We will investigate anything to make our club better.
—Omar Minaya, 2006
The Mets is a very good thing. They give everybody a job. Just like the WPA.
—Billy Loes, 1962
The 1962 Mets won 40 games.
The 2006 Mets won 40 games by June 12.
The 1962 Mets had Cliff Cook, Gus Bell and Gene Woodling.
The 2006 Mets have Cliff Floyd, Heath Bell and Chris Woodward.
The 1962 Mets had Hobie Landrith.
The 2006 Mets have Jose Reyes.
Sammy Drake and Sammy Taylor.
Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado.
Bob Miller and Bob Miller.
Lo Duca and El Duque.
Roger Craig had two first names.
Anderson Hernandez has two last names.
Ed Kranepool came up young.
As has Lastings Milledge.
Gil Hodges' career began during World War II.
As has Julio Franco's.
Vinegar Bend Mizell.
Harry Chiti was traded for Harry Chiti.
Roberto Hernandez was traded for Roberto Hernandez…by way of Xavier Nady.
You can barely tell the 1962 Mets and 2006 Mets are related. Sure they have the same family name, but where's the resemblance? While it's true that one was instantly immortalized and the other is potentially legendary, it's just as true that one was more godawful than the other is awful good.
One will clinch fairly soon. The other was eliminated in early September.
Clarification: Eliminated in early September from finishing in NINTH place. The 1962 Mets were statistically eliminated from pennant contention in early August. They were spiritually out of it long before that.
So what's the connection, besides the faintest of DNA, between the lovable losers of 1962 and the wonderful winners of 2006? Well, when Guillermo Mota first takes the mound as a Met (and presumably aims at his first batter as a Met), he will become the 45th player to play for the Mets this year.
So, in all of 1962, the Mets used 45 players. Trading for Mota means we will, as soon as tonight, August 22, catch the worst team in modern baseball history square in the middle of the revolving roster door.
Significance? It is thought, with more than a modicum of logic and a dollop of evidence to support it, that the more players you burn through, the worse you must be. The most players the Mets ever used in one year was 54 in 1967. They lost 101 games. Two years ago, Joe Hietpas' ninth-inning cameo on the final day of the season meant 52 different Mets played in 2004.
Check the right field wall for me when you get a chance and let me know if the Mets won anything in 2004.
Conversely, if you're good, it implies you have the right people in the right positions and you stick with them. The 1969 world champions employed 35 Mets. The 1986 crew encompassed 36 — even if only 20 got to promenade on Saturday night. Two years later, the Mets won a division title with 32 players, the fewest to don the blue and orange in one annum.
As the Mets have added more colors to their scheme since 1988, it's become customary to add more bodies to their floating crap game of a roster year-in and year-out. Winning the Wild Card in 1999 called for just enough Jeff Tams, Shane Halters and Dan Murrays to match '62's 45. Forty-seven men, including one Mann who is now a Duck, contributed to the 2000 flag march.
We want to believe 2006 will result in greater things than '99 and '00. It will — the total of players used will almost surely be greater than in either of those years. Obtain Shawn Green and promote Oliver Perez and — boom! — you've exceeded one Wild Card winner and equaled another. Though he wouldn't add a notch to the all-time roster (which, with Mota's first high and tight pitch, will hit 796), our dream date Edgardo Alfonzo would raise the '06 count to 48, breaking the record for most Mets used by a playoff-bound team.
How can a club so good be composed of so many? It's counterintuitive. If lousy teams — and none will ever be lousier than 1962's Mets — cry for turnover, swell teams that have been in first place since April 6 must not demand much tinkering.
Intuition, however, ain't what it used to be. Consider how different times are from 44 years ago.
• Player movement is uniformly rapid.
• With ten teams created since the first round of expansion, there are many more big-leaguers to be tested, evaluated and discarded.
• Impatience runs rampant, especially in New York.
• Budgets are bigger, especially in New York.
• Injuries have always dictated moves — it took 40 Mets to overcome a particularly painful 1973 — and this year has seen enough aches to excite Excedrin. What we quaintly refer to as the starting rotation has required a dozen different arms to continue spinning on its own axis.
• A general manager given a free hand in personnel matters has proven he feels untethered to the talent accumulated by his predecessors. Hey, Victor Diaz wasn't my idea. Tell him to book one-way.
Yes, perfectly logical reasons abound as to why Meeting the Mets can take all day these days. Still, we ended last season with 771 Mets ever and, with 25 NuMets already augmenting the rolls in 2006 (once we ink in Mota), we have a fair shot to reach 800 by this season's end. Use one more guy than that and we're talking 50 players on a division champion. We'll be waaaaay closer to the quantity associated with the futility of 1967 than the efficiency linked to 1988. As is, we're a single Verizon Call to the Bullpen away from being in league with the 1962 Mets and all the instability for which they will forever stand.
And the roster is still ten days from expanding.
Three words were invented for this type of Metsian phenomenon in 1962. Each of them was Amazin'.