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Be Like the Braves

By predictably losing on Sunday [1] — between Kris Medlen’s streak and Chipper Jones’s farewell, I had next to no doubt about the outcome at Turner Field — the 73-86 Mets made certain their record in 2012 will not be as good as their record was in 2011 (77-85), which wasn’t as good as their record in 2010 (79-83).

That’s progress?

It’s not, but neither would have been creeping from 77 wins last year to 78 this year. That’s why the Alderson quotes from the trading deadline about finishing over .500 or the “one source said” emphasis on making it to third place did nothing for me. Those aren’t goals. They’re stepping stones. The Mets aren’t within an incremental step from being where they need to be. The more bracing reminders ownership and management receive that they weren’t close to being all-around solid in 2012 — spirited start notwithstanding — the better it will be for all of us in the long run. Remember the emptiness of July, August and September and resolve to start filling the void.

If the Mets had eked out a smidgen of forward statistical motion, I could picture everyone from Jeff Wilpon to Sandy Alderson to Terry Collins contracting tendonitis from patting themselves on the back over minute improvements — and the players getting all giddy from sucking a little less while playing dress-up [2] for their next flight. Never mind the good first-third of this season, when they peaked at 31-23 (which is that high bar Collins keeps alluding to — playing pretty well during a span of 54 games out of 162). Own your subpar performance. Acknowledge it as unacceptable and then put it behind you. Build a better team, one that isn’t above average for a couple of months and dreadful for many more months. Set aside a few keepers and decide nobody else is sacrosanct and every option is on the table.

Those Braves who put the Mets away with no extraordinary effort on Sunday? That’s a better team. Save for two Jon Niese starts, the Mets didn’t share the same planet with them in the second half. There’s talent all over that pitching staff and all over that roster and they’re not even the best team in their own division. They fell on their faces last September and it didn’t stop them from getting back on their feet a season later. The Braves are what I want the Mets to be when they grow up.