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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

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Is This the Most Disappointing Season in Mets History?

Shockingly enough, the Mets lost. They started feebly, offered a little spurt of purposefulness, then rolled over and died.

Which was actually an improvement from the night before, when they expired in a fashion that should have been gut-wrenching but instead was just numbing. Not so long ago, the Mets losing on a game-ending error would have left me fuming for hours on end. Last night, it barely registered. And tonight? I barely remember tonight.

At Amazin' Tuesday I was chatting with folks about whether or not 2009 is the most disappointing season in Mets' history. It's a subject worthy of exploration, in the same way that it can be fascinating to see exactly what's under that dirty scab oozing green stuff.

Mets history being what it is, there's certainly no shortage of data to sift through. What the heck, let's peel that scab.

The Mets began their existence with a seven-year run of hideous baseball, only failing to lose 100 games twice during that span. Granted, that wretched baseball childhood has been sentimentalized by the passage of time and recast as a prologue to 1969. But even then, disappointment implies a fall from some level of higher expectations, and no such expectations existed for the original crop of Mets fans. There was the giddy joy at having National League baseball back in New York, of getting to see half the game's stars again in an era when out-of-town players weren't available for viewing on SportsCenter or YouTube, of getting a state-of-the-art park in 1964.

I was but a babe when the Mets won in 1969, while Greg was a child just awakening to baseball's possibilities. So I turned to our esteemed commenter Joe D. for a sense of what those years were like, and he graciously agreed to share some memories.

“I felt no disappointments those early years because our expectations were modest,” Joe says. “WHN summed it up best when it opened every 1965 Met broadcast with a jingle that concluded, 'when Met fans say go, what they mean we don't know, we've got no place to go…. but up!' ”

OK, Joe admits to some disappointment about 1965, which started out with Warren Spahn pitching well and Ed Kranepool and Ron Swoboda leading a hitting attack, only to end with a ghastly 30-83 stretch. And 1967 was a setback. The Mets had escaped the cellar in '66 and entered the year with a seemingly promising lineup — Don Bosch and Bud Harrelson setting up Ken Boyer, Tommy Davis, Cleon Jones, Swoboda and Kranepool — but that team lost 101 games. Still, it had Tom Seaver, and hope for the future.

“Unlike today, nobody ever wanted those early seasons to end,” Joe says, adding that “losses were accepted as much as the occasional win was celebrated.” (I'll leave it to Joe to explain about the postgame clips of Casey Stengel on WOR. They're awesome.)

So I think those seasons are out of the running, awful though they were. I think the need to have fallen from something also strikes from consideration most of the Mets' three later fallow periods. Yes, 1977 through 1983 were utterly ghastly years (though Greg waxes sentimental about the second half of '81), but for most of that time, the Mets being bad wasn't a surprise. I remember the sublime hideousness of 1993, with its LBJ-esque 59-103 record, but it wasn't hard to see that one coming. I actually hated the 2003 Mets in a way I hope never to feel again, and I will always wish Roberto Alomar ill. But the Mets of that era were too awful to disappoint even the most pessimistic fan.

As I see it, there are five contenders for Most Disappointing Season.

1974: The Mets had just taken the Oakland A's to Game 7 of a World Series they may well have won if not for the idiocy of Yogi Berra. But 1974 made their crazy, gasping run to the pennant look like a brief respite from injuries and bum luck. 1974 came with elements of suck that will be eerily familiar to us. The team was undone by injuries to Seaver, Tug McGraw and George Stone. It was saddled with loads of bad press, from Buddy and Cleon fighting in spring training to Seaver lambasting Yogi and Jon Matlack calling out his teammates as gutless. It had a front office that looked variously cheap and stupid: The Mets passed on making deals for Jimmy Wynn and Ron Santo, and kept Harrelson on the roster as a pinch-runner despite having his broken hand in a cast. They finished at 71-91.

1977: The Midnight Massacre. Tom Seaver becomes a Red on June 15, with Dave Kingman gone as well. M. Donald Grant's place in Hell is instantly and forever assured. (Don't speak ill of the dead? Fuck that and fuck M. Donald Grant.) I will always remember seeing the paper the next day and staring at it, first in shock and then in panic that anything so awful could happen. The Mets lost 98 games and would be the laughingstock of the National League until resurrected by Fred Wilpon, Nelson Doubleday, Frank Cashen and Davey Johnson.

1991: The Mets are 15 games over .500 on July 13, 2.5 games behind the Pirates, but trouble is brewing. Darryl Strawberry has been replaced by Vince Coleman and Hubie Brooks. The Mets seem determined to have all their players, many of whom are stone-gloved in the first place, play out of position. Buddy Harrelson's dealings with the press remind fans of Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now,” if Brando were 150 pounds lighter and even worse handling late-inning defense. The pitiable Gregg Jefferies makes a fool of himself with an open letter to fans read by the jackals on WFAN. (Bizarrely, Ron Darling then does the same thing.) Kevin McReynolds exists. After July 13 the team goes an ungodly 28-50. I remember watching the wires that summer and simply laughing in disbelief, like I was flipping a coin that would only come up tails.

1992: The Worst Team Money Can Buy. Vince Coleman. Bobby Bonilla. Eddie Murray. Jeff Kent. (Extra demerits for the presence of the feckless Al Harazin and Jeff Torborg.) There has never been a more noxious collection of human beings wearing Mets uniforms at the same time. Daniel Murphy may have his problems at first base, but I have faith that he will never injure a two-year-old girl with a quarter-stick of dynamite. In addition to being terrible people, this bunch was supposed to make the second half of 1991 a distant memory. Instead they went 72-90, the start of a six-year slide.

2009: Haunted by memories of two final-day washouts, we get picked by SI to win the World Series. Instead we get a run of injuries that would have made Pharaoh let Moses & Co. go a few plagues early. Owners with financial losses we're left to guess at. A player-development chief tearing off his shirt and challenging minor-leaguers to fight, followed by a GM apparently losing his mind. Salary dumps and skinflint draft signings. A pitching staff that specializes in bases-loaded walks, and a team that can't hit home runs. Doctors you wouldn't trust to give you an aspirin. Missed bases, dropped pop-ups, unassisted triple plays. It's sucked … and we're not done yet.

I dunno, folks, how would you rank these?

36 comments to Is This the Most Disappointing Season in Mets History?

  • Anonymous

    Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all? 2007 was the most disappointing season. 2009 is just the beginning of a long dark period for the Mets. What is the team's slogan next year? Believe We Can Win 78 Games? Pay premium prices to find out, after we cut payroll and try and make you “believe” we will be a better team.

  • Anonymous

    What, no reverse-love for 1996, when the strong finish of '95 and the alleged emergence of Generation K was supposed to send us surging toward the National League Wild Card? I recall Howie Rose labeling that, as it unfolded, perhaps the all-things-considered worst season in Mets history.
    Or did he say that about '93? Either way, they both sucked. As do the years cited here…particularly the one we're in, since we're still in it.
    FYI, magic fourth-place number down to 4. Good old Mets — determined to clinch at home.

  • Anonymous

    I would go with 2003 or 1992. This year has been bad, but after the last two seasons, I had nothing but bad expectations for this team.

  • Anonymous

    I'd count 1979, 1993 and 2004 as worse campaigns than 2009 right off the bat. And 2007 sucked very hard too.

  • Anonymous

    For someone who has been a Met fan since ''68 I'd rank them:
    2009
    1992
    1974
    1977
    1991
    As you said, the expectations were so high this year, and we had been in contention the last 3 years. To be out of it mid season, watching player after player go down, was just too sad for comment….

  • Anonymous

    I'm surprised that you didn't mention 2002, 2003, and 2004 in your list of contenders. I think that stretch of disappointing seasons is only rivalled by 1991-3, to which I would give the prize. 1977 was a disaster of historic proportions, but I wouldn't necessarily characterize it as a “disappointment.” We were witnessing the destruction of the team by the front office, to make what now appears to have been an absurd point. I don't think 1974 was that bad. We were still savoring of our memories of squeaking in in '73, and with Seaver's uncharacteristically weak season, we thought of '74 as a blip. My rankings: 1) 1991-93, 2) 2002-04.

  • Anonymous

    If nobody else is going to say it, then I will:
    These seasons were disappointing. But they weren't devastating.

  • Anonymous

    If you don't want to include 2003, then you at least have to have 2002 as a nominee. I thought 2002 was remarkably similar to 1992. It was like a “Worst Team Money Could Buy” sequel, and it set up the meltdown of 2003 fairly identically to the way 1992 set up 1993. And 2002 was the year the Mets pulled off the remarkable feat of going 0-for-August in Shea Stadium.
    That said, while the 2009 team will not finish with anything close to the worst record in Mets history, no team I have ever seen has played more consistently infuriating, hearless and brainless baseball than this group. I have never had such a hollow feeling at the end of a season, with so little reason to hope or believe the following season (better health or not) will really be a damn bit better.
    2009
    1992
    2002
    1977
    1974

  • Anonymous

    Also, 2007 and 2008 don't belong in this discussion. They're in a separate file–crushing endings that denied the Mets a post-season berth–along with 1987 and 1998.

  • Anonymous

    Surprised, too, that 1989 doesn't get more play–Gooden's injury, the collapse of Hernandez and Carter as even moderately useful players, the divisiveness of Gregg Jefferies, the trades of Dykstra and Mookie Wilson. 1989 was hugely disappointing.

  • Anonymous

    Saving grace: They stayed in the race into September and finished second. Still, you're right about all those particular elements. In that era, 87-75 was a huge disappointment.
    A little '89 angst to tide you over here.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Mr. Gl@v&n#,
    If you want to explain emotions within the confines of an intellectual assessment, then one can indeed find those seasons “devestating” because the word can be applied to many different degrees of application. One can feel a sense of devastation as we did the last day of each of the past two seasons and still feel grief and dispair over the loss of a loved one. It's not contradictory or belittling life over games – it just means that emotion knows no logic…, or, in your case, logic knows no emotion.

  • Anonymous

    Following the peerlessly wonderful roller coaster ride that was 1999 and the ultimately ill-fated pennant winning 2000 campaign, I don't think I was ever so disappointed in a Mets team as I was in 2001. They won two out of three to open in Atlanta and then promptly got swept in Montreal. They were painfully inept offensively. Throw in the raised hopes of a late run spectactularly dashed by Benitez and the precipitous decline of our beloved Fonzi and all the things that led to the debacle that followed, it's hard to beat 2001 as far as I'm concerned.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, '01 was a hard thing to watch. Plus there was that whole city blown up thing to contend with.

  • Anonymous

    Have to toss in, cavalier blanket disqualifications of entire eras notwithstanding, 1982. There had been signs of progress, however fleeting, in '80 and '81. Now we were gonna get serious, bringing in Foster, bringing in Bamberger (who I never liked, btw), generally upgrading…and it worked for about a third of the season. Then they just fell away, highlighted by a 15-game losing streak that brought new depths to disappointment. Nobody, and I mean nobody, played well for the final two-thirds of 1982. (Sort of like 2009.) 1982 was the year I realized every facet of every rebuilding program that I eagerly bought into in the previous half-decade had been a con.

  • Anonymous

    I have been watching the mets for a very long time. Maybe not as long as some people but I have earned my ticket as a Met fan and there is not a single season in my memory that I have actually wanted to be over by the end of July, except 2009. So while other years brought much disappointment, they did not have me begging to be watching Mets Hot Stove on a Thursday night instead of Mets baseball.

  • Anonymous

    I'm kind of too young to appreciate just how bad 1991-1993 really was, but I have to think that somehow, those top 2009, really only because this year's team needs to be cut a break (in this category only) because of the injuries.

  • Anonymous

    You can break this season down into five parts, courtesy of “Airplane!”:
    Early part of the season, things are looking alright, nothing to worry about.
    Then the team starts out slow, getting beat, but there's still hope:
    “Looks like I picked the wrong season to quit smoking.”
    Then the first of the injuries, looks like we're going to lose some key players for extended parts of the season:
    “Looks like I picked the wrong season to quit drinking.”
    Then the injuries pile up even more, and the reports of “day to day” translate as “season ending”. Jose Castillo drops a game ending pop-up against the Yankees.
    “Looks like I picked a bad season to stop sniffing glue.”
    The Mets start fielding players that belong on my friends' anti-rotisserie team, “Jerry's Kids”. They can't hit or run, but they make up for it by not pitching or running. The Tony Bernazard fit hits the shan. Omar Minaya lashes out at Adam Rubin. The Wilpons endorse Minaya, and all the while Jerry Manuel laughs his way through post-game press conferences.
    “Looks like I picked a bad season to stop taking amphetamines.”
    Now here we are, no pitcher can last more than a few innings before getting lit up like a Christmas tree, the best chance our hitters have of smacking a home run is to get traded to another team and face Mets pitchers, our fielders don't dive for balls in the ninth because it might have been foul, our runners make bone headed decisions, and Jerry Manuel makes his decisions using his magic eight ball.
    “PUSH A BUTTON!!!!”

  • Anonymous

    The 1992 squad was injury-wracked, with Magadan, Randolph, HoJo, Bonilla, Coleman, Saberhagen and Franco, every one of them a key piece, missing significant time. Doesn't mean they didn't suck like the day is long. Torborg couldn't wait to use injuries as an excuse. The pervasiveness of DL usage, however, didn't feel as suffocating as this year's injuries, and I absolutely hated Jeff Torborg in ways that, by comparison, would make you think I loved George Bamberger.
    Art Howe also fashioned a crutch from injuries for the shameful display of baseball the 2003 Mets put on while accepting the public's money in exchange for the privilege of watching them. Piazza, Floyd, Vaughn, Reyes and Astacio all got hurt. Leiter missed a stretch of time and Franco didn't make it back until May. That team, unlike '02, wasn't expected by sane observers to do more than play out the string. And it succeeded at doing exactly that.
    Strange invoking Reyes's name with that bunch, huh?

  • Anonymous

    No. 1988. Hands down. Forever. Best Mets team ever. Easily should have won it all. I still have nightmares about Kirk Gibson

  • Anonymous

    Every time I think of 1977, I want to go dig up M. Donald Grant's body and crap in his dead skull…

  • Anonymous

    Meanwhile, in Jerry's subway car:
    Naked Guy: They still have no pitching. Gooden's a question mark…you don't recover from those rotator cuffs so fast.
    Jerry: I'm not worried about their pitching; they got pitching. They got no hitting.
    NG: No hitting? They got hitting: Bonilla, Murray…they got no defense.
    Jerry: Defense? Please…they need speed.
    NG: Speed? They got Coleman! They need a bullpen.
    Jerry: Franco's no good? They got no team leaders.
    NG: They got Franco! What they need is a front office.
    Jerry: But you gotta like their chances.
    NG: I *love* their chances.
    Jerry: Tell you what: If they win the pennant, I'll sit naked with you at the World Series.
    NG: It's a deal!
    -Seinfeld, “The Subway” (first aired January 8, 1992)

  • Anonymous

    I'm alone in this, but I've always put the 2000 club near or at the top of my list. It's very unfair of me, I know, but I was expecting them to top the fun of 1999, which is damn near impossible. If I had a checklist in the beginning of the season, it would have read “win 100+ games.” They didn't. “Win the NL East.” They didn't. “Beat the Braves in the NLCS.” Winning the pennant was great, but man, sending Atlanta packing would have really hit the spot. But hey, that was out of our control. “Win the World Series.” We didn't, and we lost to them. Any slack I cut the 2000 club for not drawing the Braves in the NLCS was gone. I had set my standards WAY too high in 2000, sure, but still: the Mets didn't meet them. I know it's unfair, but it's a feeling I can't shake.
    More reasonable answers: 2003 was a major disappointment before the season even began! Howe?! Gl@v!ne?!?!?!? Cedeno will play CF?! Mo Vaughn is blaming his problems on Bobby Valentine?! I fucking hated that team. Also keep in mind how painful our 66-win total felt compared to the 101 mark in Atlanta and the Bronx.
    2007 I really feel deserves a mention as well. Great April, but then a frustratingly complacent 4 months only foreshadowed the collapse, a collapse which I painfully saw coming. I shouted and shouted at the TV trying to warn them, but alas, they didn't hear me. Bottom line: I remember looking at the NLCS tickets I had bought that year and thinking, “I don't even wanna go.”
    Having Mets playoff tickets in-hand and not wanting them?! That's a bad season.
    As for the rest, I was an adolescent in the early 90s, so those seasons were certainly no fun either. However, being I hadn't truly experienced the highs yet, the lows didn't feel so low.

  • Anonymous

    You actually included an epilogue too – what happens after the season when “the sh-t hits the fan” (instead of “fit hits the shan”). :)
    Only recently found that “Airplane” was a take-off of the 1957 thriller “Zero Hour”, which included fish that caused food poisoning and knocked out the crew and passengers, a veteran war pilot named Striker who suffered a nervous breakdown (with flashbacks of combat plans crashing to the ground) and his former commander giving him instructions from the flight tower while having absolutely no confidence in his ability to land the plane safely.
    Just hope we don't have a sequel in 2010 that's worse.

  • Anonymous

    Disappointment, as far as having great expectaions and seeing them dashed:
    2002: We got Alomar! Vaughn! Burnitz! Cedeno! To add to our solid core! By cracky, we just missed the playoffs last year, we're a shoo-in! I remember Yankee fan friends congratulating me that preseason, admiring in awe our murderers row.
    2007: We are joke fodder for the next 50 years.
    2009: Need I say anything?
    1987: Yeah, guys got hurt. Whatever, we still should have won.
    1989: See above
    1993: We were so loaded going in, I actually insisted our honeymoon that October be in the US so we wouldn't miss any playoff games (we “settled” on Hawaii).
    I had no expectations for '77, but it still might be the worst season ever. I was 10 and M. Douchebag Grant ruined baseball for me. Awesome call by Charlie H.
    As lousy as '88 and '06 ended up, at least we made the playoffs. '06 was like The Sopranos – a great ride with a craptastic ending. Once you get how they shat the bed in the finale, you can at least look back on how great the rest of it was.

  • Anonymous

    Well, we got rid of Tony Bernazard, A.K.A. “Macho Grande”!

  • Anonymous

    Can't believe no one has brought up 2006.

  • Anonymous

    1993: We were so loaded going in, I actually insisted our honeymoon that October be in the US so we wouldn't miss any playoff games (we “settled” on Hawaii).
    Heh. My wife and I were married on November 25, 1989 so that there would be no chance of us missing what was sure to be a successful postseason.

  • Anonymous

    That was where the Missus drew the line: Russo's wasn't available in early November, and she didn't want a winter wedding. So we compromised. To think, I spent the entire stupid drive to Hana and those dopey 7 pools rooting for the Phillies in the playoffs!

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm, just glancing at the comments, I see nothing about 1987. We came out of the '86 Series with Game 6 and all that hoopla. We'd won 108 regular season games and frankly were goog enough for about 115 from some of the lazy losses I recall. What happens in '87? Gooden's cocaine before the opener even and all the starters wind up on the DL. A total throwaway season.
    As for 2009 it was reasonable to call the Mets to win the division with the addition of K-Rod and hoping for just what Maine, Perez, Pelfrey had given us before, none of which we got. Nor did we have Delgado's bat, Beltrán's bat or speed, Reyes' presence, speed or anything else. Were the Phillies really likely to win 3 divisions in a row? Was Lidge going to crash to earth? He did, but it didn't matter. In 2007 even with the collapse, I'm sorry, the Mets were the best team in the division. It was a seesaw battle, ended with us a game under. That doesn't tell the story of the whole season. Then in 2008 we took care of Phily during the season, so that looked good but no. I'd say it wasn't as big a disappointment because the players we expected to be in place weren't in place to underperform and disappoint. It's a disappointing outcome for the season, but I didn't have any expectations for a season to include Murphy, Tatis, Takahashi and all these other wahoos.

  • Anonymous

    The Mets took a nosedive in the middle of 1971, and I was pretty disappointed that for the first time in my life as a fan they fell out of a pennant race. That's when I learned for sure that they didn't like to hit.

  • Anonymous

    My most disappointing season was 1970 – by far not the worst in the annals of Met history but the worst in terms of an emotional letdown. We were unprepared for the bubble that eventually had to burst after reaching such superlative heights the year before and continued throughout the winter and on through the 1970 season.
    The last week of the season I was with a friend in Macys' and an afternoon Met game was being shown on a color television. I was only used to black and white so it was eerie how the set brought out the early afternoon shadows and folliage associated with the onslaught of fall. That, along with seeing a sparse crowd wearing overcoats, was the moment when it hit me we were at the end of the road as far as the miracle was concerned.
    Nothing is as sweet as savoring the first championship but at the same time nothing is as bitter as experiencing the first dethroning.

  • Anonymous

    Agree on all points.
    2007 was the worst. We went from WS favorites to laughingstock of MLB. Then followed it up in 2008, 2009, and probably beyond.

  • Anonymous

    I don't agree that 1970 and 1971 were disappointing. I do not remember thinking that, after 1969, we would be in it every year. I always thought that 1969 was a special miracle, involving a kind of trance-like atmosphere, that was not going to become commonplace. I was even surprised when 1970 and 1971 started off as well as they did. In all of these seasons of the early '70s, I thought of the Mets as a barely above .500 team that might catch lightning in a bottle, but couldn't expect to. Our pitching was great, but our lineup was never even above average.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, it was the end of the 1970 season that I found disappointing. We were in the race for the entire season only to fade fast in mid-September. The euphoria of the '69 miracle was still carried over until the Bucs clinched the flag via a three-game sweep in Pittsburgh the weekend before the season ended.