Mets must ignore the narratives

by Paul West

The New York Mets have come a long way.

At the start of the year, they were a hopeful team with a promising young pitching staff, and they allowed themselves to hope they could contend. Now, the Mets are not just the talk of the town but of baseball far and wide. They’ve risen to fifth in the MLB power rankings, and suddenly they’re a hot topic. The National League East is being discussed as theirs to lose–but as good as things look, the Mets haven’t clinched anything yet, despite the narratives swirling around their pennant chase.

Wright, Cespedes and the Mets must ignore the chatter surrounding their pennant chase.
Wright, Cespedes and the Mets must ignore the chatter surrounding their pennant chase.

WILL THEY RE-SIGN CESPEDES?

Here’s the thing: it’s understandable to fret over keeping the most statistically explosive mid-season acquisition (maybe ever?) since Manny Ramirez went to the Dodgers and put himself in the MVP conversation. But it’s also, to use a much overused cliche, quite a distraction. As of now, Yoenis Cespedes is showing every indication that he loves playing here; he even recently restructured his contract in a way that would make it easier for the Mets to re-sign him. Cespedes is having a blast, literally and figuratively, and the Mets should continue to feed off his energy for as long as they can. If he helps lead them to baseball’s promised land, then let the fretting begin about whether he’ll stay or go. For now, he’s here…and the Mets have struck gold in getting him.

WILL BORAS DRAG HARVEY AWAY?

Another thing Mets fans worry about is the influence that agent Scott Boras will have on Matt Harvey. Boras recently exercised poor diplomacy in his public statements regarding Harvey’s innings limit; while the matter is certainly worth considering, it’s widely believed that Boras’ interest in his investment far outweighs any interest in the Mets’s fate. The idea has even been floated that the Mets should pre-emptively trade Harvey, in lieu of losing him to their crosstown rivals once he becomes a free agent. Again, this matter is worthy of consideration–after the season is over. For now, the Mets need to figure out how to maximize both Harvey’s health and his effectiveness in October baseball. Take a second and re-read that, Mets fans: October baseball.

The Mets have won in a variety of ways, expected and unexpected.
The Mets have won in a variety of ways, expected and unexpected.

IS THIS A MAGICAL SEASON?

The Mets have, in about six weeks, made one of the most remarkable offensive turnarounds in baseball history. They’ve stormed not just the NL East but baseball at large, finding new and exciting ways to win day after day. “This is a team that just doesn’t know how to lose,” gushed longtime announcer Gary Cohen, and indeed it’s sometimes seemed that way. The Mets have gotten game-winning contributions, big hits and stellar pitching at just the right times, from expected and unexpected sources. It’s tempting, and understandable, to declare them this year’s Cinderella story. And while the power of belief can be enormous–especially for a team whose motto is “Ya Gotta Believe”–the Mets would be unwise to take anything for granted. There’s a fine line between thinking you have a chance to win every day, or even expecting to win, and thinking that wins are predetermined. Contrary to recent events, five-run deficits are not easy to overcome and should not be taken lightly. The Mets want to return to clicking on all cylinders in time for the postseason, so they can back up their power of belief with wire-to-wire execution.

ONE GAME AT A TIME

As of this afternoon, there are 17 games left in the season–exactly how many were left in the year whose shadow still looms over the organization. The team behind the Mets is heating up and playing with desperation. The best thing the Mets can do is–to use another cliche–take it one win at a time, and do their best to win a division that few believed they could win. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Step one is the National League East.

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