Mediocrity Never Looked So Good

Why has this Mets team captured so many hearts?

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Even Scott Hairston found a reason to smile.

    They say that style points don't count in sports, but the Mets are doing their best to disprove this maxim.

    You don't get any more runs during a game or wins during a season, that's true, but style counts for an awful lot when you're being evaluated by the guys watching the games. And the 2011 Mets have flashed a mighty appealing style over the first 65 games of this season.

    How do we know this? Easy, they're 32-33 after Sunday's 7-0 win over the Pirates and earning all kinds of platitudes for the way they play the game and the effort that they bring on a nightly basis.

    They have definitely earned such warm thoughts, but you can't help but notice that each of the last two Mets teams got no such pats on the back even though they were at .500 or better at this point of the season or later.

    What's more, this entire season has been played under the growing spectre of darker days to come thanks to Freddie Wilpon and the Shrinking Payroll. That Harry Potterish subtitle to the season should be buying this team about as much goodwill as spiking the Shake Shack burgers with arsenic, yet people are pretty chuffed about what they've seen from the Mets on the field thus far.

    What accounts for the change in response to a team that is, at the end of the day, supposed to be judged on how much they win and lose? Start at the top and go from there. 

    Sandy Alderson has been serious and honest where Omar Minaya surrounded himself with chaos and transparent attempts to make things seem better than they were.

    While Minaya has probably not gotten enough credit for acquiring almost every player responsible for smiles this season, he certainly can't get blamed enough for creating an organization that gave the impression of incompetence even when they were doing the right things.

    Seriousness is something that Terry Collins has in buckets. Maybe he will prove to be wound too tightly at some point in the future, but that's okay after watching two full seasons of Jerry Manuel waking up from naps in the dugout to mutter incomprehensibly before settling back into a snooze.

    Those things give a team battling for .500 a different patina than the ones that eroded support so regularly over the last two years. But they don't fully explain why people are actually feeling good about a Mets team that still isn't ticketed for all that much.

    Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes account for the rest of the explanation. Watching really good baseball players do their thing on a daily basis is a marvelous thing and it is something that we didn't get to do because of injuries. 

    We'll leave out the second half of the Beltran-Reyes equation because you've surely heard enough of it already. The point is that the right approach and a healthy sprinkling of elite talent goes a long way toward covering up the myriad other flaws of a baseball team.

    At the end of the day, it's still mediocre and will probably remain that way. It's been a long time since mediocre looked this good, though.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.