From the moment in spring training when general manager Sandy Alderson suggested the Mets were capable of a 90-win season, his comment has served as an albatross for a team that has fallen well short of that standard. They began a 10-game homestand before the All-Star break Friday night needing to win them all just to climb within a game of .500, but Alderson maintained the club "is on the right track."
Alderson's conviction received a much-needed boost when rookie catcher Travis d'Arnaud delivered a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Mets a 6-5 victory over Texas in an interleague game at Citi Field.
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As if on cue, the Mets' bats sparked to life in a three-run first inning that included an RBI single by Bobby Abreu and a two-run homer by Lucas Duda. But by the end of the seventh, they were tied at 4 despite chasing Rangers ace Yu Darvish after only five innings.
The Rangers got solo homers from Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre before tying the score with an unearned run in the seventh. But Abreu walked to lead off the Mets' eighth and Eric Campbell singled for his third hit before d'Arnaud blasted his one-out double to deep right-center. Jenrry Mejia gave up a ninth-inning run but got four outs and the victory.
Alderson drew more criticism recently after telling CBSSports.com that the Mets are "better than their record indicates," and he reinforced that sentiment in a pregame media session. Alderson said the Mets' 11-20 record in one-run games "obscures a little bit the way we've been playing. I think we've been playing much closer to a .500 club. But the record is what it is, so on that basis, I'm certainly disappointed."
He acknowledged that despite his offseason moves to beef up the attack, a lack of hitting has been a problem all season, and he said his comments weren't meant to downplay the won-loss record: "It's really to make sure we don't do something in light of the won-loss record that's not supported by facts."
Despite being well out of playoff contention, Alderson suggested he might be a reluctant seller at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. "I think our team is on the right track," he said. "I don't think we're that far away. So that would indicate some caution when it comes to [trades]."
That caution extends especially to the Mets' wealth of youthful pitching. "I'm always hesitant to trade starting pitching," Alderson said. "We have a number [of starters] both here and at the minor-league level that we like. But it's easy to run through that number in a hurry with injuries and poor performance."
As if to underline Alderson's point, Mets starter Jonathon Niese, who gave up a leadoff home run to Choo, left the game after he was hit in the lower back by a line drive by Alex Rios, the third batter he faced.
Niese, in particular, has been the subject of trade speculation because he's a successful young pitcher under contract. But what kind of hitting help would he fetch?
Alderson noted that trade-deadline "buyers" aren't in the habit of parting with major league-ready hitting while they're in contention. At this point, he isn't interested in stockpiling prospects. Alderson knows the offseason likely provides the best opportunity to add veteran hitters but won't close the door if a good trade-deadline opportunity arises."It's all about what's available in the market at what cost and the assurance -- or the probability, at least -- that it's going to be an upgrade," Alderson said.
Of course, he thought he had upgraded this season with the additions of Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, prompting his 90-win remark. "I didn't set it as a goal," Alderson maintained. "It was an attempt to change a mindset and begin to think about things with some specificity rather than being 'competitive.' It wasn't a prediction."
What he must realize by now is that the mindset of Mets fans depends on the won-loss record.