Talent is the Difference With the Mets This Season

Happy clubhouse leads to winning or vice versa?

Wednesday night's rainout meant that all of the media covering the Mets were left to their own devices instead of doing something about the game. Whether they discussed it around the press box or not, they seem to have all settled on the same narrative. Chemistry in the clubhouse and good feelings at Citi Field are fueling this year's improved record.

Kevin Kernan of the New York Post writes that there was a cold feeling around the clubhouse last year caused by a group of players who were simply cashing paychecks and weren't in it together. There have been changes to the roster, but the core of the team remains the same as last year's clockwatchers. Kernan quotes Jeff Francoeur on the subject, an interesting choice since Francoeur didn't come to New York until the season had already gone south and his much-lauded good personality didn't do anything to stem the tide.

Kernan also celebrates the arrival of Rod Barajas, whose Blue Jays didn't benefit from his work in the clubhouse, and Ike Davis. It's interesting, though, that none of the players can offer any insight into how the era of good feelings only exists in Queens while the team continues to flounder every time they leave the borough for away games.

Well, as John Harper of the Daily News will tell you, that's just because the energy in Citi Field is spectacular because Mets fans bullish about this season have been stuffing the joint. The attendance figures, down almost 6,000 a game from last season's average, tell a different story but why let numbers get in the way of a good story?

Overseeing the whole thing is Jerry Manuel, of course, and his calm demeanor is credited with guiding this team through turmoil by Mike Sielski of the Wall Street Journal. Funny how that same calm demeanor was used as a reason why he should be fired a couple of weeks ago and how being cool-headed in the dugout doesn't stop him from still making bizarre in-game moves a few times a month.

This all probably comes off more negative than it is intended. Clearly it is better to go to work in a place with people you enjoy and be in an environment that cultivates smiles. There has definitely been a renewed sense of optimism among Mets fans about their team and Manuel's managerial style has worked when he's got a lineup card full of good players to execute his wishes. 

That's the thing, though. The Mets have been relatively healthy so far this season, they're better in certain spots in the lineup and they've dominated on their field. All in all, their play this season has been a pleasant surprise, but giving chemistry all the credit is a bit short-sighted. It's worth remembering that the Mets are actually a half-game behind their record at this time last year. No one was saying anything about their chemistry then and it didn't get toxic around the Mets until bodies started dropping in rapid fashion.

Chemistry is worth something but it isn't enough to make up for missing key players or not having them in the first place. This isn't a radical thought, either. Ask 10 general managers if they'd rather have Barry Bonds or Francouer, a legitimately good guy in every way, you're going to get Bonds every time. Talent is paramount and nothing else is particuarly close.  

The difference between now and the bad times last year comes down to the talent on the field, plain and simple, and as long as it stays on the field the Mets have a chance to contend for a playoff spot.  

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.

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