The Mets kept themselves in the race a little longer by taking two of three from the Reds last weekend. That bit of joy notwithstanding, this team has a lot of work to do.

Everyone wants to assign blame for the Mets’ poor first half. Blame can be spread around to everyone, from ownership down to the team’s medical staff. That notwithstanding, you can’t ignore the injuries this team faced. Forget about Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes. We all know this team wasn’t going to contend without those three, but even the Mets’ reserves and Minor League call-ups have gotten hurt. J.J. Putz, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Fernando Martinez, Angel Pagan, Brian Schneider and Ryan Church are either on the disabled list or have spent time on it.

Everything can’t be blamed on the injuries. This team has been terrible defensively and has made too many mental errors. That starts with the manager. Jerry Manuel gets credit for keeping the team within striking distance of the playoffs. But he has to take a hit for the mental mistakes. Church missing third base, Daniel Murphy and Luis Castillo dropping fly balls–those are errors a manager has to come down hard on. Part of that also falls on General Manager Omar Minaya.

The Mets’ reserves have not played like major leaguers. For this team to contend in the second half, several things have to happen. Minaya doesn’t have the farm system or the financial go-ahead from ownership to make big moves, but he needs to continue making small moves. Small moves mean bringing in solid, everyday players, not utility guys. Trading for Jeff Francoeur was a great start. He’s not Albert Pujols, but he’s an upgrade over Church.

The bottom line is this franchise needs to toughen up mentally, take a few chances and not take a woe-as-me attitude in the second half. The Mets won’t win the division or even make the playoffs, but Minaya can make moves to set the team up for the immediate future. The future starts tonight (Thursday) for the Mets (42-45),who begin a four-game set in Atlanta.