The 1986 New York Mets
May 16, 2012 5:59 PM Subscribe
posted by Trurl (36 comments total)
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"A great ballclub, a beautiful demonstration of what talent can do when assembled with planning and guided by intelligence." - Bill James, on the 1986 New York MetsAllen Barra, "The Dynasty That Never Was"
How good was Darryl Strawberry at his peak? How good might he have been? We'll never know the answer to the second question, but the first is perhaps best answered by comparing him to New York's three great power-hitting outfielders of the 1950s. The chart below picks up Strawberry's career after the 1988 season:
G AB HR RBI BB SB
Darryl Strawberry 823 2885 188 548 449 165
Willie Mays 762 2899 183 519 351 161
Mickey Mantle 806 2924 173 575 524 43
Duke Snider 798 3062 151 538 325 44
Dwight Gooden was the youngest player ever to be named Rookie of the Year, and the youngest to lead the league in strikeouts. And that was just by age nineteen! By age twenty-one, he was already 58-19, had struck out an average of 215 batters a year for three seasons, and had posted three straight seasons of ERA under 2.50. Roger Clemens is considered by many, including myself, as the greatest starting pitcher in history. By the time Clemens had won 58 games, he was twenty-five years old and had already lost 22.
How about a man who was, arguably, the best first baseman of the decade? Keith Hernandez was a bona fide star well before '86. Playing for the Cardinals, he had won the NL batting crown in 1979 with a .344 average, also winning the MVP award while leading the league in runs scored, doubles, and on-base average and winnning a Gold Glove at first base. 1986 was his seventh season over .300 and he also led the league in walks and fielding average. ... perhaps the finest-fielding first baseman in baseball history, with 11 Gold Gloves and a record six times leading the NL in double plays.
But as good as Strawberry and Hernandez were, the heart of the Mets, or at least what was supposed to make them the team of the '80s, was their pitching staff, particularly the starting rotation. Some called it the league's best rotation without Gooden.
At his best, Sid Fernandez was actually more unhittable than Dwight: three times he held NL hitters to the lowest batting average in the league. How great is that? Well, the greatest lefthander in New York baseball history, Whitey Ford, never did that once.... Walter Johnson, who won 417 games, many of them in the low-average, dead ball era, was hit for a .227 average. Sid Fernandez pitched for fifteen seasons and opponents hit just .209 off him. Think about that for a moment.
Howard Johnson hit 10 homers in 88 games for the '86 team while filling in at third and short. He was twenty-six. For the next five seasons, he put on a power-speed exhibition that few third basemen in baseball history have ever approached. Only two players in baseball history have had at least four seasons with at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Howard Johnson and Barry Bonds.
Gary Carter is one of the four or five best catchers in National League history, and one of the top ten - maybe one of the top seven or eight - best ever. He was a ten-time All Star, has nine seasons with 20 or more home runs, and seven seasons with more than 80 RBI. Behind the plate, he led the league in assists four times, double plays five times, and total chances a record high eight times.