The More Things Change…The Worse They Get?
I would never get through the endless cold dark winters if it wasn’t for old Mets videos and Ken Burns. Last night I watched Shea Goodbye: 45 Years of Amazin’. A great documentary, it details the history of the Mets at Shea. As I watched Ray Knight round third with his hands on his head after Mookie hit a slow roller, I saw something I had forgotten about: The patch on the uniforms. 1986 was our 25th anniversary. Our Metropolitans had been around for a quarter of a century. A milestone.
2012 saw our Mets conclude our 51st season. Man, how time flies. The Mets are now in their second half-century. And it got me thinking (since I have no life) How does the Mets first quarter century compare with our second quarter century? For discussion purposes, I’ll refer to 1962-1986 (our first 25 years) as Act I. 1987-2012 (our next 26 years) as Act II.
When the Mets entered the NL in 1962 along with the Houston Colt 45’s, the baseball landscape was very different. Expansion teams were put together by cast-offs of other teams. Has-beens and never was’s. You couldn’t win a championship in five years like Florida did. Or get to the post-season in three like Arizona. You had to build from NOTHING.
Sure, the rules of the game were the same, sans DH. Although the game itself has remained relatively unchanged since the late 1800’s, the pennant races were very different.
The 1961 World Series was won by the Yankees. Led by the M & M Boys, The Bronx Bombers handily defeated the Reds in 5 games. New York won that final game, 13-5. The date was October 9th. Yes, that early. October 9th. In today’s world, we’re first getting our post-season feet wet. But back then, it was all over in early October.
There were no divisions, no LCS’s. Two leagues. 10 teams in each. You won your league and you immediately advanced token to the Fall Classic.
There were many great Mets memories in Act I. But man oh man, there was also endless suffering. Although the 60’s ended on a high, we spent the entire decade finding new ways to lose. In our first 7 years the Mets averaged 106 losses! We finished in 10th place five of those seven years, 9th in the other two.
Also in Act I was the post-Seaver era of Grant’s Tomb. In the six year period of 77-83 (I’m not including the strike-shortened 81 season) the Mets averaged 65 wins against 97 losses.
Basically 14 of our first 25 years were a joke. A waste. We were lovable…but we were a laughing stock. We were a doormat for the National League.
In 1962, only 1 out of 10 teams made the post-season. Baseball expanded in 1969 and with the creation of divisions and a “League Championship Series,” now 2 out of 12 teams would make the post-season. 2 out of 12. It remained this way through the remainder of Act I.
The Mets were 1794-2187 in those 25 years. For 15 of those 25 seasons, we finished under .500. However, we had 3 division titles, 3 pennants. 2 World Championships.
Act II: The Mets began Act II in a far better place than we started ACT I. Unlike 1962, when we started at the very bottom, the Mets started 1987 at the very top. Defending World Champions. Cant get any better.
Just 7 years into Act II, Bud Selig became the most despised man in Baseball since Walter O’Malley moved the Dodgers out of Brooklyn. Selig did the unthinkable and for the first time since 1904 there would be no World Series. Selig needed to do something.
In 95, Baseball was re-aligned. There would now be three divisions. And a wildcard! Suddenly 4 out of 15 teams would make the post-season. The Mets now had a better than 1 in 4 chance. Also making it easier for us was that Pittsburgh was moved to the newly formed NL Central. We now had only 4 other teams to beat in our division, not 5.
It didn’t help. In spite of less direct competition and more available post-season slots, the years continued piling up without the Mets playing beyond early October.
This past season another alteration was made to the game steeped in history. Another wild-card was added. Now, 5 of the 16 teams in the NL would see post-season action. Almost 1 in every 3 teams. And yet, the 2012 Mets were, for all intents and purposes, out of it by July.
For the 25 years from 62-86, the Mets compiled a 451 winning percentage. We were under 500 15 of those 25 years.
In Act II, the Mets won-loss record was 2091-2050, .505. Interestingly, however, of these 26 seasons from 1987-2012, we were under 500 13 of these 26 years.
How far have we come?
When you think of Act II, 1987-2012, there are lots of great memories.1987 would see our dynasty continue. We had taken New York away from the Yankees. The pinstripes were ‘the other New York team.’ Later on we’d acquire the best hitting catcher in Baseball history. There would be a Grand Slam single. Endy Chavez ‘saved the day.’ Benny Agbayani represented Hawaii, not Sid Fernandez. The future would be built around David and Jose, not Darryl and Doc.
But yet, in spite of starting ACT II in a better place than Act I, in spite of it now being easier to make the post-season, in spite of directly competing with 4 other teams instead of 9 as we did in 62, in spite of having a 1 in 3 shot of making the post-season as opposed to a 1 in 10, the Mets have fallen short time and time again.
There have been many more avenues to get to the Fall Classic over the last 26 years. But yet the Mets have only appeared in 1 more post-season than they had during our first quarter century.
It makes me feel that the more things change the more they stay the same. Or perhaps, the more things change, the bleaker they become. Something to consider…
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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