In lieu of weekend results to chew over, let us celebrate June 6, 1972, for on that Tuesday night at Shea, Tommie Agee knocked in Jim Beauchamp with the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, while Jim McAndrew and Tug McGraw combined on a five-hit, 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. In the short term, the win lengthened the 32-13 Mets’ lead in the National League East to four games. In the great sweep of history, however, it drew the Mets, as a franchise, to within 278 games of .500.
They’ve never been closer.
Oh, technically, they were closer on April 11, 1962, before they took the field at Sportsmans Park in St. Louis for their first-ever game. Then, silly Mets that they can be, they went out and lost. Thus, really, the closest the Mets have ever been to .500 as a franchise was one under, at 0-1. Then two under, at 0-2, after their second game, and so on. But let’s put aside the Mets’ wonder years, when they were dropping to 343 games below .500 after seven seasons. That was the hole.
Actually, the initial hole was dug to its deepest on May 27, 1969, when the Mets bottomed out at 18-23 on the year. That brought their lifetime mark down to 348 games below .500. From there, though, they took off for glory, followed by respectability. Other teams might have tried respectability first, but the Mets were attempting to dig out from 348 games under, so there was no time to waste.
Give them their ’69 glory, their ’70 and ’71 respectability and their hot 1972 start, and you had a franchise that rose to 278 games under .500, which time would reveal as the mature Mets’ high-water mark.
Seriously, they haven’t gotten as close since.
Allowing for the ebbs and flows that would ensue once injuries began mounting in 1972 (including a nadir of exactly 500 below .500 on April 2, 1984, following the Opening Day 8-1 loss at Riverfront Stadium that preceded the franchise’s relatively golden age), the closest they’d come after June 6, 1972, would be July 21, 1991. On that Shea Sunday, Dwight Gooden and the Mets topped Darryl Strawberry and the Dodgers to move to 53-38 on the year and within 284 games of .500 for all of Mets history.
Then they backslid. It would be inaccurate to say they’ve just kept sliding for the past two decades; fairer would be to characterize them as failing to gain traction. Once 1991 fell apart altogether, and more ebbing and flowing ensued, the Mets wouldn’t see the bright side of 300 games from .500 again (that is, no worse than 299 games short of breaking even) until May 15, 2009.
It only took them the better part of eighteen years to return to that high point. And about a month later, they gave back that progress and have been scuffling at substantially more than 300 games below .500 ever since. Following Chris Capuano’s two-hitter over the Braves on Friday night, the Mets climbed to within 336 of .500 as a franchise.
So? These thoughts:
1) The chances of the Mets reaching .500 as a franchise would appear remote as long as they must statistically account for falling 348 games below between April 11, 1962, and May 27, 1969.
2) Then again, the Braves not long ago (1991-2005) spent 15 seasons going 510 games above .500, and after 136 seasons of baseball in various cities under multiple guises (even given the 6-0 loss Friday) the Braves franchise stands 16 games over .500. And that’s the same outfit that not only stunk up WTBS for the bulk of the 1980s, it’s the direct descendant of the 38-115 1935 Boston Braves, an enterprise whose winning percentage was .002 worse than the 1962 Mets — and one so embarrassed at its .248 performance that it called itself the Boston Bees for the next five seasons.
3) Though I continue to be fascinated by stuff like this, there is neither prize nor penalty for being above or below .500 across the life of a franchise. Every year is a clean slate at its beginning, and no year is a drag on the next year once it ends.
4) Every day is an opportunity to go 1-0, unless it’s a day like today when it’s an opportunity to go 2-0, commencing at 4:10 PM.
5) Whether you experienced Irene as a hurricane, a tropical storm or a news nuisance, here’s hoping you stayed above .500, all things considered — and that you play as close to 1.000 ball for as long as you can.
6) But if you can’t keep up such a blistering pace, at least have fun while you give it your best shot. That’s what we as a people have been doing with our perpetually sub-.500 franchise for 50 years, and we’re still here.