After Thursday's dismal 6-1 loss, which wrapped up the Cubs' tidy three-game sweep at Citi Field, we had only two questions.
One, do the Mets realize what serious trouble they're in?
And two, do they even care?
Aside from Jacob deGrom knocking out a Gatorade cooler -- wisely using a glove to buffer his pitching hand -- the Mets showed little fight in going down meekly to the Cubs. And once they got behind 4-1, forget it.
"You could sense the air coming out of the balloon" is how Terry Collins described the dugout once Jonathan Herrera's two-run homer skipped off the top of the rightfield wall.
Wow. Just wow.
A three-run deficit? In the sixth inning? And the Mets were ready to start packing for the West Coast? Inexcusable.
But Collins wasn't exaggerating. Wilmer Flores was the only Met to reach base after that with a one-out double in the seventh. Flat, lifeless, apathetic. Use whatever adjective you'd like. The Mets didn't get blown out, but this felt like a top-five loss.
And there's no reason to believe it's going to get any better. Not with this group, and definitely not by shuffling around where these Mets bat in the lineup. They lost behind deGrom, their best pitcher. So why should we expect anything different with anyone else on the mound?
Harvey, Syndergaard, Matz. For as many zeros as they put up, their own "hitters" are all too capable of matching them. And once those arms burn out in the sixth, seventh or eighth after surrendering a run or two, what's the chance they'll have a lead? Or that the bullpen, other than Jeurys Familia, can protect it?
With Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke waiting at Chavez Ravine, those probably are moot points. The only thing the Mets accomplished Thursday was to snap their scoreless streak at 22 innings on back-to-back doubles by deGrom and Curtis Granderson in the third. Amazingly, however, some Mets chose to gloss over the recent futility.
"The sky isn't falling," Daniel Murphy said. "What are we, .500? It definitely could be worse. The season isn't over. It's not even the All-Star break yet."
Murphy just came back from a month on the DL, so we'll forgive him for sounding out of touch. If the Mets don't wake up, their manager could be gone after this West Coast trip and any hope of contention will be history by the end of July.
That's not some media-created scenario, cooked up the "citizens of Panic City," as Sandy Alderson gleefully dubbed reporters Sunday after the Mets finished off their sweep of the Reds. The Mets are 27-37 since their 11-game winning streak and have been held to zero or one run 21 times this season. These are cold, hard facts to go with what you're seeing on the field.
"In our game, perception is reality," Collins said. "It may not be true, but to the people's eyes that watch it, it's reality."
Right now, the perception is bad. And the reality is worse.
And Collins doesn't have a prayer of surviving it without some infusion of talent from somewhere. The Mets again were without Michael Cuddyer, and there's no guarantee his aching knee will be any better after the six-hour flight to Los Angeles. Collins was encouraged by a phone conversation with David Wright, but even if he's cleared for limited baseball activity Monday, we can't envision him returning before the end of July. By then, it could be too late.
The Mets can try a Hail Mary by promoting Michael Conforto from Double-A Binghamton -- well before schedule -- but that might throw a wrench into his careful development.
A trade? We're not sure what Alderson is waiting for. Does he want to fire Collins first?
More and more, it's looking that way, and Collins sounded as if he were down to his last bullet after the game, telling the clubhouse to "lighten up" and try to have fun again. In this setting, that's like bringing a karaoke machine to a funeral.
His other suggestion?
"The only thing left is human sacrifice," Collins said. "So we got to pick somebody."
There's too many candidates. Unfortunately for this manager, the choice won't be his.