Leading up to the 2012 season, most baseball observers (including this one) figured the New York Mets would need everything to break right for them if they had any hope of playing .500 baseball. Maybe if they got really lucky, we would even see the Mets compete for a Wild Card spot.
Turns out, things have not gone the Mets way through the first quarter of the season. They lost Mike Pelfrey, Jason Bay and Ruben Tejada to injury and the bullpen has been a non-stop roller coaster. Still, here we are 44 games into the season and the Mets are over .500 (22-20 entering action on Tuesday) just one game away from the final Wild Card.
How did a team expected to be in the basement of the National League fight off injuries and inconsistencies to stay relevant? They followed their leader, David Wright.
Since being called up in 2004, the Mets fans and front office alike have been waiting for Wright to lead this team. Through the years there was always something seemingly preventing the third baseman from taking total control of the squad. There's no arguing he was a fantastic player, but Wright was never the clear cut leader.
After New York traded away Carlos Beltran and were unable to re-sign Jose Reyes -- two of the best to put on a Mets jersey in recent memory -- the light focused on Wright brighter than ever before. There was no question who needed to lead the way for this franchise into the face of low expectations and a murky financial future and Wright has answered the bell.
Not only is Wright leading all of baseball in hitting by nearly 40 points with his .412 average, but he also raised eye brows (in a good way) with a spirited discussion with manager Terry Collins after being lifted from a game to prevent him being caught in the middle of a bean ball war.
We've seen over the years screaming and yelling does not equal production for players or managers, but this was a perfect example of how Wright has changed. If someone needed to take one for the team, there was no question in his mind he was the man for the job. It is his team and if that means paying for the sins of his bullpen, then so be it.
Of course, Wright has not carried the Mets above their lowly expectations by himself. Certainly Johan Santana (3.24 ERA) and R.A. Dickey (3.75) have brought stability to the front of the rotation and inexperienced players like Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter have provided a spark when needed in the face of injuries in the outfield.
If the Mets manage to get Ike Davis (.161, 41 strikeouts) and Frank Francisco (1-3, 2 blown saves, 7.56 ERA, 2.04 WHIP) even remotely on track, this is a team that just might stick around in the playoff race until the very end.