It’s funny: how I evaluate a season has changed dramatically over the last five of them for the New York Mets.
Every game, for 2005-2008, happened within the context of not just that result, but looking at the standings. This was true, certainly, late in the season. But even in April/May, how the Mets did mattered not just itself, but in relation to the other teams.
I don’t know about you, but that isn’t how I’ve thought about it in a long time. Not even when the Mets got off to strong starts in 2011 and 2012. There were just too many holes.
But after that sweep of the Yankees, with the next nine including six against the 13-41 Marlins and three against the struggling Nationals, I couldn’t help but wonder. Not because this looks like a contending team, or because I think the starting pitchers are capable of a 43/0 K/BB ratio every time through the rotation. But just because how it usually works is, those small victories are supposed to fuel optimism about the potential for larger ones. It’s the emotional rubric of how a fan relates to a baseball season, connecting April to potential October.
So here goes.
As it stands today, the Mets are 22-29. That puts them nine games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. And the wild card, thanks to three very good teams in the N.L. Central, is harder to reach right now. At the moment, the 34-20 Pirates are 10.5 up on the Mets for the first wild card, the 33-21 Reds are 9.5 up on the Mets for the second wild card. And five other teams are ahead of the Mets as well: the Giants, the Rockies, the Nationals, the Phillies and the Padres.
But let’s go a little crazy, shall we? The Marlins are historically bad. 13-41 puts them three full games behind the 1962 Mets at this point. Let’s say the Mets take all six, and two of three from the Nationals. That would give them a 30-30 record through 60 games.
If the Reds tread water, a 4-5 mark over their next nine, that puts the Mets within 5.5 of the Reds by mid-June. A similar stretch by the Braves puts the Mets within five of first in their division, with the Nationals and Phillies both playing like teams that aren’t able to take advantage. I suspect the Nationals won’t continue to do so, but again, we’re only projecting what could be, not on talent level right now.
Following that nine-game stretch, the Mets have six against the Cardinals and Cubs, followed by a rain-inspired five game series in Atlanta, June 17-20. The Mets probably need to win five of six against the Cardinals and Cubs; but if they do, they could well be within striking distance of the Braves for that series.
And if you can’t imagine it, that’s fine. But if you want to rule it out, you must be one of those people who somehow knew the Mets were about to go sweep the Yankees this week.
That’s where the math is. How the Mets get there is another story. If you harbor any fantasies about October, this is the context right now for how the Mets get there.