Game # 8,020 Was 20/20. And What It Tells Us About The Second Half
It had taken 8020 games but it finally happened. When David Freese swung and missed at a 3-2 change-up from Johan Santana, the Mets accomplished something we wondered if we’d ever get to see: A No-Hitter by one of our own. Be it ESPN, MLB Network, SNY or any local newspaper, the underlying theme was the same: For a team that has had great pitchers like Seaver, Koosman, Ryan and Gooden, it’s hard to believe it took 50 years.
However, when you think about it and look at the history of our club, it makes perfect sense that it would be a guy like Johan. He had missed a year plus due to injury and before that had broken down every September. With all due respect, it’s safe to say that at 33, Johan’s glory days are behind him. While he is a good reliable pitcher, his days of dominance are over. And that’s exactly why it deserved to be Johan. Hindsight is 20/20. One thing we should know by now is that rooting for the Mets is never easy. And it’s never ever what we expect.
On the way to the Miracle of 1969, Tom Seaver won 25 games, still a Mets record for wins. He would go on to win the Cy Young Award. He was, after all, ‘The Franchise’ for a decade. But yet, in the World Series, it was not Seaver who emerged as the star of October but rather the #2 pitcher, Jerry Koosman. Seaver lost the only post-season game that year whereas the unlikely hero,Koosman, won 2 of the 4 games against Baltimore including the decisive game 5 and struck out 14 in 13 2/3 innings. Who woulda thunk it?
The Mets won it all in 69 due to pitching and defense. And who can think of 1969 without the image of Ron Swoboda’s game saving/series saving/season saving dive in right field? Yes, Ron Swoboda, the worst fielding of all three outfielders. Swoboda’s lack of defensive skills resulted in his being nicknamed ‘Rocky.’ It was Swoboda who once said his mission when playing right field was just not to embarrass himself. The worst fielding player on the team makes the most amazin’ catch. Who woulda thunk it?
In 1973, the Mets managed to eek out a division title with 82 wins. We upset the Big Red Machine in 5 and pushed the defending World Champion A’s to 7 games, just falling short with the tying run at the plate. The 73 Mets had the best trio of starters in the league: Seaver, Koosman and Jon Matlack. But yet, it was our #4 pitcher, newly acquired George Stone, who compiled the best winning percentage on the staff, .800. Stone went 12-3, 9 games over .500. Those other guys, Seaver, Koosman and Matlack? They were only 6 games over combined. Who woulda thunk it?
And who was it in 1973 that started the most famous bench-clearing brawl in team history? It wasn’t Seaver or the win-at-all-cost Jerry Grote or Cleon or Rusty who risked his life by taking on Pete Rose. It was scrappy BuddyHarrelson, our own version of the 98 pound weakling who gets sand kicked at his face on the beach. Who woulda thunk it?
Thirteen years later there was no doubt the 86 club was destined for a Championship. It was not a question of IF we’d win. Simply, a question of HOW. In spite of 108 victories and clinching the division by an unimaginable 21 ½ games, our beloved Mets somehow, as always, found themselves in the role of underdog, fighting for their life in Game 6. It was not future Hall of Famer Gary Carter or Team Captain Keith Hernandez or young superstar Darryl Strawberry who got the biggest hit in Mets history. They would be the obvious choice. Instead, it was a mediocre 270 hitter named Mookie Wilson. Who woulda thunk it?
By October 1986, 21 year-old Doc Gooden was a shoo-in for Cooperstown. He was on his way to becoming not only the best pitcher in Mets history…but one of the best in Baseball history. Period! And why not? Three years in the majors and he had a record of 58-19, a 2.32 ERA and accrued 744 K’s in 744 IP. But yet, in the 1986 Post-Season it was not Doc who shone. Nor was it up and coming Ron Darling. It was the newly acquired lefty Bobby Ojeda who posted an 18-5 record during the season and went 2-0 in the post-season. Who woulda thunk it?
Twenty years later, the 2006 Mets seemed to be on that Championship path once again. When all was said and done, 2006 was a good movie—just happened to have a bad ending. But when we think of that season, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It’s nothing related to young superstars David Wright or Jose Reyes. We don’t think of former Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez or big HR hitter Carlos Delgado or the fiery Paul LoDuca. The most iconic image from that entire season belongs to a reserve outfielder named Endy Chavez. Really? Endy Chavez? Who woulda thunk it?
So while many have thought it ironic that it took so long for us to get that elusive no-hitter, I say just the opposite. Considering Mets history, the fact that it took so long and to have it accomplished by Johan Santana makes all the sense in the world.
Will the Mets make the post-season this year? Honestly, probably not. Our defense is lacking and our bullpen is a catastrophe. When the Mets headed north from Florida a few months ago, we had no hope of a good season. Finishing .500 would be a major feat for the Reyes-less Mets. But here we are, about to begin the second half. David Wright is having a career year, hitting 351 with 59 RBI’s. We have 3 different guys on pace to hit 20+ HR’s, we have a 38 year-old knuckleballer who is 12-1. And we’re 6 games over 500, just 4 ½ out of first and ½ out of the wildcard. Three months ago, who woulda thunk it?
About the Author: Rob Silverman
It was 1973 when my dad introduced this 7 year old kid to Baseball and the Mets. It's been a love and passion that has lasted for 40 years, much longer than my first marriage. Since I was little, there've been 2 things I've always dreamed of: 1) Being a successful author and 2) playing right field for the Mets after Rusty Staub retired. Although 4 decades have passed and based on the current condition of the Mets, I have not given up on either dream
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