Mets' hopes fraught with myriad obstacles
Club has steep uphill climb toward being a part of postseason
NEW YORK -- Lest too much emphasis be placed on a winning streak of five games, lest the modest run of success last week distort the Mets' horizon, remember it was a streak of five games, not 15. And while five victories without a loss did improve the Mets' sense of self, it didn't do all that much to improve their chances of playing in October.
Even the dreadful Mets of 1962, losers of 120 games, won three straight -- three times. So their five-game winning streak, achieved against the Astros and Rockies, ought to be seen more as an expected aberration -- if there is such a thing in the world of oxymorons -- than an indication of what the next eight weeks are likely to bring. The current Mets remain diminished by injury to a degree that makes five successive victories against teams that had been playing well little more than a correction of the Wall Street genre.
Before it began, the Mets had lost 17 of 24 games and produced a winning percentage of .291 in that sequence. In most circumstances, the game doesn't allow teams to play at such a low level for extended periods. So a correction was to be expected. And what has happened since the fifth victory -- four losses and one victory -- also qualifies as a turn in the direction of normal.
The Mets simply aren't a good team. The spate of injuries has undermined them, no doubt. But the Mets weren't favorites or even in first place in the National League East before Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran were assigned to the disabled list, May 21 and June 22, respectively
And since then, the inconsistency of Mike Pelfrey, David Wright and even Johan Santana has been too great an obstacle to overcome. Beginning on Tuesday night, the Mets play seven of nine games against the D-backs and Padres, the have-nots of the NL West. All of them, however, are road games, and the Mets are a poor road team, with a 21-31 record away from New York. But neither the Padres nor D-backs prosper in their own parks, so the Mets have a chance to return home Aug. 14 without their .500 beards.
A chance. Seven victories in nine games would be necessary for them to return to Citi with a .500 winning percentage -- a 57-57 record. No indication, much less a likelihood, exists that any of their fallen players other than Billy Wagner will return by Aug. 14. Moreover, the Mets haven't won seven of 10 games since the end of May.
"This is definitely a crucial time, no question," manager Jerry Manuel said Sunday. "If we don't take care of things now, later on, we'll be doing something for the following year. And we definitely don't want to be in that position."
But Manuel once again reiterated there's still time left for his team to contend this season.
"It's always feasible to make a run," Manuel said Monday. "Getting the players back, that's a whole different deal. We can make a run, but getting the players back, that's still something that's up for debate."
Once they return home, the competition becomes far more formidable -- the Giants, Braves and Phillies at Citi and the Marlins and Cubs on the road; 17 games in 17 days. What sort of record will those 17 games produce?
The standings don't tell the story without some additional calculations. The Rockies, leading the Wild Card race through Monday, can win 89 games this season by playing at the pace they have established through 105 games. Therefore, the Mets would have to win 90 games to pass them. The Mets have played 105 games and would need to win 40 of their remaining 57 games to do so. And 41 of their remaining 57 games are with opponents that, through Monday, had winning records.
The last time any Mets team produced a .690 winning percentage or better for 57 games was from July 18-Sept. 18, 1999. Their winning percentage through 105 games is .476. Enough said?
Despite the numbers, the Mets aren't counting themselves out just yet. After all, they've been on the wrong end of mathematical history in recent Septembers. And 40 years ago on Monday, the Miracle Mets trailed the first-place Cubs by 6 1/2 games.
That team finished 42-18. The 2009 version wouldn't mind showing its ancestors the sincerest form of flattery with a two-month imitation.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.