During a 162-game season, with days off a rarity, workouts are unheard of. But that's what Terry Collins has scheduled for Thursday at Citi Field, where the Mets must wait to begin the second half until the following night against the Phillies.
This isn't just about practice, either. Collins will hold a team meeting in the clubhouse to remind the players that these next 2 1/2 months will serve as the defining moments of their season. Since 2006, the Mets have been second-half flops, including a pair of late September collapses, and Collins doesn't plan on relaxing his grip on the reins after the All-Star break.
"I really believe the second half is when the really good teams step forward," Collins said. "It starts to get hot. Tempers start to flare. That's when the teams really grind it out. We are going to be one of those guys -- we're going to grind it out also.
"We keep talking about situational hitting and you look up the numbers and ours has been pretty stinking good. If we don't hit some home runs, we've got to continue to push the situational hitting to the forefront. It's something we have to get better at."
The Mets were missing two of their biggest power threats in Ike Davis and David Wright, but their .333 on-base percentage was fourth-best in the majors and their .262 batting average ranked seventh overall. They also were third in the majors with 323 walks, behind the Red Sox (345) and Yankees (343).
Combine that with a never-say-die attitude that's produced 169 two-out runs -- tied for the Phillies for the most in the NL and second behind the Red Sox overall -- and the Mets have been a resourceful bunch. While those numbers are nice, the bottom line is reflected in the won-loss record, and the Mets' 46-45 mark has them on the outer periphery of the wild-card race. Rallying from 11 games back to challenge the Phillies doesn't seem realistic, even with 71 games left.
"At this point, our sights are set on the wild card," R.A. Dickey said. "You're looking at Philly and they're not slowing down any. They've got the look of the team to beat, so to speak. We're just trying to get into that playoff contention vibe. Sure we want to catch Philly, but the person we got to catch next guy is the wild-card guy."
That's going to be difficult, too, with the Braves enjoying a sizable 71/2-game lead over their division rival. But there are other factors at work, and perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to a sustained postseason push could come from the front office.
During the next two weeks, Sandy Alderson will be handicapping his team's chances of staying in the race as he takes phone calls from other GMs who covet his players. The Mets are at the tipping point to their season right now, and with Alderson having already traded Francisco Rodriguez, it's clear he's in a dealing mode.
Either way, these Mets -- as we now know them -- need to start this second half much better than the first, when they began the season 5-13. Both Wright and Jose Reyes are expected back July 22, for the open of a 10-game road trip through Florida, Cincinnati and Washington. If Alderson hasn't already decided his course of action by then, that stretch ultimately could decide who stays and who goes.
"I think that will be part of my job, to make sure that they maintain focus if someone is moved from this club who is a high profile guy," Collins said. "My job is to make sure they understand that there is a business side to this game that you've got to be able to play through."