Off with the rose-colored glasses. Yes, Mets batters have struck out 61 times in their first six games. Get used to it.
"We're going to strike out," said a clear-eyed Terry Collins, who somehow has kept his sanity and his optimism through three-plus seasons of managing a 227-265 team. "The middle of our lineup, because of the kinds of hitters they are, they're going to strike out."
Collins was asked Sunday about his level of concern after one of his team's rare rallies -- runners on second and third with one out in the third inning against the Reds -- withered when Daniel Murphy and David Wright whiffed in succession.
And after Wright was hit by a pitch with two outs in the sixth, Curtis Granderson promptly fanned.
Collins argued that "the more comfortable they get" as the season goes on, "probably you're not going to see David and Murph strike out much."
But overall, "you talk and talk and talk about your strike approaches . . . It's easy to talk. It's hard to apply sometimes."
Also, their history is working against them. Just last season, Granderson -- then with the Yankees and limited by injuries -- struck out once every 3.5 plate appearances. Ike Davis' strikeout rate was a bit lower, every 3.7 plate appearances. And Lucas Duda's was lower yet, 3.8. (Wright's strikeout frequency was 6.2, Murphy's 7.3.)
No less a hitter than Ted Williams once declared that baseball "is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of 10 and be considered a good performer."
Fellow Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle once calculated that in his 18 big-league seasons, he struck out and walked so often that it amounted to him "playing seven years without ever hitting the ball."
Anyway, the point is that the Mets knew what they were getting with this lineup. Granderson was brought on board to boost the team's power, but with that came an average, in the seven years before his short 2013 season, of 149.6 strikeouts per year. In 2006 with the Tigers, he led the American League by striking out 174 times. In 2012, when he hit 43 home runs for the Yankees, he struck out 195 times.
Travis d'Arnaud, the Mets' new hope behind the plate, averaged 5.3 plate appearances per strikeout in his brief first taste of the majors last year. Juan Lagares, whose defensive competence appears to have won him the centerfield job, went 4.4 appearances per strikeout in 2013.
If it sounds as if there will be more famine than feast for the Mets, Collins answered the only way a manager can.
"It doesn't get easier," he said. "We don't play once a week, and if you let [a failure] tonight get to you, it's going to happen a lot.
"You gotta bounce back, start swinging the bats better. That's why it's a great game. There's no answers, no easy way out. It's work. Those guys who can grind it out are the ones who are going to be successful."
But only, at best, a third of the time.
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