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If it weren’t for bad luck, they’d have no luck at all…

by Jim McNierney

Even a casual observer would be pretty hard pressed to explain the recent rash of injuries that this year’s New York Mets squad had endured in the first portion of this (still young) season.

With only 33 games under their belt (less than 1/4 of the year) the Mets are now fielding a team that resembles the squad that might have been playing in an early spring training game.

When the Mets took the field in the first games against the Washington Nationals this week, they were only able to send out two of the 8 position players that they opened the season with. Thus far the injured reserve list includes Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Ryan Church, Brian Schnieder and in the same week, Carlos Beltran has turned up lame, and Frankie Rodriguez has become unavailable or at least questionable with back spasms.

Coupled with a questionable Oliver Perez (who is now pitching in the Mets Triple A farm team and Daniel Murphy mired in a season long slump, the outlook would seem to be pretty grim.

But, surprise….

As I post this, the Mets have won 4 of their last 5 games and are situated only 1/2 game out of first place in the National League East division. How?

Well, there is no accounting for some luck. The starting pitching has picked up tremendously in the last few weeks, coming into their own really after a bit of a shaky start to the season. Livan Hernandez won the number 5 starting spot but, has definitely been elevated by his performance of late, Mike Pelfrey has certainly become better as the season seems to be progressing and has certainly earned the number 2 spot in the rotation. Then there is Johan Santana. He has been everything the Mets wanted when they signed him before the beginning of the 2007 season (and then some…). All Johan has done is lead the league in ERA and wins while placing in the top 5 in innings pitched and strikeouts.

Without the stability within the starting rotation, the Mets most certainly would likely be no more than a .500 ball club. The bullpen has been questionable in long streaks this year. The only possible exception is Rodriquez who has been steady but, not really fun to watch. I’ve basically found his performances best when viewed with closed eyes peeking out from between fingers and a fair share of prayer.

The Mets made a couple of moves in the last few weeks but, have resisted the temptation to make strong moves for either a first baseman or additional bench strengths.

A couple of silver linings in this cloud are certainly the performances of Omir Santos and Gary Sheffield. The Mets were surely not anticipating have to play Sheffield as much as they have done in the past few weeks. Mr. Sheffield has stepped up to the challenge and has provided some very key hits and RBIs in the last week.

Santos has been a real joy to watch. Here is a rookie who has risen to the occasion and made the most of his opportunity to show the Mets’ management what he can do. He has handled himself with poise and confidence belying his age and lack of Major League level experience. He has contributed greatly offensively but perhaps the most compelling argument for letting this rookie continue to handle the catching chores is his handling of the pitchers and his defensive play behind (and around the plate). He has been nothing short of stellar in this regard.

Hopefully, the Mets can continue to piece together a winning formula during the next couple of weeks when the schedule has them playing weaker teams. All Met fans, I’m sure, are crossing their fingers that some of the key injured players can get well within that same interim.

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