Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Mets have gone through a lot of boom and bust cycles since their first-ever game in 1962, with just nine of those seasons ending with playoff appearances.
In 1969, the Mets came out of nowhere (though Gil Hodges and the players on that team didn't see it that way) to win the World Series and the 1973 squad benefited from a very weak National League to make it to the playoffs with just 82 wins and ride that wave all the way to Game 7 of the World Series.
When it comes to teams ready to turn the corner, you can usually see it coming. And the 2019 version of the Mets -- finishing 3.0 games back of a playoff spot -- bear a much closer resemblance to their counterparts from 2005, 1998, and 1984-1985 than the 1972 and 1968 squads. The 2005, 1998, and 1985 Mets all suffered near-misses when it came to the playoffs, and all of them returned stronger the next season...
2005 Mets: Finished 83-79, 6.0 GB of Wild Card
The 2005 team, coined the 'new Mets' by free agent acquisition Carlos Beltran, announced their presence on Opening Day when fellow free agent signing Pedro Martinez dominated the Reds in Cincinnati. That game ended with Braden Looper blowing the save and the Mets losing -- sound familiar to 2019?
Aside from Beltran and Martinez, the 2005 Mets were anchored by David Wright (in his second season) Jose Reyes (in his third season), and Cliff Floyd. That season -- the first one where the team finished over. 500 since 2001 -- was also the swan song with the Mets for Mike Piazza. They were close, but not quite ready, and faded from contention as September went on.
Before the 2006 season, among the moves the Mets made was adding an enormous offensive piece by trading for Carlos Delgado and replacing Piazza with Paul Lo Duca, who became a fiery team leader. The result? A 2006 season where they ran "roughshod" over the NL East, finishing 97-65 and making it to Game 7 of the NLCS against the Cardinals.
That 2006 team suffered a huge injury in the summer (to Duaner Sanchez) and two more crippling injuries right before the postseason (to Martinez and Orlando Hernandez). Had it not been for those injuries, the 2006 team might have been remembered much differently. The 2007 and 2008 seasons also featured painful endings, with the Mets collapsing late and missing the playoffs by 1.0 game both years.
1998 Mets: Finished 88-74, 2.0 GB of Wild Card
The turnaround for the 90s Mets started in 1997, when they also finished 88-74. But the 1998 squad added Mike Piazza in a May trade after adding a rotation anchor that offseason when they traded for Al Leiter. That team was almost ready for prime time.
They entered the final weekend with a chance but were swept by the Braves in Atlanta as their playoff hopes died -- finishing the season with five-straight losses overall.
In the offseason, the Mets added lockdown reliever Armando Benitez, who had a 1.85 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 78 innings in 1999 while taking over closing duties from 1998 closer John Franco. They also brought in Robin Ventura, who hit .301/.379/.529 while forming arguably the best defensive infield ever with shortstop Rey Ordonez, Edgardo Alfonzo, and John Olerud. Oh, and they added Rickey Henderson, who was a force at the top of the lineup.
That 1999 team went 97-66 (after most of Bobby Valentine's staff was fired midseason), took out the Reds in a play-in game for the Wild Card, beat the Diamondbacks in the NLDS and nearly erased a three games to none deficit in the NLCS against the Braves. The 2000 Mets made it one step further, advancing to the World Series but falling to the Yankees.
1985 Mets: Finished 98-64, 3.0 GB in NL East
After suffering seven straight losing seasons, the Mets emerged from the abyss in 1984 (with Keith Hernandez in tow for his first full season in orange and blue and Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry blossoming) to finish 90-72 and 6.5 games out of first place. In 1985, they added Gary Carter and took another leap, finishing 98-64 and losing the NL East by 3.0 games to the Cardinals.
If there was a Wild Card (or two Wild Cards) in 1985, the Mets would have made the playoffs easily, since they were 9.0 games clear of the next closest team below them. After missing out, they made some important tweaks heading into the 1986 season -- including adding Bobby Ojeda.
After their near-miss in 1985, the Mets finished 108-54 in 1986, making a mockery of the NL East race before winning the NLCS and World Series in thrilling fashion. The Mets suffered a near-miss in 1987, finishing 92-70 and losing the NL East by three gams, before returning to form in 1988 to win 100 games and advance to Game 7 of the NLCS.
When it comes to where the 2019 Mets fit in, the makeup of their roster and ceiling was much more comparable to 1998 and 2005 than to 1985 or 1984. But the amount of "major" pieces they add for 2020 might better reflect the offseason going from 1985 to 1986.
With Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, and J.D Davis in place and making up a young, high-upside offensive core to go along with a starting rotation that will have a back-to-back Cy Young winner at the top and Noah Syndergaard likely back as the No. 2, the 2020 Mets are already set up very well.
What they need is a lockdown reliever or two to help carry them and eventually get them across the finish line. Along with that reliever or two, the other big change for the 2020 Mets could be at manager.
With most strategic decisions now determined with help from analytics and managers often following orders from the GM, that job isn't as important as it used to be. But an above average in-game tactician can still help a team win a few more games. And in the case of the Mets, those few more games could've meant a trip to October this season. Instead, that will have to wait -- just like their counterparts from 2005,1998, and 1985.