It has been the best of times, the worst of times and it has once again been the best of times for the Mets this season.
When they were 5-13, everyone was trying to figure out if this team was bad enough to lose 100 games or if they were just a run-of-the-mill 90-loss outfit. During the season opening 3-1 run and the six-game winning streak that ended on Thursday, there was high-minded talk of making a bid for the Wild Card.
Which of these Mets is the real Mets?
The answer is likely somewhere in the middle, which makes sense given the fact that most people thought this was a team that could win anywhere from 75 to 85 games during the 2011 season. With the way that people seem to make and change judgments about the Mets every time a run scores in one of their games, however, this weekend's series with the Phillies stands to make a serious impression on perceptions of the team.
If the Mets can go into Philly and take the series from the Phillies, people will believe that winning streak was something more than a soft part of the schedule yielding fruit. That should get more people out to the ballpark, it should get more people talking positively about the team and create a sustainable buzz about the days and weeks to come.
That doesn't mean they'll actually be a better team, of course. But ignoring the benefits of positive thinking around the franchise after so many years of negativity would be a big mistake. It is better to have people excited about the Mets rather than indifferent, and beating the Phillies would help accomplish that psychic change.
If they get smacked around, however, it will merely reinforce everyone's worst fears about this year's Mets team. A sweep would leave them eight-and-a-half games out of first after a month, a very big number to overcome even with so many games left on the docket, and it would leave them without much to engender support from those withholding it until they have an undeniable reason to get on board.
It's not a bad weekend to catch the Phillies. They've got a bunch of injury problems and their offense has yet to catch fire.
These things are all relative -- they'll still be throwing Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in two of the games -- but the Mets aren't totally overmatched. Everyone will think they are if they lose, but that's something best discussed come Monday.