We wont win this season. We wont compete this season. We wont be any good this season. Okay, now that that’s settled, lets go ‘Play Ball’ this season and see what happens. Opening Day is a little over one month away and when that first pitch is thrown, the Mets technically have just as good a chance as anyone to win.
We Mets fans are an interesting bunch Always have been. In 1962 that other team in New York were defending World Champions (again) They had guys named Yogi and Mickey and Whitey and Moose. And they had Roger Maris fresh off breaking what had been deemed the unbreakable record. However, just a few miles away, playing in a dilapidated stadium that was close to being demolished, there was a new team in a town. The Mets countered with guys named Choo Choo, Elio, Marvelous Marv and ‘Hot’ Rod.
And yet, even though the 62 Yankees won 96 games and their eighth World Championship in 13 years, it was the new kids in town who drew more fans.
The difference between the fan bases of our two clubs is simple: Yankees fans feel that anything less than a Championship is simply unacceptable. Mets fans, on the other hand, are ecstatic over finishing .500.
We always hope for the best…but prepare for the worst.
When you think back to 1986, what are the words that come to mind? Swagger. Confidence. Arrogance. Buckner. One word that never really gets brought up is ‘Miracle.’ Sure, Mookie’s slow roller was a gift from the ghosts of Joan Payson and Gil Hodges. But ‘miracle’ is more fitting of 1969 than 1986.
Think back to Game Six. No, not that one. The one against Houston. The Mets were leading the Astros three games to two but we came into the ninth trailing by three and Mike Scott, who’d already shut us down twice in a week and on his way to winning the Cy Young Award, was poised for game seven. Remember that feeling?
Remember that feeling in another Game Six? After Keith flied out, Gary stepped to the plate. The Mets trailed 5-3 in the bottom of the tenth, bases empty and two outs. No hope. Shea was deathly quiet. Failure was written on Davey’s face. The players sat on the bench staring in utter shock and despair at what was playing out before them. Losing was bad enough. Being the team whom the Red Sox would break their curse against was downright embarrassing. But the most heart-wrenching feeling of all was disbelief. Why?
1986 was OUR year. We were supposed to win. We deserved to win. We were entitled. We were the best team. My heavens—We had turned into the Yankees.
And two days later when ‘the dream came true,’ sure, we were elated. But the agony of possible defeat far outweighed the thrill of victory.
In the mid and late 80’s expectations were always high. This was something new for our Metsies. We’re never favored or picked to go far. But with this new burden comes a heavy task. When excellence is expected, almost demanded, anything less is deemed failure. However, when nothing at all is expected and something great happens, it’s that much sweeter.
Over the last quarter century, the two most heartbreaking moments for us came off the bat of catchers: Mike Scioscia and Yadier %$#&^% Molina.
In 1988, the Mets were expected to repeat their ’86 performance. We won 100 games, 10 of those coming in 11 matchups against the Dodgers that season. When Scioscia hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth in game four against Doc, we were shell-shocked. The Mets never recovered. We were supposed to win. But in the blink of an eye (or the swing of a bat) our expectations and sense of entitlement was crushed.
Same could be said of 2006. That years’ Mets were similar in many ways to the 1986 club. Confident, some arrogance. We dethroned the much hated Braves. Yes, 2006 would definitely be our year. That is until Yadier Molina dug in.
As if 2006 was not heartbreaking enough, the subsequent collapses the next two seasons were downright unfathomable. Choking is hard enough to swallow. But choking when you’re expected to win? That just seems unfair, cruel.
In 1973, the Mets were not good. To say our hitting was anemic would be an understatement. Only one player had over 16 HRs. Only one player hit over 280, Rusty Staub was our RBI leader, plating a whopping 76. No one even had double digits in SB’s. Even our traditionally strong pitching was a letdown. Two of our big three pitchers, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack both finished with more losses than wins. And on August 31, our closer Tug McGraw, had an ERA north of 5.00.
But somehow, with no expectations, 1973 remains one of the best years in Mets history. We managed to finagle the NL East title, upset a Big Red Machine team that was filled top to bottom with would-be Hall of Famers. And then, pushed the A’s in the midst of their dynasty, to seven games, even getting the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning of Game Seven.
But Tom Seaver was not always Tom Seaver. In the spring of 1969, Seaver was not yet Tom Terrific. He was a promising 24-year old kid with a mediocre 32 wins and 25 losses. (No one expected Seaver to win almost as many games that season as he’d won in the previous two). In Spring Training that March Seaver was joined by Cleon Jones who was a career .272 hitter. (No one dreamed that Cleon would hit .340 in 1969) Former Rookie of the Year Tommie Agee was coming off hitting .217 the previous year. At 26, Agee was considered a has-been.
And if this wasn’t bad enough, our manager was none other than Gil Hodges. Sure, Hodges was loved by New York fans but as a skipper, he achieved little success. With 6 managerial seasons under his belt, the former Brooklyn first baseman had a lackluster .407 winning percentage.
Now, as we inch our way closer to another season, we have little hope. Will Jon Niese turn into another Tom Seaver? No. Will Lucas Duda, like Cleon, hit 340? Of course not. Will Terry Collins join Davey and Gil as championship managers? No way.
But just for the hell of it, lets play out the season and see what happens. In 1962, Casey Stengel told his team, “All I ask is that you bust your hiney on that field.”