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It’s Too Early For “At Least”

Mets fans know that there’s usually a point in the season when the game results become secondary. That point is not supposed to be in May.

For all the magic that the Mets have brought in their 63+ years of existence, most of the seasons have fallen short of the ultimate goal. In fact, the team has generally met their non-posteason fate long before the final games. So, it’s common, even understood, that by September, even late August, the focus shifts from wins and losses to other valuable takeaways. Instead of lamenting another Mets defeat, fans might say, “At least they put together some good at-bats tonight,” or “At least the bullpen kept it close,” or “At least the Yankees lost.” Sometimes the takeaways are a bit more of a reach than others. Still, it’s enough to keep fans watching when the games mean less and the standings don’t mean anything at all.

Coming into this season, the Mets were quite open about their somewhat paradoxical goals: working to make the postseason this year while also evaluating their young talent for the future. And for the first few weeks, bumpy as it may have been, it seemed to be working. Sadly, it’s not working as well anymore. The pitching that carried them through the first 5 weeks has started to wear down a bit, while the hitting has not picked up the slack, at least not with any reliability. In fact, for the most part, whatever wins they have managed to achieve lately have been just barely eeked out. It feels like it’s been a while since the Mets had a clean “we’ve got this game under control” victory. For those Mets fans who have been following the team long enough, this is reminiscent of myriad underachieving seasons. And with that, the “at least” remarks have already begun. “At least they scored 5 runs tonight (in a 10-5 loss).” “At least Manaea went 6 innings (in a game that was blown by the already overused bullpen).” “At least the Yankees…oh man, they won again (sigh).”

At the moment, it seems like the Mets are more closely aligned with the evaluation goal than the contending goal. Actually, to be more accurate, the team’s results seem more closely aligned with the evaluation goal than the contending goal. I don’t honestly believe that GM David Stearns, or manager Carlos Mendoza, or the players themsleves, have given up on the season. Yet, for a fanbase that was uneasy, at best, 6 weeks ago, the lack of a substantial winning streak recently has them looking elsewhere for the bright side.

Of course, there’s about 75% of the season remaining, so there’s not much sense in throwing in the proverbial towel just yet. If you want some optimism, and Mets fans are all about optimism (right? someone? is this thing on?): for all the subpar seasons that this one resembles, it’s also not all that different from 2015, which proved to be pretty magical by the time all was said and done.

At least they’re not the Marlins.