The Mets came back and rallied for 4 in the bottom of the 6th to tie the game. But once again, the bullpen failed. The Mets reliever gave the run right back in the top of the 7th. With men on 1st & 3rd and one out, the batter hit a routine double play ball to the Mets 2nd baseman. For some unknown reason, he looked towards home, then double pumped. The DP was not executed, the base runner scored and we fell behind again, 5-4. Sound familiar?
In the end, however, we did prevail and win the game 6-5. The deciding hit came in the bottom of the 9th. It was a walk off 2 run home run by…Lenny Dykstra. The year was 1986 and this was Game 3 of the 86 Playoffs against Houston.
As I finally got around to watching one of my Christmas gifts this week, a DVD entitled ‘Six Essential Games in the History of Shea Stadium,’ I was…amazed, no pun intended. I realized that the more things change, the more the stay the same.
It was the Houston Astros who stole 3 bases against Gary Carter. It was Tim Teufel who failed to turn the twin killing. It was Rick Aguilera who gave the lead back and it was none other than current Mets broadcaster Ron Darling who was subjected to boos after 2 innings of wildness. At one point during the game, the broadcasters on ABC, Keith Jackson and Tim McCarver, actually talked about Darryl Strawberry’s ‘rocky relationship’ with Mets fans. Darryl had heard a smattering of boos during the season. He was hitless at Shea for the entire month of August. 0 for 43.
We hold the 86 team close to our hearts, as well we should. For lifelong Mets fans, this was one of only two championships we ever won. For others, like myself, who are too young to remember 69, 1986 is my one and only ‘Championship Season.’ For many other Mets fan, younger than me, they have yet to experience the thrill of winning a World Series. We Mets fans, myself included, all hold the 86 team in high regard with the utmost reverence.
It’s human nature to glorify the past, to talk about ‘the good ol’ days.’ We remember things better than they were. As much as we cherish every member of that 86 team, they still were just a team. Yes, better than every other team that season and yes, one of the two best teams we ever had. But they still had their issues. Gary Carter allowing 3 stolen bases in 4 innings? Ridiculous. No one ever–EVER–stole off of Gary. Keith? He must have hit 400 that season. Darryl, who must’ve stood 9 feet tall, always got a HR when we needed it, right? Did Doc lose at all that season? I exaggerate but due to the time that has passed, that team, those players and that entire season has become larger than life. In spite of winning it all, it still took us 6 games to beat Houston and a full 7 to defeat Boston. We did lose 54 games that year. 54 games! Or basically almost 1 out of every 3. Hard to believe we would lose that frequently with those players we had. But we did.
When we all compare the Mets of late to the GODS of 1986, we need to look at things in perspective. This years club has plenty of issues. No argument there. But so did 86. If it wasn’t for an error by Buckner, it’s very conceivable that 86 would have simply been one of many heartbreaking seasons we have endured over time. We cant bask in the glory of winning a championship until we’ve already won it and by then, it’s history. We did not officially become the champs of 86 during the season, but rather after the season.
The 09 Mets have a long way to go before they are on the same level as the 86 club. When we condemn one of our current middle infielders for ‘not always having his head in the game,’ lets remember it was Tim Teufel who made a bone-headed play in Game 3. When we crucify some of our starters for not being able to pitch deep into games, it was the much beloved Ron Darling who lasted only 5 innings that day. When we come down on our bullpen for failing to hold a lead, lets not forget that it was Rick Aguilera who did the same thing. When we attack Carlos Beltran for ‘not sliding’ and David Wright for not being clutch, lets look back to the 86 post-season when an outfielder named Mookie and a future Hall of Famer named Carter hit 192 and 212 respectively. But maybe rather than holding the 86 team to such a high standard, one that is unattainable, perhaps we should elevate the way we feel about our current team. The ends justify the means and before we give up on this season, I believe we should still play the rest of the games and see what happens.