You zig, Mets zag
I feel like there's an important lesson that we never quite learn, no matter how many players and teams try to teach us: Whatever you think you KNOW about baseball, there's a pretty good chance you'll be wrong. And maybe real soon.
Just a few days ago, the New York Mets were everybody's favorite whipping boy. Actually, the Mets were already everybody's favorite whipping boy. What happened Wednesday night -- the aborted trade for Carlos Gomez, Wilmer Flores taking the field in tears, Scott Boras calling management a pack of craven liars -- only made #LOLMets just so much more in fashion.
Then all manner of crazy things started happening. First the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes, after many pundits (including yours truly) said the Mets weren't serious about upgrading their lineup. Next up, a wildly 'mazing 24 hours.
That guy the Mets wanted to trade but didn't trade?
Oh, and it turns out while nobody was really paying attention, this other guy was hitting a home run IN EVERY DAMN GAME.
Lucas Duda's last eight hits have all been home runs, and have all come in his last seven games. #Mets— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) August 2, 2015
Between the crying guy and the home-run guy and the new guy, suddenly Queens seems the place to be...
#Mets announce crowd of 42,996 -- sellout and second-largest in stadium history for Mets game. Largest was this Opening Day.— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) August 2, 2015
Oh, and that crowd was rewarded with a 3-2 victory over the first-place Nationals, courtesy of Duda's two solo homers and go-ahead double in the eighth ... after Cespedes had been intentionally walked. So you can excuse a bit of organizational crowing, no?
If the Mets win Sunday, too, they'll have pulled even with the Nationals in the National League East. Even if they don't, they'll have played to huge crowds for a few games in a row, not long after it seemed sure that the Mets simply couldn't match the buzz generated by their Bronxian rivals.
Okay, so with all that out of the way, we finally can ask ... Can the Mets keep this going?
To which the easy answer is, Of course they can.
Granted, even with Cespedes in the fold and Travis d'Arnaud back in the lineup, the Mets still aren't as good as the Nationals on paper; on paper, the Mets are two or three games worse than the Nationals over the next two months.
But of course they don't play the games on paper. As Wilmer Flores and Lucas Duda have demonstrated so dramatically. Think about it like this: If the numbers we've got are exactly right (they're not), all the Mets have to do is good-luck into a couple of wins while the Nats are bad-lucking into a couple of losses, and those three on-paper games are gone in a puff of smoke. And it's even easier if the luck turns in games between the two clubs (the infamous "two-game swing" at work).
Famously, the Mets have great pitching and terrible hitting. Well, the great pitching's not going anyhere. And while the Mets have earned their reputation for terrible hitting, it shouldn't be so terrible any more.
Not so long ago, they had four huge holes in the lineup every day: catcher, third base, left field, and center field. Now they have one, as Juan Lagares just hasn't hit at all (or fielded as brilliantly as he did a year ago).
Hey, everybody's got a hole somewhere. Even the Dodgers!
The Mets aren't the favorites, and not even likely to wind up in the playoffs at all. But they're a great object lesson in not assuming a team's fate until it's actually been decided.