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The New York Mets finished the 2007 season in second place in the National League East, one game behind the Philadelphia Phillies, the product of an epic collapse—the Mets squandered a 7.5 game lead with a mere 17 games left to play.
Carlos Beltran lead the team in both home runs and RBI, with 33 and 112, respectively, while David Wright's .325/.416/.546 line were all team highs. Jose Reyes swiped a franchise-record 78 stolen bases. John Maine and Oliver Perez each notched 15 wins, with Maine leading the team with 180 strikeouts and Perez with a 3.56 ERA.
In 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants shocked New York, packing their bags for sunny California and leaving countless baseball fans without a team for which to root. With the New York Yankees a despised rival of both Dodger and Giant fans alike, it was only a matter of time before someone rose to the occasion and filled the shoes left by the Western-bound baseballers.
Two years later, on July 27, 1959 William A. Shea became that someone. He, with others, announced the formation of a third major baseball league, the Continental League. Fearing a threat to their monopoly, Major League Baseball owners acted with open hostility, threatening to expand into the cities in which the Continental League planned to operate.
A compromise was soon reached. In exchange for abandoning the new league, four new expansion franchises would be created—two in each league. New York City was the beneficiary of a National League team. Many names were considered: the "Bees", "Burros", "Continentals", "Skyscrapers", "Jets", as well as the eventual runner-up, "Skyliners". The owners, lead by Joan Whitney Payson, ultimately selected "Metropolitans" -- or immediately, the "Mets."
The Lovable Losers -- 1962 to 1968
In October, 1961, the Mets began to build their team via the expansion draft. Both the Mets and the Houston Colt .45s were able to grab players from the other teams, with the Mets netting former stars Roger Craig, Al Jackson, Frank Thomas, and Richie Ashburn. Casey Stengel came out of retirement to manage the team. The Mets strategy of focusing on older, well-known players over younger players with their upside ahead of them turned out to be a poor one; and they'd not learn the lesson for the better part of the decade.
The Mets played their first game on April 11, 1962—an 11-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Two days later, they lost their first-ever home game, 4-3, to the Pittsburgh Pirates. These losing ways continued, as the 1962 New York Mets lost their first nine games, finally winning on April 23 on the strength of a Jay Hook five hitter at Forbes Field, beating the Pirates 9-1.
The '62 Mets put up a number of losing marks: a 40-120 record, one of the worst in the game's history; a 17-game losing streak; two 20-game losers (Roger Craig) and (Jay Hook); and of course, falling victim to Sandy Koufax on a June 30 no-hitter out in Los Angeles. And the comedy extended to the front office: at one point, the Mets purchased catcher Harry Chiti and then the Mets shipped him to the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later in the season. That "player to be named later" ended up being Harry Chiti. On the plus side, the Mets drew nearly 1 million fans in their inaugural season.
With nowhere to go but up, the Mets did exactly that in 1963. Even attendance-wise, the Mets improved, drawing just over 1 million fans to the soon-to-be-defunct Polo Grounds. But the Mets were still the definition of awful, losing 22 straight road games at one point. One bright spot: Rookie second baseman Ron Hunt, who finished second in Rookie of the Year voting behind future all-time hits leader Pete Rose.
In 1964 the Mets moved to the new Shea Stadium, but brought their losing ways with them. In May, the Mets lost a 23-inning marathon to the San Francisco Giants, 6-4. On Father's Day, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning threw a perfect game against the Mets, the first in the National League since 1880. (Toward the end of the game, Mets fans were cheering for the enemy.) On the plus side, Hunt was elected as the Mets first-ever All-Star game starter, and the Mets drew 1.7 million fans to Shea.
The Mets trends—losing lots of games, signing players with marquee names but no long marquee talent, etc. -- continued through the 60s. 1965 was a perfect example, with the Mets acquiring both Yogi Berra and Warren Spahn while losing 112 games. Adding injury to insult, Casey Stengel broke his hip and retired suddenly in mid-season, replaced by Wes Westrum.
It was not until 1966 in which the Mets caught a sliver of hope. For the first time ever, the franchise lost fewer than 100 games and did not come in last—their 66-95 record being 7.5 games better than the last place Chicago Cubs. But the big news occurred off-field. The Atlanta Braves signed prospect Tom Seaver out of USC, but baseball commissioner William D. Eckert voided the contract based on the fact that USC's season had already started. The Mets, Cleveland Indians, and Philadelphia Phillies (being the only teams willing to match the Braves' offer to Seaver), were put into a lottery for Seaver's services, with the Mets winning.
And a year later, the tide began to turn. Seaver jumped to the majors, winning the 1967 Rookie of the Year award. While the Mets returned to the National League cellar, Seaver shined, going 16-13, accounting for over a quarter of the Mets wins, and posting an ERA in the league's top 10. His 170 strikeouts were good for 7th in the NL; his 18 complete games netted him in a three-way tie for 2nd.
Toward the end of the '67 season, Westrum resigned and after a few weeks under interim manager Salty Parker, the Mets hired Gil Hodges as skipper. Hodges and the 1968 New York Mets showed immediate and marked improvement. Lead by Seaver (16-12, 2.20 ERA) and rookie Jerry Koosman (19-12, 2.08 ERA), the Mets won 70 or more games for the first time in franchise history and started to resemble a Major League baseball team.
The Amazin's to Ya Gotta Believe! -- 1969 through 1975
In 1969, the Mets clicked.
1969 was the first year of divisional play in baseball, and the Mets lobbying played a role in the gerrymandered "alignment" that put the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds in the National League West, with the more Western Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals in the East. With re-alignment meaning that the Mets would have fewer home games against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants -- and therefore, lose out on the huge crowds those teams drew to their former home city—the new-ish team balked, and refused to endorse the deal unless the perennial powerhouse Cardinals were in the East. The Cubs then objected to that arraignment, demanding that they travel with their red rivals to the south. Thus, the Reds and Braves moved west instead of the Cards and Cubs.
The 1969 season started off ominously, with the Mets losing to the expansion Montreal Expos on Opening Day. By August, the Mets were in third place, ten games behind the Cubs. And then the flip switched. The Cubs hit an 8-17 stretch in September, while the Mets won 38 of their last 50 games. On September 9, the Mets took the lead for good, and finished at 100-62, eight games up on the now second-place Cubs.
The 1969 season was also a crowning one for Tom Seaver and the Mets' young rotation. Tom Terrific went 25-7, leading the National League, and posted a 2.21 ERA. In June, he threw 8 1/3 perfect innings against the Cubs. The Baseball Writers Association of America voted him a near-unanimous Cy Young Award (with Phil Niekro receiving the lone non-Seaver vote); and Seaver came in second in National League MVP voting, tying winner Willie McCovey with 11 first-place votes. Jerry Koosman added a 17-9, 2.08 line and rookie Gary Gentry added a 13-12, 3.43 performance.
The Mets' magic—and Seaver's -- extended into the playoffs. In the inaugural NLCS, the Mets faced Hank Aaron and the Atlanta Braves. Aaron had a fantastic series, homering in each of the three games, driving in seven runs, and batting .357, but the Mets prevailed, sweeping the Braves in three games.
But for a team known for its incredible starting pitching, the bats and bullpen were the true heroes of the NLCS. Seaver was roughed up in game 1, giving up five runs, all earned, in seven innings of work, striking only two while giving up as many home runs. But the Mets scored 9 runs and prevailed. In game 2, Koosman was roughed up in the fifth, giving up five earned runs including a three-run shot by Aaron. However, by then, the Mets already had nine runs of their own, as both Tommie Agee and Ken Boswell had two run bombs. Cleon Jones added a two-run shot of his own as the Mets downed the Braves, 11-6. And Gentry fared worst of all, lasting only two-plus innings. After giving up a two run homer to Aaron in the first, the two faced again with a man on in the third. Aaron again prevailed, doubling to left and bringing the runner to third. Gentry was pulled in favor of Nolan Ryan, who got out of the jam and went the rest of the way, spinning a masterful 3 hit, seven strikeout performance, the lone blemish being an Orlando Cepeda homer in the fifth. With Agee and Boswell again homering, the Mets waltzed into the World Series, 7-4. But for the NLCS, their terrific trio of starters were anything but, putting up a 9.21 ERA over 13.7 innings, and allowing 19 hits (three HRs) and 8 walks over those innings.
The Mets went on the 1969 World Series, facing the favored Baltimore Orioles, and in game one, the pitching woes continued right from the beginning, as Tom Seaver took the mound against leadoff hitter Don Buford. Buford prevailed, taking Seaver deep, and giving the O's a lead they would not relinquish. Seaver went a mere five innings giving up four runs, and this time, the Mets bats could not save him, as Mike Cuellar scattered six hits over a full nine frames, beating the Mets, 4-1.
But Jerry Koosman stopped the bleeding in game two. Matched up against twenty-game winner Dave McNally, the Mets needed a lights-out performance from their magical lefty. Koosman delivered, giving up a mere two hits and one walk through eight innings. With the Mets up 2-1 on a clutch 9th inning single by weak-hitting Al Weis, Hodges sent Koosman out to finish the job. He recorded to outs before issuing two-out walks to Frank Robinson and Boog Powell. Hodges pulled Koosman for Ron Taylor, who induced a groundball from Brooks Robinson, sending the Series back to Shea knotted at 1 game each.
In game three, the pitching was even better. Gary Gentry threw six and two-thirds of shutout ball, giving up three hits and five walks while striking out four. Nolan Ryan again came into the game in relief of Gentry, excelling: one hit, two walks, three strikeouts in two and a third scoreless innings. The duo was aided by of two spectacular catches by center fielder Tommie Agee that saved a total of five runs. Meanwhile, the Mets bats got to Jim Palmer: Tommie Agee lead off the game for the Mets with a solo homer; Gentry added a two-run double in the second; Jerry Grote added an RBI double in the 6th; and Ed Kranepool, now facing Dave Leonhard in the 8th hit a solo shot of his own. The Mets won, 5-0, with Seaver returning to the mound in game four.
And the Seaver of the regular season was the one who came to the ballpark that day. Through the first eight innings, Seaver allowed only three hits and two walks. Cuellar was also solid, giving up one run in seven innings of work. But, on the strength of a Donn Clendenon home run, Seaver rolled into the 9th up 1-0. And while he failed to hold the lead—with one out and runners at the corners, Brooks Robinson flew out to right, scoring Frank Robinson from third to tie the game. The Mets threatened in the bottom of the ninth, with Cleon Jones at third and Ron Swoboda at first with two outs, but Art Shamsky grounded out, sending the game to extra innings. Seaver returned for the 10th, giving up a hit and with Davey Johnson reaching on an error, but got out of the inning. It was more than enough to win. Jerry Grote doubled to lead off the bottom of the 10th, and, after an intentional pass to Al Weis, J.C. Martin came up in a sacrifice situation. With Rod Gaspar at second pinch running for Grote, Martin got the bunt down cleanly. Pitcher Pete Richert botched the throw; Gaspar scored the game's winning run. After four games of terrible starting pitching, the Mets starters rebounded: three wins, averaging over eight innings pitched and an ERA just under 1.04.
The Mets were up, 3-1, with Koosman returning to the mound to bring the Mets their first-ever championship, again versus Dave McNally. McNally got the better of Koosman early, helping his own cause with a two run home run in the third. But a strange hit by pitch helped the Mets roar back. In the sixth, Cleon Jones was struck by a pitch on the foot and awarded first base after inspection by the home plate umpire revealed tell-tale shoe polish on the ball. Jones scored on Donn Clendenon's home run which followed immediately. Al Weis homered in the seventh for a 3-3 tie. With McNally now gone, two doubles off Eddie Watt in the eighth brought in the go-ahead Met run, and a pair of errors let in a run for insurance. Koosman held Baltimore scoreless in the ninth and the Met miracle was complete. Ironically, the man who flew out to end the' 69 Series was Davey Johnson -- the same person to manage the Mets to their 1986 world title.
In each of the next three years, the Mets won 83 games, earning three consecutive third place finishes. And 1972 got off on a tragic foot, with beloved manager Gil Hodges -- who lead the Mets to their first World Series three years earlier—suddenly dying of a heart attack toward the end of spring training. Later in 1972, the Mets dealt Nolan Ryan to the California Angels for Jim Fregosi; with Tommie Agee given away at the end of the year, Gary Gentry also dealt, and Ron Swoboda traded in mid-1971, the team was starting to look a lot different than the 1969 team. But the core—Seaver and Koosman—remained intact, and a new face—1972 Rookie of the Year pitcher Jon Matlack -- came on the scene.
Nevertheless, the magic seemed to have worn off by August 1973, when the Mets—owners of a 61-71 record—found a rallying cry: "You Gotta Believe!" Spoken by the late Tug McGraw, the slogan became a motto for the franchise (and is, in fact, a registered trademarked of he team) as the 1973 Mets won 21 of their final 29 games, grabbing the National League East by 1.5 games over the .500 Cardinals. The Mets shocked the Big Red Machine in the NLCS, three games to two, and pushed the A's to seven games before capitulating.
But the magic waned in 1974, as the Mets fell to 71-91, fifth in the National League.; and died a year later, as owner Joan Whitney Payson passed away at the close of the '75 season. The 1975 season itself was a mixed bag: the Mets finished 82-80, in third place; Tom Seaver won his second Cy Young; the Mets off-season acquisition, Dave Kingman, slugs a team-high 36 homers; and Rusty Staub becomes the first Met to drive in 100-plus runs with his 105 RBI campaign. On September 1, the Mets were in first place, but they went on to lose 16 of their final 26 games.
On October 4, Mrs. Payson passed on. With Payson's widower and children disinterested in the team, M. Donald Grant, the chairman of the board of the Mets since their inception, was entrusted with complete control over baseball operations.
The Midnight Massacre and Grant's Tomb -- 1976 to 1979
Grant's tenure marked the darkest period in Mets history. Chided by fans as being too cheap to know a good deal, his reign started off with an what fans found to be an exceptional foible—trading Rusty Staub to the Detroit Tigers for a past-prime Mickey Lolich and 25 year-old farmhand Billy Baldwin. Lolich was coming off a 15-loss season for the Tigers, and disheartened by his 8-13 performance with the 1976 New York Mets, retired after the season—only to return a year later—for the San Diego Padres.
A nondescript 1976 season followed, but Grant's greatest trick loomed in the shadows. On June 15, 1977, the Mets, showing no hope of competing that season, had two marquee names -- Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman. And both were likely to earn a lot more money the next year. Grant, rather than continue with a pair of protracted contract disputes, dealt the pair in two separate deals—netting Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, and Dan Norman for Seaver and Bobby Valentine and Paul Siebert for Kingman. These trades, dubbed the "Midnight Massacre" by newspapers and fans, crushed the soul of the fan base for the better part of a decade. With attendance plummeting and even diehard fans turning apathetic, Shea Stadium was dubbed "Grant's Tomb" by the remaining fans. And the team responded in kind, falling back to the cellar with a 64-98 record.
1978 was more of the same. Bud Harrelson and Felix Milan, the Mets double-play combination from the 1973 NL championship team, were both dealt before the season started. In spite of Craig Swan's NL-leading 2.43 ERA, the Mets finished in last again, 66-96.
With the end of the 1978 season, so came the end of Grant's reign; he was fired at the end of the season. But the damage was already done; the 1979 Mets, gutted of their most talent players, again finished in last place. Lee Mazzilli became a local hero, leading the team in batting average and tied in RBI; Craig Swan officially replaces Jerry Koosman as the staff ace (with Koosman having been dealt to Minnesota the year before.) The 70s closed with two pieces of news: Ed Kranepool retired, and the before the 1980 season, the Payson family sold the team to Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon, who in turn brought in Frank Cashen from the Orioles as general manager.
The Early '80s: Rebuilding
With Jerry Koosman sent to the Minnesota Twins for a player-to-be-named-later named Jesse Orosco in 1978, soon after the end of the Grant era, the start of the next Mets era had begun. Yet the Mets' standings morass continued in 1980 and until 1984, with Cashen focusing the Mets marketing efforts on anything but the players. In fact, his first ad campaign, "Catch the Rising Stars", featured prominent New Yorkers—but no actual Mets.
In 1980, the team finished out of last place for the first time since 1976, and attendance picked up as the Mets went on a 21-14 run after a 6-14 start. The strike-shortened 1981 season was not much better, as Joe Torre's managerial term ends in favor of George Bamberger. Bamberger's first year, 1982 is also George Foster's -- and that for the Shea Stadium Diamond Vision screen in left field. On the field, the result is the same: 97 losses and last place.
The early '80s were, for fans, dark indeed. But the building blocks were being put in place for what Mets fans hoped would be a dynasty.
Darryl Strawberry was the first key draft choice, with the Mets selecting him first overall in the 1980 draft, despite is raw youth scaring off others. Dwight Gooden was drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 1982 draft. Ron Darling was acquired for fan favorite Lee Mazzilli officially in April 1982, and then in 1983, the Mets made their first of two hallmark acquisitions: Keith Hernandez. On June 15, 1983, the Mets acquired "The Mex" from St. Louis for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey.
1983 marked a turning point for the Mets and a home-coming: Tom Seaver returned to the team, and, as Opening Day starter, threw six shutout innings. Even though the 1983 New York Mets finished 68-94, the signs of hope were there, with a young pitcher waiting in the minors, Jesse Orosco leads the team in wins (13) and saves (17) and earns NL pitcher of the month honors in August, and Strawberry winning the Rookie of the Year Award. Adding in Hernandez—just a few years removed from winning the National League MVP -- and the Mets were closer to being competitive than they had been in nearly a decade. And on October 13, Davey Johnson -- who managed AAA Tidewater to title just weeks earlier—is promoted to the skipper's office at Shea.
In 1984, it clicked: The Mets made a deadline deal for Ray Knight and went 90-72, their first over-.500 finish since 1976. Dwight Gooden, at 19, makes his Shea debut, putting up a 17-9 record with a 2.60 ERA and striking out 276 on his way to NL Rookie of the Year honors. With Orosco, Hernandez, Strawberry, and now Gooden firing on all cylanders on their way to the All-Star team, the Mets seemed one or two players away from the Rising Stars Cashen promised a few years earlier.
From Gary to Cone
With Knight aboard and with Mets catchers failing to properly handle the bat or the young pitching staff, the Mets sent Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham, and Floyd Youmans to the Montreal Expos -- for Gary Carter. The 1985 New York Mets were stocked from top to bottom, with Carter, Hernandez, Knight, Strawberry, and George Foster anchoring the lineup, and Gooden and his absurd 24-4, 1.53 ERA, and 268 strikeouts earning him a Cy Young Award. But it was all for naught, with the Mets 98 wins being three shy of the eventual National League champion Cardinals'.
Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, and Roger McDowell were coming of age; Jesse Orosco and Mookie Wilson were hitting their prime; and the Mets stellar lineup was intact. The future was bright. And in November 1985, it only got brighter, as the Mets acquired veteran lefty Bob Ojeda from the Boston Red Sox for a package centered on Calvin Schiraldi. When Lenny Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell, and Wally Backman emerged as surprises, the 1986 Mets ran over the National League East on their way to the playoffs.
The playoffs were some of the most memorable in history. Gooden battled Mike Scott in game one, but came up on the losing end of a 1-0 duel, with Scott striking out 14 while scattering five hits in a complete game effort. The next day, Ojeda answered, giving up ten hits in a complete game of his own, winning 5-1. Game three added more drama—with the Mets down 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth, Dykstra stroked a two-run, walkoff homer, giving the Mets a 2-1 series lead. But Scott returned for game four, and dominated the Mets again, giving up a mere three hits in a 3-1 complete game victory—his second complete game of the series.
An already dramatic series ramped up the tension. In game five, Nolan Ryan gave up only two hits in the first nine innings of to the Mets—one of them Darryl Strawberry's game-tying solo homer in the fifth—while striking out twelve. But one run was one too many, as Gooden also gave up just one run (in ten innings of work). Charlie Kerfeld shut out the Mets in the tenth and eleventh, and the Orosco responded in kind in the eleventh and twelfth. But in the last of the twelfth, Gary Carter singled home a run off Kerfeld to end the game; the Mets' second walk-off hit in the series.
With Scott looming in game seven, game six was deemed a must-win by Mets fans and players alike. Bobby Ojeda got the Mets off on the wrong foot, giving up three runs in the first, and that looked like enough, as Knepper looked untouchable. But the Mets got off the schneid—Dykstra lead off with a triple and scored on a Mookie Wilson single; after a Kevin Mitchell groundout, Wilson scored on a Keith Hernandez double. Knepper was pulled in favor of game three goat Bob Smith, who walked both Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry, giving Hernandez a free pass to third. Ray Knight drove a flyball to right field, scoring Hernandez on a sac fly. The game went to extras.
With the teams trading runs in the bottom of the 14th, the Mets three runs in the top of the 16th were likely to be more than enough. But the Astros took one last shot at the heart of the New Yorkers. Jesse Orosco, in his third inning of work and fifth over two days, was kept in the game in the top of the 16th even though the Mets (then nursing a 5-4 lead) had runners at the corners. Manager Davey Johnson was going to let his tired warrior close this one out—and he almost failed to do so. Orosco struck out the leadoff batter but walked Davey Lopes, who, after back-to-back singles, scored. With runners on first and second, Denny Walling grounded out, putting runners at the corners with two outs for Glenn Davis. Davis singled, scoring Bill Doran, and putting the tying run in scoring position for Kevin Bass. As Mets fans who were watching that tense evening may recall, in a tense six-pitch at bat, Orosco fanned Bass swinging. The Mets were going to the World Series for the first time in over a decade.
Waiting for them were the Boston Red Sox, champions of the AL East and victors of the ALCS over the California Angels. Boston surprised the favored Mets by taking the first two games in New York. In game one, Ron Darling threw eight innings, allowing only one run on five hits, the lone run coming when a seventh-inning walk, a wild pitch, and an error by second baseman Tim Teufel moved Jim Rice around the bases. That was enough to send the 55,000-plus at Shea home with a Mets loss, as Bruce Hurst and Calvin Schiraldi combined on a four-hitter, blanking the Mets.
In game two, both starters -- Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens -- got off to rough starts. Gooden allowed three runs in the top of the third (two earned) on a walk, error by Keith Hernandez, and a double and two singles. The Mets answered in the bottom of the frame, collecting two runs on three singles and a sac bunt. But Gooden could not contain the damage, giving up a solo home run in the top of the 4th to Dave Henderson and then a two run bomb in the 5th to Dwight Evans. With Rick Aguilera pitching in the 7th, the Red Sox cashed in twice more on five consecutive singles. The end result was a 9-3 Red Sox win, with Boston collecting 18 hits and four walks on the day.
When the Series moved to Boston, though, the Mets bats awoke. In game three, Lenny Dykstra lead off with a solo shot and Gary Carter added an RBI double before the Red Sox recorded an out. Danny Heep had a two-run single in the first—and in the first-ever DH at bat by a National Leaguer—as the Amazins punished Oil Can Boyd and Joe Sambito for seven runs on eleven hits over the course of seven innings (and two batters in the eight). Former Sox pitcher Bob Ojeda gave up just one run on five hits in his seven innings of work. The Mets staved off a horrific, 3-0 and-on-the-road deficit with the 7-1 win.
The next day, Ron Darling redeemed his first-game loss as the Mets bats continued to come alive. Gary Carter started the Mets off in the fourth, hitting a two-run homer off Boston starter Al Nipper, scoring Wally Backman. In the top of the seventh, Dykstra hit his second homer of the series, a two run shot (scoring Mookie Wilson) off Steve Crawford. Carter added another homer in the 8th, also off Crawford, and Darling left the game after seven innings of shutout ball. Roger McDowell gave up two runs in the 8th, but Jesse Orosco came on in relief with runners on first and second and two out, and induced a ground ball out of Wade Boggs, ending the threat. The Mets won, 6-2, sending the series to a tie and guaranteeing a return trip to Shea. With Gooden losing again in game five, the Mets needed to take both games at Shea to stave off the upset.
With Roger Clemens taking on Bob Ojeda -- and with the Red Sox's 68 year championship drought potentially coming to an end—game six had all the pomp and circumstance it deserved. Clemens battled for seven innings, giving up two runs; Ojeda went six and also gave up two runs. In the top of the seventh, the Red Sox scored an unearned run of Roger McDowell, aided in part by a throwing error by Ray Knight. The Mets tied the game in the bottom of the 8th on a Gary Carter sacrifice fly, and the game went to extra frames. But once again, Boston broke out first -- Dave Henderson lead off the tenth with a homer off Rick Aguilera, and the Red Sox tacked on another run, taking a 5-3 lead. After Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez flew out, [[Gary Carter came to bat with two strikes, two outs, down two, in the potentially final game of the 1986 World Series.
But fate had other plans, as Carter singled; then, Kevin Mitchell added a single of his own. With runners on first and second, Ray Knight singled, scoring Carter and sending Mitchell to third. Red Sox skipper John McNamara replaced Calvin Schiraldi with Bob Stanley -- who dug in to face Mookie Wilson. But Mookie could do no wrong. Stanley threw a wild pitch past catcher Rich Gedman, tying the game and advancing Knight to third. And on the seventeenth pitch of the at bat, Mookie won out, hitting a slow roller that eked under Bill Buckner's glove and into shallow right field, scoring Knight as the Mets won, 6-5.
Game seven, historically, is considered an afterthought, as the Mets won 8-5 on the way to their second World Series title. But the game was hardly a sure thing. Ron Darling faltered early, giving up back-to-back homers to Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman to lead off the second. Darling left the game after three and two-thirds innings, down 3-0, ceding to Sid Fernandez. El Sid took the Mets through the sixth, and then, the bats came alive—with the bases loaded and one out, Keith Hernandez ringed a two run single, and then Gary Carter drove in Wally Backman on a game-tying fielders' choice. In the top of the seventh, Ray Knight homered off goat Calvin Schiraldi, breaking the tie. Even Rafael Santana got in on the action, driving in the first of two insurance runs scored that inning. The Red Sox stormed back on the strength of Dwight Evans's two run single, but Jesse Orosco slammed the door shut, retiring the game's final six batters—including a strikeout of Marty Barrett as Orosco fell to his knees, a world champion.
The ninth inning of Game Six ended with the score tied 3-3. Boston's Dave Henderson led off the tenth with a home run and two more Sox hits made the score 5-3. Boston reliever Calvin Schiraldi retired the first two Mets in the last of the tenth on long flies, but then three Mets singled, driving in one run and driving out Schiraldi. Bob Stanley, his replacement, had two strikes on Mookie Wilson when a wild pitch let in the tying run, and then Wilson's grounder went through first baseman Bill Buckner's legs as the winning Met bounded across the plate.
The Red Sox nearly recovered in Game Seven. Second-inning home runs by Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman, a walk, sacrifice, and single gave Boston a 3-0 lead which they held into the sixth inning. But then starter Bruce Hurst lost his touch: four hits and a walk later the score was tied. A succession of five Sox relievers tried to hold the line, but the Mets scored five runs to Boston's two in the final innings for an 8-5 triumph.
After the '86 season, the Mets shipped a package of players (including Kevin Mitchell) to the San Diego Padres for Kevin McReynolds; and acquired pitcher David Cone from the Kansas City Royals in a deal for Ed Hearn. Both acquisitions—even though losing a future MVP in Mitchell proved costly—were feathers in the cap of GM Frank Cashen. However, World Series MVP Ray Knight demanded more money than the Mets desired to pay; he left for the Baltimore Orioles.
The core of the '88 team was similar to the '86 team, with the three key differences being Kevin McReynolds anchoring left field (and the Mets employing a Mookie Wilson/Lenny Dykstra platoon in center); David Cone taking Rick Aguilera's starting spot; Howard Johnson anchoring the hot corner full-time; and Randy Myers replacing Jesse Orosco as the team's closer. The pitching staff was phenomenal, with Ron Darling's 3.25 ERA the worst among the five starters; and David Cone's 20-3, 2.22 ERA, and 213 strikeouts lead the team and were each in the top 3 of the league. The Mets, powered by Darryl Strawberry's league-leading 39 homers, cruised to a 100-60 record and a NL East pennant—by 15 games over the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Mets faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS—a team they dominated over the course of the regular season. But unlike 1986, the Mets failed to win this series, falling in seven. The critical moment came with the Mets up 4-2 in the top of the 9th in game four. With Dwight Gooden on the mound and a runner on, Mike Scioscia came to bat, slugging a two run homer. A Kirk Gibson solo shot in the 12th proved decisive, and the Mets 3-1 series lead—and momentum—evaporated. Nevertheless, fans had believed in the promise of a Mets dynasty yet to come.
In 1989, the faces started to change. With wunderkind Gregg Jefferies being handed the second base job, Wally Backman was traded to the Minnesota Twins. The pitching was solid -- Sid Fernandez posted a 2.83 ERA while striking out 198; David Cone struck out 190; Ron Darling won 14 games; and Randy Myers had 24 saves. Jefferies had his best year as a Met, leading all rookies in homers (12), doubles (28), and RBI (56), while Howard Johnson went 30-30 for the second time. In mid-season, the Mets made a blockbusted acquisition, trading Rick Aguilera, David West, and Kevin Tapani to the Twins for pitcher Frank Viola. Nevertheless, the Mets finished 87-75, six games behind the Chicago Cubs, but could have been better, as Dwight Gooden missed the second half of the season with a right shoulder muscle tear. A
But the end was near. Most dramatically, the Mets centerfield platoon was gutted over the summer. Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell were sent to Philadelphia for Juan Samuel in one of the worst trades in Mets history. Six weeks later, local favorite Mookie Wilson was dealt to Toronto at the trade deadline for Jeff Musselman. Samuel, a converted second baseman coming off a horrific .243/.298/.380 season, was expected to fill the centerfield hole. He put up an even worse line as a Met -- .228/.299/.300.
During the off-season, both Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter found themselves free agents, bound for other teams. Randy Myers was traded to Cincinnati for hometown closer John Franco, and Samuel was flipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Alejandro Pena. With a gaping hole in center, Daryl Boston was claimed off waivers from the Chicago White Sox.
In 1990, Davey Johnson was replaced by Bud Harrelson in May and, behind the strength of their starting pitching, finished only four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. David Cone lead the majors with 233 strikeouts and Frank Viola won 20 games. Dwight Gooden won Pitcher of the Month honors for September and Sid Fernandez allowed a batting-average against of only .200.
The Worst Team Money Could Buy
The 1990 off-season got off on the wrong foot, as Darryl Strawberry made good on his promise to return home to Los Angeles, signing with the Dodgers. With big shoes to fill, Cashen went out and signed Vince Coleman, who was coming off a season in which he hit .292 with 77 stolen bases. The team collapsed, winning a mere 77 games, with injuries to Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez, combined with a subpar season from Frank Viola shouldering some of the blame. Wally Whitehurst, acquired in the Jesse Orosco deal years earlier, proved an inadequate, putting up a 4.19 ERA in 20 starts. But the real problem was the starting lineup -- Gregg Jefferies again failed to live up to expectations, Kevin McReynolds regressed, and Coleman played only 72 games and sported a .255 batting average with virtually no power. Only Howard Johnson was immune from the curse, putting up his third 30-30 season.
Bud Harrelson was fired, and Frank Cashen resigned. Al Harazin opened up the Doubleday/Wilpon pocket book, adding three stars. First, he signed future Hall of Fame first baseman Eddie Murray. Then, he signed outfielder Bobby Bonilla to a record contract. Finally, in a blockbuster deal, Harazin traded Gregg Jefferies and Kevin McReynolds as the centerpiece of a package bringing back two-time Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen. To lead the team, Harazin signed former Chicago White Sox pitcher Jeff Torborg.
It was all for naught. The 1992 New York Mets finished 24 games out of first, 72-90. The culprit: injuries, as the Mets set a team-record by using the fifteen-day DL a total of 18 times. During one six-day stretch in August, eight different Mets were on the DL. Having fallen out of contention, the Mets traded David Cone to the Toronto Blue Jays in August 1992, receiving Ryan Thompson and Jeff Kent. And during the off-season, Harazin plugged up the pitching staff by signing 39-year-old Frank Tanana to a one year deal. With the Mets healthy and with an MLB-leading payroll, many hoped that 1992 was an aberration, and good times were ahead.
Unfortunately, the moniker "The Worst Team Money Could Buy" comes from somewhere—namely, the 1993 New York Mets. Despite an above-average rotation (Tanana notwithstanding), the Mets imploded. John Franco had an ERA over 5. Eddie Murphy's .285 batting average lead the team, and a hobbled Howard Johnson hit a mere 7 home runs. Bobby Bonilla's power—a team-leading 34 home runs—turned out to be hollow, as he drove in only 87 runners. Vince Coleman put up a .316 on base percentage and was caught stealing over 25% of the time. In fact, the Mets had seven players with 200 or more at bats and an OBP of .325 or less, with Todd Hundley and his .269 OBP (in 417 AB) being the most egregious. In May, after a 13-25 start, Torborg is fired, replaced by Dallas Green, who does not fare much better (46-78). Harazin resigned in June, replaced by Joe McIlvaine.
The Young Guns That Weren't
In the strike-shortened 1994 season, the Mets showed a regained pulse, finishing 55-58. The oft-maligned Bobby Bonilla lead the way with a .290/.375/.504 line, but the Mets were still crippled by low on base percentages: Todd Hundley sported a .303; David Segui a .308; Jose Vizcaino a .310; Ryan Thompson a .301; and Joe Orsulak a pathetic .299. The only reason the Mets had an success? Three pitchers: Bobby Jones (3.15 ERA in 160 IP), Bret Saberhagen (2.74 ERA in 177.3 IP), and closer John Franco (30 saves in 47 appearances).
At the end of the year, in November 1994, free agency was a mess. Teams could trade for the rights to sign other players, which is exactly what happened when the Mets traded two nothings to the Houston Astros for the rights to sign Pete Harnisch. Harnisch-as-ace never panned out, as he fell into chewing tobacco withdrawal-induced depression, which set off a very public fight between Harnisch and the team.
Indeed, the 1995 season was a step back, as the Mets finished 69-75, yet good enough for a second place tie in the NL East. But the future had stars glistening on the horizon -- Todd Hundley finally turned a page, with a .280/.382/.484 line; a young third baseman named Edgardo Alfonzo cracked the roster; and the "young guns" -- Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, and Bill Pulsipher -- a much-hyped trio of starting pitching prospects—left hope for the future. The Mets took advantage of the nadir, too, by clearing salary, trading both Bret Saberhagen and Bobby Bonilla before the trade deadline, and Brett Butler soon after. With young outfielders Butch Huskey, Alex Ochoa and Carl Everett already on board, the Mets added Bernard Gilkey and Lance Johnson via free agency.
Gilkey and Hundley shined bright in 1996; Gilkey put up arguably the greatest left field season in Mets history, hitting 30 homers and setting a club-record 44 doubles, while Hundley hit 41 home runs, most ever by a catcher at that point. Johnson also did not disappoint, stealing 50 bases and hitting 21 triples while sporting a .333 batting average. But the pitching was woeful. Pete Harnisch failed to live up to expectations, putting up a 4.21 ERA. Bill Pulsipher was injured, and that may have been the best of the Young Guns, as Jason Isringhausen's 4.77 ERA and Paul Wilson's 5.38 turned more stomachs than heads. Wilson would never make another appearance as a Met. Dallas Green is fired and Bobby Valentine is brought in to replace him. Valentine starts off slowly, taking the Mets 12-19 from the end of August until the season's merciful close, as the Mets finish 71-91, 25 games out of first.
The Piazza Era
With Valentine on board, the 1997 Mets made their first real stab at the playoffs in nearly a decade. The team finished 88-74, third in the NL East behind the Atlanta Braves and the would-be champion Florida Marlins. Their 88 wins was also the seventh-best record in the Majors. Leading the way was catcher Todd Hundley, who, allegedly aided by the use of performance enhancing drugs, continued his homer binge, slamming 30 round trippers. Also of note: the first-ever regular season Subway Series, where in dramatic fashion, back-of-the-rotation starter Dave Mlicki dominated the New York Yankees, spinning a 6-0 complete game shutout in the first game of the series. But the season was the last one for general manager Joe McIlvaine, who was replaced by Steve Phillips on July 16. Phillips made an immediate impact. On August 8, with the Mets still clinging to playoff hopes, Phillips traded Lance Johnson and two players to be named later to the Chicago Cubs for Mel Rojas, Turk Wendell, and Brian McRae. The players to be named later were utility player Manny Alexander -- and starter Mark Clark. Clark was a plus pitcher for the Mets in 1996—14-11, 3.43 ERA in 212.3 IP. Without Clark, the Mets had a hole in their rotation, and many fans decried this trade as foolish—especially when Clark went 6-1 with a 2.86 ERA for the Cubs down the stretch.
But Phillips was hardly done, and his plan was focused: Rebuild the pitching staff. With Wendell and Rojas on board (with mixed results), Phillips spent the off-season adding three more arms to the bullpen: Dennis Cook, from the Florida Marlins, for two minor leagues; John Hudek, from the Houston Astros, for Carl Everett; and Rigo Beltran, from the St. Louis Cardinals, for Juan Acevdeo. With the Marlins in full fire-sale mode, he sent then-prospect A.J. Burnett and two others to Florida for Al Leiter. Finally, Phillips signed Japanese free agent Masato Yoshii.
But early in the 1998 season, the injury bug bit. Edgardo Alfonzo, Bernard Gilkey, and Todd Hundley all went down; even backup catcher Todd Pratt had a DL stint. With an opening at catcher, in late May, the crown jewel arrived. Mike Piazza, whom the Florida Marlins had just acquired in a blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, came to Shea, costing the Metropolitans Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnell, and Geoff Goetz. By the close of May, the Mets were in the mix—31-20. And with the Mets in the thick of things, more deals were coming—out were Gilkey, Hudek, Mlicki, and Greg McMichael; in were Hideo Nomo,Tony Phillips, pinch hitter extraordinare Lenny Harris, and, ironically, McMichael again. Unfortunately, the Mets imploded down the stretch, losing their last five games and falling one game short of the wild card.
They would fare better in 1999. First, the ill-fated Todd Hundley-as-outfielder experiment mercifully was closed, as Phillips flipped Hundley to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-team deal which netted the Mets Armando Benitez from the Baltimore Orioles and Roger Cedeno from L.A. Also added were free agents Rickey Henderson and Robin Ventura, giving the Mets a star-studded lineup. Mike Piazza lead the team with 40 home runs and 124 runs batted in, and he, Ventura, Olerud, Cedeno, Henderson, and Alfonzo each had batting averages of over .295. Benny Agbayani emerged as a surprise, thumping 14 home runs in only 276 at bats. Cedeno set a then-team record with 66 stolen bases. Five Mets pitcher, including off-season acquisition Orel Hershiser, had double-digit wins, and when John Franco fell to injury, Benitez stepped into the closer role: 22 saves and 128 strikeouts in 78 IP.
- 14 Gil Hodges (manager)
- 37 Casey Stengel (manager)
- 41 Tom Seaver (pitcher)
- 42 Jackie Robinson (retired by MLB)
- Fred Wilpon (sole owner) (2002)
- Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon (1986)
- Doubleday & Co. (1980)
- Charles Shipman Payson (1975)
- Joan Whitney Payson (1961)
- Casey Stengel (1962–65)
- Wes Westrum (1965–67)
- Gil Hodges (1968–71)
- Yogi Berra (1972–75)
- Roy McMillan (1975)
- Joe Frazier (1976–77)
- Joe Torre (1977–81)
- George Bamberger (1982–83)
- Frank Howard (1983)
- Davey Johnson (1984–90)
- Bud Harrelson (1990–91)
- Jeff Torborg (1992–93)
- Dallas Green (1993–96)
- Bobby Valentine (1996–2002)
- Art Howe (2003–04)
- Willie Randolph (2005–08)
- Jerry Manuel (2008- )
All-Time Team Leaders & Stats
- Home Runs: Darryl Strawberry, 252 (1983–1990)
- Runs Batted In: Darryl Strawberry, 733 (1983–1990)
- Batting Average (minimum 1,000 plate appearances): Lance Johnson, .326 (1996–1997)
- Batting Average (minimum 2,000 plate appearances): John Olerud, .315 (1997–1999)
- Batting Average (minimum 3,000 plate appearances): Keith Hernandez, .297 (1983–1989)
- Batting Average (minimum 4,000 plate appearances): Edgardo Alfonzo, .292 (1995–2002)
- Hits: Ed Kranepool, 1,418 (1962–1979)
- Runs: Darryl Strawberry, 662 (1983–1990)
- Doubles: Ed Kranepool, 225 (1962–1979)
- Triples: Mookie Wilson, 62 (1980–1989)
- Stolen Bases: Mookie Wilson, 281 (1980–1989)
- Walks: Darryl Strawberry, 580 (1983–1990)
- Wins: Tom Seaver, 198 (1967–1977, 1983)
- Saves: John Franco, 276 (1990–2004)
- Strikeouts: Tom Seaver, 2,541 (1967–1977, 1983)
- Earned Run Average: Tom Seaver, 2.57 (1967–1977, 1983)
Single Season Records
- Home Runs: Todd Hundley, 41 (1996) , Carlos Beltran, 41 (2006)
- Runs Batted In: Mike Piazza, 124 (1999)
- Batting Average: John Olerud, .354 (1998)
- Hits: Lance Johnson, 227 (1996)
- Runs: Edgardo Alfonzo, 123 (1999)
- Doubles: Bernard Gilkey, 44 (1996)
- Triples: Lance Johnson, 21 (1996)
- Stolen Bases: Jose Reyes, 78 (2007)
- Hitting Streak: Moises Alou (2007), 30
- Walks: John Olerud, 125 (1999)
- Wins: Tom Seaver, 25 (1969)
- Saves: Armando Benitez, 43 (2001)
- Strikeouts: Tom Seaver, 289 (1971)
- Earned Run Average: Dwight Gooden, 1.53 (1985)
New York Mets Hall of Fame
The New York Mets Hall of Fame was created in 1981 to recognize the careers of former New York Mets players, managers, broadcasters and executives. There are presently 21 members.
- 10 Rusty Staub
- 41 Tom Seaver
- 21 Cleon Jones
- 15 Jerry Grote
- 45 Tug McGraw
- 20 Tommie Agee
To date, no Met has won the MVP award.
Rookie of the Year
- David Wright (2007–2008)
- Carlos Beltran (2006–2008)
- Robin Ventura (1999)
- Rey Ordonez (1997–1999)
- Ron Darling (1989)
- Keith Hernandez (1983–1988)
- Doug Flynn (1980)
- Bud Harrelson (1971)
- Tommie Agee (1970)
- David Wright (2007–2008)
- Carlos Beltran (2006–2007)
- Jose Reyes (2006)
- Mike Piazza (1998–2002)
- Mike Hampton (2000)
- Edgardo Alfonzo (1999)
- Dwight Gooden (1992)
- Howard Johnson (1989,1991)
- Darryl Strawberry (1988,1990)
- Gary Carter (1985–1986)
- Keith Hernandez (1984)
- Billy Wagner (2007–2008)
- David Wright (2006–2008)
- Jose Reyes (2006–2007)
- Carlos Beltran (2005–2007)
- Pedro Martinez (2005–2006)
- Tom Glavine (2004,2006)
- Paul Lo Duca (2006)
- Mike Piazza (1998–2002,2004–2005)
- Armando Benitez (2003)
- Rick Reed (1998, 2001)
- Edgardo Alfonzo (2000)
- Al Leiter (2000)
- Todd Hundley (1996–1997)
- Bobby Jones (1997)
- Lance Johnson (1996)
- Bobby Bonilla (1993,1995)
- Bret Saberhagen (1994)
- David Cone (1988,1992)
- Frank Viola (1990–1991)
- John Franco (1990)
- Darryl Strawberry (1984–1990)
- Gary Carter (1985–1988)
- Dwight Gooden (1984–1986,1988)
- Sid Fernandez (1986–1987)
- Keith Hernandez (1984,1986–1987)
- Davey Johnson (1987)
- Ron Darling (1985)
- Jesse Orosco (1983–1984)
- John Stearns (1977,1979–1980,1982)
- Joel Youngblood (1981)
- Lee Mazzilli (1979)
- Pat Zachry (1978)
- Tom Seaver (1967–1973,1975–1976)
- Dave Kingman (1976)
- Jon Matlack (1974–1976)
- Jerry Grote (1968,1974)
- Yogi Berra (1974)
- Willie Mays (1972–1973)
- Tug McGraw (1972)
- Bud Harrelson (1970–1971)
- Gil Hodges (1970)
- Jerry Koosman (1968–1969)
- Cleon Jones (1969)
- Ron Hunt (1969)
- Ed Kranepool (1965)
- Duke Snider (1963)
- Richie Ashburn (1962)
Record Per Season
Year Team Name Record 1962 New York Mets 40-120 1963 New York Mets 51-111 1964 New York Mets 53-109 1965 New York Mets 50-112 1966 New York Mets 66-95 1967 New York Mets 61-101 1968 New York Mets 73-89 1969 New York Mets 100-62 1970 New York Mets 83-79 1971 New York Mets 83-79 1972 New York Mets 83-73 1973 New York Mets 82-79 1974 New York Mets 71-91 1975 New York Mets 82-80 1976 New York Mets 86-76 1977 New York Mets 64-98 1978 New York Mets 66-96 1979 New York Mets 63-99 1980 New York Mets 67-95 1981 New York Mets 41-62 1982 New York Mets 65-97 1983 New York Mets 68-94 1984 New York Mets 90-72 1985 New York Mets 98-64 1986 New York Mets 108-54 1987 New York Mets 92-70 1988 New York Mets 100-60 1989 New York Mets 87-75 1990 New York Mets 91-71 1991 New York Mets 77-84 1992 New York Mets 72-90 1993 New York Mets 59-103 1994 New York Mets 55-58 1995 New York Mets 69-75 1996 New York Mets 71-91 1997 New York Mets 88-74 1998 New York Mets 88-74 1999 New York Mets 97-66 2000 New York Mets 94-68 2001 New York Mets 82-80 2002 New York Mets 75-86 2003 New York Mets 66-95 2004 New York Mets 71-91 2005 New York Mets 83-79 2006 New York Mets 97-65 2007 New York Mets 88-74 2008 New York Mets 89-73
Minor League Teams
- New Orleans Zephyrs
- Binghamton Mets
- St. Lucie Mets
- Savannah Sand Gnats
- Brooklyn Cyclones
- Kingsport Mets
- GCL Mets
- VSL Mets
- Official site and Mets HoF page
- Mets Stats at baseball-reference.com
- Ultimate Mets Database
- Mets Wikipedia entry