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It’s September yet again and the Mets are no longer contenders in either the Division and Wildcard races. Forced to face another long offseason, Mets fans can actually look back and take a lot of good from what would seem like another dismal season in Queens.
In spring, the Mets came into the season with already low expectations. With the pitching rotation the Phillies put together, the division title seemed all but locked up before a single game was even played. Atlanta put forth a young, talented team, which was expected to be play even better with veteran addition, Dan Uggla. Even the Marlins, with up and coming outfielder, Mike Stanton and ace, Josh Johnson, seemed poised to lead the Mets in the standings. Following a quiet offseason, the Mets gave their critics little reason to think otherwise.
With a 6-15 record in August, the season seemed to be coming to an end even earlier than most Mets fans were used to. Starting with their most consistent starter at that point of the season, Chris Young went out for the year, and the injuries began to pile up. Ike Davis and David Wright hit the DL but with every injury the Mets showed resilience. They went on hot streaks, winning interleague series against some top American League teams and somehow keeping themselves in the Wild Card discussion all the way to the All-Star break.
The Mets instilled hope into their fan base with a 44-37 record in the months of May, June, and July. They gave them reasons to keep filling seats at Citi Field and keeping the cable on SNY. They played with a confidence that their general manager didn’t seem to share. Before the trade deadline, Sandy Alderson shipped off the Mets’ most productive run producer and their closer. But even then, the tenacious Mets didn’t seem to give up.
More importantly, the season highlighted some promising signs for the future of the Mets. During Jose Reyes’ DL stints, Ruben Tejada has played exceptionally at shortstop. With a more patient approach at the plate and a better understanding that he will never hit for power, Tejada offense has improved into a nice supplement to his stellar defense. Dillon Gee has emerged into a strong number two or three guy in a relatively young Mets rotation. Chris Capuano has revived his career and stayed healthy while Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner have proved themselves as able bats that can contribute daily.
The big “if” looming over the Mets this offseason will be their ability to re-sign Jose Reyes. With two stints in the DL, his price may have gone down to something the Mets can more readily afford, but free agency offers nothing close to a guarantee. If they do not get him back, they will still have a young talented infield in Davis, Murphy, Tejada, and Wright. Assuming they stay healthy and get Johan Santana back to anchor the rotation, they could use the money they meant to pay Reyes to fill some other holes in the roster and put forth a team that could fight for a Wild Card spot.
With a strong month of September, the Mets may finish third in the National League East. They will not come close to earning a playoff berth but in the end the season has already been a success. They have exceeded expectations and fought through more than their share of injuries. Come 2012, the Mets fans may just have something to cheer about in September and October.