-- See Amazin' Avenue for complete discussion and analysis of the Mets
There are just less than three weeks remaining in the New York Mets' season. Let's be 100 percent honest with ourselves here: The Mets were not going to win anything at all this season, but they remained watchable -- there were a lot of great moments (hopefully with more to come) and a number of disasters thrown in there. But if you've watched the season up to this point -- 143 games -- I implore you to not give up just yet. Sure, football season is knocking on our doors, but don't be one of those fans who ignores the Amazin's for their remaining six series once that pigskin is kicked off Sunday.
Here are my reasons to keep tabs on the Mets, despite what will be a fifth straight season without a playoff appearance:
Jose Reyes: The Mets' superstar shortstop has been their property since 1999 -- when he was 16 years old, and a big leaguer since 2003. Despite two disabled-list stints this season, Reyes is enjoying one of his best seasons of his career. He's been worth 5.5 wins above replacement this season, according to Fangraphs, which is 17th-best in the league, and second among shortstops. Sure, he's been an injury waiting to happen for much of his career, but that's really been all that's stopped him. When he's in there, he's an elite top-of-the-order player and an energizing force in the field and at the plate. With five home runs, 87 runs, 35 steals, a .377 on-base percentage and an NL-leading .335 average in 109 games, the 28-year-old has proven his worth when he's on the field. Since I've been born, with about two decades of Mets-watching, there hasn't been a more electrifying Met than Jose Reyes. Yet these could be the last games I witness with Reyes in a Mets uniform, if the Mets don't offer him a contract to his liking. This reason in and of itself is a reason to watch the Mets in September. It will be very sad if we all have to watch him torment the Mets next year in another uniform.
Johan Santana: Yes, that Johan Santana, the one who's missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing surgery to repair a tear of the anterior capsule in his left shoulder last September. The left-hander will make his final minor-league rehab start Friday with Class A Savannah, and if all goes well, it appears very likely that Santana will rejoin the big league club next week. I doubt that two appearances will reveal whether he can still be the Mets' No. 1 rotation option next season, but it will really be a shot in the arm to see him out there throwing again. I think this rotation misses a savvy veteran presence like Santana, especially since it doesn't appear that the front office will go out and get any legitimate top-of-the-rotation guys this offseason. Let's see what he's got.
Lucas Duda: I'll come right out and say it: I really like Duda. All of a sudden, the last three weeks of a season are meaningful for a team that will be going nowhere because the Mets have become very cost conscious. Thus, young players can stake a claim for a spot next year. The No. 1 young player performing his way into a starting role next season is right fielder Lucas Duda. The 25-year-old has been given a shot and has been doing what he did in the minor leagues: hit, and hit both lefties and righties. Duda has a .279 average, nine home runs and 46 RBI on the season. Since the All-Star break, he has really found comfort in constant playing time: with a .307/.385/.548 line and all nine of his homers. This is the type of guy the Mets need to excel with their lower-than-normal payroll. His defense may be subpar, but he's got an advanced hitting approach and will come at a cheap price next season. Plus, he's settled in nicely at the No. 3 spot in the order in front of David Wright.
Young players getting chances: Make no mistake about it, the organization's young players realize they have a chance to be major leaguers because the team won't be paying high prices (besides Reyes) for free agents this winter. The bullpen is another spot that's in flux. All sorts of names have chances, but the big guy is Bobby Parnell, who has had his ups and downs trying to nail down the closer's role. He'll be given more of a shot this year, despite his inconsistencies thus far. The rotation will have a few openings next season, and even though he struggled in his debut, it would behoove the Mets to get a few more looks at Chris Schwinden, who has been a steady but unspectacular pitcher in the minors. It seems the Mets have a lot of great bench players, but nobody who has really distinguished himself as a lead second-base candidate. Turner would appear to be the frontrunner, but with a .264/.331/.356 line (and the way 2B has become an offensive position) and poor fielding stats, the job isn't secure. Plus, if Reyes leaves, Ruben Tejada becomes the shortstop and with Turner at second, that's one weak-hitting middle infield! Nick Evans is another player getting a chance because of Ike Davis' injury and Terry Collins being a huge fan, and he's proving that he can hit major-league pitching. Where is his position, though? That remains to be seen, but he's proven his case as a hitter at least.
Jason Bay/Mike Pelfrey: Let's combine the last two into one and call it the Mets' underachievers of the year, of course in different veins. Bay is making a ton of money and has just a .241/.321/.368 line to show for it. His situation is a mess because the Mets can't afford to keep that production in left field, yet they can't exactly afford to eat his contract, either. If the Mets want to win next year, they make Bay a bench player if a better option emerges (maybe Evans?), unless Bay proves them wrong the rest of the year and Spring Training. Pelfrey is a guy who is playing himself out of New York, and has a chance of not being retained after this year. The de facto No. 1 starter has been terrible this year: 7-11, 4.68 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP is not what you want from your fifth starter, let alone the one who's supposed to be the best! The rest of the year could be telling for Big Pelf.
Those are my reasons to keep an eye on the Mets for the rest of the year. What are yours?