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The Mets as division winners, an unpopular pick

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The Mets aren’t generally favored to win their division this year, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.

MLB: World Series-Kansas City Royals at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As the New York Mets’ 2017 season is set to begin, nobody is saying the team is bad. But a cursory glance of division and playoff picks made by writers at various national and local outlets reveals that the Washington Nationals are the popular pick to win the division.

By no means are the Mets going into the season as underdogs. While the Opening Day roster—without Steven Matz, David Wright, or Juan Lagares—might not look 100 percent how everyone had hoped back when spring training got started, it’s still in very good shape. And with the Nationals in a relatively good place, too, the teams should produce an exciting, competitive race for the division crown.

For the Mets’ detractors, there are flaws. A lineup that should feature league-average or better hitters at every position most days—and hit plenty of home runs last year—didn’t turn those things into all that many runs scored per game. Several of the team’s pitchers are coming off surgery, and there are some unproven commodities filling out the bullpen behind the duo of Jeurys Familia, who will return from his suspension for Game 16 of the season, and Addison Reed.

To dwell on those concerns as a fan on Opening Day, though, would be a waste. In franchise history, the Mets haven’t been good all that often. When they made the postseason last year, it was just the second time they had ever done so in back-to-back years. Some of that has to do with the changes in playoff format over the years, certainly, as the ‘85 and ‘87 Mets were very, very good teams. But right now, the Mets have a very good chance of setting a new franchise record with a third-straight playoff appearance.

That alone wouldn’t be enough for many Mets fans, and that is fair. Given the position the team is in, it wouldn’t be completely satisfying to see them not win the World Series at least once. Perhaps the Mets will be able to sustain their success over the long haul and we’ll become jaded to the joys of competitive relevance.

We don’t know whether or not that will happen, but we do know that the Mets are good right now—good enough to answer, with a straight face, that you are picking them to win the division. And when they get into a full playoff series, watch out.