What the Hell is Happening?

I have to be honest.  I have no idea what’s going on or what is going to happen.  I’ve never seen anything like this season.

I’ve never seen a starting pitching staff composed of two brilliant yet occasionally erratic pitchers in their forties; two flashes in the pan miraculously resurrected, in their youth, after reasonable people had given up on them; and one middle-level prospect throw-in who steadily starts looking more and more as if he might at least deserve, if not win, the Cy Young award.  Even if there had been a pitching staff like this in the past, I’ll bet it wasn’t the best starting staff in the National League through the first half of the season. 

I’ve never seen a team win 3 out of 16 games, RIGHT AFTER winning 20 out of 30 and JUST BEFORE winning 8 out of 9.   I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a winning team that can looks so good and so bad in such rapid and unpredictable succession. 

This season is nutty with injuries.  Yet here too, it’s not in a conventional way.  Unless you count Martinez, none of the most important players on the team have been affected by this sneaky injury plague.  But almost the whole middle layer of the team is out or has been out for at least 15 days.

The best players on the team are not exactly slumping, but they’re not exactly not slumping.  With the exception, for the most part, of Reyes, they all have more than their share of 0 for 4 days and right in the mix they have days when they dominate.  None except Reyes is at last year’s level, but offense in the league is not at last year’s level.  It seems quite possible that with just a very small increase in production in the second half, Beltran, Wright, and Delgado, could all clear 30 homers and 100 rbis.  All three will once again have their bizarrely identical rbi totals.  Yet, it doesn’t really feel that way.  Still, look at their numbers.  Where did they come from?  Why are we complaining?  Look at the standings.  The number on the left is 46, one of the best numbers in the league.  That’s right, isn’t it?  That feels right, doesn’t it?  Yes and no.

One thing that throws everything off is that the team is lacking focal personalities.  LoDuca was absolutely central to the team’s spirit last year, and for the first part of this year.  But all the bullshit lately may have caused him to lose his footing.  Bullshit (i.e. off-the-field press-related, paper-selling crap) often affects pennant races and offseasons.  Remember when Cone was rattled by the article he wrote about the Dodgers in 1988?  Delgado was our smooth sure rock last year.  I still think he’s a great player to have on the team and a great bat in the lineup, but as a force and an influence, he has faded a little this year.  I am positive that David Wright is going to end the season with something almost identical to his numbers for the past two seasons.  But he seems ill-at-ease this year.  He doesn’t feel like a miracle or a boy wonder.  He feels like a young man struggling to live up to his enormous reputation.  The Mets lack the guy on the smooth and steady tear, the guy who gives the season ballast, the guy we can hold onto in our heads, when it feels like we may be going under.

We are lucky that there are no better teams in our division.  But I’ve rarely gotten to the middle of the season with such a confused sense of how good or not good the Mets are. 

My prediction is that the story of this season will be written in the second half by the unexpected success or failure of injury replacements.  That’s not normally the way things work, but that’s what it may come down to.  That can be really interesting.  And it can be really disastrous. 

Why is it that every time I try to take stock of what is happening this season, I feel like I am saying something obvious, that I am shrugging, that I am helpless and mystified, hopeful but frightened.  It is because I have reason to feel all of these things, along with all of my fellow Mets fans.  I don’t know what the hell is going on.  But I know that I am along for the ride.

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