BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Listening to WFAN’s Lori Rubinson Sunday night, she mentioned the first-place Mets being in a pennant race with the Atlanta Braves on the warpath. She asked her listeners if it was time to be nervous.
The Atlanta Braves trail the Mets in the NL East by 4.5 games after currently riding a 14-game winning streak heading to their weekend series against the hapless Chicago Cubs.
Already, Mets fans are getting nervous from reading Twitter and Reddit message boards. I even heard callers panic on Rubinson’s show the other night. Sports radio talkies such as WFAN’s Brandon Tierney are raising the panic level since it gets people to call his show or tweet him for the sake of reaction. It’s an old tired trick or shtick that talkies do to get people to listen and get advertisers for the station and their respective shows. It’s also been a talking point on Sportsnet New York’s Baseball Night in New York.
Look, it’s understandable why Mets fans would be dreading what’s to come. The Braves are the team to beat in the NL East. After all, they won the World Series last year, so that itself should have Mets fans worried. Also, they were traumatized when they saw their team blow first place leads just to fall apart in the end with 2007 coming to mind. Shoot, it happened last year when the Mets were in first place for 103 days, and the season fell apart after Jacob deGrom went to the injured list.
But to worry about this right now comes off as being paranoid at best.
Fortunately, the players, coaching staff and Mets manager Buck Showalter are taking an even-keel approach here and not getting caught up with the hysteria that’s going on.
The Mets knew the Braves would eventually heat up this season. As Showalter said, good teams such as the Braves would seek their level in a long season. They were prepared to know in a long season that the NL East would be a race. This development couldn’t be news. It would have been unrealistic to think the Mets would have an easy season or that the Braves would fall apart.
For the Braves to win 14 in a row that helped them get right back in the race, it shows right there how good they are with the talent they collected.
There’s no reason for the Mets to think about the Braves right now. They just have to worry about winning games and winning series. They accomplished that by getting another series win on Thursday night with a 5-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field.
They can worry about the Braves when they visit Truist Park on July 11-13 to face the defending World Series champions. Until then, they control their destiny unless the Braves surpass them by the time both teams face each other.
Right now, it’s early to do scoreboard watching. It does not make sense to do so on June 17. If the Braves keep winning, so be it. Again, the Mets control their own destiny by winning their fair share of games and winning series.
There’s no such thing as a pennant race in June. It’s hard to get worked up when there are many games to go. Things can happen such as injuries and so much more. No two things are the same where one month equals another. That’s why it’s called a long season. We haven’t reached the All-Star break.
September is when fans should pay attention. This is a month where teams sharpen up to be in a position to make the playoffs or get ready for what should be a nice postseason run.
Besides, what’s the harm of Braves doing well? I understand the hex the Braves put on the Mets for three decades. Yet, iron sharpens iron. The Braves doing well would keep the Mets focused and sharp, and it would mean the summer games are meaningful instead of counting the days of when the NFL starts as Mets fans have been prone to do in recent years.
Then, there’s the Philadelphia Phillies. They took off after firing Joe Girardi by winning 11 of 13 under interim manager Rob Thomson. They are 8 ½ out heading to their weekend series against the awful Washington Nationals, so they may gain more games in the standings. Still, it’s hard to get worked up about them just yet. Let’s see them sustain this play for two months before worrying about them.
The road to winning the division goes through the Braves. There’s no question about it. Even if the Mets are in first place, it sure seems like they are chasing their longtime NL East nemesis. Right now, that team is already on the Mets fans’ mind, and understandably so.
No matter what happens, it’s hard to think this team will collapse like 2007. This is a team with strong leadership starting with manager Buck Showalter. The character of the locker room with Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Starling Marte, and Eduardo Escobar should assuage all worries.
The Mets should be a playoff team one way or another if they do their job.
Sweating about the Braves now would be a waste of time.
As once Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice would say, calm down and enjoy the season.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6