More Like the 84 Mets

Author’s Note: The main point of this post is based on some pre-game remarks made last night by former Mets’ pitcher Ron Darling. The editorializing is all mine. If you reject this premise, blame Ronnie!

The Mets’ magic carpet ride crashed and burned last night at Citi Field. ICYMI, the Kansas City Royals defeated the Mets in 12 innings to clinch the World Series. Congrats to the Royals and their city. This one will hurt for a while. It would be poetic to say that Dame Momentum, who seemed to have taken up permanent residence in the Mets dugout since August 1, suddenly crossed the field into the KC dugout last Tuesday. But the reality of the situation is that the Mets, while vastly improved over last year (or even mid-season), just aren’t completely ready and on the biggest stage in baseball their flaws were finally exposed.

That’s why I loved Darling’s pre-game comments on SNY last night. He compared the 2015 team to the 1984 team, which like this one, won 90 games, the first winning season in over half a decade for this beleaguered franchise. Like their 2015 antecedents, the 1984 team rose to the top mainly due to the emergence of some young arms Darling (23), Dwight Gooden (19) and Sid Fernandez (21). These young arms, especially Gooden, captured the imagination of both the city and baseball. Doc’s starts that year (and next) where must see games.

Acting very un-Metsian like, both the ’84 and the ’15 teams imported veteran help and both took advantage of the sudden crumbling of a long-time division leader (the Nationals this year, the Phillies in 1984). One of the differences in the two seasons was the Chicago Cubs, who in 1984, added pieces like Dennis Eckersley (who interestingly enough was traded in May of that year for Bill Buckner). Like the Cubs of this year who improved drastically, their 84 version was suddenly really good and in the era of two divisions, became the Mets main rival for the division crown.

Like the early August showdown this year with the Nationals, the Mets went into Wrigley that August in second place (they had lost the division lead the week before) trailing the Cubs by a half game. The 2015 Mets sweep the Nationals out of Citi Field, dealing them a blow they would never recover from. In retrospect, the Mets won the NL East that weekend. In 1984, the veteran Cubs swept all four games from the Mets, dealing a mortal blow to their divisional crown hopes.

Ah, but what if the Mets had won a few of those games? What if Gooden hadn’t been blown out of the first game inside of four innings, or Darling in less than five the next day? What if the immortal Wes Gardner hadn’t blown the save in the last game, maybe salvaging the series and changing the momentum back to the Mets? What if the 1984 Mets had left the Cubs for dead in the Wrigley dust, the way they did to the Nats this year? Well, they maybe go on to win the NL East and without a Leon Durham-like error in the 1984 NLCS, perhaps they beat the equally unprepared San Diego Padres and capture an improbable NL crown.

Then, they would have run into the 1984 Detroit Tigers, one of the best teams of that era and been crushed in say, five games.

Take a look at the 1984 team’s roster on Baseball Reference. You will see a lot of names that had played on some previously bad Mets teams, a lot of the same names that wouldn’t be on the 1986 championship team. Take a look at this year’s roster and you see many of the former types of players, many of whom, I’d wager, won’t be on the next Mets world championship team. Both teams have great young arms and a solid core. The 1984 team just wasn’t ready and when they ran into a team of tough veterans in Chicago, every weakness was exposed. The 2015 Mets didn’t encounter this tough, veteran team until the World Series.

Neither team was quite ready. The 1984 team improved and the rest was history. Will the 2015 team improve? Time will tell. Of course I have some ideas on how to do it, but that’s another post!

A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
  1. r. November 2, 2015 at 8:37 am
    They exposed our weaknesses and overcame our strengths. They were the better ball club.
  2. gary s November 2, 2015 at 6:31 pm
    Had the lead in 41 of 53 innings. KC are a good team. Nothing special. They booted some balls and had a few brain farts along the way. Their advantage was they played well from the 8th inning on while we played like a bunch of scared little girls. Still can’t believe how we choked up in THREE GAMES!!!!!
  3. Tony F November 2, 2015 at 11:49 pm
    Interesting comment about the 84 team which I wasn’t aware of, but it does have merit. I tended to view the series as such: the Mets we saw in these 5 games more closely resembled the Mets from May until about July before the flurry of trades. They were a team that relied heavily on their starting pitching, and an above average closer while hoping that they score just enough to pull out the 2-1 and 3-2 wins. Their lineup did not scare anyone and their defense was, at best, slightly below average. The NLDS and NLCS exposed the Dodgers and Cubs as 2 teams that had potentially lethal offenses (Cubs more so than the Dodgers) but also 2 teams very much prone to the strikeout. That’s what doomed the Cubs (along with some shoddy defense and very average pitching). Kansas City was an entirely different animal. A contact hitting team that slowly beat you by means of their clutch hitting (especially with 2 strikes), a deep bullpen, and some solid advanced scouting. A note of caution to the Mets coaching staff: The Royals further exposed the Mets inability to hold runners on, along with d’Arnaud’s low success rate in throwing out runners (not entirely his fault, but he doesn’t have enough of a cannon arm back there to compensate), so the book is open for all the NL teams next year when they get a runner on first base. This has the potential to be a huge issue, so this needs to be improved on in spring training.
    The fact of the matter is, even though KC was a vastly superior team with the exception of the starting pitching, the Mets really could have taken 2 games besides game 3. One bad pitch in game 1 in the 9th by Familia, and a terrible miscommunication by Conforto and Cespedes in the 1st leading to another run on a ball that should have been caught and a terrible throw by Duda in the 9th in Game 5 which not only cost them the game, but also cost them some momentum that would have spilled over into KC. Not saying that they would have taken 1 of the next 2 in KC, but a play like that, if executed properly and under the same game conditions, would be a significant turning point in a series. Duda blew it and credit KC’s scouting report that essentially had Duda pegged as a first baseman that you could try a play like that on and have a decent chance of having it work. So while KC was superior, they weren’t invincible, and what it came down to is that the Mets didn’t hit, didn’t field, and couldn’t hold a lead. I saw both benches in the 9th in game 5 after KC got within a run. The Mets dugout had this look of resignation..waiting for the bottom to eventually fall out, like it did in Game 1 and in Game 4. No way can you win if you feel like you’ve been defeated in your head.
    It’s not all negative. They have the pitching, which is the envy of pretty much the entire league. The closer is All-Star caliber. You have a foundation in Conforto, d’Arnaud (like to see if his defense improves next year and if he can stay healthy), Flores (I liked how his defense seemed to get better as the post-season progressed. He didn’t embarrass himself like most of his other infielders did), and possibly Herrera. Plus you have a lot of $$ coming off the books in Cespedes, Murphy, Colon, Mejia, Parnell, and Clippard, and while raises will have to be given to some of the other players, you still should have some extra money to acquire another outfielder to replace Cespedes, a super-sub utility infielder that can play a few of the infield positions, and possibly another arm for the bullpen. Christmas will come early if we can find a taker for Cuddyer and his 10 million + salary, but I don’t know of any GMs that are going to fall for that one.
    All in all, this team is poised to make another run in the next couple of years if they can fix the issues which KC exposed. That’s the key..despite those flaws, there was a legitimate chance that we could be talking about them right now going to KC needing to win 1 of 2 to win the title…but credit KC. They made the plays when they had to and the Mets didn’t. in the end, that’s how you’re judged.
    • Hart November 3, 2015 at 1:00 pm
      I would add shortstop to the list of necessary upgrades. Ironically, Flores’ defense improved at the end as you note, but his at bats too often were non-competitive; KC had a huge advantage over us at that position. But otherwise, your Series summary is one of the most astute I’ve read.
  4. argonbunnies November 3, 2015 at 4:13 am
    Interesting comparison, 1984 and 2015.

    We have Doc, Sid, and Darling in their first year; they would peak in their second, second, and third years respectively. Then we have Thor, deGrom and Harvey, who just completed their first, second, and third years respectively. There may be less improvement ahead of the 2015 group than he 1984 group. On the other hand, the 2015 group is probably just plain better.

    We have Rick Aguilera on the horizon. Then we have Steven Matz on the horizon.

    We have an old but still good George Foster, and an in-his-prime Keith Hernandez. Then we have Granderson and Duda. Unfortunately, the old guy is the better player of the 2015 pair; whereas Keith’s remaining prime years were elite, Duda’s are expected to be only pretty good. Foster stayed productive through age 36, when Grandy’s Mets contract runs out.

    We have a dominant closer in Orosco at age 27. Then we have a dominant closer in Familia at age 25. We also have a bullpen full of successful young arms in 1984, almost all of whom were terrible in 1985 and gone in 1986. Doug Sisk was the one guy besides Orosco who was good in both ’84 and ’86. The 2015 bullpen has a bunch of guys who are similarly young and talented and probably shouldn’t be relied upon, like Robles and Reed.

    We have a promising youngster at a skill position in Backman, with a light-hitting defensive options in Gardenhire. Then we have d’Arnaud and Plawecki.

    We have the top hitting prospect in baseball in Darryl Strawberry. Then we have the best pure college bat from the 2014 draft in Michael Conforto.

    We have a good-field no-hit SS in Santana. Then we have Ruben Tejada.

    We have an athletic CF in Mookie at 28. Then we have Lagares at 26.

    We have a league-average 26-year-old starting pitcher in Walt Terrell who we traded for a defensively challenged offensive dynamo in HoJo. Then we have Jon Niese… but I don’t see us getting someone like Josh Bell for him.

    We have a promising young skill position player in Mike Fitzgerald, an athletic outfielder in Herm Winningham, and a flamethrower with control issues in Floyd Youmans. All are 21-23. We also have Hubie Brooks, a hitter from the left side of the infield who finally blossomed at 27. We traded these 4 players for a Hall of Famer nearing the end of his prime. Then we have… uh… well, Plawecki resembles Fitzgerald, but then there goes our depth behind d’Arnaud… Flores probably has a Brooks year in him, but hasn’t done it yet… we just dealt away Fulmer, which leaves no desirable flamethrowers behind Matz… and none of our OF prospects are blazing speed guys like Winningham. Would the Tigers trade us Cabrera for Wilmer, Plawecki, Nimmo and Rafael Montero? I’m not seein’ it…

    So, yeah, I’m seeing a lot of similarities in the guys we have, but not in the guys we can trade for. Our bright future doesn’t have a clear path to Gary Carter and Bob Ojeda (gotten for two young pitchers, roughly the equivalent of Fulmer and Meisner) and Howard Johnson. And despite Darryl’s frustrations, I don’t think anyone expects Conforto to be THAT good — i.e. to make the next 8 All-Star teams and post 3 seasons of 160+ OPS+.

  5. Colin November 3, 2015 at 2:48 pm
    I’m still too heartbroken to talk about anything baseball.

    Joe – Thanks to you and your contributors. Old Man winter at the plate, hotstove on deck, pitchers and catchers in the hole.

    See you in ’16.

  6. Murder Slim November 3, 2015 at 4:39 pm
    I agree, Colin. I certainly need to recharge my batteries after the World Series and its various debacles. The Royals were by far the better team, and kudos to them for that. And I wouldn’t begrudge them more success… just a very classy and well organised team.
    • thegeneralfamily November 4, 2015 at 12:11 am
      i’m in agreement regarding needing to take a step away and not think baseball for a bit, but i’m still having trouble coming to terms with how poorly so many of the regulars played during the WS… and yet, we could have been champs in 5 (or 6) ourselves. there were about 8 or so chances on plays that needed to be made, and all 8 or so simply weren’t – many of them routine.

      no one can deny that overall this was a (very) successful season, but they passed up an incredible chance to have accomplished the ultimate goal. i will forever look back upon this season and have a bitter taste in my mouth, regardless of what comes next. even if they win the next 3, i still won’t have a different feeling. it’s a fact that though they may technically count the same, not all championships are equal. just ask tom brady about his missed chance in 2008… that’s what this season felt like – a golden opportunity, and one that went by the wayside not due to having been beat by a better team (like the yanks in 2000), but by ourselves. chris young was 2 innings away or a salvador perez rbi or two from being MVP. ABSURD.

      i applaud the effort, just beyond disappointed at how they **** the bed on the biggest stage, time and again. i would have rather lost in the NLDS (and so would have cespedes, who probably cost himself $75mm at least by having been a worse option in the lineup during the WS (if not the playoffs entirely) than kirk nieuwenhuis)

      ps- yes, TC could have made some different decisions here or there, but at the end of the day, the players didn’t make plays that needed to be made – and often didn’t come close…

  7. DaveSchneck November 3, 2015 at 10:58 pm
    Good comp, but quite a difference when one team wins a division, two playoff series, a WS game, and comes within a few scoreless outs of winning another three WS games. Actually, with the sting wearing off somewhat, it is quite amazing how far this 2015 team went with all its flaws.

    That said, there are no guarantees of getting back to the WS. The 2016 squad can be a much better all around team than 2015, with better defense, more depth in the bullpen, and a more stable offense, and still not get as far. Just ask the 2015 Cardinals and any other of many teams that got tripped up in playoff baseball. That is both the beauty and the shame of the game.