The Mets did what I wanted them to do - they got back to .500 at 44-44 (actually winning 3 out of 4 from Philly, when I thought they might just split), and they're tied with the Marlins for second place, just a game-and-a-half behind Philadelphia. They're still not playing the best baseball I've ever seen, but they're winning, and they look the best they've looked all season - which isn't saying much for the first half of the year.
Right now, the Mets are 46-44, and there are 5 games left before the All Star break. It seems like they'll go into that break better than .500.
Here's the way I look at the rest of this 2008 season.
When the Mets resume after the All Star break, they'll have 67 games left in the season (not quite the mid-way point). Using the 44-44 point as the re-start for the Mets, what I hope will have been the turning point, here's what needs to happen. I think 90 wins (sadly, it will probably be less), will win the division. That means from 44-44 the Mets need to go 46-28 in their remaining 74 games from Sunday. (They're off to a 2-0 start.)
At the beginning of the year, I would have told you the Mets could go 46-28 with their eyes closed. But obviously, that hasn't been true in practice. Here's why it's possible right now:
1) They have one of the best pitchers in baseball. Lost in this miserable start to the season has been Johan Santana's first season as a Met. There have been adjustments for sure, but he has been very good - the Mets just haven't been supporting him. Overall, Santana is 7-7 with a 2.96 ERA. He has struck out 109 in 121 innings, and walked just 32. The Mets have lost his last six starts. I expect a huge second half, just because they can't keep losing when he's out there.
2) Pedro Martinez* has found his rhythm? I can't say this for sure, but his Monday start in Philadelphia was very encouraging. It was a big game for the Mets, and he came through big. He's still not going more than five or six innings, but if he can keep the Mets in games (and get enough run support, which was probably huge for him), that will be enough. Martinez* is a battler, and wants to go out and be great - that can only be good for the Mets.
3) The offense is playing like it has been expected to. The Mets current four-game winning streak has seen them put up 30 runs (9, 4, 10, 7) and 59 hits (14, 14, 17, 14) - including Tuesday night against one of the best pitchers in baseball, Tim Lincecum - and all of the key players are getting hot - most notably Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Let's not forget the lesson we've talked about with Carlos Beltran the past couple of years - he's a very good second-half player.
The past couple of years, the best team has not represented the National League in the World Series. It's been the team that has gotten hot at the right time. So maybe it's not important that the Mets got off to such a rocky start. Sure, it cost Willie Randolph his job, and it made a lot of people unhappy, but if all continues to go well, the Mets could become that hot team in October. And in that case, it may just prove what we thought at the beginning of the year - that they've been the best team in the National League all along.
A WEEKEND AWAY: Beginning with Thursday afternoon's game at Shea, I'll be in New York for the weekend. If anything major happens, I'm sure the Southern Bureau or Dave in Brighton will keep us posted in the comments, so you can keep checking back. I'll definitely have something to help you pass the three days (and for some teams, four) of the All Star break, so you'll get a baseball fix.
ALL STAR FINAL VOTE: I've talked about this before - but the Milwaukee Brewers have a surprisingly active fan base. I saw it when we saw the Brewers play the Reds in person in Cincinnati, I saw it when we saw them in person against the Nationals in Washington.
They turned out to vote Ryan Braun into the All Star Game, and Corey Hart is leading David Wright in the Final Vote. This is despite my best efforts - I wish mlb.com would limit how many times you can vote - I just keep doing it, and I don't know when to call it quits. I'm like one of those teenage girls holding up a "David Wright, will you marry me?" sign. But now I'm going away, and I've done all I can do for Wright.
I would like nothing better than for the announcement to come while I'm at Thursday's Mets game that the fans voted in David Wright. (I'm pretty sure I was at a Red Sox game the day they announced Johnny Damon got the final vote - I might have been working for a TV station that day...anyway, two different cities, two final vote announcements. That would be cool.) So please help. Click here to vote 100 times, like me, for David Wright.