The following is an elaborate spin-off of an essentially live blog entry I wrote in August as the New York Mets bullpen blew a lead for Johan Santana for the sixth time in the 2008 season. Part one can be found here.
Part one examined the Mets teams of the early-mid-'90s. Lovable losers we'll call them. In the late '90s, we started winning.
Then we did it in 1999. We got Rickey Henderson.
Rickey forgot to tell you Rickey is writing this article, not Travis.
Really though, 1999 is my favorite Mets team of this generation. Roger Cedeno swiped 66 bags, hitting .313. I thought he would have a great career in New York.
Robin Ventura came to play third base, Fonzie moved over to second, and Baerga was nowhere to be found. The infield of Olerud, Alfonzo, Ordonez, and Ventura combined to make only 27 errors.
Pokey Reese and J.T. Snow won gold gloves on the right side of the infield, but an orange and blue sweep wouldn’t have been surprising.
Octavio Dotel’s “rubber arm” gave us something to be hopeful for, as did having veteran Orel Hershiser for a hot minute. Armando Benitez closing games was a new and exciting look from John Franco.
We’ll always love John Franco for what he meant to the Mets, and for what the Mets meant to him. Regardless of how many headaches he gave us, there’s a guy who would play for free, as long as it was for the Mets.
Fonzie gave us a treat with a 6-for-6 game in August, including three home runs.
This was the first time we could really stand up to the Braves. We had a great team. As for Atlanta, they had Larry Wayne Jones, Jr. and John Rocker, two of the most hated people in New York at the time.
No need to jog down memory lane with Chipper and Rocker. We know their infractions. Chipper is the only man in baseball history to hit over 1.000 against a team, and John Rocker just flat out wasn’t a fan of anything outside of Macon, GA.
“LAAAAAAAAAARRRRYYYYYY” chants were Chipper’s punishment. He never really did anything wrong other than kill us time and time again (he hadn’t named a child “Shea” yet).
Rocker’s punishment was a little more severe. Any time he visited New York, he was bathed in the killer Bs.
Not Bagwell, Biggio, and Bell.
Boos, booze, and batteries. This prompted some nasty comments published after the 1999 season. He was long from done dealing with New Yorkers.
We finished the regular season tied for the Wild Card and had a one-game playoff against Cincinnati.
I remember Al Leiter’s 5-0 complete game shutout of the Reds to put the Mets in the playoffs. I remember Fonzie’s grand slam in Game One of the division series against the D’Backs (side note: We always owned Randy Johnson), and I remember the anticipation of finally getting the chance to knock off the Braves…
Before we knew it, we were already in a 3-0 hole. At this point, we were already as good as dead in the NLCS.
Scoring a couple of runs off Rocker and watching him walk off the mound at Shea screaming back at fans who were taunting him is still a vivid memory, but alongside Robin Ventura’s walk-off grand slam single (just one of many Mets playoff moments which didn’t amount to much in the long run), both events were so satisfying, but really just gave us unnecessary hope.
Coming back from a 3-0 deficit was impossible (until 2004).
The Braves had our number, and we needed a scapegoat.
Enter: Kenny Rogers.
Game Six had everything. In a series dominated by pitching, it was relieving, but scary at the same time, to have an offensive shootout. A Mike Piazza home run capped a four-run comeback to tie the game at 7-7, and we went into extra innings tied 8-8.
The Mets scored a run in the top of the 10th inning, but couldn’t hold the lead in the bottom half. Thanks, Armando Benitez. This is the worst thing you could ever do to us: Blow a save against a bitter rival (ironic foreshadowing, please hold comments until 2000)!
Johnny O and Largeness couldn’t come through in the top of the 11th, so Bobby V sent in the aforementioned Kenny Rogers to face the top of the Braves’ lineup.
Gerald Williams doubled.
Bret Boone sacrificed Williams to third.
Larry Wayne Jones, Jr. was intentionally walked.
Brian Jordan was intentionally walked.
Andruw Jones steps to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. He worked the count full...
High and outside.
Coming soon: Part three, the dreaded year 2000 and its yield.