What the Mets are trending toward is a landing spot in one of our fair town’s most ignominious lists. It’s one thing to be a bad team; that happens. New York’s football, basketball and hockey communities have known bad. The Mets themselves have known bad. Bad is bad enough.
But this feels like another iteration of bad.
Because the Mets, lest we forget, were expected to be a very good baseball team this year, and not without reason. They won 101 games last year, but more — they played a pleasing brand of ball, too. Citi Field was an electric place to be. And much of the foundation of that team came back. It might’ve been untenable to predict 101 again. But good ball? That was perfectly fair.
And, well, you may have heard: They haven’t played a lot of good ball this year.
The gold standard for this kind of disappointment has always been the 1992 Mets, which inspired a book called “The Worst Team Money Could Buy” and the 1993 follow-up that bottomed out at 103 losses. But in truth, and in retrospect, it was wrong to consider that twosome in the same vein. The Mets were already six years removed from a championship and four from a playoff appearance. Much of the core of 1986 was gone. They may have had aspirations, but they hadn’t earned them.
(The one binding thread, of course, was cost. Those teams were expensive fiascos. So far, so is this one.)
No. There is actually a smaller group of forebears that put together even more shameful seasons, because they weren’t just bad, they failed to honor legitimate expectation. And that’s harder to forgive.
Unless you fix things.
That was the story of the 1992-93 Rangers. A year earlier they’d taken the town by storm thanks in large part to the arrival of Mark Messier. The Rangers became the hottest ticket in town in 1991-92. Messier was instantly iconic, the team won the Presidents’ Trophy, and though they were shocked in the playoffs by the defending (and eventual) champion Penguins, they were set up for glory.
Then, in 1992-93, it all collapsed in a flurry of misery. Messier feuded with coach Roger Neilson. The team started losing, kept losing, all the way to 34-39-11, and somehow missed the playoffs. The team utterly quit in the final month of the season. And the town turned on Messier, the symbol of the entire mess of a season.
Of course, that’s not what the town remembers. It remembers what happened next, when coach Mike Keenan blew into town, when the Rangers resumed their dominance and repaired their reputation and took the city on a glorious ride through 1993-94. That’s helped make 1992-93 less of a stone in Rangers’ fans shoes. But it was no fun while it was happening.
Jets fans have no such championship buffer to make the stings of disappointing seasons dissolve. And Jets fans of a certain vintage understand that what we’re seeing in the 2023 Mets feels ominously similar to what happened with the 1980 Jets. The Jets had endured nonstop misery through most of the 1970s, but closed on back-to-back 8-8 seasons in 1978 and 1979 that featured the youngest team in the league and loads of young talent everywhere.
Sports Illustrated anointed them preseason Super Bowl contenders. There hadn’t been that much excitement around a New York team since Joe Willie. Shea Stadium was sold out for the opener, against the rebuilding Colts.
Richard Todd threw four interceptions. The Jets lost, 17-14. They lost the next week, too, and the next. They started 0-5. They went to 2-6, and 3-9. In the last home game of the year, a grisly Saturday at Shea, they lost to the 0-14 Saints. Jets fans donned paper bags over their heads that day. They finished the season 4-12.
One last one: The 2013-14 Knicks had won 54 games the year before. They added Andrea Bargnani, which in theory was supposed to bolster their chances to build on that year. Spoiler alert: It didn’t. The Knicks started 3-13 and never came close to recovering, finishing 37-45. James Dolan then called on Phil Jackson to fix things. Let’s just say it isn’t going as well as when Keenan came to clean up the Rangers’ mess 20 years earlier.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to properly convey how touched and genuinely moved I was by the reaction and replies to my column last week on coming back from my leg amputation. When I talked about my team, I really should have started with you, dear reader, who remind me day after day how lucky I am to have the greatest job in the world.
Tuesday wasn’t just the 79th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, it was a birthday for Bud Harrelson, born on D-Day, who these past few years has fought the good fight to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. If you wish to donate to Team Harrelson, you can do so through any Alzheimer’s chapter.
I’m telling you I would watch every second of a “Succession” sequel wrapped around Tom and Cousin Greg.
There are many bad baseball teams right now. The Mets just happen to be one of them.
Whack Back at Vac
Tommy Ragogna: How about at the next big tournament, when all the LIV players are back, the fans boo DeChambeau, Mickelson and the rest of the money grabbers for two minutes each when they tee off — then give standing ovations to Rory McIlroy and the rest of the players who didn’t take the money and stood up for what’s right. Let’s show them it was not in vain.
Vac: Show me where to sign for that, Tommy, and I’m in.
Timothy Foster: Truist Park is to the New York Mets what Lincoln Financial is to the New York Giants — a place where a season’s dreams go to die.
Vac: I guess you can add Miami’s Kaseya Center to that pile, too.
@DallasHenry84: In your list of uninspiring Yankees shortstops between Bucky Dent and Derek Jeter, what about Andre Robertson? He had his career succumbed by a car crash.
@MikeVacc: Sadly, we’ll never really know about Robertson, who showed some flashes in his 98 games in ’83 before the crash but still only hit .248.
Joseph Napoleone: We’ve been told for decades how terrific and perfect Dodger Stadium is, yet they have a cheap chain link fence in front of the right field bullpen with a concrete curb? I played hard-top softball in the ’60s and ’70s and we had a similar fence only without the concrete. Don’t they have enough money to build a proper padded fence?
Vac: I’ve heard that called a “freak” injury, what happened to Aaron Judge’s toe. I’d substitute the word “unnecessary” or “inexcusable.” Or worse. The Dodgers deserve the scorn.
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