The Patron Saints of Pleasant Surprise smile down approvingly on what they’re seeing in the standings today, for the current Mets are, in a statistical sense, at one with them.
AFTER 70 GAMES
1969 Mets: 38-32
1984 Mets: 38-32
1997 Mets: 38-32
2012 Mets: 38-32
For those who haven’t been scoring at home for the past several decades (or those prone to forget what Jordany Valdespin had for dinner last night), those three Mets teams are the three Mets teams that shattered disturbingly low expectations and blasted a baseball-generation’s paradigms to pieces.
• The 1969 Mets’ credentials you probably need no introduction to, though it always merits mentioning they improved themselves by 27 games from 1968 en route to their Miracle of miracles.
• The 1984 Mets ushered in a new and successful era by ushering out an old and horribly futile era, topping the 1983 Mets by 22 wins.
• And the often overlooked — in their time as well as by conventional historical narrative — 1997 Mets rose to genuine contender status by winning 17 games more than had their 1996 predecessors.
Those were teams that finished, respectively, 100-62, 90-72 and 88-74, one with a World Championship, one with a strong second-place finish and one with a Wild Card bid that stayed aloft into mid-September. When each reached the same 70-game mark where our contemporary darlings sit, they had already definitively established themselves as breaks with the disappointing past. The 1969 Mets were a second-place club that had won eleven consecutive contests weeks earlier; the 1984 Mets were a game out of first, having already spent a few days at the top of their division already; and the 1997 Mets had emerged Mlicktorious in the first Subway Series showdown and were hanging tough in the emerging Wild Card scrum.
The ’97ers were about to take off on a six-game winning streak that proved they weren’t a fluke, and by late July would claim the Wild Card lead for a spell — after six years of sub-.500 baseball, their gallant striving for something approaching greatness was breathtaking and set the stage for Mets clubs that would endure well into October. The ’84 team was just heating up, and by the All-Star break they would take first place and build a modestly formidable lead — it didn’t last, but they left a calling card indicating they’d be back and boy would they be better come 1985 and, particularly, 1986. ’69…well, you know what happened in ’69.
My god, those were great years to be a Mets fan, and here we are, at the very same point on the schedule, with the very same record those worldbeaters rolled out after 70 games.
I don’t know that the 2012 Mets have what it takes to turn the pleasant surprises of April, May and most of June into a summer fling that will last a lifetime, let alone the kind of autumn they keep making movies about, but isn’t it fun, in this age of not one but two Wild Cards, just to have that option still realistically on the table with 92 games to go?