If you don’t like the 2012 Mets, you don’t like ice cream

The Mets are as energetic and as interesting as any team in baseball. That’s not to say they’re going to the postseason. That’s still a very longshot even though at 17-13 they’ve got the National League’s best record and would have qualified for the playoffs if the season had ended last night. Still, a team a lot of people didn’t care much about three months ago has evolved into one that has completely changed the way we perceive them.

I suspect Sandy Alderson is having the time of his life. He has used this season to fast track his best minor league players to the big leagues, and to give them the freedom to succeed and fail and go through all the phases young players typically have to go through. When he ran the Oakland A’s, he was atop a farm system that produced a bounty of talent, including three straight American League Rookie of the Years–Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Terry Steinbach.

Alderson believes that good organizations are built from the ground up, that a core of homegrown players is critically important before a franchise can even think of spending on big-ticket free agents. When Terry Collins turned in one recent lineup card, it included nine players drafted or signed by the Mets.

Alderson is quick to point out that the Mets will expand their payroll as these young players gain service time and close in on free agency. He’ll have the resources to keep them, but that’s a discussion for another time and place. For now, it’s about enjoying watching this group of guys go about their business.

David Wright is putting up MVP-type numbers in the middle of the lineup. Meanwhile, C Josh Thole, SS Ruben Tejada and 2B Daniel Murphy have been outstanding. CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis, 24, is off to a great start, hitting .310 in his first 100 at-bats and leading all MLB rookies in batting average and OBP.

Likewise, Alderson has infused the starting rotation with homegrown talent–Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Chris Schwinden.

Of Collins’ most frequently used starting lineup, seven players joined the organization between 2001 (Wright) and 2008 (Ike Davis and Nieuwenhuis). Pelfrey and Niese were both drafted in 2005, followed by Gee (2007) and Schwinden (2008).

The Mets may not qualify as a great team. They’re third in the NL in runs and 13th in ERA. But they’ve won two series in Phildelphia for the first time in 2008. There’s also some magic. They’ve scored 67 runs with two outs, tops in the majors. The Mets are 11-3 in games decided by two runs or less and 13-4 when their pitcher throws a quality start.

There surely were Mets fans expecting far less from their club. Instead, they’ve got one that plays hard and is off to a great start. It could be the start of something special, but this season itself has been pretty special.

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