I had to fight an urge to just leave this space blank and let that emptiness speak for itself. But now that I've begun, let's start with what manager Bobby Valentine thinks. On Sunday, he said, "I don't think we're in that big a hole. Plenty of season left. Just play it. All our best baseball's ahead of us." Whether or not he actually believes that is impossible to say.
As far as reality is concerned, the Mets making the playoffs would be something on the order of the 1914 Miracle Braves, 1964 Cardinals, and 1978 Yankees all rolled into one. The Mets are currently 12.5 games behind the surprising Braves in the NL East; they are 9 games behind Arizona in the wildcard. Those are rather large deficits to overcome, but that may not be the worst of it: they are currently one game under .500 and are tied for third in the East and for eighth place in the NL. So to make the playoffs they would have to leapfrog either over two (and one-half) teams in their division or over four teams in the wildcard chase.
The Mets' situation is not much different from that of another surprising team the Orioles, an example I love to use. The Orioles are surprising because they are near .500, but no one expects them to make the playoffs given that the strength of the Yankees and Red Sox in their division and the rest of the teams in the AL wildcard hunt. The Orioles are currently 3 games under .500, 13 games behind the Yankees, and 10 games behind the Red Sox in the wildcard chase, not far from the Mets' lot.
Could it be that these Mets have a miracle in them? Looking at the runs for and against (395 and 379 respectively), there is some reason to believe that they should be a little better than .500 but not a whole lot better. Using Bill James Pythagorean winning percentage formula, one would expect the Mets to have a .519 record, which would improve the Mets record by two games. This would put them 10.5 games back in the East and 7 behind the wildcard leader. That does not inspire a lot of confidence.
The Mets will either have to face the reality of their situation as the trade deadline approaches or go into next year with a bunch of aging players who did not produce what was expected of them this year. It is hard to remember that expectations were so high for the Mets at the start of the season, while teams now competing in a pennant race (Montreal and Minnesota) were targeted for contraction. What a whacky season 2002 has been so far, and it just gets whackier and whackier.