When the Mets won the 1986 World Series, I was 6 years old. I hadn’t yet started my first season of tee ball. I knew names like Mookie, Strawberry, Kid, and Doctor K, but I didn’t love baseball yet. I didn’t understand that the World Series was multiple games, and that the Mets wouldn’t be winning (or even appearing in) them regularly throughout the rest of my childhood and beyond. Perhaps if my father realized this, he would’ve kept me up past my bedtime and I would have some memory of that epic Fall Classic. Instead, my memory is that the Mets balloon we put on our mailbox blew away. I remember my dad telling me not to worry, the balloon was drifting northeast towards Boston. The majority of what I know about the 1986 postseason was absorbed when my brother and I watched “A Year To Remember” on VHS hundreds, nay thousands, of times. Though I was born a Mets fan, it was in the 1987 season that became a huge baseball fan. I’ve been disappointed each year since. Sure I enjoyed about 5 years of competitive pennant chase years while the Mets star players either aged or ruined their futures with cocaine addiction. Then came the mid 1990s and with it, “The Worst Team Money Could Buy”, and plenty of mediocrity leading up to the Bobby V years. It is these years that I would like to revisit for a moment the only time this franchise made back to back postseason appearances. Because let’s face it: to Mets fans of my approximate age (the bittersweet 2006 campaign not withstanding), the 1999 and 2000 teams are the closest thing to the proverbial “glory days” that we get.
My intention is not to take anything away from the 2000 Mets. Their season ended in disappointment just as the 1999 team’s did. I remember thinking, “what could be worse than walking in the pennant to lose the NLCS to your hated rival?” Then we found out the next year what could be worse than that. Let’s compare and contrast these two teams. Now 15 years later, I think many fans forget how this was not the same exact team two years in a row. Sure, there were plenty of returning stars: Piazza, Alfonzo, Leiter, Ventura, Benitez. Did I really just refer to Armando Benitez as a star? Statistically speaking, he was. But ask any Mets fan who lived through those years and they’ll tell you that the bigger the save opportunity, the more likely that Benitez would come up short. Perhaps in another universe, John Franco would’ve remained the closer. And while he didn’t have Benitez’s stuff, Johnny had one thing that the big guy was very short on: guts. Benitez would be the downfall of both the 1999 and 2000 teams and the 2001 team as well. But for a team that played in back to back NLCS, only 13 Mets appeared in both series. Essentially half the team turned over. But if we take a look back, we can see that despite not advancing as far into October, the ’99 squad provided more thrills than the 2000 team. And I will make my case that the 1999 team was a far better team overall, with the 2000 team being the beneficiary of the St. Louis Cardinals taking the Atlanta Braves out of the equation. Both teams won 102 games including postseason. The 1999 team was 102-70, while the 2000 squad went 102-74. Let’s take a look at that squad. We saw Agbayani as a starter for the first time, Derek Bell blowing out his leg in the playoff opener and being replaced by young Timoniel Perez. Jay Payton, injured in 1999, was looking like a budding star.