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The Staggers

What’s happening to the Mets now is cruel, and hard to watch. But perhaps it’s not really unexpected.

Perhaps what was unexpected was the part we liked more — the walking on water, the withstanding injury after injury after injury, the playing scrappy, winning ball for so long. The recent run of misfortune feels like proof that the team finally took one blow too many. Maybe it was being stripped of Carlos Beltran, or Jose Reyes being hurt again, or the unexpected end of Daniel Murphy’s year. Or maybe it was just August, when good teams step on the gas and bad teams expire, and all those things are coincidental. Whatever the case, the Mets are frustrated and Terry Collins is frustrated [1] and we’re frustrated too.

It hardly seems worth going over today’s game, but I’ll paint it with a few strokes for posterity: R.A. Dickey was very good, Yovani Gallardo was just as good, and then the Mets’ bullpen and defense caved in again. Manny Acosta had a tough Saturday, coming in to clean up Jason Isringhausen’s mess and being victimized by a couple of ground balls with eyes. Today was more of the same, with Ryan Braun hitting a pitch through the infield that he practically needed a shovel to get to. One would feel worse for Acosta except he’d walked the leadoff hitter just prior to that. Tim Byrdak came in, and got Prince Fielder to hit a grounder to Justin Turner — who made a not good but not terrible throw that Ruben Tejada let sail on by. Then Jason Isringhausen was horrible, his location way off for a second straight day, and an inning later Pedro Beato was horrible too, and the Mets were dead meat [2].

Oh, and now we go play the Phillies.

As Collins remarked afterwards, the shame of this descent is that it’s unraveling the Mets’ good work from earlier in the summer, threatening the good feeling surrounding the team. That’s certainly true. But maybe it, like a lot of other things, is more a lesson in being realistic.

There are Mets who have made strides this year, just as there are Mets who can prove something over the last month and change. Murphy, Tejada, Turner, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Beato can all claim to have raised their profile significantly. Angel Pagan, Dickey, Lucas Duda and Josh Thole can show us something by finishing strong. The Mets have some minor-league help on the way. The team’s financial picture could be clarified by spring. Even the much-derided dimensions of Citi Field will most likely be different. This is a different team than it was in 2010, and I think a better one. I think there’s reason to believe it will be different and better still in 2012. That’s not a failure; come November and December, I think we’ll see it and be hopeful.

But there’s still six weeks of baseball to play — and six weeks can be a long time for a demoralized, battered team. They, and we, risk losing our focus before this season is in the books.