The Last Mortgage Payment?

Just about anyone who has been a Met fan for more than six seconds has seen the clip. Mookie Wilson’s dribbler tying up Bill Buckner behind the first base bag and then rolling into the grass in right field. Meanwhile, Ray Knight rounds third and scores the winning run –barely beating third base coach Bud Harrelson to the plate. The Mets improbably win Game Six of the 1986 World Series. Two nights later they finish off the Red Sox and capture their second and to date their last, world championship. I know, I was there.

Let’s go back to that fateful Saturday night at old Shea. The Mets trail the Red Sox three games to two and have watched in disbelief as the Sox plated a pair of runs in the top of the 10th inning. The Mets had romped through the 1986 season, winning 108 games, survived a tough Houston Astros challenge in the NLCS and where heavily favored to beat the then still-cursed Red Sox in the Fall Classic. October 1986 was to be culmination of a five-year process that started with the franchise as the laughing stock of baseball and culminated with this superb season. That all seemed lost on October 25 with the Mets down two runs in the 10th and with their first two batters making outs. Everyone knows what happened next.

The improbability of that comeback has been dissected over and over since then. So why not again? In this version, the ghost of Casey Stengel, a kind of baseball version of Dickens’ Jacob Marley, appeared to owner Fred Wilpon and GM Frank Cashen before the bottom of the 10th and told them he could get it fixed, but it would cost’em. Maybe he told Fred the swap was for his first born son (that would be Jeff), but Fred, ever the canny real estate negotiator, instead settled on a 30-year mortgage. The document was quickly drawn up and signed. In a twinkling the Ol’ Perfessor vanished and the ball went between Buckner’s legs.

Then the 30-year payment plan began.

There has been Dwight Gooden’s drug rehab, Terry Pendleton’s homer, Mike Scioscia’s homer, Lenny Dykstra for Juan Samuel, Bobby Bonilla, Jeff Torborg, the rape scandal, the Worst Team Money Could Buy, Dwight Gooden’s second drug rehab (and subsequent rebirth in the Bronx), the Generation K fiasco, the Kenny Rogers walk, the 2000 Subway Series, the Beltran Strikeout, two collapses, Jeff running the team, Jerry Manuel, Jason Bay, a Ponzi scheme, Lucas Duda’s errant throw and finally Conor Gillaspie. Maybe Fred should have agreed to Stengel’s first offer.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of that fateful night.

In my mind, the Mets enter the offseason with two burning objectives. The first is to ascertain that Yoenis Cespedes stays a Met. He is this era’s Daryl Strawberry or Mike Piazza; the centerpiece of the batting order around which everything else hangs. I get the sense that everyone in the Met hierarchy from Jeff all the way down to the lowliest clubhouse attendant, understands Cespedes’ importance to the team. Unlike the acrimony that surrounded Strawberry’s 1990 departure, both Cespedes and the Mets seem to appreciate each other. I am somewhat confident that he will be back next year.

The other task is to trade and replace Jeurys Familia. Yeah he’s saved over 90 games in the past two years, but he has coughed up some doozies, last year’s World Series and this week’s Wild Card game being chief among them. He has now twice choked in the clutch, an unforgivable sin anywhere, but especially here. Given the recent haul teams like the Yankees, Phillies and Braves have gotten for their closers in the past few years, I’m betting the Mets could find similar gold for Familia. As to the new closer, Addison Reed could be one alternative, as could one of these suddenly surplus rotation arms. They could pick up a veteran for a stopgap. A bit more improbable, but not entirely impossible would be last year’s #1 draft pick Justin Dunn. He was Boston College’s closer, so the experience isn’t entirely new to him.

The Mets should enter 2017 deeper and more experienced than any Met team that I can remember. Thanks to some unlikely late-season heroics, they have an apparent surplus of capable players and can assemble a 25-man roster of players that can handle playing in New York. By most accounts, they still have a few more good pieces on the way as well. They have a manager, who love him or hate him, has proven equal to the challenge of a pennant chase and a front office that while making a few missteps here and there, has been willing and able to add the necessary components. The Mets window of contention is still open.

It’s been 30 years, so maybe the mortgage on the 1986 championship has finally been paid in full. For all our sakes, let’s hope so.

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. Steven Capwell October 6, 2016 at 11:56 am
    It’s sounds saner than the old Indian burial ground on Willet Point theory.
  2. Iz October 7, 2016 at 7:17 am
    You prove yourself an idiot with the demand to trade and replace Familia with a failed closer. Gee wiz, maybe we can get the Commish to unsuspend Mejia for life and you can make him be a failed closer again. Go away un til you grow up and get real.
    • Norme October 7, 2016 at 2:02 pm
      Is IZ the infamous Izzy of the past? You know, the one who undermined his thoughts with childish insults. Let the logic of your mind not be hidden by your disparaging words.
      • Iz October 20, 2016 at 5:08 pm
        if only I were infamous. I criticizing the OP for his writings is prohibited on this site Go, dump Familia and his tiny salary. Maybe you’d spend 15 mil per on a closer who can be Reyes’ abusive partner. Then you can cheer on woman beaters all the time. You all are just brilliant.
  3. Mike B October 7, 2016 at 8:49 pm
    🙁 I still have faith in Familia.
  4. argonbunnies October 8, 2016 at 2:09 pm
    Familia was clutch against the Dodgers in the 2015 postseason and also against the Cubs (though less pressure there). His command was a bit unreliable this year during the regular season, but he certainly didn’t choke, eventually escaping a lot of the jams he got himself into.

    I don’t hold out great hopes of finding a replacement closer who is somehow even MORE clutch and who we can be SURE won’t be tight in a tie elimination game. Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner both failed in the postseason.

    Our best hope is to keep Familia and shoot for the Mariano Rivera path — play in so many postseason games that it becomes routine for him.

    That said, if anyone offers the Mets the kind of haul the Yanks got for Chapman or Miller, I’d take that for ANY reliever. We could survive losing Familia if we continued to add depth. I think Reed could be an above-average closer, which is usually all you need.

  5. DaveSchneck October 8, 2016 at 7:20 pm
    Nice article. For those of us that remember ’86 clearly, the 30 years has gone by quickly, even with all of the rough times in Metsville.

    I agree with Argon regarding Familia. I don’t think he needs to be banished unless there is a team that will overpay, which goes for any player. Reed was fantastic this season, but I still think Familia is the better option. My goal would be to add another high quality arm to the pen mix, and that can be done internally or via acquisition.

    Lastly, I agree that while this season ended in disappointment, the hidden benefit was seeing first hand that they are very deep in good players. Unlike last year, should Cespedes not return, they will be in an excellent position to fill the void, either via trade or free agency.

  6. hookalakah meshobbab October 9, 2016 at 8:09 pm
    Familia choked in this year’s WC game, no doubt. But he didn’t choke in last year’s post-season: he was undone by the unfailingly unclutch glove of one Daniel Murphy. Weak ground balls to the infield ought to result in an out now and then.
  7. Dan Capwell October 10, 2016 at 7:06 am
    My take is that most Mets fans are banking on the fact that the guys who literally came out of the woodwork this August are going to team up with the injured guys who took the team to the World Series in 2015 and that great things will follow.

    I am less certain. Familia has a lot of mileage on his arm, Reed may have had a career season and Reyes and the pitchers can’t be counted on staying healthy. FWIW, Reyes doesn’t really have a starting role right now, if Wright comes back and Walker accepts a QO.

    I would be looking at least at adding another closer type (Jake McGee, Brad Boxburger or our old pal Joe Smith) while also pursuing another speedster. Izzy’s childish post aside, I would consider Mejia if the ban is somehow lifted.

    The first order of business is obviously bringing Cespedes back, but I would also like to see another speedster added. I wonder if there would be any mutual interest in a one-year “make good” deal with Carlos Gomez.

    The surplus the team has does put them in a good position and they can always nix any deal and stash guys in AAA.

  8. Paul T. October 16, 2016 at 3:35 am
    I think you are so close to getting it correct. While Cespedes is a top priority, what you wrote about at the beginning of your post is THE top priority – Wilpon. Until he sells the team, we will have nothing but more frustration. As a real estate investor he should realize that now is the time to sell. The value of the franchise is high, after making the playoffs two consecutive years, and having a lot of good pitching under team friendly contracts.
    Speaking of frustration, you did a great job hitting most all of the main players. I would have added Ollie Perez.
  9. david October 19, 2016 at 3:38 am
    Tug and Ron Taylor and Nolan: now those were the days my friends!