When the Mets were 5-13 this season, you could have gotten pretty good odds on a bet that they would head to the All-Star break with a winning record, even though Ike Davis, Jose Reyes and David Wright were all on the disabled list.
It isn't the way anyone would have drawn it up, but that's just where the Mets, 46-45 at the close of business on Sunday, find themselves with the midsummer classic upon us this week. The record is a testament to the job Terry Collins has done in the dugout, the work Sandy Alderson did filling out the fringes of the roster and the brilliance of Reyes until the point he hurt his hamstring.
Given the dire predictions about where this season was heading, that kind of performance should be causing nothing but smiles for those who care about the team. There were red flags all the way up to the owner's box, but none of them have ruined the season to this point.
Yet there isn't overwhelming optimism in the kingdom. People are pleasantly surprised, but a reserve remains around the team as they wait for the start of the second half.
Part of that has to do with the fact that they are still 7.5 games out of a playoff spot, but this weekend's games were a good shorthand for why people haven't gone all in with this team yet. The offense sputtered whenever runners were on base in losses to Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, the defense was sloppier than it should have been for a team without the ability to put up big runs and the absence of the missing pieces was glaring against a team that has a good shot of playing in October.
The other side of things was seen on Friday night when the Mets, looking dead and buried against Brian Wilson and his dastardly beard, rallied to win after Scott Hairston touched the closer for a homer. They rallied off Wilson again on Sunday before falling short, but not before providing a sign of this team's eternal belief in itself.
Those missing pieces should all be back soon and the Mets actually got good news about all three (plus Johan Santana) over the weekend. They aren't going to be back right away, though, and that's a scary proposition with three games against the Phillies right after play resumes at the end of the week.
That's the tricky thing about the Mets this season. Every good thing that happens is met with a splash of cold water that makes it very difficult to totally buy into the unlikely, if enjoyable, continuation of their 41-32 run since that brutal start of the year.
Wait for the return of the missing four stars and the Mets will pass on a chance to cash in some chips that could return assets that will help the team over the long term. The harsh realists will point out that the Mets weren't all that great when everyone was healthy and that their success over the final months won't amount to much without a few collapses elsewhere in the National League.
If you do decide to wave any kind of white flag, though, you'll kill the good feelings generated by this team and guarantee that you'll be playing out the string. It might be the prudent move for the future, but sacrificing the present is rarely endearing.
You can come up with a dozen arguments about why the Mets' record should be different than it is at the break, but all of the supporting evidence makes it clear that it accurately represents the state of the team. The question now is if it will remain that way for the rest of the year.