A First Half of Changing Fortunes Comes to an End

Mets start closing out first half by trying to close out the Phillies

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, Jul 3, 2012  |  Updated 1:34 PM EDT
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The Mets could be boogieing in a graveyard by Thursday.

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One team enters Citi Field on Tuesday night trying to decide whether to punt on their season before the trading deadline and the other comes in trying to decide whether or not to make moves to bolster their chances at making noise in the playoffs. 

Back in March, you probably could have predicted that would be the case when the Phillies rolled into town to celebrate the July 4 with the Mets. Unless you were Terry Collins, you probably had the teams in the wrong spot, though.

It's the Mets who start the week fighting for a spot in the playoffs while the Phillies try to figure out if they should be selling everything that isn't nailed down in an attempt to make something of a season that's gone hideously wrong. There are worse ways for the Mets to celebrate kicking out the redcoated British than to put the final nails in the coffin of the redhatted Phillies.

Philly is 36-45 and 11 games out of first place, which makes the mathematics pretty clear. If they can start moving the other way in the six games before the break, they can stay in and hope that returning players like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard can tilt things in their direction.

If they lose, though, it is time to think about dealing Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino. That's a big step for a team that's won as much as Philly has won in the last few years, so, again, it would be pretty sweet for the Mets to be the one to deliver one of the final blows.

Sandy Alderson is facing the flip side of the question that vexes Ruben Amaro. How does he respond to the fact that we're halfway through the season with the Mets in the thick of contention? 

The team clearly needs help in the bullpen, which has brought Francisco Rodriguez's name back into discussion. As much as K-Rod fits from the standpoint of price (if the Mets pay his salary, they won't have to give up much in the way of prospects) and performance (he's added a tick to his fastball), but it has a whole Javier Vasquez back to the Yankees feel of something that failed once and shouldn't happen again.

That's a totally intangible feeling with nothing supporting it so do with it what you will, but the basic need for the Mets is to shore up their relievers without doing anything to deviate from what they've done to build the system. If there are other similar moves to improve the defense or depth, same general idea.

Anything more than that would run in the face of the fact that the Mets get a ridiculous amount of their value from just three players -- David Wright, R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana -- and that signals a need for more work than can be done at the trade deadline. Unless the Mets' playoff chances tilt much more positive than the current 50 percent, anything splashy isn't a worthwhile risk.

The team they've got isn't doing too bad, of course, and that's why they've got a shot to win some very satisfying games over the next three days.

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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.

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