People in New York and around Major League Baseball are finally starting to take the Mets seriously again.

One could argue that the difference between the 2009 Mets and the 2010 Mets is due to one simple factor: Health. After all, thanks to Carlos Beltran’s recent reinstatement to the club, New York finally has its core of star players — Beltran, David Wright and Jose Reyes — back playing together.

But it hasn’t necessarily been the Mets’ big stars that have helped New York stay in the NL playoff hunt this year. Rather, it’s been guys like Ike Davis, Angel Pagan and R.A. Dickey who have solidified a Mets team that was anything but solid in 2009.

Dickey has undoubtedly been the key for New York in 2010, a diamond in the rough that has come out of nowhere to bolster an already strong Mets pitching rotation.

With a 6-3 record and a 2.63 ERA, Dickey has not only provided one excellent outing after another for the Mets since his first start on May 19 — he’s protected GM Omar Minaya from the pressure of having to go out and get a big-name pitcher for the stretch run.

With Dickey mowing down NL hitters, the Mets had virtually no need to get involved in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. Considering that the Rangers gave up first base prospect Justin Smoak, along with four other prospects to the Mariners for Lee, it would have cost Minaya a player like Davis to reel in Lee.

Thanks to Dickey, Minaya didn’t have to bother. And he doesn’t have to bother going after Roy Oswalt, Brett Myers, Ted Lilly or any other pitchers who will be available in the coming weeks.

But they still could get one of those guys, and they won’t have to give up Davis. And if the Mets do acquire Oswalt or someone on a slightly lower tier, they will arguably have the best rotation in the National League.

Mike Pelfrey (10-4, 4.01 ERA) and Johan Santana (7-5, 2.87 ERA) have been as advertised for New York in 2010. Jonathon Niese (6-4, 3.44 ERA), like Dickey, has been a surprise contributor. Adding an Oswalt or Lilly to the group would be the perfect complement to a potent lineup that just got its showstopper back in Beltran.

But thanks to Dickey, Minaya doesn’t have to pull the string if he doesn’t want to. And either way, the Mets are going to be right in the thick of the playoff push the whole way.