The cover of the 62 yearbook was fitting because we were the new team, the baby, of the National League. Along with the Houston Colt 45’s (later the Astros) this brought the total number of major league teams to 20. There were no divisions, no playoffs. You finished first. And you went to the World Series.
However, the Mets are no longer the ‘babies’ of the NL. We have now been around for close to half a century. And overall, how have these almost 50 years been for us? How would YOU rate the Mets after 50 years of being a major league ball club? Would you say it’s been a good 50 years? A disappointing 50 years? Have our successes outnumbered our failures? Have we had more tragedy or happiness?
Personally, I see both. We’ve had some incredibly high points but also some very deep lows. Although these first 48 years have brought some of the greatest moments in baseball history, I feel the negatives of our club outweigh the positives.
In 48 years, we have a .479 winning percentage: 3656 wins against 3981 defeats. 25 of our 48 seasons we have finished below 500.
In close to half a century we have won 4 pennants and 2 World Series. Is that good? Acceptable? That averages out to only 1 pennant every 12 years. Only one championship every 24 years. Keeping in mind one can twist statistics however they like but that means you can root for this team for 50 years–and see us win it all just twice!
Close to 900 players have donned a Mets uniform but we have only deemed ONE worthy of having his number retired. And that player we got rid of–TWICE! In 48 seasons, we’ve had 19 managers (an average of 2 ½ years). Of the 19 skippers we’ve had, 14 had losing records. Only one player in Cooperstown is pictured in a Mets hat. We’ve never had an MVP. In spite of the fact that we have played over 7600 ballgames and have been known more for our pitching then hitting, we’ve never had a pitcher throw a no-hitter for us. Although guys like Seaver, Gooden and Cone did go on to do that with other clubs.
We look back to the 1970’s when we had arguably the best–and deepest–pitching staff in baseball, led by Seaver, Koosman and Matlack. But in spite of those Mets legends, along with Tug, Rusty and Cleon, those glory days only resulted in 1 Championship and 2 pennants. Then came the 80’s. We had the promise of a bright future with Doc and Darryl. We had Hall of Famer Gary Carter and should-be Hall of Famer Keith Hernandez. Our pitching staff was comprised of Gooden, Ojeda, Darling, El Sid–and then added David Cone. We had so much depth on our team, we couldn’t find a spot for the big bat of Kevin Mitchell. We traded much loved Wally Backman to make room for rookie phenom Gregg Jefferies. Ray Knight was the series MVP in 86, but he was sent packing after that season so we could add the power of Howard Johnson. However, in spite of all of this, this ‘dynasty’ captured only one World Series and one pennant.
The 62 Mets will live in infamy for being the worst team in history since 1900. But it took only 7 years to turn things around. Marvelous Marv, Elio Chacon and Jay Hook had given way to Seaver, Agee and Swoboda. But after rising like a Phoenix, after transitioning ourselves from the laughing stock of Baseball to Champions in just 7 short years, we have won just once more in the following 40 years.
And although none of us would like to admit this, had Bob Stanley not thrown a wild pitch allowing Kevin Mitchell to score and setting up the ‘slow roller along the first base line,’ it’s very conceivable that we’d only have 1969. We came very very close to being the team to end the Red Sox curse.
We made what many consider to be the worst trade in the history of baseball. On December 10, 1971 we traded fireballing Nolan Ryan (and 3 other rookies) to acquire Jim Fregosi. Fregosi hit 233 in 145 games over a year and a half before we traded him. On the other hand Nolan Ryan would go on to Cooperstown after winning 324 games, recording 5714 K’s, throwing 7 no-hitters and having his # retired for every team he pitched for…other then the Mets
In 1996 we also gave up on future Hall of Famer Jeff Kent, trading him to Cleveland. In 1966, the Mets had the #1 pick in the amateur draft and chose catcher Steve Chilcott. Chilcott would go down in history as being the first player ever chosen #1 to never make the majors. The #2 pick that year went to the Kansas City A’s. They chose an outfielder named Reggie Jackson.
If you were to create a Mets All-Star team position by position it’s safe to say that with the exception of 3b and SS every player on that list would be prior to 1990.
Is 4 pennants and 2 championships in half a century good? It really depends on perspective. If you ask a Cubs fan or Indians fan, they’d agree wholeheartedly. If you ask a Yankees fan they’d say, ‘That’s unacceptable.’ The Yankees have won roughly 25% of all the Fall Classics played. They have accounted for nearly half (44%) of all the championships won by the AL. For every one pennant we win, they win 10! For every one World Series we win, they win 13!
So, sure, the Yankees have won 27 Championships compared to our 2. But how many memories have they created? How many great moments in Baseball history can be associated with Yankee victories? Babe Ruth calling the shot, Larsen’s Perfect Game and Reggie’s 3 HR’s. That’s really about it. But when historians talk about the World Series, you can always count on seeing the Mets in there. The dives by Swoboda and Agee have been shown for 40 years and will still be shown in another 40 years in 2050. The scene of fans ripping up the field in 69 is proof that miracles do happen and that in Baseball anything–ANYTHING–is possible. The video of Mookie running down the 1B line is something will be seen 100 years from now.
Could this first half century been better? Absolutely. One can only speculate on how different our history would have been had we had both Reggie Jackson AND Nolan Ryan for the 1970’s. Or how different things would have been had we not traded Jeff Kent for Jose Vizcaino
I’ll be the first to admit we have screwed up and definitely made our share of bad decisions since 62. We all bleed blue and orange. We all have shed tears, both tears of joy and tears of sadness. Truth be told, I would never root for another team. In a matter of hours we will begin our 49th season and right now we are all less then hopeful. But in spite of the countless heartbreaks, idiotic trades and late season collapses, I still am proud to wear my Mets hat. And from the bottom of my heart I shout out–Lets Go Mets!