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September 18, 2006
  
Do You Believe in Fate?
by: Eric Simon on Sep 18, 2006 12:00 AM | Filed under: Articles

The champagne waits. Over the last three days the Mets have had six opportunities to clinch the National League East, and all six of those opportunities have evaporated. Three times the Mets could have wrapped things up on their own terms — a single victory over the lackluster Pittsburgh Pirates would have gotten it done — but all they found were three straight defeats. With a magic number of one, the Mets could also have backed into the playoffs with a Philadelphia loss. The Phillies were in Houston and, despite coming close on Friday night, failed to lose even a single game against the Astros.

Should we be worried? The short answer is “No”. Here’s the long answer:

On September 12, 1986, the Mets traveled to Philadelphia for a three-game series. The Mets had been atop the East since April 23, and carried a magic number of two into Veterans Stadium. A single victory against the second-place Phillies would have locked up the Mets’ first division title in thirteen years. It never happened. 130,000 fans — many of them making the trip down I-95 — saw the Mets get swept by the Phillies in miserable fashion.

The Mets were outscored 18-8 in those three games, kicking the ball around to the tune of seven errors. No Met starter lasted more than five innings. Michael Martinez had the following to say in the September 14, 1986 edition of the New York Times:

A wooden platform had been constructed at one end of the clubhouse, to be used as a stage for cameras hoping to capture a panoramic view of the celebrants. Large sheets of plastic had been rolled above the dressing stalls throughout the room, and attendants were prepared to drape them over players’ clothes when the six cases of extra dry champagne were joyously opened and sprayed.

The scene was going to be memorable. The Mets were going to clinch the division title here, in front of many of their own fans, then move on to St. Louis. It was going to be done, no doubt.

So what was this? Somebody crashed the party. The champagne was shipped to Busch Stadium. The plastic was discarded. The platform went unused. The Mets were swept.

Indeed, the Mets were running away with the National League East, their division title a foregone conclusion. And yet, they went on the road for three games, each contest representing an opportunity to pop the cork that never came. Third-baseman Ray Knight, clearly frustrated, said at the time:

“We’ve been able to kick it in gear any time we wanted, but Keith [Hernandez] and I were talking about it the other day, and I said that I had noticed a difficulty trying to concentrate over the last week. When you’ve got 15, 18 games to play, how do you get up? I know that I haven’t been as sharp mentally. You go through lulls like that … You put too much emphasis on winning this one game, and you create a monster. Now our fans are going back to New York disappointed that we didn’t clinch it here, and we’re starting to ask ourselves, ‘Why didn’t we?’ We need to find the key, and we will.”

Right fielder Darryl Strawberry was at a similar loss for words:

“I guess we were just trying a little too hard. We got a little too excited. We’ve got to relax again, just go out and play the way we did to get here. We put ourselves in a position where we felt we had to win instead of just winning. It’s nothing to feel bad about.”

That was 1986. Snap back to present day, and there are a lot of parallels in the Mets’ reaction to their most recent letdown. Manager Willie Randolph:

“I’m not frustrated. We are a little disappointed we didn’t get it done. You want to go out and do it with all the anticipation.”

David Wright echoed those sentiments:

“It’s frustrating — just taking away all the circumstances — to come in here and get swept. But I think we have the talent and we have the ability to put a hurting on a lot of teams. To come in here and do this is just one of those ruts over the course of three games.”

After leaving Philadelphia on September 14, 1986, the Mets headed west to St. Louis for a two-game series against the Cardinals while the Phillies stayed at home for a two-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Phillies swept that series, too, while the Mets split their two games to cut their magic number in half. Just one win (or a Phillies loss) away from the crown, the Mets returned home to Shea with a renewed enthusiasm, the chance to clinch in front of their home fans restoring the confidence they had before their recent road trip.

The next night, September 17th, 1986, the Mets went out and beat the Cubs at Shea, sealing the third division title in the franchise’s history. These Mets lost on the 17th, but tomorrow night, September 18th, 2006, the Mets will look to do the same, twenty years and one day after the ’86 bunch.


265 Responses to “Do You Believe in Fate?”

Pages: « 1 2 [3]

  1. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester on September 18, 2006 at 4:49 pm (#104469)

    I remembered that I don’t have any classes before 2 in the afternoon, so as long as I finish up any leftover work when I wake up tomorrow morning, it all works out. Plus one of my professors only looks at the homework assignments if a student tanks on the exams.

    Wait, you mean you’re supposed to go to classes in college?
    That explains alot.

    Have fun.

  2. Comment posted by BrianCusterFlipsOutDuringFireDrills on September 18, 2006 at 4:49 pm (#104470)

    oh crap…maybe nymets.com tix are not available because its close to tix windows opening

  3. Gravatar
  4. Comment posted by Mike on September 18, 2006 at 4:50 pm (#104471)

    The Mike who posted over the weekend is not the same “Mike” who has been here for a while and has a blog.

    Sorry about that. Should I register a new name? I am Gipper913 on Metsblog.

  5. Comment posted by Brian on September 18, 2006 at 4:52 pm (#104472)

    Sorry about that. Should I register a new name? I am Gipper913 on Metsblog.

    You should have new name contest.

    By the way is this the old or new Mike I’m speaking to?

  6. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester on September 18, 2006 at 4:53 pm (#104473)

    Sorry about that. Should I register a new name? I am Gipper913 on Metsblog.

    Might be a good idea to pick another name. Your metsblog one would work. Mike is kind of popular. Just makes it easier to track people is all.

  7. Gravatar
  8. Comment posted by Mike on September 18, 2006 at 4:54 pm (#104474)

    Okay…Gipper913 it is. New Mike – first posted here maybe 10-14 days ago or so.

  9. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester on September 18, 2006 at 4:56 pm (#104475)

    Jessica – FYI – I added your site to my links on mine.

  10. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester on September 18, 2006 at 4:57 pm (#104476)

    Okay…Gipper913 it is. New Mike – first posted here maybe 10-14 days ago or so.

    Alright guys, now win one for the Gipper! :)

    Sorry, I had to do it.

  11. Comment posted by A Friend of Mr. Glass’ on September 18, 2006 at 4:57 pm (#104477)

    Okay…Gipper913 it is. New Mike – first posted here maybe 10-14 days ago or so.

    Why not just go for New Mike? Kind of like New Mets. New Mets!

  12. Gravatar
  13. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 5:05 pm (#104478)

    New Mike works just as good as Gipper913.

    Thats a good change…I always got confused :)

  14. Comment posted by Jessica on September 18, 2006 at 5:06 pm (#104479)

    Ed, I added your blog to my links section as well.

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  16. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 5:06 pm (#104480)

    I was having fun with it though. You should of saw the things I wrote that I didn’t post.

    Oh Chris lol…I would love to read the stuff left on the cutting room floor!!!

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  18. Comment posted by chris in ga on September 18, 2006 at 5:07 pm (#104481)

    MARTA? WTF is that?

    Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit authority

  19. Gravatar
  20. Comment posted by chris in ga on September 18, 2006 at 5:08 pm (#104482)

    Oh Chris lol…I would love to read the stuff left on the cutting room floor!!!

    I did say that someone should be banned during yest. game thread.

  21. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester on September 18, 2006 at 5:09 pm (#104483)

    Blame Canada!

  22. Comment posted by Dan on September 18, 2006 at 5:09 pm (#104484)

    Daily News Live on SNY is unwatchable. Chris Russo knows more about NY sports than Gary Apple which is kinda scary.

  23. Comment posted by Brian on September 18, 2006 at 5:18 pm (#104485)

    MARTA? WTF is that?

    Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit authority

    I actually worked with someone neamed Marta. She’s from Spain

  24. Gravatar
  25. Comment posted by Gipper913 on September 18, 2006 at 5:19 pm (#104486)

    Alright guys, now win one for the Gipper! :)

    Thanks – glad someone else did it!

  26. Gravatar
  27. Comment posted by Gipper913 on September 18, 2006 at 5:20 pm (#104487)

    MARTA – ah, the Georgia version of a mass transit system…I recall oxcarts with the MARTA symbol on the side.

  28. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester on September 18, 2006 at 5:23 pm (#104488)

    See you all later.

  29. Gravatar
  30. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 5:35 pm (#104489)

    I did say that someone should be banned during yest. game thread.

    I saw that…I didnt quite understand the original poster’s intent…is Shawn Green autistic or something

  31. Comment posted by Dan on September 18, 2006 at 5:36 pm (#104490)

    Everybody get up, open your window and shout, “LET’S GO METS, LET’S GO METS!!!!”

  32. Comment posted by Danny on September 18, 2006 at 5:42 pm (#104491)

    When should I start drinking? I think tonight just may be the night. It would be wrong for the Mets to clinch whilst sober methinks.

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  34. Comment posted by Gipper913 on September 18, 2006 at 5:43 pm (#104492)

    Three days of getting excited followed by three embarrassing losses…yet I stil cannot help being pumped for tonight!

  35. Gravatar
  36. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 5:48 pm (#104493)

    Danny – I’m gonna in the 1st inning if I can make it home in time!

    A beer an inning with some later innings skipped sounds lovely.

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  38. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 5:49 pm (#104494)

    Gipper – Tonight’s the night! I’m pumped too!!!! The ’86 team lost 5 in a row in the same situtation…we’re fine!

  39. Comment posted by Dan on September 18, 2006 at 5:51 pm (#104495)

    Off topic question – now that the season is going to end (hopefully in two months), does MetsGeek ever do a “troll of the year” award? I have been to other fan blog sites and have seen them do a similar thing. Just curious that’s all.

  40. Gravatar
  41. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 5:51 pm (#104496)

    lol dan…I don’t know if they do such an award…they should do some kind of end-year prizes…it’d be funny.

  42. Gravatar
  43. Comment posted by Gipper913 on September 18, 2006 at 5:51 pm (#104497)

    ‘86 team lost 5 in a row in the same situtation

    I keep telling myself that…but I cannot help but think this team isn’t quite the quality of the 86 team. Regardless, it will be a night to savor.

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  45. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 5:54 pm (#104498)

    but if it can happen to a higher quality team and for a longer stretch, then we’ll be ok!!!

    You can twist the logic anyway we need it!!!

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  47. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 5:55 pm (#104499)

    check out this link for actual pictures of our champage chillin’ on ice.

    http://www.metsblog.com

  48. Comment posted by Danny on September 18, 2006 at 5:55 pm (#104500)

    For all the talk about how good the ’86 team was, and they were incredible.. Let’s not forget that they could/should have easily lost the World Series.

    I am not taking anything away from them, it’s the best team in this org’s history, but they weren’t perfect. This year’s team is damn good. If they win the World Series, they would measure up to the ’86 team in my opinion.

    If they don’t win, then they were not as good. Simple as that.

  49. Comment posted by mdog1111 on September 18, 2006 at 5:56 pm (#104501)

    Hey boys, you ready to finally get this thing done

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  51. Comment posted by Gipper913 on September 18, 2006 at 5:57 pm (#104502)

    You can twist the logic anyway we need it!!!

    I’ll drink to that!

  52. Comment posted by Danny on September 18, 2006 at 5:57 pm (#104503)

    mdog, I am ready my man. Tonight is the night!

  53. Gravatar
  54. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 5:57 pm (#104504)

    Hell yea mdog, we are ready!!! check this out from hotfoot:

    Baseball Prospectus’ Future Shock this week highlights the best performers in the minor league playoffs. Here is what they had to say about the St. Lucie Mets catcher Jesus Flores.

    Jesus Flores, C, High-A St. Lucie (Mets)

    As St. Lucie went a perfect 5-0 to sweep their way to the Florida State League title, Flores reached base 13 times, going 8-for-17 with three walks and two HBPs. All this on the heels of a remarkable turnaround season in which the 21-year-old hit .266/.335/.487 and tied for the league lead with 21 home runs. His approach needs refinement, as does his work behind the plate, but catching prospects are hard to find, and Flores has clearly established himself as the Mets backstop of the future.

  55. Comment posted by mdog1111 on September 18, 2006 at 5:59 pm (#104505)

    I see Trachsel getting a 1 2 3 first. We score 6 in the bottom of the first and hold on to a 10-7 win

  56. Comment posted by Danny on September 18, 2006 at 5:59 pm (#104506)

    I like Flores a lot. He also hit a ton of doubles. Kid has some pop.

  57. Comment posted by mdog1111 on September 18, 2006 at 6:01 pm (#104507)

    I like Flores too but I wonder if he’s trade bait since I think they are really high on the kid Pena.

  58. Comment posted by Danny on September 18, 2006 at 6:03 pm (#104508)

    mdog, we are all high on Pena, but he hasn’t had a professional at-bat yet. But you’re right, if Pena takes the fast track to the bigs, then Flores will likely become expendable (unless they move one of them)…

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  60. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 6:03 pm (#104509)

    I think Pena is 3-4 years away at least. I think Flores is ready in 2008.

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  62. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 6:04 pm (#104510)

    Pena is only 16…they’re not going to rush him

    His body wont even be filled out for a long time.

  63. Comment posted by Joe A. on September 18, 2006 at 6:04 pm (#104511)

    How old is Pena, 16? He’s a LONG way from the majors. He certainly won’t be ready when the Mets need to replace LoDuca. Maybe Flores will be.

  64. Comment posted by mdog1111 on September 18, 2006 at 6:05 pm (#104512)

    Whats not to like. I heard him described as defensivly as good as his father with a Piazza bat. I know he’s only 16 but thats some high praise

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  66. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 6:06 pm (#104513)

    Miguel Olivo said he worked out with Pena and the kid already has an arm eqaual to his.

  67. Comment posted by Danny on September 18, 2006 at 6:06 pm (#104514)

    Flores was only in High-A this year. If he keeps this track, he MIGHT see the big league team in 2008, but more likely 2009. So he is pretty far away too. Unless he absolutely mashes and his receiving improves. There is a lot that goes into catching at the big league level.

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  69. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 6:07 pm (#104515)

    Good pt Danny…for some reason I thought AA, but yea he was high A.

    Is LoDuca off the books in 2008?

  70. Comment posted by mdog1111 on September 18, 2006 at 6:07 pm (#104516)

    We have Loduca for 2 more years after this don’t we. If your going to get full value for Flores you can’t wait until he’s 24. We might need a stop gap guy for a year but I bet Pena’s in the bigs by the time he’s 19

  71. Comment posted by Danny on September 18, 2006 at 6:08 pm (#104517)

    NO ONE in major league history has had a Piazza bat that has caught but Piazza, not even Bench. But if he actually can hit a little, he will be a star. Like Dep mentioned, Olivo basically said he was already good enough defensively to catch in the bigs.

  72. Comment posted by Joe A. on September 18, 2006 at 6:08 pm (#104518)

    Flores is at least 2 years away, probably more. Pena is at least 6 years away.

  73. Comment posted by mdog1111 on September 18, 2006 at 6:09 pm (#104519)

    6 years???? no way Joe

  74. Comment posted by Danny on September 18, 2006 at 6:11 pm (#104520)

    Pudge made it to the bigs at 19, and became the everyday catcher at 20. If Pena is the real deal, he could follow a similar path. I bet he catches in the big leagues by the age of 21, barring injury.

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  76. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 6:11 pm (#104521)

    I say 4 years, 5 tops.

  77. Comment posted by Joe A. on September 18, 2006 at 6:11 pm (#104523)

    He might get a September call-up before that, but at least 6 years from competing for a starting job.

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  79. Comment posted by chris in ga on September 18, 2006 at 6:12 pm (#104524)

    We have Loduca for 2 more years after this don’t we

    No. he is signed thru 2007

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  81. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 6:13 pm (#104526)

    So if Flores isnt ready in 2008, then we need a stopgap

  82. Comment posted by mdog1111 on September 18, 2006 at 6:13 pm (#104527)

    Thanks Chris

  83. Comment posted by Danny on September 18, 2006 at 6:13 pm (#104528)

    Joe A., you might not be wrong. A good indication of his potential path will be dictate by where he starts next year. If he starts in low-A at 17, he could be in the bigs by 19/20. If he starts in rookie ball, then Joe A. is probably right.

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  85. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on September 18, 2006 at 6:15 pm (#104530)

    thread is open c u there

  86. Comment posted by mdog1111 on September 18, 2006 at 6:16 pm (#104532)

    We will know a lot more next year but I think as difficult as the position is, if he has the defensive tools he can make the jump faster. The bat can always come later as long as he can handle a pro pitchinh staff

  87. Gravatar
  88. Comment posted by chris in ga on September 18, 2006 at 6:16 pm (#104533)

    So if Flores isnt ready in 2008, then we need a stopgap

    fa catchers after 07
    Ausmus
    Barrett
    Ramon Castro
    Sal Fasano
    Wiki Gonzalez
    Toby Hall
    Jason Kendell
    Jason LaRue
    Paul LoDuca
    Mike Matheny
    Chad Moeller
    Jose Molina
    Josh Paul
    Ivan Rodriguez
    Yorvit Torrealba
    Javier Valentin

  89. Comment posted by Joe A. on September 18, 2006 at 6:19 pm (#104536)

    Pudge and Bench both started at 20. Mauer was 21 last year. I can’t think of any other catchers who started that young. So maybe one comes along every 20 years? I guess the next one could be Pena. Of course, I’m not sure its a good idea to compare him to possibly the best catchers of all time.

  90. Comment posted by Danny on September 18, 2006 at 6:29 pm (#104565)

    Pudge is not one of the best catchers of all-time to me. I think he is as obvious a steroid guy as there is. Bench definitely is. I think Mauer might end up being it.

    It’s fun to project on Pena because he is damn good at 16. If he hits anything close to like Fernando did, I will get vey excited.

  91. Comment posted by Joe A. on September 18, 2006 at 6:37 pm (#104573)

    Good point. I forgot about the steroids for a minute there.

  92. Comment posted by KB on September 18, 2006 at 6:59 pm (#104585)

    Well, I think it’s fate the Trachsel pitches the game that the Mets clinch the division in. (Or call it irony, your choice.) No way after a win tonight does Willie not have Trachs on the post-season roster. I mean, he’s the guy who stopped the losing streak and finally nailed down the division! And he’s got more wins than any other pitcher on the team! So what if he’s not all that good and is completely non-versatile? Willie will think that the team owes it to him.

    And maybe he’s right. Maybe Willie and the Mets need to show Trachs (and the rest of the players) that level of loyalty. Many in the blogosphere think it’s an awful idea and that it’s essentially a waste of a roster spot but maybe if he doesn’t make the squad Willie and Omar lose massive credibility with the rest of the players….

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