The Mets will not rise or fall because of Jason Bay's unfortunate injury problems. They will hang in there, or not, behind a starting rotation anchored by R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana. What they really need – and what Jonathon Niese has given them most of this season – is that reliable No. 3 guy in front of the veteran Chris Young and the youngster Dillon Gee.

Niese is the swingman in this equation, and each of his starts portends a streak of one kind or another. In this way, Niese is the embodiment of the Mets' chances this summer. Can they stay in contention for a wild card? Will they be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? Will they be relevant at all in August, or just a cheap ticket?

Niese is the bellwether. He's like Ohio or Florida in the presidential election.