After a 20-22 start to the 1990 season the New York Mets fired then manager Davey Johnson and hired long time Met Bud Harelson as his replacement. The managerial change was 1 of 5 that would take place throughout the decade and marked the end of an era in which the Mets saw success while winning over the hearts of many fans throughout the Metropolitan area. It was the beginning of the forgettable 90′s which we endured awful free agent signings (Bobby Bonilla and Vince Coleman) and watched our beloved club become perennial doormats of the NL East Division. The team lost as many as 103 games (1993) during a stretch of 6 straight losing seasons (1991-96) to start the decade.
In 1997 the Mets hired Bobby Valentine to manage the club and in his first year the team won 88 games as they began their climb back to relevancy. It wasn’t until a 3 team mid-season trade in 1998 which brought All-Star catcher Mike Piazza to Queens, that aspirations of October baseball would truly begin. It looked as if thoseNaspirations would come to fruition as the Mets, heading down to Atlanta’s Turner field for the final 3 games of the ’98 season, needed just 1 victory to clinch the NL Wild Card. The Braves had already clinched their 4th NL East Division title and seemingly had nothing left to play for. That, however, was not the approach Atlanta took. The Braves went on to sweep the 3 game set and on that day, September 27th, 1998…. a rivalry was fueled.
Upon crushing their city’s hopes of October baseball, the Mets were determined not to be denied in the 1999 season. Al Leiter‘s preseason proclamation that the Mets should set their goals on unseating the Atlanta Braves rather than settle for a Wild Card berth was a sign that things could be different. On August 5th, when the Mets took a 1 game lead of the Division, Leiter had this to say about his club:
We’re not the same club (as in the past), we’re playing up to our potential and our expectations out of spring training. Other teams in contention now know we are a team to be reckoned with. That’s obvious. We have too many good players and experience with guys who have been in the postseason and World Series. That’s part of the makeup now that wasn’t there last year.”
From that day forth the pennant race took on a fever pitch as the teams exchanged hold of the division lead on a daily basis, prompting a playoff-type atmosphere from August through the end of September. It was during a 3 game series (September...TO READ THE REST OF THIS POST AND OTHERS LIKE IT HEAD TO METSZILLA.COM BY CLICKING HERE: