If I needed to tell you that the Mets and Phillies are set to play three important games this weekend, you wouldn’t be here at the LoHud Mets Blog. But let’s take a step back and look at what is really at stake here, tangibly.
1. If the Phillies sweep the Mets, New York will be 8.5 games back of the likely division leader as May begins. That isn’t insurmountable- there’s a lot of season left- but it will make winning the division mathematically unlikely. A small percentage of teams make up 8.5 games or more, even just a month into the season.
2. The Mets are catching the Phillies at a near-optimal time. Much of the offense is struggling. Injuries dot the roster, leaving Vance Worley to start Friday night, Carlos Ruiz sidelined, and Chase Utley still weeks from a return. And both Jose Contreras and Brad Lidge are out for the bullpen, leaving Kent Tekulve, I believe, as the closer.
It isn’t that Philly is awful by any means- they are 16-8, and the Mets face Roy Halladay Saturday and Cliff Lee Sunday. But this may be as vulnerable as they will be all season.
3. Attendance at Citi Field has been awful. And I generally don’t think performance in short bursts will make much of a difference- for example, a series win in Milwaukee probably doesn’t change the Citi Field number that follows.
But this weekend, a sweep over the Phillies would get some attention. On the heels of a six-game winning streak, beating Halladay and Lee back-to-back, both on national TV, climbing to within 2.5 games of Philly, and heading into better weather next week, that sounds like a recipe for jumpstarting the team attendance.
And if you don’t care about off-field issues, you are ignoring the difference that ticket sales make on the field. The difference between two million and three million tickets sold is more than what it will cost to sign Jose Reyes annually. And a smaller difference than that can give the team the chance to sign more players over slot in the draft, leading to a deeper farm system.
Simply put: it matters. And this may be one of the few times this year that the Mets can change perceptions quickly, instead of through sustained success. Don’t get me wrong, that success needs to follow to make the gains permanent. But this weekend, they can get the casual fan’s attention.
4. Beating Philly is a pleasure for its own sake, isn’t it?