New York’s ‘Other Baseball Team’ (Part 2) 1986–2020
1986 would prove to be the Mets finest season in their 25-year history. The teams’ roster had many star players, such as Gary Carter (acquired from the Montreal Expos) and Keith Hernandez (obtained from the Cardinals). In the outfield was 1984 rookie of the year Darryl Strawberry. The team also had a top-notch pitching staff, spearheaded by 1985 Cy Young award winner Dwight Gooden.
Led by manager Davey Johnson, the Mets easily won their division with an outstanding 108–54 record (still the team’s best-ever record). But winning the pennant and the World Series would not come easily for the Mets.
First came a hard-fought series with the Houston Astros, led by 1986 Cy Young award winner Mike Scott. In the two games that Scott pitched, the Mets scored just one run. But, in the end, New York won the series 4–2.
Next up, Boston was a team led by the America League batting champion Wade Boggs and the American League Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens. The two teams fought tooth and nail in one of the most exciting World Series ever. The Mets finally prevailed, 4–3.
Although the team had a good season in 1987, they could not repeat what they had accomplished in 1986, compiling a 92–70 record, three games behind the Cardinals.
The Mets finished the 1988 season with 100 wins and would face the LA Dodgers in the NLCS. Many people felt this team might be better than their 1986 team and had predicted another World Series victory.
But it was not to be. The Dodgers pulled off an upset, winning the series 4–3.
1989 and 1990 were good seasons for New York, but only good enough for second place. 1991–1996 were forgettable seasons of losing. Then, under the leadership of new manager Bobby Valentine, the Mets finished in second place in 1997 and 1998. The team finished the 1999 season with an impressive 97–66 record but lost the NLCS to the Cardinals four games to three.
Mets fans had high hopes for the 2000 season, and the team did not disappoint them. Led by future Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza and pitchers John Franco and Al Leiter, the Mets defeated the SF Giants and then the Cardinals in the playoffs to win their fourth National League pennant.
In a World Series that baseball fans will remember through the ages, the Mets faced the New York Yankees in the first Subway Series since the Yankees played the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series. The Yankees were the heavy favorite even though the Mets had a better record, posting 101 wins (including playoffs). The Yankees finished with 94 wins (including playoffs), but that record was somewhat misleading. The Yankees had all but clinched their division three weeks before the season’s end and had pretty much put it into cruise control–losing 15 of their final 18 games.
The Yankees had won three of the last four World Series and had a roster of star players. They had starting pitchers Andy Petite, Roger Clemens, and reliever Mariano Rivera. They had shortstop Derek Jeter and first baseman, Tino Martinez. The Yankees won the series 4–1, but it wasn’t a cakewalk. In the five games combined, the Yankees only outscored the Mets by three runs, and they needed twelve innings to defeat the Mets in the first game. The Mets had proven they had a lot of heart and had given the defending champions all they could handle.
After that, the Mets could place no higher than third place for the next five years. In 2006 they won 97 games and fell just one game short of reaching the World Series, losing to the Cardinals in game seven of the NLCS. 2007 & 2008 were good seasons for the Mets but not quite good enough to reach post-season play.
The team went back to its losing ways for the next six seasons, but they made up for it by winning their fifth National League pennant in 2015. Led by manager Terry Collins, pitcher Jacob deGrom, and infielders David Wright and Daniel Murphy, New York easily defeated the LA Dodgers and Chicago Cubs in post-season play. Their opponent in the World Series would be the KC Royals. The Royals proved to be too much for the Mets to handle, and they lost the series four games to one.
Since then, the team has not had much success, But loyal fans are eternally hopeful that ‘next year’ will be the year they win their long-awaited third World Series trophy.