by Paul West
Just a few weeks ago, the New York Mets were struggling to stay afloat. Beset by an astounding flurry of injuries to some of their most counted-on players, predictions regarding their postseason chances were dire. The number of people who still believed the Mets might turn it around began to dwindle further. Nonetheless, they plugged away. Yoenis Cespedes‘ quad got healthy, and he began to lead the charge as Wilmer Flores provided timely hits and relative unknowns like Gabriel Ynoa and Robert Gsellman provided clutch efforts on the mound. Jose Reyes has been a man reborn, infusing the lineup and clubhouse with his signature energy while providing the more tangible assets of his speed, versatility and occasional power. Jeurys Familia has continued to prove himself an elite closer, even when the Mets’ defense makes things hard. And in what’s seemed like a month-long blur, the Mets have won seven of their last eight series–only interrupted by recently losing two of three to the Washington Nationals, and capped with a weekend-long sweep of the Minnesota Twins.
The Mets now have sole possession of the top spot in the National League Wild Card race, which would grant them home field advantage in the Wild Card game. And accordingly, the prevailing narratives have changed. Fangraphs put the Mets’ postseason odds at 88.9 percent as of earlier today, and Baseball Prospectus had their odds up to 89.5 percent. But the Mets have made their climb, in part, because they have ignored those who once trumpeted their demise; they must now, similarly, ignore those who declare their postseason berth a certainty.
The Mets have risen from the edge of elimination by relying on their own power of belief, as well as the support of those who never lost faith in them. But they would be foolish to now believe the prevailing hype, which suggests that a ‘weak’ schedule and other factors make them suddenly the Wild Card favorite. The Mets are still relying on contributions from largely unproven players, players with relatively little experience. There is precedent for this, but it doesn’t mean it’ll be easy; this is where the primary strength of manager Terry Collins is most relevant. Collins has proven himself one of baseball’s best at sustaining the team’s morale through injury and adversity, and he’ll need to keep the Mets plugging away if they’ll make it back to the postseason to defend their National League title. He’ll have to do it without the services of Jacob deGrom, along with the continued absences of David Wright and Matt Harvey and the more recent departures–yes, of course, due to injury–of Flores and Steven Matz. But Michael Conforto is showing signs of returning to form, Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares are easing back into active duty, and if the past few weeks are any indication, the Mets will be dangerous if they can make their way back to the playoffs.