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Remembering the NY Mets from 1988. A look back at what could have been.

POSTED April 09, 2020
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: So, I was flicking through the channels last night, staying completely away from any news channels, looking for something to watch before I hit the pillows in an attempt to make time go faster.

I don’t know about anybody else but April seems to be moving so much faster than March did and that’s got to be a good thing, at least in my mind anyway.

After a bit of searching on Hulu Live (the greatest source of everything at a fraction of the cable cost) I came upon Mets Classics.

With sports shut down, the amount of old games and season reviews I have seen during the time the world has been closed has been tremendous.

Saw an ESPN 30 for 30 last month on Magic versus Larry and it was truly classic.

Last night, SNY was doing a season in review on the 1988 New York Mets, a team that went 100-60 (not sure what happened to the two games in a 162 game season but whatever) but did not make the World Series, falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 in the best of seven NLCS.

I had forgotten, mainly on purpose, how much those mid to late 80’s team the Mets had underperformed after their World Championship just two years earlier.

As Bob Murphy (simply the best) was running through the lineups and the pitching, it was stunning to be reminded of the pure star power of hurlers that those teams had.

Murphy ran through names, starting with Dwight Gooden (18-9, 3.19 ERA, 175 K, 10 complete games), followed by Ron Darling (17-9, 3.25 ERA, 161 K, 7 CG), Bobby Ojeda (10-13, 2.88 ERA, 5 CG) and Sid Fernandez (12-10, 3.03 ERA, 189 K).

Then the legendary broadcaster brought up a player I had forgotten played seven years for the team, David Cone.

All Cone did in 1988 was post a remarkable 20-3 record with a miniscule 2.22 ERA, 213 K and 8 complete games.

In his time with the New York team from Queens, Cone posted an 81-51 record, his best with any organization.

It brought back memories of disappointment in a franchise that posted a 300-184 mark from 1986 when they won the World Series to 1988 when they fell to the Dodgers.

A .620 winning percentage over that period of three seasons with only one series appearance was far below what most thought the expectations were for this group of players who we know now were starting to implode in a very public way.

By 1991, they were a sub-.500 team and the decade of the 80’s, so full of promise, would give way to a decade of even bigger disappointments.

In 1988, the starters for the team won 77 of the teams 100 games and threw 31 complete games, something that would take most teams today about a decade to do.

The team ERA was 2.91, better than the WS winning year where they posted a 3.11 ERA.

That Met team, like so many it seems, struggled to score runs, averaging just 4.4 runs per game so it was all about the pitching.

Sure, they had a couple of sluggers in Darryl Strawberry (39 HR/101 RBI) and Kevin McReynolds (27 HR/99 RBI) but hit just .256.

Gary Carter (11 HR/46 RBI) and Keith Hernandez (11 HR/55 RBI) were both on the down sides of their careers at this point so the emphasis was on pitching, as it had been in the two championship seasons (1969 and 1986).

The series was a terrific one.

LA had home field advantage thanks to winning the season series against the Mets and after trailing 2-0 to the then world dominating Orel Hershiser, the road team scored three in the top of the ninth to take the opener 3-2.

Gooden had started for the Mets and pitched well over seven innings of work.  

Game two saw the home team jump all over Cone for five runs over the first two innings and ride the rookie arm of Tim Belcher (8.1 innings) to a 6-3 win.    

The series then moved back to the East Coast and the Dodgers waisted a strong seven inning performance from Hershiser as the Mets scored five in the bottom of the eighth off the LA bullpen for an eventual 8-4 win.

Cone would pitch a scoreless top of the ninth for the Mets who now led two games to one with two to play at home.   

Game four has long been talked about as the beginning of the end for the Mets good fortunes as they held a two-run lead in the top of the ninth before the bottom started fall out.

Gooden had been terrific through eight, allowing just the two runs.  

Here is a post on Gooden’s Wikipedia page that kind of sums things up.  

“In 1988, Gooden recorded an 18–9 record as the Mets returned to the postseason.

In the first game of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gooden was matched against Orel Hershiser, who had just finished the regular season with a 59-inning scoreless streak.

Gooden pitched well, allowing just 4 hits and recording 10 strikeouts, but left after seven innings trailing 2–0.

In Game 4, Gooden entered the ninth inning with a 4–2 lead and the chance to give his Mets a commanding 3–1 advantage in the series.

But he allowed a game-tying home run to Mike Scioscia, and the Dodgers eventually went on to win the game in 12 innings, and the series as well, 4 games to 3.

That game remains one of the great disappointments in Mets franchise history.

The 1980s Mets were considered a dynasty in the making; after they underperformed, some looked to this game as perhaps the key moment of the dynasty that was not.”

The Dodgers would end of taking two of three in their former city to head home with a 3-2 series lead and while Cone would be brilliant in game six with a complete game five hitter in a 5-1 win, it was the eventual CY Young winner that year’s turn in game seven.

This time, Hershiser didn’t leave anything for his bullpen to do in a complete game five hitter in a 6-0 win and a spot in the World Series.

The Dodgers and Hershiser would go on to win the 1988 World Series with a 4-1 series win over the Oakland Athletics.

It would be eleven years before the Mets made an appearance in the World Series in 2000 against their cross-town rival New York Yankees.

Such a terrific amount of talent on those teams, too bad they could not have made more out of it.

Still, with no end in sight with getting regular sports back, keep those old-time games coming people, they are the best!


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