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A Week That Actually Is Make Or Break

Posted By Howard Megdal On July 13, 2012 @ 10:48 am In Today's Mets headlines | Comments Disabled

It is tempting generally, despite the incredible length of the baseball season, to fixate ona few games and try to extrapolate larger truths from them about how the season will turn out.
The Mets sweep the Braves to open the season: the critics were wrong! The Mets sweep the Marlins: the division will belong to the Mets!
Just as ludicrous: the Astros sweep the Mets: the season is over! The Yankees sweep the Mets: the team is doomed!
In reality, a three-game sweep, even a six-game road trip, represents a very small portion of the season. A team that wins or loses six straight can be a very good or very bad team.
The 1993 Mets won six straight to end the season… at 59-103.
But the combination of upcoming opponents, and more importantly, the timing, actually makes this six game stretch starting tonight in Atlanta as vital, and even potentially determinative, as so many fans and even some in the media try to make virtually every six game stretch, period.
Consider that the Mets, at present, are 46-40, in a five-team group within 1.5 games of each other, vying for two wild card spots. They are also 4.5 games behind the Nationals for first place in the NL East.
So over these next six games, three in Atlanta- one of the other four teams in that wild card cluster- and three in Washington, the NL East division leader, the Mets will be playing games that can not only count in their win column, but in the loss columns of those they are battling for the only paths to the playoffs.
Ah, but why is that so important? They have 18 each against Washington and Atlanta. Right?
Yes, but: there are just 18 days between now and the non-waiver trading deadline. By the end of the Washington series, there will be just ten days.
Let’s say the Mets win five of six. That probably places them a game or two out of first place, and solidly in the lead for at least one of the wild card spots.
That leaves Sandy Alderson little choice but to try and plug holes in the 2012 roster to chase after the playoffs. As well he should. It wouldn’t surprise me, frankly, if the Mets are looking at that stretch to help determine if bringing up Matt Harvey, talented but apparently not quite considered ready by the hierarchy, is also a risk worth taking.
Now consider if the Mets go out and lose five of six. That’ll probably put them six or seven games out in the division, which is a large gap to overcome. They’ll probably be a couple games behind a whole bunch of teams for the wild card, with more teams nipping at their heels.
Is trading prospects for marginal bullpen upgrades a good idea at that point? Ask the 2002 Mets, who traded Jason Bay in a deal to acquire Jason Middlebrook and Steve Reed, but still fell out of the race. (You’ll have to take my word for it: you would have liked that version of Jason Bay on the Mets.)
So you may be reluctant to take much stock in thinking games matter right now, inundated as you have been by ads like “The Mets. The Rockies. Will David Wright triumph over Carlos Gonzalez? Or will freedom as we know it die forever? Coverage begins at 6:30 with Geico On Deck.”
But these are big games, the meaningful games of July to determine how meaningful games will be in September. And that alone is pretty exciting, a bonus I certainly didn’t expect from this 2012 team.

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