Baseball has a unique place in professional sports for many reasons, one of which is the number of games played.
One hundred and sixty two games – just about double the amount of games in basketball or hockey and ten times the amount in football.
With so many games on the schedule, it is very hard to judge when a season becomes “late” and when a team has to turn up their level of urgency.
As Yogi Berra said, “It’s getting late early,” and that could apply to the Mets.
After getting swept by the lowly Braves and losing a sleepy 6-0 game on Sunday afternoon, the Mets’ record was 36-32.
The question of whether a season is still “early” or has gotten “late” is as much a glass half-full or half-empty proposition.
One could argue the Mets have 94 games left, plenty of time to get it going, and one has to worry where their level of urgency is at the moment.
In 2015, there’s no question that the Mets’ intensity level was high from day one because they had not had a winning record in six years.
“Day 1” last year was spring training, where they did nothing but win and that feeling came with them to New York when they jumped out to a 13-3 start. The Mets then hit a rough spot for the next couple months, but it was not for lack of effort. They just weren’t good enough.
They showed enough flashes of brilliance and with their remarkable pitchers, general manager Sandy Alderson went for it and was the big winner at the trade deadline, getting Yoenis Cespedes out of Detroit. That was the spark the Mets needed, and they rode his bat to the division title.
Those are once-in-a-lifetime trades, and it is hard to see what the Mets can do to duplicate it. Remeber, they already sold off part of the farm to pay for them last season and Detroit with Michael Fulmer and Atlanta with Jon Gant are seeing dividends.
This season, after a World Series appearance, there’s no question that spring training had a lighter feel to it, highlighted by the Cespedes Car Show, and on the down side, the fact they lost a lot of games down there.
After competing in the playoffs, games in April and May don’t get a team as excited, despite the fact they would never admit it.
Mets Manager Terry Collins said on Sunday morning that the “All-Star break” is when the season starts to feel late.
“One of the things you see from teams that win is they beat teams they’re supposed to beat because when you play real good teams, it’s going to be a battle,” Collins said of being supposed to beat teams like the Braves and then he made his point clear on the early/late debate.
“I think it’s early because we’re still looking at many, many games with the Nationals, many games with the Marlins, still got a lot with the Braves, and a lot with the Phillies,” he said. “We’ve still got a long way to go, and that’s why when you look at coming out of the All-Star Break, where are you? These next seven games with the Nationals (Three at Washington June 27-29 and four in Flushing July 7-10) and we’ve got the Marlins in the mix, they’re gonna be really, really big.
“Look, everybody goes through some stages where you can’t figure out why you’re not winning, everybody does. Right now, we haven’t gotten big hits, thought last night (Saturday) we had a shot to get back, we didn’t accomplish it. We’ve still got a lot of games, and I think our guys, our veterans are certainly in control of the energy in the clubhouse and get it going. This is going to be about, continue to stay in games, continue to give us chances, you don’t get too far behind, where we can catch up easily enough.
“This is a long season, this is the big leagues, and I don’t care what team’s records are, they can still beat you.”
While Collins does not want to say it’s early and all the things to calm his team down, he does kind of tip off he doesn’t want that deficit behind the Nationals to balloon to, let’s say, ten games.
The Nationals never got much of a lead on the Mets last season, and were the perfect example of a team that never knew when to turn up the intensity level.
That was driven by their manager, Matt Williams, who was dismissed after the season for Dusty Baker, who has a far tougher style. He would have told them to turn it up if they started 2-3.
Time is on the Mets’ side in the sense it’s six weeks before the trade deadline. With this time, they will evaluate the health of catcher Travis d’Arnaud, first baseman Lucas Duda, and captain David Wright.
If they can get Duda and d’Arnaud back by the All-Star Break, when the Mets will have 76 games left, that definitely would be enough time to make a run before it really is too late.