Mets as Punchline 2: The New Batch

On Monday, Jim Luttrell penned a post to the New York Times Bats blog that was only a few steps removed from a Bleacher Report SLIDHSOW. Basically, it listed the Mets many ills and asked readers to submit reasons to keep going to CitiField the rest of this season. (That's the sign of quality writing--when you solicit your audience for the punchline to your own joke.) It was cheap and dumb and exemplified the kind of lazy Mets-as-punching-bag writing that, thankfully, we haven't seen much of since April--but which already has stormed back with a vengeance.

Jason Fry of Faith and Fear in Flushing has already taken Luttrell's piece down thoroughly, and so did the Mets themselves did with last night's thrilling win. I suppose I shouldn't expect much better from a newspaper whose trend pieces are now indistinguishable from satires of trend pieces. However, I feel I must push back whenever I hear the WOE IS US! mentality creeps back into coverage of this team.

Now, if you decide that you can't go to any more games this season, I wouldn't blame you in the slightest. Tickets ain't cheap, and the absence of folks like Jose Reyes, Ike Davis, and Johan Santana makes those tickets look even more overpriced. This is not so much a plea for folks to come on out to CitiField! (I'm not Fran Healey, after all) as it is a plea for some perspective.

If you look at this team objectively, and not with a set of Joe Benigno-colored glasses, I think you have to be pleased. To even be sniffing .500 in a year when we were all told they should throw in the towel before Opening Day, while being hamstrung by the useless Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo contracts, is a small miracle in itself. And I don't think this success (mild though it may be) is flukey. It stems largely from a front office that recognizes value. The bit players who have been forced to step in this season contributed far more to the Mets at far less the cost than previous seasons. That in itself is a very good sign for the future.

How the new front office handled the K-Rod and Carlos Beltran situations bodes well, too. In K-Rod, they managed to jettison the closer before his ticking time bomb option for 2012 kicked in. With Beltran, they held firm on their demand for a top-flight prospect, even when the rumor mill suggested they were nuts for doing so. As we all know, pitching prospects are the diciest prospects imaginable, but to get a potential top-of-the-rotation starter for two months of Beltran is no small feat.

I'm also bullish on Jose Reyes' return to CitiField both this season and next. That has less to do with the front office and more to do with my longstanding belief that he simply wants to remain here. Barring him receiving a monster deal from elsewhere--certainly possible, though I feel unlikely given his injury history and the economic fun-times we're all experiencing--I see him reupping with the Mets.

All of these factors give me hope for 2012. I have no idea if Ike Davis or Johan Santana will be back next season (amazingly, the latter seems a better bet than the former right now). I do know that even if they're not, their slots will be filled with effective players who won't break the team's bank. I feel confident that the front office is no longer some flaming Viking ship of doom careening off into the horizon as the Wlipons and Omar Minaya fling heavy bags of money over the side.

I could be wrong, of course--it's happened before. If the Mets don't resign Reyes, that would be a big blow the team on many levels. And I certainly don't think the front office is infallible. The news that the Mets are considering moving Murphy to the outfield is the most curious (to put it mildly) bit of thinking I've heard from the Sandy Alderson regime. When Santana returns, I'm sure he has some footage from a game in Miami he'd be happy to submit for The Case Against.

I don't expect the Mets' beat to be full of sunshine just after Murphy and Reyes go to the DL, and they suffered their third crushing defeat in a week (the two Marlins games being the others; let us never speak of them again). But I simply can't be that negative when it comes to this team. For one thing, a reasonable examination of their long-term outlook does not warrant such an attitude. For another, there's far too many negative things going on in the world at this moment. I can't let this thing that is essentially a lark be crushingly negative, too. Nobody should be looking at the Mets as the same sort of entertainment experience as a Werner Herzog movie.

If you do need a compelling reason to go to the ballpark, how about the fact that it's the summertime and baseball is fun to watch? How about because before you know it, it'll be winter again and you'll be shoveling your driveway and dreaming of days like this when you could hop on the 7 train and go watch a ballgame? How about because Mets really aren't that bad? We've had some truly awful teams in Queens, and not all that long ago; this one does not rank among them.

For those who care to look, the Mets are actually far less of a punchline than they've been in recent years. For the lazy and the negative, I hope snark and bitterness make good blankets, because there's a long, cold winter coming.

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