By Mike Steffanos
As I was watching last night's game against the Braves slip away from the Mets, I can't say I was all that surprised. Despite the 7-game winning streak I never had the feeling that the team had put it all together.
I should clarify, though, and say that I wasn't necessarily expecting them to perform badly, as I often found myself doing earlier in the season. I thought they had turned the corner partway, but I think this club is capable of playing very good and very bad baseball. Moreover, either seems possible on any given day.
The 2006 Mets, starting to become a distant memory, was the last incantation of this club that I trusted to play sound baseball more often than not. They earned my trust by being both resilient and dependable over a period of time.
I guess last year's club was resilient, too, given all that they had to overcome from their bullpen, but that bullpen was the very reason that you couldn't trust them. It was never truer that a game was never over until the last out. Indeed it sometimes felt that the game wasn't over until my heartbeat went back to normal, which often didn't happen until halfway through the postgame show. Some of those wins were almost as tough as the losses.
The bullpen certainly is much less of a problem this year, but I don't have any solid read on this club yet. Even during the winning streak sloppy play injected itself at times, and I still feel that if the Mets are down even a run or two late they are very likely to lose the game.
Jerry Manuel has done some good things as a manager, but the longer I watch him the less impressed I am with his in-game management skills. He did a good job resurrecting this team last season, but I wonder if essentially any manager that wasn't Willie Randolph wouldn't have accomplished the same thing.
I think that, despite the nice week they just enjoyed, this Mets team is still at something of a crossroads. This season could still go either way. I guess that's why I have no clue what to expect tonight.
I'd like to have that feeling of trust in this team where I have confidence that they will put yesterday's bad game behind them and play a solid game tonight, but I really don't have any strong feeling what to expect from them tonight. They still seem to me a team that is equally capable of coming out strong or looking sloppy and lethargic. At least for this Mets fan the trust is not there yet.