There's that buddy in your group, the one who is the butt of every joke. There was that friend in high school who drove his broken-down Honda Civic coupe to the prom. By himself.
And then there were the Mets.
Back in October 2006, the Mets came ridiculously close to earning a trip to the World Series. Then Carlos Delgado got caught looking, and so did Carlos Beltran, thus setting off a few years of embarrassment for the Mets franchise. The next year, they blew a seven-game lead in September. In 2008, they had 28 blown saves. Last year, donning a Mets jersey meant spending at least 30 days on the DL.
The sum total of those three painful seasons was that the Mets became a bit of a running joke. Whenever things turned sour in the other MLB cities, it wasn't uncommon to hear "Yeah, well at least we're not the Mets!"
Yet this year, whether you like it or not, you have to take the Mets seriously.
They entered play Wednesday just a 1 1/2 games behind the Braves for the lead in the NL East. They also had to deal with the unfortunate and always-frightening news that Jose Reyes was held out of the game with back pain that he suffered during batting practice, but still, the baseball world can't make too many jokes about the Mets this year.
Heading into Wednesday, they ranked sixth in the NL in team ERA with a 3.81 mark, and they hit at a healthy clip of .261, good enough for fifth in the NL. They ranked fourth in fielding percentage to boot.
A major reason has been David Wright's return to being, well, David Wright. On June 13, he hit his 11th homer, giving him more than he hit all of last year. He's just 11 RBIs shy of his '09 mark as well.
They've also welcomed the contributions of 23-year-old Ike Davis, who reached near cult hero-level status in his first month in Queens.
They're also set to get better, as Jason Bay has hit just six home runs. He's averaged 30 in his six seasons in the majors, with the first four-plus taking place in the NL East. He's in a fairly large ballpark, yes, but there's no chance that Bay finishes the season with fewer than 20 homers.
Most importantly, their pitching staff is holding up its end of the bargain. Mike Pelfrey has 10 wins and a 2.71 ERA and Francisco Rodriguez has 17 saves in 20 opportunities. No other numbers really pop out, but the staff has performed well as a unit, affording them the opportunity to get out to their 43-34 start.
That's the good news for the Mets. The bad news is that there is still a lot of baseball yet to be played, and for any Mets fan who underwent the pain of the past few years (or decades, depending on how you look at it), that's a lot of time for things to go wrong.
For the rest of the world, it still means that jokes at the expense of the Mets have to stop.
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