- Last Updated: 1:08 PM, July 8, 2012
- Posted: 2:43 AM, July 8, 2012
On the eve of the All-Star break, after all the magical knuckleballs from R.A. Dickey, after David Wright’s renaissance and ascension to superstar status, after Johan Santana’s miraculous return and no-hitter, after Ike Davis’ trials and tribulations during his bout with Valley Fever, after yet another example the season that is played on the field is sometimes far different than the one predicted by the doomsayers and naysayers, the Mets embrace the weight of greater expectations. They are unafraid to raise the bar higher than it has been in what seems like an eternity, and they dream of a long, hot summer pennant race and an electriCiti at their field and announce:
Yes, we are for real.
“The most glaring reason is our starting pitching’s for real,” David Wright began, “and like 99 percent of other teams in baseball, they’re going to go as far as their starting pitching takes them. ... Dickey is, for anybody questioning the legitimacy of the knuckleball, the thing’s for real. ... Johan, I think is only going to get stronger deeper into the season. ... I think Jon Niese has been unbelievably underrated in the first half ... then you’re talking about two guys [Dillon Gee and Chris Young] at the back end of our rotation that are very, very solid. Offensively, I just love the way we grind out at-bats. I think that we’re a very good situational-hitting team. ... It’s amazing to see a team that doesn’t have much power, doesn’t have much speed, but just finds a way to score runs, and we’re that team.”
They’re that homegrown team that beat the Cubs 3-1 yesterday behind Gee (eight innings) and behind a two-run homer from Davis, who amazingly has 12 with 49 RBIs.
“For 2 1⁄2 months, I felt like I wasn’t really helping the team,” Davis said.
Manager Terry Collins was asked if he thinks his Mets will be in it to the very end.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I told the guys in spring training, the thing that makes the game fun is when you’re playing for something. It can be a long, hard September when you come to the ballpark and you’re not playing for anything, and our guys, they believe they can compete and they believe they’re going to be in this thing.”
It is risky business hoping Jason Bay can be the trusted right-handed bat to balance out the lineup. There are nights when the defense might make Casey Stengel cry out, “Can’t anybody here play this game?” The bullpen remains suspect with Frank Francisco on the disabled list, although Bobby Parnell, with his 98 mph fastball, is showing better command.
“His curveball’s in the back of everybody’s head right now,” Josh Thole said.
Collins talked about his imposing starting pitching, about Davis (batting .205) being better in the second half and Lucas Duda being better in the second half a year ago and said: “And I don’t think there’s any team that’s going to run away and hide.”
They are the Young and the Fearless. You knock these Mets down, they do not stay down. And throw in the intriguing Jordany Valdespin, who belted his fourth home run and has an unmistakable swagger and joie de vivre about him.
“It just seems like we have a resiliency about us that is pretty special, what you need in baseball, because you’re going to have to ride that roller coaster a little bit,” Wright said.
A healthy Ruben Tejada, who robbed the Cubs’ Bryan LaHair of a bloop single in short left-center in the ninth, will be a bonus.
“Big-time players make big-time plays,” Collins said, “and that was a big-time play.”
Wright still can hear the echoes of rollicking Septembers past.
“Some of my most fond memories are Shea Stadium being packed during pennant races,” he said. “The fans (26,096 yesterday), when they kind of bring that energy and that electricity, I’m not lying when I say that it rubs off on the players and it carries over onto the field.”
They are fighters and they are grinders and the camaraderie is off the charts.
“I remember fielding questions in spring training, how we’re the worst team in baseball,” Thole said. “It’s like everybody thought we were going to lose 162 games.
“What we have inside this clubhouse, we’re very capable of doing what we did in the first half, and doing it again in the second half.
“If not better.”
Beware the Mets.