New York Mets: The Top 10 Seasons
With the Mets' 50th season right around the corner, now is the perfect time to look back on the 10 most memorable seasons in Mets history.
The Mets have represented National League baseball in New York since 1962 and although the history of another New York team in the Bronx may be considerably most prestigious overall, the Mets have had their fair share of dominant years, culminating with four National League pennants and two World Series championships so far.
Through all the ups and downs, the Mets have certainly found ways to win over the years, and here are the top 10 greatest seasons in Mets history.
10. (Tie) 1997
Record: 88-74; Third in NL East
End Result: Missed postseason
Up to this point, the 1990s had been a considerably worse decade for the Mets than the 1980s. They had turned from one of baseball's best teams into one of the most underachieving teams and at one point, "The Worst Team Money Could Buy." The Mets did not field a winning team until 1997 came along.
The Mets didn't need duplicates of the career seasons that Lance Johnson, Bernard Gilkey and Todd Hundley all had in 1996 to win in 1997. All that was needed were clutch hits at the right times and solid pitching.
They had a new manager in Bobby Valentine who was instantly loved by most of his players, particularly the ones who did not get along with ex-manager Dallas Green.
Midseason, ex-GM Joe McIlvaine was reassigned and Steve Phillips took over, which was a big improvement within the front office.
The 1997 Mets put all the talk aside and stunned the opposition, its fans and even themselves by winning 88 games, a 17-game improvement and only missed the playoffs by four games.
Had a few more games gone their way, the Mets could have easily taken the Marlins' Wild Card berth.
Individually, the Mets were solid and better than anyone could expect. Offensively, Hundley, the All-Star switch-hitting catcher had another strong season, hitting 30 home runs and driving in 86 RBI before a major elbow injury forced him to have surgery in mid-September.
Gilkey, on the other hand, struggled mightily all year, and Johnson missed a month with shin splints and did not hit as well, which led to him being traded to the Cubs in August. Second baseman Carlos Baerga also struggled throughout the year.
However, other Mets stepped up when they needed to and delivered great seasons. Right fielder Butch Huskey had a career year in 1997 by batting .287, with 24 home runs and 81 RBI, all of which were top 3 within the team, in just his second full season.
Emerging third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo led the team with a .315 average in what was just the first of several excellent seasons for him. Rey Ordonez won a Gold Glove at shortstop and made effortless, dazzling plays every game.
Outfielder Carl Everett had a bounce-back year batting leadoff and playing regularly in center field, while providing some of the most clutch hits throughout the season. But the best hitter on this team was first baseman John Olerud. In his first Mets season, he hit .294 with 22 home runs and a team leading 102 RBI.
On the pitching end, the Mets had a surprisingly good rotation. Ace Bobby Jones made the All-Star team and finished with a 15-9 record with a 3.63 ERA in his career season.
In his first full season, Rick Reed emerged as a dependable starter with 13 wins and was among the league leaders with a 2.89 ERA.
Dave Mlicki made a name for himself by winning the first-ever regular-season Subway Series game by throwing a complete game shutout. And Armando Reynoso pitched well while Pete Harnisch was recovering from depression.
The bullpen was probably the Mets' weakest area, with ineffective relievers such as Barry Manuel, Toby Borland and Ricardo Jordan all thankfully gone by season's end.
On a more positive note, closer John Franco had another terrific season with a then-team record 36 saves, and Greg McMichael and the late Cory Lidle were both solid set-up men.
This season also saw the Mets host Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, Bobby Valentine's comments about Hundley not sleeping enough, the well documented argument Valentine had with Harnisch in a hotel, and of course Everett's child-abuse case that in a way ended his Mets tenure.
But the 1997 team defied the odds, had the seventh-most wins in baseball and showed good signs of what Mets baseball would be like for years to come.
10. (Tie) 1998
Record: 88-74; Second in NL East
End Result: Missed postseason
1998 is tied with 1997 because in many ways, these two consecutive seasons were very similar. Both rosters were almost the same, the record was the same, both teams were very close to making the playoffs and of course, there were always major headlines.
But this team took 1997 to the next step as the Mets made one of their biggest acquisitions ever in May 1998.
Todd Hundley was going to miss at least most of the season while recovering from an elbow injury and the Mets had failed to find a solid replacement until they did the unthinkable and traded for Mike Piazza, who instantly transformed the Mets back into contenders.
Piazza wowed the fans with his long opposite-field home runs and led the team that finished just one game away from forcing a three-way Wild Card tie.
Individually, Piazza had a solid season with a .348 average, 23 home runs and 76 RBI after he came to New York. Alfonzo had another successful season with 17 home runs and 78 RBI.
Center fielder Brian McRae, originally acquired in the Lance Johnson trade, had one of his best seasons with 21 home runs and 79 RBI.
But once again, John Olerud stole the show as he set a new season record with a .354 average, second in the National League behind Tony Gwynn. He also contributed 22 home runs and 93 RBI.
However, Gilkey regressed even more and finally got traded to Arizona. His hitting was so bad that Hundley found himself playing left field once he was healthy, which ended up being a complete failure.
Huskey also regressed, spent some time on the disabled list and never really got his hitting going to the level it was at in 1997. He finished with 13 home runs and just 59 RBI in his last year with the Mets. Ordonez won another Gold Glove and even improved his hitting.
As for pitching, the new ace Al Leiter led the team with 17 wins and a very solid 2.47 ERA. Rick Reed made the All-Star team and had another solid season with 16 wins and a 3.48 ERA, as Bobby Jones only went 9-9.
The bullpen was more stable this time as Franco saved 38 games and Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook emerged as a dependable right-left set-up tandem.
This year brought its own fair share of controversy. GM Steve Phillips had an affair that he had to deal with once it went public.
Bobby Valentine and Hundley clashed even more, and even the two principal owners, Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon clashed about whether to trade for Piazza, which ended with Doubleday overruling Wilpon.
If the 1997 Mets were the turn of the corner between failure and success, 1998 was the similar step 2 in the process. This team was better and came even closer to winning a spot in the playoffs, but not good enough to get its own rank.
Record: 92-70; Second in NL East
End Result: Missed postseason
In 1987, the Mets set out to win their second consecutive World Series title with most of the championship team still intact. The offseason was highlighted by the acquisitions of pitcher David Cone and slugging left fielder Kevin McReynolds.
The 1987 Mets kept themselves within striking distance of the NL East for most of the year, but they and all the other teams were unable to get past the eventual National League champion St. Louis Cardinals, which put a bitter disappointing end to what could have been another trip to the World Series.
Individually, the Mets were still hitting and pitching as well as anyone. Darryl Strawberry hit a then-team record 39 home runs and drove in 104 RBI while raising his average to .284 and stealing 36 bases in his first 30-30 season.
Howard Johnson, who became the everyday third baseman following Ray Knight's departure hit 36 home runs, drove in 99 RBI and stole 32 bases, which gave the Mets two 30-30 players.
The newly acquired McReynolds hit 29 home runs and drove in 95 RBI. First baseman Keith Hernandez set a career high with 18 home runs and drove in 89 RBI.
Gary Carter had his last great Mets season with 20 home runs and 83 RBI. Outfielder Mookie Wilson batted .299 and Lenny Dykstra stole 27 bases in more limited playing time, thanks to McReynolds.
On the pitching end, Dwight Gooden won 15 games and posted a 3.21 ERA despite missing the first two months of the season. Ron Darling went 12-8 with a 4.29 ERA. Southpaw Sid Fernandez also went 12-8 with a 3.81 ERA.
Fellow southpaw Bob Ojeda missed most of the season with elbow surgery and Rick Aguilera won 11 games despite missing most of the season himself.
One big surprise this season was the emergence of Terry Leach, who won 11 games combined as a starter and reliever.
As for the bullpen, Roger McDowell set a career high with 25 saves, while his lefty partner Jesse Orosco saved just 16 games in his last season as a Met.
Overall, 1987 did not go as well as everyone had hoped, following the 1986 championship, but the Mets and their fans knew that the team was still strong and that the core group could still get back to the playoffs. And that they did.
Record: 98-64; Second in NL East
End Result: Missed postseason
Although the Mets finally won their second championship in 1986, 1985 was supposed to be the year they would win it all. After all, the team had just acquired "The Kid" himself, Gary Carter from the Expos, who became the final ingredient in the recipe for Mets success.
In the second-best season in club history at that point, the 1985 Mets showed just why there would be success in Queens for years to come.
Throughout the year, the Mets were near the top of the division, keeping pace with the eventual National League champion St. Louis Cardinals.
They got off to a fast start, leading the NL East at the end of May, before going 11-18 in June and giving way to the Cardinals who held onto the lead the rest of the season.
The Mets were actually behind the Cardinals by just three games when they went to play them in the second-to-last series of the season.
However, they only won two of those games and the Cardinals clinched the division a few days later, ending a season that was the best of any Mets team to not make the playoffs.
Individually, the club produced great numbers. Carter led the offense with 32 home runs and 100 RBI while batting a respectable .281. Hernandez hit 10 home runs and drove in 91 RBI. Strawberry added 29 home runs, 79 RBI and 26 stolen bases.
And in his last full season as a Met, outfielder George Foster hit 21 home runs and drove in 77 RBI.
Some other Mets had breakthrough seasons, like second baseman Wally Backman, who stole a team-leading 30 bases, and Lenny Dysktra who in his first season showed flashes of the great leadoff hitter he would become.
The pitching this year was simply spectacular. Gooden had one of the best seasons ever for a Mets pitcher, winning the NL Cy Young Award by going a remarkable 24-4, with just a 1.53 ERA.
Darling added 16 wins and a 2.90 ERA. Sid Fernandez had a 2.80 ERA, despite only winning 9 games, and Rick Aguilera and Ed Lynch both won 10 games apiece.
The bullpen was also solid, as Orosco saved 17 games, and in his rookie year, McDowell won 6 games and also racked up 17 saves himself.
1985 may not have been "the year", but it gave fans every reason to believe the Mets could get to the World Series in the near future, which they certainly accomplished.
Record: 97-66; Second in NL East; Wild-Card winner
End Result: Lost in NLCS to Atlanta Braves
The Mets' newfound success in 1997 and 1998 gave fans every reason to believe that the team could reach greater success in 1999.
Mike Piazza had just signed a seven-year contract to stay with the Mets, and the team made some big off-season moves by signing third baseman Robin Ventura (Alfonzo subsequently moved to second base), veteran starter Orel Hershiser, and stolen base king Rickey Henderson.
They also traded for outfielder Roger Cedeno, future closer Armando Benitez and unfortunately, outfielder Bobby Bonilla, who was supposed to become the everyday right fielder, but ended up turning into a major distraction that mostly stayed on the bench.
They also made some key trades at the trading deadline by acquiring center fielder Darryl Hamilton, southpaw Kenny Rogers and the veteran utility man Shawon Dunston.
This team was definitely the best team the Mets had since 1988, the last year they made a trip to the playoffs. Not surprisingly, this team made it too.
Throughout the year, the Mets kept pace in the NL East behind the Atlanta Braves, who were in the midst of their streak of fourteen consecutive division titles.
In the end, the Mets won the wild card and after beating the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Division Series, which was capped by Todd Pratt's memorable series-clinching walk-off home run, the Mets went to face the Braves in an epic Championship Series.
After losing the first two games, the Mets also lost the third game 1-0 due to an unearned run. The Mets however salvaged Game Four with a clutch 2-run single by John Olerud to give them the victory.
But Game Five is the one that will live in the fan's minds forever. The game was tied 2-2 until the 15th when the Braves added a run, but the Mets as usual fought back and won in come-from-behind fashion.
After a Dunston single, a Matt Franco walk, an Alfonzo sacrifice, an intentional walk to Olerud and a bases-loaded walk to Pratt to tie the game, the stage was set for Robin Ventura.
One of baseball's best hitters ever with the bases loaded, Ventura launched a towering grand slam to win the game and send the series back to Atlanta.
However, Ventura was mobbed by teammates on his way to second base, and because only one run scored, the hit was credited as a "grand slam single."
However, the Mets did not prevail in Game 6 as the Braves won the pennant and eventually lost to the Yankees in the World Series.
Other memorable moments from season include John Franco reaching 400 saves, Ventura's two grand slams in each game of a doubleheader, Bobby Valentine's infamous dugout disguise, Matt Franco's game-winning hit that helped the Mets finally win a series against the Yankees, Alfonzo's 6-for-6 night with 3 home runs and 6 runs scored, the final regular season game when Melvin Mora scored the game winning run, and of course, the play-in game the Mets won against the Reds to win the Wild Card.
That day, Al Leiter pitched a complete game shutout to seal the game.
Some other not as memorable moments occurred this year as well, none more significant than Valentine firing half of his coaching staff in June, which sent a message to his players. Valentine also clashed with Bonilla due to his lack of playing time.
Speaking of Bonilla, it was later reported that he and Henderson were found in the clubhouse playing cards during the last few innings of Game 6, which became yet another distraction.
The 1999 Mets had some great individual seasons. Piazza led the team with a .303 average, 40 home runs, and a franchise record 124 RBI. Ventura contributed a .301 average with 32 home runs and 120 RBI.
Olerud had another solid season, batting .298 with 19 home runs and 96 RBI in what unfortunately was his last season with the Mets. Alfonzo had his career season, batting .304 with 27 home runs and 108 RBI. Cedeno stole 66 bases, breaking Mookie Wilson's record back in 1982.
Henderson batted .315 and swiped 37 bases himself. But one of the best stories this year was outfielder Benny Agbayani, who got off to a very fast start and hit 14 home runs in just 276 at bats.
Pitching this year was solid too. Leiter and Hershiser both won 13 games, while Masato Yoshii won 12 and Rick Reed won 11. Rogers also contributed 5 wins down the stretch. In the bullpen, Benitez saved 22 games with a 1.85 ERA and became the new closer when John Franco was on the disabled list.
Franco, in his last season of any closing, saved 19 games and finished with a 2.88 ERA. Dennis Cook won 10 games in relief and Turk Wendell set a Mets record by appearing in 80 games, as he posted a solid 3.05 ERA in perhaps his best season.
Pat Mahomes, who was not expected to contribute much was 8-0 in relief with a 3.68 ERA.
The Mets fell short of their ultimate goal in 1999, but this only meant that the team was going to get better and better. Stay tuned to see how that went.
Record: 97-65; First in NL East
End Result: Lost in NLCS to St. Louis Cardinals
After 2000, the Mets finished a game over .500 in 2001 before falling to last place in the NL East in 2002 and 2003, and fourth in 2004. During those years, Art Howe became the new manager and the team did not almost nothing to improve, which certainly showed.
Before the 2005 season, Omar Minaya became the new GM, replacing the ineffective Jim Duquette. Minaya then hired Willie Randolph as the new manager and signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to long-term deals.
Although the 2005 Mets finished third in the NL East and just four games over .500, the Mets knew success was right around the corner. In 2006, the Mets apparently caught this lightning in a bottle.
For the past 14 years, the Braves had reigned over the NL East, but this time, the Mets controlled the division for almost the entire season and finished 12 games over the second-place Phillies. Mets fans everywhere were determined that this team could win it all with the way they played throughout the season.
In the Division Series against the Dodgers, the Mets swept the series in three games, which set the stage for a Championship Series against the Cardinals.
With the Mets having home field advantage, everything had been going their way. The Mets won Game 1 2-0 as Tom Glavine pitched seven solid innings for the victory.
In Game 2, the Mets led 6-4 before the Cardinals scored two in the seventh and three more in the ninth against Guillermo Mota and Billy Wagner, respectively.
As the series moved to St. Louis, the Cardinals won Game 3 5-0 as eventual NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan shut out the Mets for 8 innings and the Mets managed only 3 hits.
But in Game 4, the Mets offense erupted in a 12-5 victory. Beltran, David Wright and Carlos Delgado all homered as Oliver Perez picked up his first postseason win. The Cardinals then won Game 5 4-2 as Jeff Weaver outpitched Glavine.
John Maine threw over five scoreless innings as the Mets won Game 6 4-2, setting the stage for an unforgettable Game 7. Pitching the game of his life, Perez gave up just one run in six innings as the score was tied 1-1 through eight innings.
In the sixth, Scott Rolen hit a deep fly ball that looked to be a home run, but left fielder Endy Chavez leaped into the air and caught the would-be home run in one of the most spectacular catches in team history.
He then doubled off Jim Edmonds to end the inning. However, the magical 2006 season came to a bitter end when Yadier Molina hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth off Aaron Heilman and Adam Wainwright's curveball froze Beltran to end the series and send the Mets home.
Individually, the Mets were very solid. Beltran had one of the greatest individual seasons in team history by hitting 41 home runs, tying Todd Hundley's team record and drove in 116 RBI. Jose Reyes also had a breakout year hitting .300 with 19 home runs, 81 RBI and 64 stolen bases.
Although he struggled in the second half, Wright batted .311 with 26 home runs and 116 RBI. Delgado added 38 home runs and 114 RBI and second baseman Jose Valentin surprised everyone with his play at second.
He hit 18 home runs and drove in 62 RBI in an unlikely role. Catcher Paul LoDuca, facing the difficult task of replacing Mike Piazza had a fine season, batting .318 and was among the league leaders with just 38 strikeouts. Right fielder Xavier Nady had a solid year before getting traded to the Pirates in the Oliver Perez deal.
The Mets pitching was one of the best in baseball this year. Glavine and Steve Trachsel each won 15 games, while Pedro Martinez and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez each won nine games.
Billy Wagner anchored a strong Mets bullpen with 40 saves, while Duaner Sanchez, Pedro Feliciano, Aaron Heilman, Chad Bradford and Darren Oliver all contributed to the Mets' success.
2006 could have been the year that the Mets won it all, but it unfortunately was not meant to be. And due to the 2007 and 2008 collapses, but the inconsistencies in 2009 and 2010, there's no telling when the Mets' next big season will be, but hopefully sooner than later.
For now, 2006 has been the best season of most in recent memory, and many good moments occurred this year that fans will not forget anytime soon.
Record: 100-60; First in NL East
End Result: Lost in NLCS to Los Angeles Dodgers
While 2006 certainly had its own memories, both good and bad, the promising season of 1988 and the way it ended was even more heartbreaking and disappointing. It is also the best season the Mets had that did not result in a World Series appearance.
Fresh off a disappointing ending to the 1987 season, the Mets wanted nothing more to get back into the playoffs, and with a 100-60 record, they did just that.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were the Mets' main contenders through most of the season, but as the year went on, the distance between the two teams grew larger and the Pirates finished 15 games behind the Mets.
The regular season brought along another overall strong season from the Mets' core. Strawberry once again led the offensive attack by hitting 39 home runs for the second consecutive year and driving in 101 RBI. He also stole 29 bases.
The slugging left fielder Kevin McReynolds also made a big contribution with 27 home runs and 99 RBI. Their seasons were significant for the team as Hernandez (11 home runs, 55 RBI), Carter (11 home runs, 46 RBI) and Howard Johnson (24 home runs, 68 RBI) all had down years.
Hernandez for one was injured for a good chunk of the season, so the young Dave Magadan ended up playing a lot of first base that year. Dykstra led the Mets with 30 stolen bases.
Although the results may not have shown it, the Mets pitching staff in 1988 may have been their best ever, at least on paper.
Joining the 1986 championship core of Gooden, Darling, Ojeda and Fernandez was the young David Cone, who turned in a spectacular season by going an astonishing 20-3 with a 2.22 ERA. He also came in third in the NL Cy Young voting.
Gooden went 18-9 with a 3.19 ERA and Darling finished with a career-high 17 wins and a 3.25 ERA.
As for the southpaws, Ojeda finished with a solid 2.88 ERA despite a 10-13 record and Fernandez went 12-10 with a 3.03 ERA.
The 1988 bullpen was led by McDowell and Randy Myers. McDowell saved 16 games with a 2.63 ERA, while Myers saved 26 and finished with a very strong 1.72 ERA. Myers also contributed 7 wins in relief, as did Terry Leach.
The 1988 NLCS saw the Mets go against a strong Dodgers team led by NL Cy Young winner Orel Hershiser. In Game 1, the Mets scored 3 runs in the 9th inning and won 3-2. Gooden pitched seven solid innings of two-run ball.
Cone was not effective at all in Game 2 and got yanked after two innings as the Mets lost 6-3. In Game 3, Darling pitched well enough until the Dodgers tied the game in the ninth inning. However, the Mets responded by scoring 5 runs in the 8th and won 8-4.
The Mets lost a 5-4 heartbreaker in Game 4 as McDowell gave up the go-ahead home run to Mike Scioscia. The Dodgers also won Game 5 7-4, knocking out Fernandez after four innings. The Mets salvaged Game 6 as Cone threw a complete game in a 5-1 victory.
However, Game 7 was not what the Mets had hoped for. Darling got shelled for six runs in the first inning, which was all the Dodgers needed with Hershiser throwing a complete game shutout for the pennant.
Another very promising Mets season that failed to live up to its expectations, but nonetheless was one of the most successful for the franchise.
Record: 82-79; First in NL East
End Result: Lost in World Series to Oakland A's
The most improbable playoff push without question occurred in 1973. Most of the 1969 core was still on the team, but one key member, manager Gil Hodges, was not as he unfortunately passed away right before the 1972 season. As a result, former AL MVP Yogi Berra took over as the skipper.
The Mets struggled during most of 1973, as they were just 44-57 by the end of July and in last place. However, a miraculous turnaround occurred and within a month, the Mets were no longer in last and had cut the lead in half to 5.5 games behind the first-place Cardinals.
The general consensus was that a meeting held by the eventually unpopular chairman M. Donald Grant sparked the Mets, as closer Tug McGraw yelled the famous rally cry, "Ya Gotta Believe!" after Grant's meeting.
This became the theme of the Mets for the season as they won the division at just 82-79, by far one of the worst division-winning records ever.
Offensively, this season, the Mets' bats did not make too much noise. First baseman John Milner had a breakout season with a team-leading 23 home runs and 72 RBI. The popular outfielder Rusty Staub added 15 home runs and led the team with 76 RBI.
Third baseman Wayne Garrett hit 16 home runs and drove in 58 RBI, while second baseman Felix Millan led the team with a .290 average. In his final year in baseball, Willie Mays was mostly on the bench, but made some key contributions during the playoffs and was an important mentor for his teammates.
Pitching, on the other hand was still dominant. Tom Seaver won his second Cy Young Award, going 19-10 with a 2.08 ERA. Jerry Koosman was 14-15 with a 2.84 ERA. Second-year southpaw Jon Matlack, who was the 1972 NL Rookie of the Year went 14-16 with a 3.20 ERA and George Stone went 12-3 with a 2.80 ERA to round out the rotation.
In the bullpen, McGraw had his ups and downs throughout the year, but saved 25 games. The rest of the bullpen was not as good, but it did not matter too much because Seaver, Koosman and Matlack all pitched over 240 innings each.
In the postseason, the Mets faced Cincinnati's Big Red Machine powerhouse, led by Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan. Seaver lost a 2-1 heart-breaker in Game 1 as the Reds scored a run in both the 8th and 9th innings to get the win. He struck out 13 and even drove in the Mets' lone run himself with an RBI double.
In Game 2, Matlack threw a 2-hit complete game shutout, as the Mets won 5-0. Game 3 saw Koosman throw a complete game as well. The Mets won this one 9-2 as Staub homered twice.
The Mets lost Game 4 2-1 when the Reds scored the winning run in the 12th inning. Stone gave up just one run, but the Mets offense was limited to 1 run and only 3 hits. In Game 5, Seaver took the hill and gave up just 2 runs in a 7-2 Mets win, which earned them a spot in the World Series against the Oakland A's.
In Game 1 of the World Series, Matlack pitched well, but not good enough as the Mets lost 2-1. In Game 2, Koosman got knocked out during the 3rd inning, after giving up 3 runs, but the Mets rallied back to a 10-7 victory. McGraw pitched 6 innings in relief for the win and the offense managed to score 4 runs against Hall-of-Famer Rollie Fingers.
At Shea, the Mets lost Game 3 3-2 in 12 innings. The Oakland bullpen did not give up a run from the 7th inning on.
Matlack pitched well again in Game 4, giving up just 1 run and 3 hits as the Mets won 6-1 to even the series. Staub kept his hot bat going 4-for-4 game, including a home run and 5 RBI. The Mets shutout the A's in Game 5, thanks to a combined effort from Koosman and McGraw as the Mets won 2-0.
Back in Oakland, in Game 6, Seaver gave up three runs, but was outpitched by Catfish Hunter, who gave up only 1 in a 3-1 loss. This evened the series again and forced a Game 7 that Mets went on to lose 5-2.
Matlack was relieved in the 3rd inning and Ken Holtzman and Fingers both pitched well for the A's. The season's ending was disappointing, but it was far more accomplished than anyone could have ever imagined that year.
Record: 94-68; Second in NL East; NL Wild-Card Winner
End Result: Lost to New York Yankees in World Series
The pinnacle of the Bobby Valentine era occurred in 2000, when the Mets went as far as they have been since 1986.
The Mets were coming off three straight winning seasons, including a 1999 season that ended with a heartbreaking loss to the Braves in the NLCS. The Mets were hungry to do even better and they succeeded in doing this.
The season started in Japan against the Cubs, and in the second of the two games, Benny Agbayani hit a grand-slam that was the difference in the game. The slam also continued Agbayani's legacy as a New York fan favorite and led to more playing time for him.
The Mets got off to a good start in April and May, but really turned it up a notch in June. By this time, Rickey Henderson was released after not hitting well and feuding with Bobby V and Jay Payton had established himself as the everyday center fielder.
The month was highlighted by Mike Piazza's grand slam off Roger Clemens in a 12-2 Mets win vs the Yankees, Robin Ventura's hilarious impersonation of Piazza during a rained out game in the same series, and most memorably by the home run Piazza hit on June 30 against the Braves to cap a 10-run 8th that resulted in an 11-8 victory.
July took a sour turn as Clemens beaned Piazza in the head, which resulted in Piazza having to miss the All-Star game and fueling more tension between the two New York teams. By the end of August, the Mets were challenging the Braves for the division lead.
However, they regressed a bit in September to the point that the Wild Card became the more realistic goal. And that was what happened as the Mets finished the season with the Wild Card.
Statistically, the 2000 Mets set a team record with 198 home runs and seven players reached double digits. Piazza led the offense once again in his best Mets season as he hit .324 with 38 home runs and 113 RBI. He was in the top 5 in the NL MVP voting.
Alfonzo solidified himself as one of the best second basemen in baseball with a .324 average, 25 home runs and 94 RBI. Ventura regressed a bit this year, but still hit 24 home runs and drove in 84 RBI, despite slipping his average down to .232.
First baseman Todd Zeile, who replaced the popular Olerud at the position hit .268 with 22 home runs and 79 RBI.
The Mets also had one of the stronger outfields in recent years, led by right fielder Derek Bell who was traded to the Mets from the Astros in the Mike Hampton deal. He hit 18 home runs and drove in 69 RBI before getting hurt in Game 1 of the NLDS and missing the rest of the postseason.
Payton, the rookie center fielder hit .291 with 17 home runs and 62 RBI. He also finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Agbayani became the everyday left fielder and hit .289 with 15 home runs and 60 RBI, not to mention countless clutch hits throughout the year.
The popular backup catcher Todd Pratt also had his best year in limited duty with 8 home runs and 25 RBI.
The Mets' pitching carried the team throughout the season as all five starters reached double digit wins. In his only Mets season, Mike Hampton went 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA and won the decisive Game 7 in the NLCS, which would be his biggest moment of the season.
Al Leiter, however was the real ace with a 16-8 record and a 3.20 ERA. Rick Reed had his fourth consecutive strong season with an 11-5 record and a 4.11 ERA. He also was the winning pitcher in the Mets' only World Series victory that year.
Bobby Jones went 11-6 and had his career moment winning the NLDS series by throwing a one-hitter. And Glendon Rusch was 11-11 with a 4.01 ERA and considered one of baseball's best #5 starters. In the bullpen, Benitez set a new team record with 41 saves (he would eventually save 43 the following year) and had a 2.61 ERA.
John Franco, who cherished the postseason run as much as anyone was 5-4 with a 3.40 ERA as the set-up man. The left-right tandem of Dennis Cook and Turk Wendell was strong once again as they combined for 14 wins and Rick White emerged as another dependable relief option.
The postseason began in San Francisco against the Giants who had a premier slugger in Barry Bonds, as well as the 2000 MVP, former Met Jeff Kent.
The Mets lost Game 1 as Hampton gave up 5 runs and 4 of them in the third inning as the Giants won 5-1. The Mets won Game 2 behind Leiter and his eight solid innings. However, once he was relieved, the game spun off in a different direction.
J.T. Snow hit a game tying home run off Benitez in the bottom of the ninth inning, but the Mets scored a run in the 10th and John Franco ended the game by striking out Bonds for a 5-4 Mets win.
As the series went to Shea, the dramatics increased tremendously. Game 3 was memorable as the Mets won 3-2 when Agbayani hit a moonshot for a walk-off home run. And in Game 4, Jones pitched the game of his life by throwing a complete game one-hitter as the Mets advanced to the NLCS to face the St. Louis Cardinals.
In St. Louis, the Mets won Game 1 6-2 behind seven solid innings from Hampton. In Game 2, Leiter threw seven strong innings, but the bullpen was ineffective as the Cardinals tied the game 5-5 in the bottom of the 8th. Payton then hit a clutch RBI single in the 9th, which was enough for a 6-5 win. Back at Shea, the Mets lost Game 3 8-2 as Reed got knocked out in the 4th inning.
Game 4 though was a lot better as the Mets hit five consecutive doubles in the 1st inning en route to a 10-6 win.
In Game 5, Hampton followed Jones' lead and pitched a complete game three-hit shutout in a 7-0 Mets win that earned them the pennant and a spot in the World Series for the first time since 1986. They would also be playing the two-time defending champion Yankees in the first NY-NY World Series since 1956.
In Game 1 of the historic World Series, the Mets led 3-2, before the Yankees scored a run to tie the game. It remained tied until former Met Jose Vizcaino hit a game winning single for a 4-3 Yankees win.
Game 2 was featured with part 2 of the Piazza-Clemens battle as Clemens threw a piece of Piazza's bat at him, which caused the benches to clear. After the controversy was settled, the Yankees took a 6-0 lead.
The Mets rallied for five runs in the 9th inning, but ultimately fell short as the Yankees held on for a 6-5 win. The series then moved to Shea and the Mets won Game 3 4-2 as Reed pitched well for six innings and Agbayani hit a key double late in the game. To date, it is the last World Series game the Mets have won.
In Game 4, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter opened the game with a home run and the Yankees took a 3-0 lead before Piazza hit a 2-run home run to pull the Mets within a run. However, both bullpens were solid and the Mets lost 3-2.
Game 5 was a gritty battle as well. The Mets led 2-1 for most of the game before the Yankees tied it in the top of the 6th. But in the top of the ninth, the Yankees scratched out two runs as Luis Sojo got an RBI hit up the middle as Yankee catcher Jorge Posada scored.
Another run scored when the incoming throw to home hit Posada and bounced away. With the fate of the World Series on his shoulders, Piazza hit a long fly ball to center field that ended the series and gave the Yankees their third consecutive championship.
But 2000 was quite a memorable year for the Mets as they showed everyone their 1999 success was no fluke and got back to the World Series in dramatic fashion. Only time will tell when the Mets will be in this position again.
Record: 100-62; 1st in NL East
End Result: Won World Series vs. Baltimore Orioles
After being the laughingstock of baseball for their first seven years as a franchise, the 1969 Mets experienced an enormous miracle that few teams in history could rival.
Led by manager Gil Hodges, the Mets already had a strong young core in pitchers Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan and Tug McGraw, as well as a young core of hitters in Cleon Jones, Jerry Grote, Bud Harrelson, and Tommie Agee.
All of a sudden, the Mets came out of nowhere and shocked the baseball world as the Miracle Mets did the impossible and won it all.
The Mets got off to another slow start this year and were just 21-23 at the end of May. However, a 19-9 June improved their standing greatly, as did a 21-10 record in August.
By the end of August, the Mets were just 4.5 games behind the Cubs in the division and were all of a sudden contending for the playoffs.
And the miracle continued as the Mets went 23-7 in September to beat out the Cubs for their first division title.
The Mets even had the best record in the National League, which was quite an accomplishment compared to the past seven years.
Offensively, these Mets did not have any genuine superstars, but rather a good group of role players that were clutch when needed. Agee provided excellent defense in center field and led the offense with 26 home runs and 76 RBI.
Jones set a then-team record with a .340 average, and also hit 12 home runs and drove in 75 RBI. Many of the other Met hitters did not play every day because Hodges was strict with his left-right platoons.
The first-base platoon of Ed Kranepool and Donn Clendenon was solid as Kranepool hit 11 home runs and drove in 49 RBI, while Clendenon hit 12 home runs and drove in 37 RBI from the right side.
In right field, lefty-hitting Art Shamsky contributed a .300 average, 14 home runs and 47 RBI, while the popular Ron Swoboda hit 9 home runs and drove in 52 RBI. The other hitters, such as Grote, Harrelson, second baseman Ken Boswell, and the third base platoon of Wayne Garrett and Ed Charles were not powerful of hitters, but contributed to offensive success when it mattered most.
The Mets' strength was really in their pitching. The face of the team, Seaver went 25-7 with a 2.21 ERA to win his first of three Cy Young awards with the Mets. Koosman had similar success with a 17-9 record and a 2.28 ERA as a dependable No. 2 starter.
Gary Gentry was a solid No. 3, as he went 13-12 with a 3.43 ERA. Ryan did not pitch as much this year, but went 6-3 with a 3.53 ERA. He was quite valuable in the bullpen for long relief. Speaking of the bullpen, McGraw went 9-3 with 12 saves and a 2.24 ERA, while the other closer Ron Taylor finished 9-4 with 13 saves and a 2.72 ERA.
In their first postseason, the Mets' first test was against the Atlanta Braves, led by Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda, and Phil Niekro. Seaver outpitched Niekro in Game 1 as the Mets scored 5 runs in the 8th and won 9-5.
Game 2 was a slugfest, as both Koosman and Braves starter Ron Reed were knocked out early, but Taylor and McGraw both did not give up any runs as the Mets won 11-6.
In Game 3, Gentry was pulled after just 2 innings in favor of Ryan, who pitched 7 solid innings and gave up just 2 runs to finish the game as the Mets won 7-4 and clinched their first pennant ever! The Mets had done it.
The Cinderella story went on and they were in the World Series against a powerful Baltimore Orioles squad.
While all the left-handed hitters in their respective platoons played in all three NLCS games, it was the right-handed hitters that contributed heavily in the World Series.
Led by Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer, this Orioles was better than the Braves. And it showed in Game 1 as the Orioles beat the Mets 4-1 as the lefty Mike Cuellar outpitched Seaver and threw a complete game.
But in Game 2, Koosman rose to the challenge and pitched over 8 solid innings, while utility man Al Weis hit a late RBI single in the 9th to give the Mets a 2-1 victory.
In Game 3, Gentry rebounded from his poor previous start and threw six solid innings as he and Ryan combined for a 5-0 shutout.
Agee also made his two famous and well-documented catches in this game to preserve the shutout and he may have saved five runs altogether. At this point, the Mets had the momentum on their side.
In Game 4, Seaver pitched a 10-inning complete game as the Mets the won in the bottom of the 10th 2-1. As Game 5 approached, the Mets were one win away from their first championship, a feat no one could have ever imagined happening this year.
Koosman turned in one of his best games as he threw a complete game for a 5-3 championship win. Clendenon continued his hot streak by hitting his third home run of the series and eventually became the World Series MVP.
The Mets fans at Shea went wild and stormed the field as everyone celebrated the miracle season. There was eventually a ticker tape parade around the city and the Mets stunned everyone by doing the impossible and winning a championship no one could have ever predicted.
Thus, the 1969 season is by far one of the greatest seasons ever, and one that any Mets fan will always remember, even if they were not alive to see it in person.
Record: 108-54; 1st in NL East
End Result: Won World Series vs. Boston Red Sox
If 1969 was the greatest miracle ever that no one could have predicted, then the 1986 season was the greatest Mets season everyone had predicted would happen. After experiencing a down cycle from 1977-1983, the Mets were on the rise once the Davey Johnson era began in 1984.
The Mets finished second in the NL East in 1984, and second again in 1985 by just three games. Once 1986 rolled around, the Mets knew that their next championship season was due.
Unlike the 1969 team, this Mets squad dominated the National League throughout the entire season. After a 13-3 start in April, the Mets did not look back as they finished a team-record 21.5 games ahead of the second place Phillies. And they did this in a season in which none of their star players had career years.
As usual the offense was high powered, but for many, the numbers were not as good as they were in other years. Carter and Strawberry led this offense with 24 home runs and 105 RBI, and 27 home runs and 93 RBI, respectively.
Leadoff-hitting center fielder Lenny Dykstra had a breakout season with a .295 average and 31 stolen bases, which led the team.
Second baseman Wally Backman also had his best Mets season as he led the team with a .320 average in a platoon role (righty-hitting Tim Teufel started in most games against a lefty pitcher; the switch-hitting Backman consistently struggled against lefties).
Hernandez had a good year with a .310 average, 13 home runs and 83 RBI as the heart and soul of the lineup. Mookie Wilson had another solid year with a .289 average and 25 steals as he moved to left field to accommodate Dykstra.
However, his main contributions would happen later. Third baseman Ray Knight hit 11 home runs and drove in 76 RBI in his defining Mets season, and rookie Kevin Mitchell contributed 12 home runs and 43 RBI in his lone Mets season. Pinch-hitters Danny Heep and Lee Mazzilli also made some key contributions during the season.
1986 was also the final Mets season for the veteran outfielder George Foster, who got moved to the bench after the All-Star break and after a lot of complaining, got released in August and never got to experience the eventual success that he once rapped about in "Get Metsmerized."
The Mets did not need to score a ton of runs every day because they had the best pitching staff around. Gooden led the rotation and finished 17-6 with a 2.84 ERA. Darling added a 15-6 record and a 2.85 ERA, while Sid Fernandez went 16-6 with a 3.52 ERA.
But the real difference-maker was the new acquisition, southpaw Bob Ojeda, who finished with a team-leading 18 wins and a 2.57 ERA. Rick Aguilera went 10-7 as a starter, but was moved to the bullpen for the postseason, as was Fernandez.
The bullpen was led by the vicious tandem of McDowell and Orosco. McDowell had his best season this year as he won a Mets record 14 games in relief, saved 22 and finished with an ERA of just over 3.00, while pitching 128 innings, which is a lot for a reliever/part-time closer. Orosco was solid as well, with 8 wins in relief, 21 saves, and a 2.33 ERA.
The Mets faced the Western champion Houston Astros in the NLCS, led by Cy Young winner Mike Scott, a former Met, and another former Met in Nolan Ryan. Many people remember the 1986 World Series to be dramatic, but this was quite a dramatic series as well.
In Game 1, Gooden pitched extremely well, but he gave up a home run to Astros first baseman Glenn Davis, which proved to be the difference as Scott threw a complete game shutout in a 1-0 Mets loss.
The Mets evened the series in Game 2 as Ojeda threw a complete game of his own and beat Ryan as the Mets won 5-1.
Darling took the hill in Game 3 and pitched five solid innings, but after the Astros scored a run in the 7th, Dykstra belted a 2-run walk-off home run to give the Mets a 6-5 win and a 2-1 series lead. Fernandez started Game 4, but was outpitched by Scott who threw another complete game in a 3-1 Mets loss.
Game 5 was another pitcher's duel as Gooden and Ryan battled through one scoreless inning after another as each gave up just one run and while Ryan threw nine innings, Gooden went 10. The game remained tied until the bottom of the 12th when Carter singled home Backman for the winning run.
As the series went back to Houston, the Mets were one win away from the World Series. Game 6 was one for the ages. Ojeda was outpitched by Bob Knepper and the Mets faced elimination down 3-0 in the top of the 9th.
But the Mets were resilient and tied the game as Dykstra tripled, Wilson singled him in, Hernandez doubled home Wilson, and Knight tied the game with a sacrifice fly. McDowell then came in to pitch and threw five nearly perfect innings, the longest he had ever went.
Finally, in the top of the 14th, Backman drove in the go-ahead run and the Mets were up 4-3. Orosco came in and tried to finish the game, but it was not easy. He gave up a solo shot to Billy Hatcher, and the game was tied again until the 16th inning.
The Mets scored 3 runs to take the lead, but Orosco remained in the game and was visibly tired. He then gave up 2 runs, but managed to strike out Kevin Bass to end the series and send the Mets to the World Series after an almost five-hour game that was intense from the beginning. More importantly, they did not have to face Scott again in a Game 7.
The Mets faced the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, who were trying to break the Babe Ruth curse and win a championship for the first time since 1918. They had a solid lineup with Wade Boggs at third base and Jim Rice and Dwight Evans in the outfield.
Their pitching featured a young Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst, and Oil Can Boyd. Darling faced Hurst in Game 1 and pitched brilliantly, but ended up taking the loss in a 1-0 game as the Mets defense gave up an unearned run in the seventh inning.
Gooden struggled badly in Game 2 as he gave up six runs in five innings and the Mets lost this one 9-3. It did not look good for the Mets as they traveled to Boston, already down 2-0 and losing twice at home.
In Game 3, Ojeda pitched well for seven innings and the Mets scored four runs in the 1st inning thanks to a leadoff home run from Dykstra, and clutch hitting from Backman, Hernandez, Carter and Heep.
In Game 4, the Mets evened the series 2-2 as Darling threw seven strong innings, and Carter homered twice, while Dykstra added his second home run in just as many games.
However, Gooden struggled again in Game 5 as he was again outpitched by Hurst in a 4-2 Mets loss. Fernandez pitched four scoreless innings in relief and Teufel added a home run. The Mets went back to Shea for Game 6, which became arguably the greatest game ever.
The Red Sox were one win away from their first championship in almost seventy years, but it was not to be. Ojeda pitched well, but Clemens was just as good and the score was tied 3-3 after nine innings.
In the 10th, Aguilera gave up a home run to Red Sox outfielder Dave Henderson and the Sox scored another run to take a 5-3 lead.
The Mets faced elimination with two outs when Carter went to the plate and promptly hit a single, followed by another single from Mitchell, and then Knight hit a single that scored Carter with Mitchell at third as the tying run.
Up came Wilson, who soon had to leap away from a wild pitch that scored Mitchell and moved Knight to second. All of a sudden, the game was tied! Then, Wilson hit a bouncing ball that somehow went through first baseman Bill Buckner's legs and Knight surged home with the winning run, which forced another game.
As Game 7 approached, the Mets' mojo was back and Darling took the hill against Hurst. Darling however did not pitch well as he gave up two home runs and another run as the Red Sox led 3-0.
Fernandez relieved him in the fourth inning and threw two dominant innings, which was crucial as the Mets scored three runs to tie the game in the sixth.
One inning later, Knight continued his hot streak with a leadoff home run, and after hits by Dykstra, light-hitting shortstop Rafael Santana, and Hernandez, the Mets led 6-3. After the Red Sox scored two runs, Strawberry belted a long home run to make the score 7-5.
By then, Orosco had come in and even batted in the eighth. To surprise everyone even more, Orosco swung the bat and had an RBI single to increase the lead to 8-5. He then retired the Red Sox 1-2-3 and finished by striking out Marty Barrett. It was over.
The mission was complete: the Mets had delivered the championship they had promised and the World Series was as memorable as any World Series will ever be. It was even more fitting that the Mets' greatest season ever happened during their 25th season as a franchise.
Although the next few years were not as successful, the Mets' 1986 season has become more memorable to the team than any other season, and it's no surprise that many of these Mets now work for the organization in various coaching capacities.
Time will tell whether the Mets will have a season even more memorable than this. But until then, 1986 will be the defining season for the Mets.