After losing yet another series on Sunday in this truly depressing month of August for the New York Mets, the schedule for the Amazins' is not getting any easier as they now have to travel to Philadelphia for a three-game set. I don't have to tell the average Mets fan that the previous five seasons has been an incessant struggle. Both 2007 and 2008 ended with collapse and disbelief, 2009 was filled with an unfortunate string of injuries, and 2010 was simply waiting out the remainder of the Minaya-Manuel regime. So as the Mets finish yet another disappointing season in 2011, where do we go from here?
It may sound cliché, but honestly, as Tug McGraw so aptly put it nearly forty years ago: Ya Gotta Believe. Six months from now, when we're in the midst of yet another Spring Training, I'm not going to look back on the 2011 team with remorse and negativity. Besides a mind-boggling 5-13 start, the Mets believe it or not were one of the strongest teams in Major League Baseball from late April to late July. From April 21 to July 29, they compiled a 50-38 record, something that could not have been done without the impossibly strong leadership of manager Terry Collins, and they were a true pleasure to watch day in and day out.
If you just take a minute to realize the roster Terry Collins was given for these few months, it is mesmerizing to think this team even carried a .500 record during this time. The team that wasn't even predicted to win half of its games in 2011 had to survive injuries of Ike Davis, David Wright, Angel Pagan, Chris Young, and perhaps most importantly, Jose Reyes. And as if that wasn't enough, GM Sandy Alderson traded closer Francisco Rodriguez along with All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran before the July 31 trade deadline. This is not to say that Alderson made a poor decision by taking advantage of the trade market, but that is a discussion for another time.
For the majority of the season, the Mets' starting lineup has been mostly comprised of players that either started 2011 in the minor leagues or quite frankly should have started the season in the minor leagues had it not been for some bizarre circumstances. All the signs pointed to yet another lost season. But they continued to win. Between Justin Turner, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Jason Pridie, Daniel Murphy and others, this team fought every single day and kept themselves in every game. In mid-July, I spoke with outfielder Jason Pridie who was truly appreciative of everything he has gone through over the past few months: "It has been everything I had hoped for after playing in the minors for so long. To get here and play a little bit and help the team out, it has really been awesome and very satisfying."
Maybe I'm in the minority, because I realize many fans will look at 2011 as a lost season. But while the Mets have faded over the past couple weeks, it really is not hard to look at 2011 and take several positives from it, no matter what their record is come the end of September. The Mets clearly have an influx of talent in their farm system, (the same one that we were told had been depleted of quality players for years) Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins have more than shown their ability to create winning ball clubs even when their options are limited, and it seems as if the front office is making a commitment to trying to resign superstar Jose Reyes in the off-season.
Yes, the Mets are not fun to watch right now. They are physically and mentally tired, and it was unfair to expect a team of so many inexperienced players to win a playoff spot. But good times are ahead. Back in 2005, when the Mets finished with an 82-80 record, we knew former GM Omar Minaya had a plan to bring winning back to Queens, and had it not been for a poor down-the-middle pitch to Yadier Molina, he might have succeeded. It is rare that a new era of a sports team would start in the middle of a season, but I think trading Carlos Beltran to the Giants last month truly symbolized the start of a new age for the New York Mets. With the exception of Jose Reyes and David Wright, Alderson is slowly but surely starting to clear out what was the Omar Minaya era and turn a page into what will be a new and stronger chapter in New York Mets history.