2011 MLB Playoffs: Are the Mets, Nationals, Pirates and Diamondbacks Contenders?

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IJune 19, 2011

Will perennial losers like the Mets be smiling at the end of the season?
Will perennial losers like the Mets be smiling at the end of the season?Al Bello/Getty Images

In recent years, teams like the Mets, Nationals, Pirates and Diamondbacks have been far from contenders. Let's take a look at how they fair this season.


New York Mets

The Mets are in a tough financial situation, as the owners lost millions from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme. Since the beginning of the season, rumors have swirled about the departures of stars Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez, as New York can simply not afford them.

But despite injuries to key players such as Ike Davis, David Wright and Johan Santana, the Mets are on a recent surge that has them in playoff contention. They currently sit at a record of 35-37, and are just 4.5 games back from the Wild Card lead. Youngsters such as Justin Turner, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese are contributing and bringing success to the underdog franchise.

Many are still skeptical of their recent play, and whether they can maintain it for the majority of the year. But as the Amazins' continue to perform at a high level, they silence their critics and move into a position that can carry them to the postseason.

Their play in the next few weeks could be critical in deciding whether they are buyers or sellers at this year's Trade Deadline.


Washington Nationals

The Nationals are on a monumental surge in the last week and a half, winning eight straight and moving into a tie with the Mets for third place in the NL East. They currently sit just 4.5 games back from the Wild Card lead, and are performing like real contenders.

The 35-37 ball club have young guns like Michael Morse, Jordan Zimmermann, Danny Espisona and Drew Storen producing at a very high level. With the return of superstar third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals could emerge as real contenders down the stretch if they continue to play at an outstanding level.


Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have been at the bottom of the MLB barrel for nearly two decades, as they have gone without a winning season in 18 straight seasons.

But the Pirates faithful now have hope, as young stars like Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata are leading the charge. Pitchers Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton and Joel Hanharan are posting terrific numbers, and the franchise seems rejuvenated and energized.

If they can continue their phenomenal play, the Pirates could improve on their 35-35 record and become real contenders as we enter the dog days of summer.


Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks are another team that has struggled recently, since their World Series title of 2001. But this year, everything has turned around. The team is currently only a half game back from the NL West lead, sitting at a record of 39-33.

Their lineup has the potential to the be one of the best in the National League, as they boast young stars such as Justin Upton, Chris Young, Kelly Johnson, Stephen Drew and Miguel Montero.

The Arizona bullpen has improved significantly since last year, and their rotation has produced at an above average level.

With holes in many of the competitive teams like the Braves, Giants, Cardinals and Rockies, the Diamondbacks could actually end up in the 2011 postseason. 


Many of you may believe that these teams are not contenders and have no chance of making this year's postseason. But with gaping holes in other competitive teams in the National League, these teams could end up doing some damage as the season progresses.