If you've been living in the New York metropolitan area the last few weeks, you know it's been a hot summer, especially recently when temperatures have been in the 90s with heat indices soaring into triple digits. In between breaths of hot and sticky air, you've probably heard someone mention that we're in the dog days of summer. But what exactly are those canine 24-hour periods?
The dictionary definition of dog days is as follows:
- The sultry part of the summer, supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun: now often reckoned from July 3 to August 11.
- A period marked by lethargy, inactivity or indolence.
Clearly, the second definition was created with the 2016 New York Mets in mind.
Just a few days after the astrological beginning of the dog days of summer, the Mets' record stood at 47-38 and they held a firm grip on the National League's top wild card spot. Since then, the Mets have gone 10-20 and their players have developed those dreaded summer allergies - the ones that make them allergic to winning streaks longer than one game.
Since July 7, when the Mets were three games ahead of the Cardinals and Marlins, New York has the worst record in baseball. Don't believe me? Here, see for yourself. Can't find the Mets? Just look all the way down in the lower right hand corner - the spot usually reserved for last place teams.
The dog days have affected other competitive teams as well, as the Marlins and Cardinals have only been one game above .500 since July 7. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who had the eighth-best record in the National League on July 7, are also just one game over the break-even point since that date. But even that's been good enough to put them ahead of the Mets on the morning of August 13. It should be noted that the Mets had the fourth-best record in the Senior Circuit five weeks ago, which means the Pirates only needed to be barely better than mediocre to leapfrog over four teams on their way to passing the defending National League champions in the wild card race.
The Mets have done nothing but fall apart since Sirius started to rise at the same time as the sun. I mean that figuratively and literally, as Matt Harvey, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera and probably some other players you never realized were on the team (Justin Ruggiano, anyone?) have all been felled by the injury bug. Still, even with the plethora of boo-boos, no one could have expected that this team would ever be the worst out of 30 teams for a period of just over a month.
Summer doldrums have affected the Mets in the past as well. Just six years ago, the Mets' record stood at 45-35 on the morning of July 3, the date in which the dog days of summer begin in the astrological sense. The team had the wild card lead and was only two games behind the first-place Braves in the N.L. East and three games ahead of the eventual division champion Phillies. Five weeks later, they were below .500, behind the Phillies, and on the outside of the playoff race looking in.
Do you remember the 2002 season, when general manager Steve Phillips brought in a bunch of former All-Stars in Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz and Roberto Alomar to help the team go for its sixth straight winning season and third playoff trip in four years? That team was 53-49 in late July and within striking distance of the wild card-leading Dodgers. Then ... KABOOM! That's the sound a Flushing Free Fall makes when the team proceeds to go 8-25 in its next 33 games, which included a 12-game losing streak in mid-August and the loss of every home game in the entire month. For all you kids out there, that's an 0-13 record in August.
And what about the 1992 Mets, also known as "The Worst Team Money Could Buy"? That team was actually just four games out of first place on July 24 and appearing to be worth every penny invested in it. But less than a month later, the team was 15 games off the pace in the division after losing 19 of 24 games.
The dog days of summer affect every major league team. Players get tired over a long season and especially when the weather is hot and humid. But over the years, those days have been particularly rough on the Mets. This season has been no exception.
Last night's loss to the Padres was the Mets' 20th defeat in their last 30 games. If you believe in astrological definitions, the dog days of summer ended two days ago. Perhaps someone should tell the Mets that the Dog Star is no longer rising with the sun and hope that this information can help the team rise in the wild card standings. The Mets could certainly use all the help they can get.