I suppose it would be possible to say that the San Diego series was as disheartening as a series can possibly be. I think it would be more accurate to say that it was as disappointing as a series could be. But it wasn’t disheartening.
Look at it this way. If someone were to tell you two weeks ago that on the West Coast road trip, Maine, Martinez, Pelfrey, Santana, and Perez would give the team 5 excellent starts in a row, and that Carlos Delgado’s batting average would be up to .245, you’d have been very happy, right? So be happy.
Look, I know, I know. I know all the counterarguments. Our team this year can’t seem to do anything consistently. It is still locked in the peculiar pattern it has been in since last June, in which everything that advances immediately retreats, everything that fires up suddenly calms down, everything that settles into a groove is soon enough on its back in a ditch.
But listen. As in the 2000 World Series, every game in San Diego could easily have gone in another direction. Doesn’t that mean something, at least if there are a hundred games to go? It’s hard to evaluate a team that loses games like the ones in San Diego. What can you conclude? That Wagner, Schoeneweis, and Feliciano aren’t any good? That is not a legitimate conclusion. What would a legitimate conclusion look like at this point?
Look, the plain blunt fact of the matter is this, and yes this can be said after 62 games, yes I will finally say it and you can tell everyone you first heard it here. Are you sitting down? This is not a great team.
But it is not a bad team either. And if something were to click, something extraordinary could happen. And I’m increasingly of the belief that clicking is just something that happens or doesn’t happen. It is a metaphysical accident that happens when there is a break. I think this team could have a good enough chemistry if a few things broke right. There are no deep divisions or total assholes. And I am suspicious of the theory that pre-existing chemistry or big intense meetings or bench-clearing brawls are what pull a team out of a rut.
What I think is this. The Mets pitching staff is actually quite good. Philadelphia is hitting like something I don’t want to go near, but their pitching is still not good and I doubt that their hitting can stay at anything quite like this level. Florida and Atlanta have, like the Mets and the Phillies, a lot of virtues and a lot of vices.
No one is running away with this. It will be close, it could be exciting, and I would be completely shocked if it is not decided on the last day or two of the season.
My money, soul money, is on the Mets because I do think, seriously, that their pitching is good enough to allow them to emerge from this sorry little pack of the barely above average. Some may tell you that when two or more teams are competing for something, the one that wants it more will win. I don’t believe that for a minute.
I think it comes down to the pitching. And as I take a very big breath and look at the last week, this is what I choose to see. I see five good to very plausible starters and a bunch of relievers who’ve been having excellent seasons. I also see a lineup that for all the injuries, puzzles, and inconsistencies should, under normal circumstances, provide enough runs. I see the kind of material that could cohere with the right kinds of accidents. There are a hundred games left. Could this team win the sixty that will get them to the ninety they will probably need? Maybe.