With their satisfying sweep against the fading Braves in Atlanta this weekend, the Mets are making a surprising push for second place in the National League East. While second place looks much better than last, does it really make a difference?
Right now the Mets stand a half game behind the Braves. Their upcoming schedules are similar — the Mets play three games in Washington, which is still fighting for the top seed in the NL, and three at home against the terrible Astros. The Braves have a four-game set in Pittsburgh, which is playing for home field advantage in the Wild Card game, and three against the last place Phillies in Atlanta.
The Braves looked like a defeated team this weekend, so it would not be a surprise if they phoned it in over the final week. The Mets seem to be playing with a bit of spunk and could finish the season strongly.
But even if the Mets come in second, they really are not a “second place” team. They will still probably finish with a sub-.500 record (they would have to go 5-1 to be .500), and they will still end things about 15 games off the pace.
They would not be in second place because they are any good; they would be in second place because the Braves imploded and Miami (which actually had a pretty good season, all things considered) and the Phillies are even worse than them.
We are all hoping that the Mets can finish in second place, but it is not something on which Sandy Alderson should hang his hat. It does not mean he did a good job — it’s just that the Mets are second best of a poor bunch.