The year 1976, when the Mets won 86 games, concluded an eight year (’69- ’76) period in which the Mets finished over .500 seven times. Of course, prior to 1969, the Mets had seven consecutive losing seasons beginning in their inaugural season of 1962.
Then began a drought from 1977 through 1983 during which the Mets finished last or next to last in seven consecutive seasons. They lost between 94 and 99 games each season except in the strike shortened 1981 season when they were 41-62 with a .398 winning percentage.
In 1979 the Mets lost 99 games and their home attendance was 788,905, averaging 9,739 fans per game. Under the ownership of Charles Payson, who took over after the revered Joan Payson passed away, the Mets were truly the laughingstocks of all of baseball. So much so that Payson became disinterested and left the operation to his daughter Lorinda de Roulet.
Joe McDonald, an M. Donald Grant underling, held the GM post from 1975 through 1978, at which time he was promoted to Vice President. He fired Yogi Berra in 1975 and of course on June 15, 1977, he traded Tom Seaver, though Grant was the big motivating factor.
Here is a bit of trivia that I bet no Mets fans remember. After McDonald was fired in 1980, he was hired as the Assistant GM of the St. Louis Cardinals and in 1982 became their GM. That means on June 15, 1983, he was responsible for trading Keith Hernandez to the Mets.
In January 1980, Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon bought the Mets from the Payson’s. Enter Frank Cashen, hired to be the General Manager with full autonomy. Said Cashen, “I took over a huge mess. Talent wise we had nothing. Fan support, there was nothing. In my estimation it was as ugly as you could get. Just terrible. We needed a complete overhaul of everything”
Cashen drafted Darryl Strawberry with the first pick in the 1980 draft. In 1982; the Mets signed free agent George Foster, Lee Mazzilli was traded for Ron Darling, and Dwight Gooden was selected with the fifth pick in the draft. Of course, as the youngsters developed, the team continued to flounder on the field. They lost 97 games in 1982 after debuting some new young talent in Mookie Wilson, Hubie Brooks, and Ron Gardenhire.
Strawberry won Rookie of the Year honors in 1983. In July, Neil Allen was traded for Keith Hernandez. The Mets lost 94 games in 1983. However, the tide had changed. Things began clicking in 1984. Strawberry and Hernandez were joined by Gooden, Darling, and Backman. They won 90 games and challenged the Cubs and Cardinals in the NL Eastern Division. In 1985 HoJo, Carter, and others joined the party.
Along the road to 2010 the Mets have had many losing and disappointing seasons. The years 1991 through 1996 was a six year period of consecutive losing seasons. More recently, 2002 through 2004 were losing seasons with 86, 95, and 91 losses
92 losses in 2009. Now the winter of discontent. At this point in the off season, most Mets fans would bet there seasons tickets on a second consecutive losing season. Hopefully, it’s not a return to the Dark Ages although we know, time and time again, that history does repeat itself.