Last night, I had a dream. I had an awesome dream. The Mets were in first place, and a Mets pitcher not named Santana was leading all of baseball in ERA. This despite the fact that, as a team, they were scraping the bottom in batting average, not hitting for power, and scoring fewer runs than twenty other teams.
Nope. It's not a dream. These first-place Mets are a good team. But we know intuitively that they're not "8 wins out of 10" good. What they've been so far is a combination of lucky and opportunistic. When you give up five hits and five walks in five innings, you can't expect a win, but that's what new Mets ace Mike Pelfrey got the other night -- a shutout win, no less. When your offense in that game consists of five singles and a well-timed scamper around the bases by Jose ("Mis Tendones Son Bien") Reyes, you can't expect a win. The Mets are getting wins we shouldn't rightly expect out of them right now. In recent years, we've sure had enough unexpected losses, so let's just smile and accept these gifts. Doubleheader sweep over the Dodgers? That hadn't happened in decades, until last night.
On Opening Day, this was my list of things to be concerned about: 1) The #2 Pitcher; 2) The #3 Pitcher; 3) The #4 Pitcher; 4) Will Bay Fit In Smoothly?; 5) The 7th and 8th Innings. Today, their starting rotation isn't Johan the Ace and the Four Jokers any more. It's Pelf the Ace, King Johan, and a box of cherries. Because you never know what you're gonna get from the other three. The good news is, the Mets are leading all of baseball in strikeouts (by their pitchers, not their hitters). The bad news is, they're leading all of baseball in issuing walks. That means our starters are throwing way too many pitches. Even when the results are good, that tendency is troubling. In April, you can get away with that. So far, the seventh and eighth innings have not proven to be nailbiters for Mets fans as they have in the recent past. But in June, July and August, this inefficiency will turn into an overworked, sputtering bullpen, blown leads, and heartbreaking losses.
Jason Bay has proven to be a good fit in Flushing right from Opening Day. It's not even a major worry that it took him three weeks to go yard for the first time as a Met. In Citi Field, triples are the new home run, and a .280 batting average makes you the best-hitting Mets regular. How good will they play when their bats finally thaw out? Thank goodness, Bay has proven to be Not Juan Samuel, just as Ike Davis is clearly Not Mo Vaughn. While the Mets' offense isn't lighting up the scoreboard, they've only been blown out twice all year. Conversely, though, they've lost four games by one run, and have only won two. That's a cause for concern, but not despair.
It's human nature as a Mets fan to project their 2007 and 2008 seasons (plus their last game in 2006) as the inevitable future this year. Close enough to compete and impress, not enough to complete the job. Hopefully, that gloomy fatalism is wrong. The last six games have shown us a glimmer that this nice dream has half a chance to turn into reality in September. Since the title of this post quotes Talking Heads, and the opening sentence paraphrases Lionel Ritchie, let's end this by taking the advice of a verse from Crosby Stills and Nash. Just relax. Enjoy the ride.