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Where’s The Excitement?

Posted By Howard Megdal On June 30, 2011 @ 11:14 am In Line-up,Today's Mets headlines | Comments Disabled

Over the last few days, I’ve watched and enjoyed what we now know is the greatest four-game explosion of offense in New York Mets history. My wife has taken notice as well, wandering in and out of games. She’s a devoted fan, but wouldn’t necessarily begin furiously computing the run torrent to determine its historical context. In other words, she’s a well-adjusted person.

Instead, as she said to me on Tuesday, “The Mets are scoring a lot of runs lately, right?”

But it was her question last night that got me thinking. She returned home from a night out with a college friend to see the 16 on the scoreboard. I described the offense in greater detail, all of the multi-hit games, the two-out production, that they did it despite a slump from Jose Reyes (just two hits last night- and he thinks he’s getting Carl Crawford money?)- and her reaction was this:

“Why aren’t you more excited about this?”

I didn’t have an immediate answer. Why wasn’t I more excited about this? My wife had seen me fall off the bed in celebration back in 2005, when a Ramon Castro home run pulled the Mets to within a half-game of the Phillies for the wild card. She’d heard me bellow triumphantly from the office when I won a bulk pack of Ike Davis rookie cards on EBay.  She’d watched me try and teach our baby daughter how to say Hisanori Takahashi for months, only to see the Mets fail to offer him a 2011 contract.

The point is, I’m not a man prone to understated reactions. So how was I feeling about the most extreme offensive output in team history? Pleased. Not ecstatic, but pleased.

And I think the reason why, upon closer examination, is similar to the reason I didn’t freak out at the start of the season. And keep in mind, when the Mets started 5-13, it felt like everybody panicked. The beat writers. Fred Wilpon. East side. West side. Everybody was coming down on the Mets.

In my family, because of my profession, I am the go-to explainer for why the Mets do what they do, for good and for ill. Indeed, some within the family actually seem to hold me responsible for various moves- I don’t know if they didn’t read until the end of my book [1] (spoiler alert: I am not the General Manager), or what. But I got a lot of questions early on about just how ridiculously bad the Mets would be this season. And my stock answer was this: “They’re off to a terrible start. But the Mets are not terrible.”

It became sort of a rallying cry around our household in the weeks that followed. As the Mets clawed to .500, each key hit or vital defensive gem would lead to either me or my wife saying: “See? Not terrible!” I guess the Mets couldn’t have built a marketing campaign around this, but it was still rewarding to see the Mets prove me right, one not-terrible moment at a time.

I think the takeaway from this is that in a season where the Mets aren’t really contenders- and look, I know they’re five games out of the wild card, but they have three teams ahead of them, and I don’t see them as contenders in that sense just yet- is that the value of a win or loss is far more muted. They started 5-13? Okay, I don’t like all the losses. But is it all that upsetting? Not really- they aren’t going anywhere this year anyway, in all likelihood.

It is a far cry from the 5-12 that ended their 2007 season- those losses mattered greatly-and not just because they came at the end of the season. That was a team that contended for a playoff spot, and one loss could be the difference between the playoffs and a free October. (And, it turns out, it was.) I could turn out to be wrong, but those don’t seem to be the stakes in 2011.

And that’s why these wins, particularly in the manner the Mets achieved them, have been pleasurable, but don’t create the elation I’ve experienced in the past, and certainly hope and believe I will again in the future as a Mets fan.  I hope I’m not coming across as unnecessarily negative here, but I don’t expect the Mets to keep on averaging 15 runs per game. They’re not an offensive juggernaut on the level of a 2,430-run team. They are probably not even a great offensive team, or a very good one- not with David Wright still out of the lineup, Ike Davis out of the lineup, Ruben Tejada at second base, etc.

They are, however, not terrible. I had them pegged for 84 wins, and with a win today, they’ll be on pace for exactly that halfway through the year. And they’ve done it largely without Wright, who is expected to return shortly. Perhaps I underestimated them, and this explosion is a statement that the National League should take notice of the powerhouse in Queens. I suspect otherwise, but if these offensive outputs in June lead to games in late August in which the Mets climb to within a half-game of the wild card, I’ll fall off the bed again, I’m sure.

And my wife won’t ask me why I’m not more excited. She might ask herself some questions about why she married a crazy person. But my excitement won’t be in any doubt.

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[1] until the end of my book: http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Field-Fans-Quest-Loves/dp/1608195791/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1309450297&sr=8-1

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