Terry Collins will have his hands full in trying to prevent the New York Mets from fading out of playoff contention in the second half of the season. They were one of the big surprises in baseball from April until the All-Star break, but the team has many holes and recent history is not on its side.
While it's a little foolish to compare the 2012 Mets to teams of the last five years, I'll do it anyway. Each edition, of course, had its own issues to deal with -- injuries, different personnel, different managers, Bernie Madoff, having Oliver Perez on its roster and, last year, the jettisoning of Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez. But not since 2006 has any Met team performed well post-All-Star break.
We know all about the September collapses of 2007 and 2008, but in the following three seasons, the months of July, August and September have not been kind to the Mets. Each team was hovering around or even over .500 on the morning of July 1, but the season spiraled out of control from there. Here is how each of the last three seasons played out:
2009: Record on morning of July 1: 37-39; August 1: 49-53; Sept. 1: 59-72; final record: 70-92
2010: Record on morning of July 1: 44-34; August 1: 53-51; Sept. 1: 65-67; final record: 79-83
2011: Record on morning of July 1: 41-40; August 1: 55-53; Sept. 1: 65-69; final record: 77-85
This year's team, with Collins at the helm, seems to be different, though. They've easily exceeded expectations up to this point in the season, mainly because there were no expectations. Most pegged them to finish in last place and be a nonfactor in the National League. But due to their outstanding starting pitching and timely, two-out hitting, they've managed an above-.500 record, and it certainly helps that the rest of the NL doesn't really have any powerhouses, taking control of the East Division or wild card race. While one can't really can't quantify chemistry, attitude, hustle and the mental approach to the game, those things do exist (we think) and can make a diffference, and Collins has given his team his own never-say-die spirit.
The Mets have lost a number of games due to their bullpen, along with horrible fielding and just-as-horrible base running, but Collins hasn't let any negative outcomes snowball into a long losing streak. His energy, passion, positive attitude and accountibility have rubbed off on the fans and the whole Met world, changing the perception of the franchise. All that's well and good, but their relief corps has been dreadful, their defense spotty, they can't beat lefty pitching and now their starting pitching depth will be tested with Dillon Gee out of the rotation. Will those factors sabotage their season? With the trade deadline coming up, there may be reinforcements (along with the possible addition of Matt Harvey), but there's no doubt Sandy Alderson will keep his eye on the big picture, and not sacrifice tomorrow for today.
On the 35th anniversay of the lights going out at Shea with Lenny Randle standing at the plate, the lights went out on the Mets again on Friday at Turner Field, this time with Josh Thole ready to hit. But will Terry Collins be able to prevent the lights from going out on his team in the second half of the 2012 season?