Over their first seven years the New York Metropolitans had not exactly set the baseball world on fire. From 1962 through 1968, they compiled a record of 394-737 and finished a combined 288 ½ games back. In seven seasons, they’d finished 10th five times and 9th twice.
Coming into 1969, there was some cautious optimism. Gil Hodges, the teams fourth manager, was in his second full season and young pitchers Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman had some potential. Maybe we could finish at .500 if we were lucky. That spring, the manager of powerhouse and heavily favored Cubs, Leo Durocher, was jokingly asked by a reporter what he thought the Mets chances were to win the pennant. Durocher snickered and said, “I think we’ll put a man on the moon before that happens!”
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.
As we all know the Mets would win 100 games that season, finish 8 games up on Durocher’s Cubs, outslug the heavy hitting Atlanta Braves and after losing the World Series opener to Baltimore, win four straight. That 69 club went 7-1 in the post-season, better than any other Mets team ever. Their four-game World Series winning streak unmatched by the teams of 73, 86, 00 and 15.
Fans were shocked what they witnessed that glorious summer. More shocking, however, was when looking back we see that 1969 was only the beginning.
For the following 7 years, led by stellar pitching along with solid defense and timely hitting, the Mets were always in the thick of things. True, there’d only be 1 more pennant. But in the 8 year period of 1969-1976, the Mets finished over 500 every season but one, only finished lower than third one time. We were always, year in and year out, in a pennant race.
Fast-forward 30 years.
The 2006 Mets were similar in many ways to the ’86 club. They had that swagger, that confidence. We had the perfect blend of young players like David Wright and Jose Reyes intermingled with the big bats of Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran along with the fiery competitiveness of Paul Lo Duca and Pedro Martinez.
Losing the NLCS in seven games to the Cardinals was an unexpected shock. We were supposed to win. We should have won. We were the better team.
But yet, as October passed by and the days grew shorter and the weather grew colder, we told ourselves that 2006 was only the beginning. This team had the make-up to be in the hunt for the next several years. Sure, we may have been upset in 06. But 07 and 08 and 09 and 10 would be ours. We’d be back!!!
No one ever imagined at the time it would take almost a decade to get back. 2006 was supposed to be the beginning. In hindsight, it was the end. The ‘dynasty’ lasted one abbreviated post-season.
There is no doubt the Mets starting staff is the envy of Major League Baseball. These guys are good. Very good. They are young studs with blazing fastballs, a desire to win and a long career ahead of them.
I became a fan in 1973 at age 7. And over that time I’ve had the pleasure—and that’s what it’s been, a pleasure—of watching, first-hand, guys like Seaver, Koosman, Gooden, Leiter and Martinez. But I can honestly state I don’t ever recall a more gutsy, more ballsy, more heart-filled post-season start than Matt Harvey in Game 5.
To quote that well-known philosopher from Los Angeles, Axl Rose, “Where do we go now? Where do we go?”
The organization is at a crossroads. This is perhaps the most critical off-season in decades, perhaps ever. The owners and the GM have some big decisions to make.
They don’t need to shell-out big bucks. We know all too well large contracts do not mean Championships. Jason Bay anyone? Max Scherzer? How’d the 2015 Red Sox do after handing over $100 million to Pablo Sandoval? Sandy Alderson does not need to make big moves. He needs to make the right moves.
However, with the plethora of young arms the Mets possess, they can truly be the perennial NL powerhouse for the next 10 years.
Years from now, people will look back and see that the Royals defeated the Mets in five games. Unless they dig deep, they won’t realize how close the 2015 Series actually was. A few hits here, a few less errors there and that parade could have just as easily been in Manhattan.
For much of 2015, the Mets hung close to Washington like a pesky gnat. It wasn’t until the addition of Yoenis Cespedes that the bats came alive and the Mets roared passed the Nationals. The team gelled. The defense stepped up.
In the Fall Classic, however, the things that haunted the Mets much of the season once again reared its ugly head. Poor defense, an inconsistent bullpen and anemic hitting.
As painful as it was, we learned something this October. We learned the difference between being a good team and being a Champion. Credit the Royals. They exploited our weaknesses. They ran the bases aggressively. They took advantage of every one of their 27 outs. They scraped, crawled and battled for every 90 feet of real estate on the base paths. They threw to the right base and their bullpen shut us down when they needed to. They taught us a valuable lesson.
It’s now up to the front office to take those lessons to heart and employ them as they construct the team that will hopefully get us back to the big dance next season. 2015 was fun, but we want more. We have an opportunity to create something special and something lasting. The hot stove season begins today at Boca Raton, Florida where the GM Meetings will take place. Here’s their big chance. To a memorable and productive offseason…