Bright Sides and Dark Clouds: The Mets After the Subway Series

Two straight losses to Yankees can't obscure rest of road trip

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Johan Santana

    The Mets have won 12 of their last 15 games. They've won eight of their last 10 and, after a season of utter futility away from Queens, they just won seven of nine games on a road trip. They are two-and-a-half games out of first and heading home for six games.  

    The Mets lost two straight games to the Yankees. They lost two games in the standings to the Braves during those games and now have to host strong teams from Detroit and Minnesota.  

    You're free to choose either description of the state of the Mets. One is clearly more positive than the other, but it's no more accurate a description of current events for Jerry Manuel's band of merry men. Like half a glass of water, the Mets offer something for every outlook on life. 

    The optimists can look at the way a rotation has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the Mets careers of John Maine and Oliver Perez and see reason to feel hopeful about the summer. Jon Niese is showing signs of breaking through, R.A. Dickey is fluttering his way into a special place in the hearts of Mets fans and Hisanori Takahashi is a marvel to watch unless you're hitting against him. Suddenly it doesn't hurt so much if Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana stumble during their starts because you have more than a punchers chance in the other three games that week.

    While the optimist points out that Santana just had one bad inning in Sunday's loss, the devil on your shoulder is quick to jump in with the unshakable feeling that the lefty isn't all the Mets need him to be. He's not getting swinging strikes, he's not forcing hitters to chase pitches out of the zone and isn't finishing batters off as he did in the past. That's not to say that he's a bad pitcher, because he isn't but he may not be a dominating one anymore.

    The bright side of that is that Pelfrey appears to be ready to at least challenge for the mantle of team ace. He wasn't terrible in his loss to the Yankees, although one prone to finding the flaws will point out that he's now got six walks and three strikeouts over his last two starts. Such a figure would also point out that half a season does not make an ace starter, no matter how good Pelf has looked at times. 

    Mr. Brightside doesn't want to hear any of that guff. He'll point to Jose Reyes coming alive at the plate and on the basepaths and to David Wright's steadiness in the face of overwhelming criticism when he wasn't playing that poorly in the first place. There's the emergence of Ike Davis and Angel Pagan and, depending on the week, Jeff Francoeur still swings (and swings and swings) a dangerous bat. Rod Barajas has been an unexpected bonus to the offense and Jason Bay has balanced out his lack of thump at the plate with good defense, smart baserunning and a leader's spirit.

    Ah, but Bay isn't getting $16 million-plus per year to be a good guy who does what he can to make up for his lack of power. Things actually seem to be moving in the wrong direction for him at the plate this month and the Mets are going to need more than he's giving to stay in this race. And, since we're on the topic, Barajas has also fallen into a black hole offensively. 

    The team has shown a willingness to change courses, though, and there's no reason to think they won't bolster the current group to help assure a contender grows in Queens. They dumped Maine and Perez, Jenrry Mejia finally moved back to the minor leagues where he can polish his arm and they've embraced talent wherever they've found it this season. The pessimist must concede this point and, in the interest of not beating a dead horse, holds his tongue about all the moves of the current regime before this season started. 

    In the end, even the darkest heart among the Mets faithful must agree that there's something to be said for winning. It doesn't mean that all is well and it doesn't mean that there won't be wild swings between now and the end of the season, but baseball comes down to wins and losses. The Mets are winning more than they're losing as summer gets underway which has to count more than most of the above.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.