Comparison: 1990 Mets and 2011 Phillies

The 1990 Mets looked great on paper, headed by what looked like the best starting rotation seen in Flushing since the days of Seaver, Koosman, and Matlack.

It looked like this:

1. Dwight Gooden
2. Frank Viola
3. David Cone
4. Ron Darling
5. Sid Fernandez
6. Bob Ojeda

Doc was 100% healed from a shoulder injury that marred his 1989 and at 25 years old, and primed to regain dominance as the most feared righty in baseball. Viola was only 30, two years removed from a Cy Young Award, and considered the top lefthanded starting pitcher in MLB. Cone was coming off a so-so year (for him), but put up numbers similar to those that helped him go 20-3 in ’88. Both Darling and Fernandez were coming off of 14-win seasons, and seemed to be turning a corner — many thought ’90 would be the “breakout year” for each of the previously inconsistent pitchers. The rotation was so deep, Ojeda was banished to the bullpen, despite still having enough stuff to be a #3 or possibly #2 on another club.

On offense, the Mets had returning veteran stars Darryl Strawberry, Kevin McReynolds, and Howard Johnson providing the punch in the middle of the lineup, supported by up-and-coming youngsters Gregg Jefferies and Dave Magadan. The NL East was a tough division, but it looked like the Mets would be tough to beat — even if the offense was less dynamic than it had been in previous seasons.

As it turned out, Viola and Gooden had strong years, winning 39 games between them, but Fernandez and Cone suffered from a lack of offensive support and Darling and Ojeda both shuffled between the bullpen and rotation as the underachieving Mets finished second the NL East. It was the genesis of an interminable decade of misery for the Mets.

Going into 2011, the Phillies look somewhat similar to those ’90 Mets, in that — on paper — they appear to have the best starting rotation in all of baseball. Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay compare favorably to the Viola / Gooden one-two punch, and Oswalt is similar to Cone in terms of pure stuff and previous history of success. Hamels could be considered a comparable to Fernandez in that they both had/have streaks of dominance and at times looked like the filthiest lefties in the game. As for the #5 starter, it appears that (assuming they move Joe Blanton) the Phillies will have Kyle Kendrick — who may not look much like Darling but may play a similar role in the upcoming drama (if only Jamie Moyer could come back for one more year, the Phils would have an Ojeda comp!).

The bullpens are hard to compare because the game has changed so dramatically in the past 20 years, but you could argue that the back-end of John Franco and Alejandro Pena is similar to Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson.

So the pitching matches up similarly but what about the offense? Not unlike the 1990 Mets, the Phillies have three big boppers who will be relied upon heavily in the middle of the lineup: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Raul Ibanez. They’ll also be counting on young Domonic Brown to provide some punch in the way the Mets looked to Jefferies. The Phillies don’t have another youngster on the horizon, but singles-hitting corner man Placido Polanco is not dissimilar to Magadan.

The contrasting difference between the teams is at the other positions; where the Mets had Daryl Boston in CF and Kevin Elster at SS, the Phillies have Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino. That could be a wash, if Rollins and Victorino continue their downward trends. Behind the plate, the Mets had an offensive-minded, defensively challenged Mackey Sasser while the Phillies have a solid all-around backstop in Carlos Ruiz. Unless something awful occurs with Ruiz, the Phils probably have the advantage there.

So while it appears that the Phillies have already won the 2011 NL East, we can look back to our own Mets history and see that all that glitters is not necessarily gold. Just because the Phillies can trot out a potential Cy Young Award winner four out of every five days, doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed a postseason placement. The games still have to be played, fortunately, and for all we know, this could be the beginning of a very long, dark period in Phillies history.

And by the way, I have bridge for sale, if you’re interested.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Jake December 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm
    I’m right there with you. On paper, the Phillies look awesome, and even as a lifelong Mets fan, you almost want to respect what they’ve been able to assemble. But while they will most likely make it to the postseason (there was no Wild Card in the 90s), nothing’s a guarantee beyond that. Look at the Braves of the 90s. They won a boatload of pennants with Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, and Avery, but they were only able to win one ring.
    • mrtasan December 14, 2010 at 7:32 pm
      Theres a keen difference between the 90s Braves and the 00s Phillies rivalries…

      The Braves didn’t just flame us, there was some respect…Phillies are just punks. YOU KNOW IT!


  2. Walnutz15 December 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm
    Yet, by the end of the season – the Mets had the great Julio Valera starting in a pennant race. LOL

    We can only hope.

    • Joe Janish December 14, 2010 at 6:36 pm
      Hey, Valera was deadly
  3. Walnutz15 December 14, 2010 at 6:43 pm
    Valera fastball + Will Clark line drive down the RF line = only ball Walnutz15 has ever caught during live action in 27 years as a Met fan.

    True Story.

    … can now proceed with your every-day dealings.

  4. gary s. December 14, 2010 at 7:38 pm
    Joe, i believe this is called “wishful thinking”
  5. murph December 14, 2010 at 11:27 pm
    Even if the Phillies come in second, it won’t be because the Mets are in first.
    • Joe Janish December 15, 2010 at 12:34 am
      Sadly, you raise a good point Murph.

      Though you know, if the Phillies crap the bed, and the Braves falter significantly, and the Marlins suffer a bunch of injuries, and the Nats don’t improve at all, AND the Mets get career years from 7 of their 8 position players, there’s a really good chance that our team from Flushing finishes in third!

      • murph December 15, 2010 at 11:05 am
        ya gotta believe!
  6. gary s. December 15, 2010 at 12:39 am
    joe, that’s funny.Like i said in a previous post, our sense of humor will get a workout in 2011.. good job..
  7. jnolan33177 January 1, 2011 at 10:18 pm
    The Phillies crap the bed??? Have you been watching baseball the past decade? they havent had a slosing season since idk, 9 years ago? They won the NL east 4 straight years, they won 2 of the last 3 pennans, they won the world series 2 years ago. Cy young, Mvp Mvp Gold Glove, sell outs for years straight, and years into the future, Players NOT signing with the Yankees to go to the Phillies……. on and on. If you wanna talk about crapping the bed, talk about a brand new ballpark with a section named after Chase Utley, your stadium in NY Utleys Cove I believe its called. Besides, the Phillies are looked at as the best in the game right now, and they already have a ring, same as the Braves of the 90’s, but they still have 10 years left with a dynamite team, to get at least 1 more. Then you can say whatever you want about the Phillies. The Mets were good in the 80’s, no doubt. But some of that crap i just read Phillies are punks etc etc, just shows why Cliff lee is in Philadelphia! And Philly gets a bad rap. Go Phillies!
  8. jnolan33177 January 1, 2011 at 10:19 pm
    PS, see you in April!!! LOL