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Pleasantly Warm in Cleveland

I was checking my trusty 2010 Mets pocket schedule and every single last one of the boxes — be it orange, bronze, silver, gold, platinum or road gray — indicates we play OPP. Naughty By Nature [1] notwithstanding, that’s shorthand for Opponent. I don’t care if everybody else’s 2010 Mets pocket schedule says we’re following BAL by playing CLE, or that both prominently feature L in their abbreviation scheme. The point is the Mets play who they play, and since last Thursday when Jon Niese one-hit SD, they’ve been compelled to collect WWW after WWW. We’ll take ’em as they deal ’em.

If we didn’t, we’d be the first team in the history of this grand game (give or take a few crooked Eight Men Out types) to refuse wins we earned. And make no mistake, we earned ours Wednesday night at Progressive Field [2], even if the earning was simply a matter of handing Mitch Talbot a baseball and our hitting it to various of his teammates who wore, as they used to say of Michael Jackson, one glove for no apparent reason.

The Indians appear to be a supbar baseball team, which is to say they’re better than the Orioles and worse than almost everybody else. Both teams are OPP to us, however. That’s who we are to everybody we play. Last year we were desperately subpar. I don’t recall any of the teams who beat up on NYM in 2009 filing a protest with the commissioner’s office that outscoring the Mets wasn’t worthy of a W or three.

Got an issue with the caliber of the competition? That’s a different OPP: Other People’s Problems.

Yet here I sit, hours after watching the Mets remain pleasantly warm in Cleveland, attempting to come to grips with the notion that we’re hot. Of course we’re hot. We’ve won six in a row, ten of eleven, 17 of 22. You don’t need Paris Hilton to tell you that’s hot. Yet…

Could it be real? Could the Mets really be this good? These Mets over whom we doomed and gloomed all winter and during every previous road trip, including the one directly prior to the current expedition? Or is it just circumstantial, a matter of playing the dreadful Orioles and lousy Indians after a 5-1 homestand which itself only proved so much because we almost always win at home (as if that was pre-ordained)?

How did Angel Pagan become a heads-up baseball player? When did Jeff Francoeur turn into a generally liability-free batter? How has Jason Bay managed to not produce all that much yet seem reasonably productive? Why is it not nonsenscial to suggest Rod Barajas is an All-Star? Whatever happened to that solemn post I came thisclose to writing less than a month ago about bracing for the day we might have to move on from one or both of David Wright and Jose Reyes? Why don’t Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada seem like rookies? And when did Jon Niese become Jon Matlack?

This has been a fun trip to Baltimore and Cleveland. The five wins in five tries have been fun, but more than that, it’s been the height of fun to realize we are so much better than other teams, even these other teams to this point. We’re nine games over .500. Even if it’s based on beating up on teams that are, respectively, struggling under .400 and .300, it’s still lofty territory for a franchise whose final winning percentage last year was a scuffling .432. The O’s and the Tribe are on the schedule, right? It’s when you don’t beat teams like that enough that you become one of them.

It wasn’t so long ago we took the ability of the Mets to lord it over lousy teams as implicit. For three recent seasons we were indisputably one of the better clubs in baseball. We expected to beat teams like these Orioles and these Indians. It was when we didn’t that it was Angst City all night long. Now we beat them, and we beat OPP 17 of 22 times, and it doesn’t quite feel real. Yet the standings say it is. Maybe “real” isn’t the word I seek. Is “legitimate”? Well, the games aren’t fixed, so yeah, it’s legit. Will the Mets cruise less when they play a markedly better brand of OPP, which they’ll be doing beginning Friday and continuing to do for several weeks?

I guess we’ll see. I didn’t see 5-0 on the road, 10-1 since we looked significantly shy of par in Milwaukee and San Diego and 17-5 overall. I didn’t see 37-28 after 65 games, certainly not after the season began with tangible doses of Gary Matthews, Jr., Mike Jacobs and Frank Catalanotto, to say nothing of getting almost nothing from John Maine and less than nothing from Oliver Perez. The 2009 Mets peaked at seven games over .500, and even when they sat briefly at that high water mark, I didn’t believe they were that good. The 2010 Mets are nine games over .500 for the first time and I have no idea how good they could be.

Per the Field formerly known as Jacobs, that’s a happily progressive way of viewing the world when we WIN.