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Believing (and Not Believing) in the 2010 Mets

Shortly before the Mets’ crack baseball folks heard about Carlos Beltran’s surgery and carefully aimed the rifle at the blasted remnants of their own feet, I spent a good chunk of time contemplating this post [1] by Amazin’ Avenue’s Sam Page. Based on WAR, it showed the pre-Steadmanized Mets as an 83-win team. Page then offered some ways the Mets could add some more wins, through a combination of new moves and better luck in-house. A Joel Piniero signing would net 2 more. A trade of Luis Castillo/prospects for Brandon Phillips and Bronson Arroyo would be worth an eye-popping 5. The addition of any catcher (something even the Mets should be capable of) would be worth 1. In-house, better years from Wright, Reyes, Oliver, Pelfrey (far from impossible with a real infield), Maine and a breakout from Niese would add 7.

You can play with the possibilities yourself over at AA. Add them up, and the Mets are in the 90s, and quite possibly in the postseason. Yes, these same Mets who won 70 games last year and have since decayed in memory to Cleveland Spiders territory. None of the ways of ascending from 83 wins is from the WFAN crackpipe school (“Why doan we, uhhhh, trade Daniel Murphy and dat kid F-Mart to da Cardinals for Albert Pujols?”), as Piniero and the other pitchers discussed by Page are presumably within the Mets’ grasp, and the potential trade with the Reds is at least a possibility.

Maybe it was just the usual effect of changing the calendar and being able to think about spring training, but I was feeling surprisingly optimistic. And while the early-season loss of Beltran knocks a win off of that total, if the Mets make the right moves, they should still be better than OK.

Ah, but there’s that “if” — and that gets us back to Beltran.

The real problem with the Beltran news isn’t the loss of our center fielder until sometime around Memorial Day, though that’s obviously bad enough. It isn’t the risible he-said, he-said mess that’s been all over the papers of late, though that’s embarrassing. It’s that there’s no scenario you can reconstruct in which the Mets don’t look like bumbling fools. (For the record, I suspect Andee had it right the other day: The team doctors and Omar agreed with Steadman’s diagnosis and told him to proceed, only to have Jeff Wilpon freak out and order up a self-defeating media dumb show to assuage his anger.) Whatever the case, the Mets amply demonstrated their own mistrust in Omar, drove a wedge between themselves and one of their best players, and gave the universe of reporters, agents, baseball executives and fans still more evidence for suspecting they’d screw up a one-car funeral. Way to go, gang!

And that’s where all that WAR threatens to fall to pieces. If the Mets can’t manage an unfortunate but apparently straightforward situation in which Carlos Beltran needs knee surgery, can you trust them to swing a potential deal with the Reds that would greatly improve the club? Can you trust them to fill the rest of the off-season’s holes capably? (I was feeling better in this regard before. Now that’s gone.) Can you trust them to make the right moves come June? At the break? At the trading deadline?

For more and more of us, the answer is no. We don’t trust this team. We don’t trust that it’s being run effectively, and so we don’t expect it to win. And so, consciously or not, we harden our hearts and close our wallets.

Ultimately, that’s much more damaging — and harder to fix — than anything in Carlos Beltran’s knee.