The New York Mets have one more game left before the All-Star Break, but they’ve already passed the mathematical halfway point of the season. They have a 46-39 record, and are in a virtual three-way tie with the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants for the National League’s wild card spots. (The Reds have a percentage point lead by virtue of playing two fewer games than the other teams.)

If you predicted the Mets would be in this position back during spring training, let’s go in on some lottery tickets – you pick the numbers.

David Wright is putting together an MVP caliber season and is breaking all sorts of Mets career records. (I was in the ballpark when he set the franchise career mark for runs scored.)

Johan Santana

Johan Santana has been remarkable since returning from shoulder surgery. He provided the highlight of the first half – a game that some fans have been waiting 50 years to see – the Mets’ first no-hitter. (I was not in the ballpark for that one – I had to catch SNY’s rebroadcast of the game to really appreciate it.)

As good as Santana has been, R.A. Dickey has been even better. He’s become a national story as he puts together a Cy Young caliber season. Dickey became the first pitcher in more than 20 years to throw back-to-back one-hitters. (I was in the ballpark for the second one.)

After missing more than a month with a quad injury, Ruben Tejada is back and he’s making it easy to forget Jose Reyes. Though there’s a danger in predicting too much, too soon for a young player, it’s easy to imagine Tejada as the Mets’ shortstop for many years to come.

Scott Hairston

Scott Hairston has been phenomenal at hitting home runs off of left-handed pitching – he’s done so well that he shares the overall team lead in homers with Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.

Jonathan Niese and Robert Parnell are both showing signs of developing into the pitchers we hoped they could be.

There’s a lot to be happy about with the 2012 New York Mets – most of all the never-say-die attitude that allowed them to make one ninth inning comeback this week and almost complete another.

But if the Mets are going to make a real playoff run, they can’t be happy with what they’ve achieved so far.

The Mets need to strengthen their bullpen, find a right-handed hitting catcher to complement Josh Thole, and add another right-handed bat to better balance their lineup (they’re 12-20 against left-handed starters this season.)

Nobody expected the Mets to play well enough to contend now, except for Terry Collins. So there might be some temptation to stand pat and see what happens – maybe Jason Bay will come back and hit like the player the Mets thought they signed before the 2010 season. Maybe Mike Nickeas will start living up to the potential he showed during spring training. Maybe players like Josh Edgin and Jenrry Mejia will come up from Buffalo and provide the boost the bullpen needs.

The Mets’ youth movement – aside from Tejada and Niese – has not been an unqualified success. Davis and Duda have been disappointments this year, though Davis at least is showing signs that he might be turning things around. Kirk Nieuwenhuis enjoyed some early success, but he’s having trouble adjusting to the way opponents are pitching to him now. Jordany Valdespin has provided a spark, but what will he do when pitchers stop throwing him fastballs?

The players at the core of the Mets’ success in 2012 are not the kids. Wright is 29, Santana and Dickey are in their 30s. How do you tell them to wait around for the next stage of a youth movement to arrive in 2013 or 2014? (And where are the upper level position players that will be part of that next stage?) How do you tell your fans that the team really isn’t good enough to go for it this year, while still trying to get them to keep buying tickets and coming to the ballpark?

I don’t want to see Sandy Alderson make any ill-advised trades like the one Jim Duquette completed in 2004 that sent Scott Kazmir to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano. But I don’t think I have to worry on that score. The mistake that Duquette made wasn’t in trading his top prospect – it was that he traded his best prospect for a mediocre player who was injured.

I am worried that Alderson and his bosses will get hung up on the allure of an all home-grown team. Watching players come up through the farm system is fun, but you usually have to trade some of those prospects for some of the players you need for your major league team.

I guess over the next few weeks, we’ll find out what Alderson is thinking and where the 2012 Mets are headed.

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About Paul Hadsall

I'm the former editor of a weekly community newspaper and current contributor to Hot Stove Baseball. I've been a New York Mets fan for most of my life and I've been blogging about them, minor league baseball, baseball cards and autograph collecting since 2007. Contact me at paul@randombaseballstuff.com

8 responses

  1. Matt says:

    Great post…This season has been as fun as any in recent memory (My favorite team was the 99 Mets for this exact reason). I don’t want to mortgage the future for a better today.

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    • Paul says:

      I don’t really see it as an either/or proposition. I don’t think Alderson would trade Zack Wheeler or Matt Harvey for a three-month rental player – and I certainly wouldn’t want him to.

      But there’s a danger in holding onto every prospect and waiting for them to reach the major leagues – David Wright is a free agent after next season. Is he going to re-sign if he believes the front office isn’t committed to winning with him?

      Remember, not every prospect pans out – players like Fernando Martinez and Lastings Milledge are far more common than the ones that do.

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  2. I think the Mets need to go for it this season. The Nats are talking about sitting Strasburg in September, and the Braves are no better than the Mets right now. With two Wild Card slots, the Mets should be making the moves you suggested, without giving away their upper-echelon talent. There’s no telling when this kind of unexpected opportunity will present itself again.
    Nice post,
    Bill

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    • Paul says:

      Exactly. We all thought 2006 was the beginning of a potential mini-dynasty. That team never made it back to the playoffs. Bobby Valentine managed a two-year run in 1999 & 2000, but it was the only time in 50 years that the Mets went to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The danger in focusing too much on the future is in letting current unexpected opportunities pass by.

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  3. MJ says:

    So far, I hear Alderson’s big plan is to reacquire K-Rod.

    I guess I’ll have to play the pessimist, here. This team reminds me of the 1976 team that played over their heads most of the year, finishing third. So upper management decided they didn’t need to make any moves in the off season. Why, we’re a pennant winner for sure with one more kid or two from the system. (And its worth mentioning that that era Mets was as cash strapped as the current squad–or just cheap). Do I really have to remind anyone of the disaster that was 1977? The Mets were so low, the basement looked like up. Bye Bye Joe Frazier. Bye Bye King Kong. Bye Bye Tom Terrific. Bye Bye Jon Matlack. It’s a fire sale and everything must go!

    I look at this team and its nice they’ve done as well as they have. But they aren’t a playoff team. Not even close. Not with that bullpen and not with that defense. The problems they have aren’t going to be solved with the quick fix. If they don’t finish last, we should all be very happy. But reality is coming soon and I’d suggest any Mets fan fasten their seatbelts in anticipation of the steep drop that’s coming just over that hill.

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    • Paul says:

      Last place? I don’t think we’re looking at the same division. The Phillies are 12 games under .500 and are reportedly considering trading Cole Hamels and others to restock their farm system. The Marlins have been below the .500 mark for most of the season and just lost Giancarlo Stanton for at least a month to a knee injury. The Braves don’t look any better than the Mets do.

      I don’t deny that the Mets need to upgrade their roster – whether they do it now or in the off-season. But nothing is going to change the results from the first 85 games of the season. They do have a real shot at making the playoffs – remember, two wild card winners join the Division Champions now. But if it’s going to happen, Sandy Alderson needs to help and ownership is probably going to have to come up with some more cash for payroll.

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      • MJ says:

        I would bet you with confidence that the Phillies will finish the season with a better record than the Mets. Let’s see. Hmm. Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay or Johan Santana and RA Dickey? Justin Turner/Danny Murphy and Ike Davis or Chase Utley and Ryan Howard? The Mets don’t even have a Cole Hamels TO trade. The Phils have been as unlucky in the first half as the Mets have been lucky. Generally, that stuff will even out over the course of 162 games and the more talented team will prevail. If you think that, all other things being equal, the Mets are more talented than the Phillies, I’d sure like some of what you’re smoking.

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  4. Freddy says:

    The NL East is anyone’s guess now. It looks like I won’t be receiving a playoff invoice from the Phillies this year.

    The teams that get hot in September will qualify for the post season- whether it be division winner or wild card. This years version of the Cardinals and Rays have yet to be determined.

    That seems to be the trend in sports- last years 9-7 NY Giants as much as it sickens me- of getting hot at just the right time and sneaking in to the post season. Who thought Green Bay would be out in the first round- at home no less.
    The Mets have played well this year- Paul is right- you never know with the young guys if you’ve got Wright or Milledge- its a fine line

    Just ask the Phillies about Domonic Brown.

    Yankees would love to have back Ian Kennedy and Tyler Clippard right now. Imagine if Chamberlain had been traded instead of Kennedy?

    Then again, there have have been lots of cases where guys fall on their face in NY or Boston- only to go somewhere else and become stars

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