By David Britt.
Going into 2012 the question was not how good would the Mets be, but if they could do any better than last in the National League East.
Their division rivals had improved during the offseason. The Phillies have been winners of the National League East for the past five seasons. They were still a potent team with three of the best starting pitchers in baseball in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
The Atlanta Braves, who finished 2nd in the National League Wild Card race, still had a team that could contend, with the likes of Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward on the roster.
The Washington Nationals had a pitching staff that rivaled that of the Phillies with an offense that could explode at any moment, and the Miami Marlins had signed the Mets best player, Jose Reyes, in free agency.
The Mets meanwhile did not do much in free agency. The expectations were very low for the Mets.
Yet this Mets team would not quit. They played average baseball the first month of the season and were at 13-11 going into May. Though just above .500, the Mets were just one and a half games out of first place in the NL East.
Going into June they were just one game out of first. Before the end of the All Star Break, the Mets were 46-40, only four and a half games out of first place.
The reason the Mets were able to compete was a mix good hitting and great pitching. Led by Robert Allen “R.A.” Dickey, the Mets rotation has been solid all year. Dickey especially has been amazing, pitching to a 14-2 record with a 2.83 ERA and 147 strikeouts through April 2nd.
Dickey’s specialty is the knuckleball, which is extremely difficult to throw and impossible to control. Jonathan Niese, Chris Young, Jeremy Hefner and Matt Harvey are the other pitchers in the Mets rotation.
Harvey, a rookie, was one of the Mets highly touted prospects going into the 2012 season, and has delivered in his short stint in the Major Leagues.
The Mets offense is led by Third Basemen David Wright. Wright, who is hitting .333 with 16 home runs and 72 RBIs, is having a career year. Without Wright, this lineup would not be nearly as good as they have been.
The Mets also have Scott Hairston, Andres Torres, Jordany Valdespin, Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis and Josh Thole. While this lineup is not the best in the Major Leagues and does not produce a lot of home runs they find ways to win.
Through the adversity, the Mets have persevered. With such low expectations, it has been a huge surprise that the Mets were even competitive for so long this season. The team came together around their manager and performed at a high level.
Since the All Star Break, however, the Mets are 4-14 and have fallen 11 games out of first place in the NL East with a record of 52-54. The Mets play 28 of their remaining 56 games against teams that are under .500.
A run to the playoffs is not out of the question as they are only 8.5 games out of the second wild card in the National League. After all, the St. Louis Cardinals did it last year, though it will be a tough road for the Mets.
If they expect to make the playoffs, they will have to put themselves back together and find the magic they had through the middle of July. If they can do thatcthen they will have a bright future ahead.