAA(w/out whining) and pitched well. However, since his return, he's been bad. Manny Acosta is not an MLB pitcher. He's been battered in his appearances and is only used in garbage time. That's appropriate, because that's what he is. Expect Thayer to be recalled(he's been saving games @ AAA) to replace this stiff and Acosta to be waived. Hopefully, the Mets will not pick him up and waste a roster spot @ AAA. Let him go and pitch in an Independent league where he belongs. Now, Rodriguez. For most of the season, he's been quiet and effective. However, over the last month, he's blown 3 saves(including 2 in a row), lost 2 games and has been battered in other mop up duties. His ERA has ballooned to around 3.5 and that's unacceptable for a supposed premier closer. On top of that, the option is hanging over the Mets. He will meet that number of games needed to trigger it (55), if he stays. Barring an injury, the Mets can't just not pitch him when he gets close. The MLBPA will file a grievance and win. The Mets must deal him or face another year with this guy and at a stiff price. I truly believe 3 teams are good fits for him. Texas, LA/ANA and Chi(AL) all could use him. Texas could slide Feliz into the rotation either this year or next year. Rodriguez could close the next year + for them. The Angels may think Walden is too young. He's blown 3 straight saves and may be better to set up now. Rodriguez had much success there and I don't believe burned bridges. That could be a good fit. Finally, Chicago has Ozzie Guillen a fellow hot-headed Venezuelan. That seems like a nice fit for them. Salas could slide to set-up and they'd shorten the game to 7 innings. They're all in tight races and each game is key.
So as the half-way mark approaches, this team is where I thought they'd be, but for different reasons then I originally envisioned. I thought their offense would carry the day because of Reyes, Pagan, Davis, Wright and Bay. I figured Beltran would do okay(22 HRS-85 RBI- .275), but not play as much as he has. I was wary of the rotation especially Pelfrey, but thought Young, Niese and Dickey would be fine. I thought Capuano would be fine if healthy. He's been even better than that. There is no way I thought Turner, Pridie and Gee would do what they've done. Who foresaw Reyes' season of brilliance? Most of all, I underestimated Terry Collins. I knew he was an upgrade because he wasn't Jerry Manuel. However, I didn't believe he'd be a contender for NL Manager of the Year. Though they're only two over as I type, it feels like their 10 over the way they've played and battled especially after a 5-13 start and all the key injuries to star players. They're 36-26 since then, so it really is 10 over, isn't it? Kudos to the players, manager and GM. They've done a great job considering the circumstances. If it continues, brighter days are ahead as talent returns from injury, through trades and through an improving farm system. 2011 has been better than most expected. Let's hope it's just a start of the return of a winner. This fan base deserves it for their loyalty, patience and passion.