Going into 2011, the Mets had a good young core, plus some other up-and-coming players, but the preseason expectations ranged from last place to playoff contention. The team hoped it could put the health issues of 2009 and 2010 behind it, but apparently, the injuries never departed. As a result, many of the Mets' stars, such as Johan Santana, David Wright, and Ike Davis have missed significant portions of the season.
Currently, the Mets are 64-68, in a distant third place in the NL East, and a distant fifth place in the NL Wild Card race.
Statistically, the Mets offense has not lived up to expectations. Again, injuries played a large role in this. David Wright, Jason Bay and Ike Davis were all widely projected to hit over 30 home runs and drive in over 100 RBI each, but Wright and Davis have spent significant time on the disabled list, while Bay simply has become a bust in the first two years of his four-year contract. The only two really bright spots this year have been Jose Reyes' career season and the bounce-back year Carlos Beltran had before being traded to the Giants. Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy have both been pleasant surprises as well.
As for the pitching, the current rotation has been healthy, yet very inconsistent. The only pitcher that has established some sort of consistency is the rookie Dillon Gee, who was not expected to be the Mets' best pitcher. Nonetheless, he is the only Mets starter with a winning record. This is because Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey, all of whom pitched very well in 2010, have been rather inconsistent this year. The fifth starter, Chris Capuano, has managed to stay healthy after going through a few injury-plagued seasons, but he has also been inconsistent all season. Francisco Rodriguez had a pretty good season for the Mets, but got traded right after the All-Star break. Jason Isringhausen and Bobby Parnell have now become the two main late-inning relievers and have both pitched pretty well this year. One surprise in the bullpen has been Pedro Beato, whose season got off to a very solid start.
While these Mets have not been particularly good this year, 2011 should by no means be considered the lowest of the lows. Over their history, the Mets have had some rather terrible seasons. One could quickly point to the poor records the Mets originally had from 1962-1968, but five out of the Mets' last 20 seasons have definitely been worse than 2011, in various ways. So, as the saying goes, "it could always be worse".
Here are five recent Mets seasons within the last 20 years that make 2011 look like more of a success than it actually has been.
While the Mets in 2011 have certainly been plagued with injuries, it has not been as chaotic as the 1992 season.
The Mets had been one of baseball's best teams from 1984-1990, but in 1991, the Mets suffered a big second half collapse and finished with a very disappointing 77-84 record. As a result, manager Bud Harrelson was fired and general manager Frank Cashen decided to retire and give the reins to one of his assistants, Al Harazin. That was the first mistake.
Harazin's strategy to turn the Mets back into winners was by opening his checkbook and recruiting the best veterans available. He gave the infamous Bobby Bonilla a five-year $27.5 million contract to make him the richest athlete ever. He then made a big trade for two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen, and also signed future Hall-of-Famer Eddie Murray, plus second baseman and future Mets manager Willie Randolph. The next mistake Harazin made was hiring Jeff Torborg as the new manager.
The 1992 season did not get off to a good start. In spring training, Dwight Gooden, Vince Coleman and Darryl Boston were all accused of rape, but no prosecution ended up happening. The media was all over the story, and as a result, the players held a media boycott that lasted until the end of spring training.
The Mets did not play well from the start that year. Howard Johnson was moved to center field and struggled all year. In fact, the only two players that actually did anything with the Mets offense were Bonilla, who had 19 home runs and 70 RBI and Murray, who had 16 home runs and 93 RBI. Chico Walker was the only batter whose average was over .300. As for the pitchers, David Cone was 13-7, Sid Fernandez was 14-11 and Dwight Gooden won his only Silver Slugger Award with his hitting. Saberhagen struggled in his first season in New York, but his numbers were nothing compared to that of Anthony Young. Young became the Mets' closer after John Franco got hurt, but finished the year with a 2-14 record and lost his last 14 decisions in a row.
Harazin was hesitant to give Cone the five-year contract he wanted, so he ended up making another bonehead trade by sending Cone to the Blue Jays for Ryan Thompson and Jeff Kent. Thompson was a huge bust for the Mets, while Kent blossomed only after leaving New York.
Despite his decent numbers, Bonilla was not a happy camper on his new team—especially at Shea Stadium. He got booed so much that he had to wear earplugs. He also got criticized by both Torborg and the media for calling the press box during a game to complain about being charged with an error. This incident may sound funny, but the Mets' 1992 season was no laughing matter.
The 1992 Mets finished 72-90 and in fifth place in the NL East. It was the worst season the Mets had had in a decade, but this would end up being just a taste compared to what happened a year later.
The forgettable season the Mets had in 1993 would make anyone want to hide their faces. If the 1992 Mets were "The Worst Team Money Could Buy", words could not even characterize how bad 1993 was, both on and off the field.
Speaking of the book itself, when it came out, Bobby Bonilla threatened to show Bob Klapisch "the Bronx" by fighting him. The Mets wanted to prove everyone wrong and compete in 1993, but the team's progress only went backwards.
Jeff Torborg was fired after Memorial Day, and by then, the Mets were only 13-25. Dallas Green replaced him, but could not save the ship from sinking. General Manager Al Harazin resigned a month later and Joe McIlvaine, another former assistant of Frank Cashen, took over. McIlvaine later traded shortstop Tony Fernandez back to the Blue Jays after Fernandez batted just .225 in 48 games, but ironically, he all of a sudden started hitting well as he helped the Blue Jays win the World Series.
Once again, Bonilla (34 home runs, 87 RBI) and Eddie Murray (27 home runs, 100 RBI) led another weak Mets offense. The only other contributor was the new second baseman Jeff Kent who hit 21 home runs and drove in 80 RBI. The pitching was a complete mess. John Franco and Dave Telgheder were the only Mets pitchers that year with winning records, which does not say much at all. Dwight Gooden did not benefit much from run support and newcomer Frank Tanana pitched terribly. However, even though just about every Mets pitcher had a poor season, nobody got mired for futility as much as Anthony Young. Young continued his losing streak by losing 13 consecutive decisions, which brought his grand total up to 27 consecutive losses, setting a new MLB record. The streak was finally broken after an Eddie Murray walk-off double on July 28.
The 1993 Mets ended up a horrendous 59-103. It was the first time since 1967 they had lost over 100 games. They were also 38 games behind the first place Phillies. But there was more to this forgettable season than just the terrible record.
Bret Saberhagen only went 7-7 with a 3.29 ERA that year, but got very frustrated with the media and twice took out his anger towards them. In the first incident, he threw a firecracker at reporters. During another incident, he sprayed bleach at them.
Vince Coleman was another who drew a lot of bad media attention in 1993. In April, he swung a golf club in the clubhouse and the back swing clipped Dwight Gooden in the shoulder. If that incident wasn't embarrassing, then his other and much more serious incident definitely was. In July, while the Mets were playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Coleman threw a firecracker in a Dodger Stadium parking lot, injuring three people, including an infant. Bonilla and Dodgers outfielder Eric Davis were allegedly with Coleman during this incident. In court, Coleman said that "They were thirty feet away and we were just having fun. We do it all the time." As a result, Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon stated that Coleman would never play for the Mets ever again, which he stood by.
At the end of the season, closer John Franco summed up 1992 and 1993 perfectly. "On and off the field, we've been terrible for two years." Thankfully for the Mets, the team made some positive strides from 1994-1996 before really turning the corner and contending for the playoffs in 1997 and 1998, and then winning the Wild Card in 1999 and 2000.
Due to the very poor performance of the 1993 Mets, plus the long list of off-field incidents that occurred that year, 1993 should be considered by far the worst season the Mets have had in the past 20 years.
Ten years later, the Mets went through another noticeably poor season. There was not so much off-field controversy, but what happened on the field was bad enough.
The Mets were coming off a very poor ending to the 2002 season, which led to the firing of popular manager Bobby Valentine. General manager Steve Phillips then hired Art Howe as the new manager, but Howe was simply not fit to manage the Mets.
The previous offseason was a disaster due to the trades for Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar and Jeromy Burnitz, plus the re-signing of Roger Cedeno. This time around, the Mets tried to improve by signing Tom Glavine to give the Mets another left-handed ace alongside Al Leiter.
The Mets did not get off to a good start that year and lost Vaughn for the season in May due to an arthritic left knee. The team also lost their star hitter Mike Piazza due to a groin injury. As a result, the Mets were stuck with backups Jason Phillips and Vance Wilson behind the plate, although Phillips spent a lot of time at first base as well. Temporary shortstop Rey Sanchez was caught getting a haircut in the middle of a game, which led to Jose Reyes being called up sooner than expected.
Without all the big hitters around, the Mets' offense struggled. Burnitz and new left fielder Cliff Floyd both led the team with 18 home runs each, while rookie Ty Wigginton hit 11 home runs and led the team with just 71 RBI. Al Leiter went 15-9 and Steve Trachsel was 16-10, but the rest of the pitchers only won 35 games combined. Closer Armando Benitez kept getting booed for giving up late-inning home runs and got traded to the Yankees after the All-Star break for nearly nothing good in return.
Speaking of trades, Phillips ended up getting fired in June and replaced by his assistant Jim Duquette, who immediately traded Benitez, Alomar, Burnitz, Sanchez and reliever Graeme Lloyd. However, the Mets did not get too much back from any of these trades.
The 2003 Mets were just 1-20 against postseason contending teams not named the Atlanta Braves. Fred Wilpon promised there would be "meaningful games in September", but the only one of note was the final game called by the legendary Bob Murphy, who ended up passing away a year later.
All in all, 2003 was the worst season that the Mets had in the past decade and it was not a fun season for anyone.
This picture could basically sum up the Mets' 2004 season. It was not as bad as 2003, but certainly not good by any means.
After a very disappointing 2003 season, general manager Jim Duquette did not sign many good players. The only one of note was Mike Cameron, who became the new center fielder and led the team that year with 30 home runs. Duquette let Marco Scutaro go on waivers, which was a mistake because Scutaro ended up playing better than the Mets' biggest signing: infielder Kaz Matsui. Matsui did not live up to the Mets' expectations at all. He played terribly, and was given the shortstop position, which caused Jose Reyes to move to second base. Speaking of Reyes, he suffered hamstring injuries and missed the majority of the season.
Not only was the middle infield a problem, but first base became a problem too once Mike Piazza finally broke Carlton Fisk's career home run record by a catcher. After that, Piazza started playing first base to save his knees. However, Piazza's defense at first base made him look like a Gold Glove catcher. He simply was not a good defensive first baseman and never played first base again after 2004.
The 2004 Mets got off to bad start, even in spring training. New outfielders Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer got into a fight with a pizza delivery man, even though the charges were eventually dropped. The team itself did not have any memorable moments until early July when it recorded its first ever sweep of the Yankees at Shea Stadium. The Mets then picked it up in July, thanks to newcomer Richard Hidalgo's power, in which he hit ten home runs during the month. The star third base prospect David Wright made his debut on July 21 and by then, the Mets all of a sudden felt that they could get back into contention. This was when Duquette, who had gotten a new contract in the offseason, proved that 2004 would be his last stand as general manager.
On July 30, he traded Ty Wigginton, Jose Bautista and Matt Peterson to the Pirates for Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger. While Benson's wife made more headlines than his own pitching, Wigginton and Bautista have recently both blossomed into All-Stars. If that trade was bad, his next trade the same day was even worse. He sent top pitching prospect Scott Kazmir to the Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato. Kazmir soon became the Devil Rays' ace and led the team to the 2008 AL Pennant, while Zambrano spent most of his time as a Met on the disabled list and Fortunato contributed minimally. This trade pretty much caused Duquette to lose his job.
Both Duquette and manager Art Howe were notified in mid-September that they would not return for the 2005 season. As a result, Howe remained with the Mets as a "lame-duck" manager for the last three weeks as the team "battled" against potential postseason contenders and helped the Astros win the Wild Card by defeating the Cubs, who had held the Wild Card lead. The season ended with the Mets defeating the Expos in the Expos' final game ever. The franchise moved to Washington D.C. and became the Nationals in 2005.
All in all, 2004 was a slightly better season.
In the following offseason, Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph were hired to clean up the mess the Mets had been in. Their strategy worked from 2005-2008 as the Mets resurrected themselves as one of the best teams in the National League.
Most recently, the Mets' 2009 season was arguably not enjoyable for anyone. The Mets had just come off two consecutive seasons of falling literally just short of postseason contention, so the expectations were rather high for 2009. Furthermore, the Mets had just signed Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz to solidify the bullpen. Although the Mets got off to promising start, the whole season ended up going down the chute in a heart beat.
General manager Omar Minaya, who had already infamously given second baseman Luis Castillo a four-year contract made an even worse decision by giving erratic left-hander Oliver Perez a three-year $36 million contract. Perez did not live up to that deal at all and ended up becoming a mop-up reliever by the end of 2010 before getting released during the 2011 spring training. Near the end of the 2009 spring training, Minaya made one final move, signing veteran slugger Gary Sheffield to a one-year contract in what would turn out to be the last year of his career.
The regular season got off to a good start, despite the fact that the Mets lost their first ever game at Citi Field. Sheffield blasted his 500th career home run in April, Carlos Beltran got off to a great start, and the Mets went 19-9 in May. The team was still in the race by early July before everything simply fell apart.
By then, the Mets had already lost Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, J.J. Putz, John Maine and Oliver Perez—most for the rest of the season. The injuries simply started to pile up and the Mets could not recover. Jon Niese, Fernando Martinez, Sheffield, Johan Santana and even David Wright, who got beaned in the head by the Giants' Matt Cain, all would land on the disabled list. Mets players made 22 trips to the disabled list that year, which was one short of the record set a year earlier.
While many of the star players were injured, the product on the field was not adequate. Daniel Murphy struggled mightily in left field. There was the game against the Dodgers where Ryan Church did not round third base while trying to score, and the game ended when Jeremy Reed made an errant throw to the plate. There was the game against the Phillies that ended with an unassisted triple play. There was the game against the Brewers where Fernando Martinez tripped while trying to catch a fly ball. And of course, there was the forgettable game at Yankee Stadium when Luis Castillo dropped a potential game-ending pop-up, which allowed the Yankees to score and win a game that they should have never won.
No one expected people like Cory Sullivan, Ramon Martinez and Wilson Valdez to make as many starts as they did, but that's how bad and injury plagued the 2009 Mets were. Not only were they injury plagued, but those that were actually healthy did not have particularly good seasons. David Wright dropped to just 10 home runs and 72 RBI, while Daniel Murphy led the team with 12 home runs. That's right. The Mets' team home run leader only had 12 (Jeff Francoeur hit 15 for the year, but five were with the Braves before he was traded). On the pitching side, Johan Santana went 13-9 before getting shut down in September due to bone chips in his elbow. Mike Pelfrey regressed to a 10-12 record and seemed to commit a few too many balks throughout the year. All the other starters, which include Livan Hernandez, Tim Redding, and John Maine were all inconsistent throughout the year.
All in all, 2009 ended up being a completely lost season for the Mets. The team had a promising start, but once all the injuries kept piling up, the Mets could not stop the ship from sinking. 2011 so far has been similar, but it still has not reached the futility of 2009.