As the Mets hit the one-quarter mark of their season this week, they do so without offering a clear picture of how good they are.
They opened the year with 10 wins in their first 11 games, with big hits and decent starts and excellent relief pitching. Since then, as they began their week Tuesday with a rain-delayed game against the Blue Jays at Citi Field, they had lost 17 of 25 games, with an unimposing lineup, unreliable production from the rotation and inconsistent bullpen work.
Sprinkled in were seemingly minor injuries to their best pitcher, best hitter and third baseman; the loss in a span of hours of their original starting catcher duo due to injury; deep slumps for many of their other quality batters, especially Michael Conforto; the trade of their one-time ace; the injury-induced prolonged absence of an important late-inning arm, Anthony Swarzak; and the embarrassing act of batting out of order last week in Cincinnati.
It’s been an eventful month and a half. But who are the real Mets?
“I like to go by the old adage that you’re probably never as good as you think you are and you’re never as bad as you think you are,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “I think we’re somewhere in the middle, which would be a pretty good team.”
Callaway seemed not to believe in another adage, this one not so old: You are who your record says you are. For the Mets, that would be a middling fourth-place team.
“To get caught up in expectations, actual records, streaks, slumps is slumping that I can’t afford to do,” Callaway said. “All I can do is come to the field every day and make sure we’re trying to be as prepared as possible to go out there and do everything we can to win. We’ll see what the results are after that.”
That even-keel demeanor from the Mets’ first-year manager has been one of the only consistencies in their up-and-down quarter-season. General manager Sandy Alderson noted that quality as a reason he likes Callaway’s work, citing his attitude in his postgame news conferences following the many early wins and many most recent losses.
(If anything, Callaway has been more upbeat and energetic after some of the losses than he was during the Mets’ nine-game winning streak in April.)
“I like him more than I did in our first interview,” Alderson said. “He’s straightforward. He owns his mistakes. He’s creative. He learns from the experiences that he’s had. Very positive. I’m pretty pleased with what Mickey has done so far.”
The same is true of the Mets overall, Alderson said. The front office believed heading into spring training believing the Mets were a good team. The same was true as spring training ended. The first two weeks validated those beliefs to an extreme. The ensuing weeks, not so much.
Entering Tuesday night, the Mets ranked 9th in the National League in runs per game (4.14, worse the league average of 4.34), and 11th in runs allowed per game (4.51, worse than the league average of 4.29).
“We’re still very bullish, but we have to play better than we have over the last two or three weeks,” said Alderson, adding that the schedule, weather and consistent play have contributed to the uneven start. “There’s been a variety of factors. But we need to improve overall [compared with] the past couple of weeks.
“We have to score more runs. When you’re not scoring runs, it puts pressure on everybody. It puts pressure on the defense, pressure on the pitching, pressure really on the entire game.”