Mets' slide adds pressure to sell now

SAN FRANCISCO -- New York Mets manager Terry Collins approached Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes in a corner of the visitors' clubhouse at AT&T Park on Sunday afternoon and playfully told the duo: "I don't want you two making a trade for yourself on the plane."

Beltran and Reyes were preparing to travel with the large San Francisco Giants contingent to the All-Star Game. And the NL West leaders are buyers, potentially for Beltran, before the July 31 deadline.

On the other side of the spectrum, with three losses in the final four games of the first half, the Mets are drifting closer to selling mode.

"I think you have an idea something is going to happen," said right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who allowed two runs in six innings and was charged with the loss in a 4-2 defeat against San Francisco that closed the first half.

Yet that is not to diminish what the Mets have accomplished with their modest 46-45 record entering the break.

"I think the achievement is the fact that we've kept this thing together," Collins said. "That's been the achievement. Whether our number is one game under, one game over, three games over, that's strictly a number. The point is we haven't given up. We didn't fold the tent in. We didn't say, 'We're not good enough. Let's shut it down.' That is what I'm most proud of these guys about.

"That's why I think, no matter what comes down the road, I think they've learned something. 'Hey look, there are factors that enter into a season that we have no control over, but yet we can play through it.'"

That lesson likely will need to be applied soon, once the Mets trade some combination of Francisco Rodriguez, Beltran, Jason Isringhausen and Tim Byrdak in the next few weeks.

"Part of my job is to make sure they maintain focus," Collins said. "If someone is moved from this club who is a high-profile guy, my job is to make sure they understand that there's a business side of this game that you've got to be able to play through. As we didn't let some earlier distractions early in the year get in our way, we cannot let this distraction get in our way. Here's an opportunity for somebody else to step up. And I truly believe as a player all you can do is grasp the opportunities. No matter who it might be, it's going to be an opportunity for some young player to step up and say, 'Hey, look, here's my chance to show I belong here.'"

Players did seize those opportunities in the first half. Aside from Beltran playing in a team-high 89 games, the surprises largely involved unheralded players. Three losers to Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus in the second-base competition -- Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy -- ultimately played integral roles. Dillon Gee also had a major contribution after taking over for injured Chris Young.

"Before maybe his last couple of starts, certainly he had an opportunity to make the All-Star team," Collins said about Gee. "The guy is 8-1 at one time. Holy cow. You can't ask for anything better than that. So there have been a lot of positives that, when we started out the year, we didn't expect to have. And I truly believe this, and I will always say this: I always think every good team there's a surprise. It could be Carlos Beltran playing 158 games. That'd be a surprise."

After the Mets opened 5-13, they went 41-32 the remainder of the half. The beginning certainly tested Collins' new-found mellowness compared with his 1990s demeanors managing the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels.

"It can be hard, because I'm not a calm guy. I'm an energetic guy," Collins said. "I had expectations. I preached it openly that we had to get out of the gate good. I was frustrated by it all. But I knew my job was to make sure those players understood that, 'Hey, look, we've just got to get better. We're going to get through this. We're going to right the ship.'"

Said GM Sandy Alderson: "Terry has done a great job. I think that's evident from the record. I think it's evident as far as the way in which the team has exceeded some expectations. And I think it's reflected in the way the team has played. ... Being over .500 to this point is not something we're happy with. But having achieved that as a floor if you will, that's a positive. It's not where we want to settle. At the same time, it's a positive.

"I do think the team has established a different type of persona among the fans and maybe even the media. It's something we can build on."

Build on, potentially, while sending some major pieces elsewhere.