Mets Up: Looking Back, Mets 2022 Season Was Easily Top 5

More than half of the New York Mets franchise’s history is within my lifespan, which sounds much more impressive than it is. Created in 1962 to appease the migration of the Giants & Dodgers to California, the boys in Orange and Blue have been to five World Series over 60 seasons. I’ve been witness to 60 percent of those contests & while I wasn’t alive for 1973, I was around for the hubbub made when the team turned 25. 

According to mathematicians contacted prior to this article, the team’s 25th anniversary season was 1986. Fresh off their third appearance in the baseball’s final series, the marketing department went heavy on memorabilia. Thanks to the Interweb, you can purchase or view a more modern interpretation of the VHS version I repeatedly ingested of An Amazing Era.

The hour-plus puff piece focuses on the foundation; the early years with Casey Stengel and the team’s rapid but eventual evolution thanks to the influx of youth with names like Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman, Cleon Jones & The Franchise, aka Tom Seaver. They serve as the foundation of the Miracle Mets, a team that went from the outhouse (40-120 in 1962) to the penthouse (100-62 in 1969) and the first title.

Four years later, Ryan had moved on, but Willie Mays had returned to New York. There’s an HBO documentary about the greatest player ever, a man who retired with the second most home runs in MLB history, 3,000 hits and a lifetime .301 batting average along with two MVPs and 12 Gold Gloves.

Mays was a shell of his former self in 1973, playing just 66 games and hitting just .211 for a flawed team that finished 82-79. Luckily, that was good enough for an invite to the NL Championship series against the Cincinnati Reds. Managed by Sparky Anderson, they’re better known as The Big Red Machine because between 1972 and 1976, they won no less than 95 games and reached three World Series, winning two of them. 

But in 1973, they came up short against a team that was in last place in the National League East and 12 games under .500 on August 20. Behind reliever Tug McGraw’s mantra ‘Ya Gotta Believe’, the Mets won 27 of their last 39 games to catch and pass the Cardinals for the division title. 

I mentioned Mays because one of his final postseason appearances came as a pinch hitter in the NLCS’s decisive Game 5 at Riverfront Stadium. At age 42, Mays hit a Baltimore chopper that didn’t leave the infield, but bounced hard enough off the turf for an RBI single during a 4-run inning, part of a 7-2 win to help advance the Mets to their second World Series appearance.

Mays had two more hits in the ensuing Series before calling it a career, batting an identical .286 against Oakland as he had nearly 20 years earlier when he led the New York Giants to the title in 1954. Unfortunately, the memorable images of Mays while wearing Mets’ Orange and Blue are disappointing, like the one with his arms raised around home plate. 

While it elegantly puts the series and the end of an exceptional career into perspective, the Hall of Famer was on deck and therefore nearby caught pleading with the umpire when Bud Harrelson was thrown out at the plate in the 10th inning of Game 3, a 3-2 loss. What should be thrown out are the images of the greatest center fielder ever stumbling about and losing the ball in the Oakland sun in Game 2. While you’re throwing things away, be sure to include the notion that last year’s 101-win season was a failure or a disappointment.

Failure is an apt description of the franchise from 1974, when they collapsed back into the depths of Eastern division, not to emerge until a decade later when Davey Johnson guided them to five straight seasons of 90-plus victories. Disappointment is watching the foundation of the 1986 team reach the postseason two years later, only to run into the buzzsaw that was Orel Hershiser and his Cy Young campaign across 1988.

That season will forever be remembered for the classic call by Vin Scully of Kirk Gibson’s home run and his hobbled trot around the bases. Older fans like myself have selectively blocked out the 2-run HR by Mike Scioscia off Dwight Gooden in the top of the 9th of Game 4. Instead of a 3-1 series lead, they lost that game on a less famous Gibson homer in the 12th.

There’s ample time to talk about the disappointment of the early 21st century and the failures of the Four Horsemen of Queens, but neither of those emotions or adjectives properly describe last season, which was unquestionably one of the top five in franchise history. At this moment, the 2023 season is not one of the best. It's trying to get into the top five overhyped seasons along with 'The Best Team Money Can Buy' and the 2001 team that missed Mike Hampton after the true Subway Series. But unlike those past squads, this edition has a chance to change its future.

It's sad to start looking at the Wild Card standings in June, knowing that's the only way your team has a chance at the postseason, but this is where we are. They head to the defending World Series champions, 5.5 games out of the last spot should the playoffs start today. Luckily, they're weeks and weeks away and if there's a way for the Mets to sneak in, there's no team that wants to host opposition that will throw back to back Hall of Fame pitchers in the first two games. That's the strategy and sadly, that's been the case since Day 1. I'm only now truly embracing it fully and that's the truth.

Upcoming Series: New York Mets at Houston Astros

Monday, June 19 - 8:10 pm

Max Scherzer (5-2, 4.45 ERA) vs. Connor Seabold (6-3, 3.35 ERA)

Tuesday, June 20 - 8:10 pm

TBD vs. Framber Valdez (6-5, 2.27 ERA)

Wednesday, June 21 - 2:10 pm

TBD vs. Cristian Javier (7-1, 2.90 ERA)

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