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Born Under a Bad Sign

Perhaps the reason the Mets seem on their way to their worst season since 1993 is they have too many Mets born in 1993.

I wouldn’t expect a Major League Baseball team to discriminate on the basis of anything other than baseball ability (which is an area where the Mets haven’t been particularly discriminating), but at this moment in time, maybe our club might consider easing up on any further addition of players who’ve turned or are turning 25 in 2018. Nothing wrong with employing ~25-year-olds on your baseball team. The 1969 Mets’ World Series roster was 24% filled by guys born in 1944.

But this isn’t about age. It’s about vintage and critical mass. There’s such a thing as asking for trouble. Asking the Mets to succeed with players born when the Mets were at just about their worst as a franchise [1] seems to be giving fate every excuse to laugh in your face.

The 2018 Mets reached the All-Star break sixteen games under .500, thirteen-and-a-half games from first place and loaded down with players born in 1993. The 1993 Mets reached the All-Star break thirty-three games under .500, twenty-nine games from first place, ten games from sixth place and populated by twenty-five players probably wishing to remain anonymous as they rushed to make their planes after losing to the Dodgers on Sunday night, July 11, leaving their record to molder for a few days at 27-60. If you could, you’d want to keep the 1993 Mets’ DNA as far from your future as possible.

Instead, it’s as if the Mets scouted maternity wards from Seattle to Belfast to resuscitate the spirit of the year from hell a quarter-century after the fact.

The first 1993-born Met was the pride of the Pacific Northwest, Michael Conforto, who became the one-thousandth Met ever when he debuted three years ago next week. The Mr. 1,000 [2] milestone is what got our attention when Michael was called up, but while we high-fived over the 2015’s pending improvement, a cosmic parameter was quietly breached. A living symbol of 1993 was back in the house in a tangible fashion for the first time since John Franco last threw a Met pitch. Still, given Conforto’s immediate contributions to what turned out to be a National League champion, the youngest Met’s birth year seemed barely worth noticing.

The next 1993-born Met replaced the first one, indicating somebody was conscious that you wouldn’t want too many of them hanging around Flushing at once. The Mets called up Brandon Nimmo in late June of 2016; to make room for him, they demoted Conforto. Within a matter of weeks, they reversed the transaction sheet, leaving Michael to represent the Class of ’93 by himself. Before long, however, Conforto would be sent down to Vegas again (they loved doing that with him) and Nimmo would be back and forth a bit. While the Mets were cleansing themselves of any connection to the 103-defeat debacle on the position player side, they allowed a couple of 1993-born arms onto their pitching staff, first briefly welcoming Gabriel Ynoa to the bullpen and then, out of desperation, Robert Gsellman to the starting rotation.

By September, Conforto, Nimmo, Ynoa and Gavin Cecchini were ensconced alongside Gsellman. Five 1993-born Mets dotting an expanded roster wasn’t enough to disturb the gods, and the 2016 Mets roared unabated to the National League Wild Card. Then, perhaps understanding they shouldn’t push their luck, the Mets sold Ynoa to the Orioles and proceeded to mostly forget about Nimmo and Cecchini, burying each youngster at Vegas until June injuries necessitated their 2017 returns. Karma proceeded to recognize the confluence of 1993 babies, however and shortly thereafter directed Gsellman and Conforto to the DL.

Twenty Seventeen was already a lost cause when the Mets visited storm-ravaged Houston at the dawn of September and unwrapped 1993-born Jacob Rhame, paving the way for another final month with the annus horribilis’s pixie dust sprinkled all about. Gsellman, exiled to Vegas for a spell, returned in short order to join Rhame, Cecchini and Nimmo. Missing from action was Conforto, who went out for the season in late August. Four Mets among many amid the 2017 debris didn’t seem alarming.

But this season, if you keep close track of roster comings and goings, represents a hair-on-fire situation. Nothing personal, mind you. We were glad Conforto was pronounced healthy sooner than projected. We were thrilled when the nonsensical April optioning of Nimmo to Triple-A didn’t last long. It was great to see Gsellman carve a niche for himself as a reliever. And we’ve developed no animus for Rhame and have by no means wished on him the itinerary he’s endured to date:

March 29: Opening Day roster
April 13: Optioned to Las Vegas
April 27: Recalled from Las Vegas
April 28: Optioned to Las Vegas
May 15: Recalled from Las Vegas
May 30: Optioned to Las Vegas
June 7: Recalled from Las Vegas
June 17: Optioned to Las Vegas
July 9: Recalled from Las Vegas as 26th man for day-night doubleheader
July 10: Optioned to Las Vegas
July 11: Recalled from Las Vegas

Never mind how he pitches. How does he sleep?

While the other Jacob was pinging hither and yon, the Mets were injecting more 1993-born blood into their stream. Corey Oswalt, P.J. Conlon, Drew Smith and Tyler Bashlor all made their major league debuts as 2018 Mets. Despite their big league roster showing all the staying power of a Snapchat video, the Mets did manage until very recently to have almost all of these young fellas together in our midst. With one series to go before the break, the Mets were carrying seven 1993 kids (everybody but Smith). They chose last Friday — Friday the 13th, no less — to cut back by one, sending P.J. Conlon to Vegas to make room for Noah Syndergaard, who had the good sense to first see light in 1992.

Conlon, the Belfast-born baby, likely needn’t worry that he’ll be gone for long. The Mets waived him; watched the Dodgers snap him up; and apparently experienced separation pangs, for they claimed him right back a few blinks later. Oswalt has been sent down in advance of the Subway Series, but he’s been replaced by Drew Smith (while 1995-born Dom Smith goes down to clear space for Yoenis Cespedes). There’s even word that the mostly forgotten Cecchini is working his way back from the injury that has kept him out of minor league action these last two months.

The Mets don’t know how to quit 1993, which is a shame because 1993 really was as bad as we remember it, maybe more so. The sins of the 1993 Mets shouldn’t really be visited upon the sons of the 1993 parents who innocently brought into this world Conforto & Co., but this present conglomeration of birth dates is a little unsettling. You know the broad strokes of 1993: a manager was fired; a general manager resigned; a reasonably competent pitcher extended an already endless losing streak into something both epic and historic; a former Cy Young-winning pitcher pumped a Super Soaker full of bleach at a passel of reporters; one outfielder threatened an individual reporter; another outfielder exploded what amounted to a quarter-stick of dynamite into a crowd of fans, injuring a two-and-half-year-old girl in the process; and, believe it or not, so on and so forth.

Perhaps 1993 is best summed up by the phrases the second manager, Dallas Green, used to describe his team after his charges were steamrolled by the Rockies on a Sunday afternoon at Shea in late August when their record dropped to 45-85: “defeatist, dead-butt approach,” “we’ve had enough fear,” and “they just don’t care because they think the season is over.” At that point, the season had 32 games remaining. Or perhaps Joe McIlvaine, the second general manager, wrote its epitaph most honestly and accurately when he began a November letter to season ticketholders by telling Met customers, “Everyone from the butcher to David Letterman has taken shots at our ballclub as it underachieved and made as much news off the field as on it in 1993. I am as disappointed as you are about the past season…”

McIlvaine wound down his letter by expressing a wish we all surely shared: “May we see another Championship Flag over Shea very soon.” Shea has since disappeared and that Flag, assuming he meant the World Championship variety, never flew. Twenty-five years later, the stadium after Shea hasn’t gotten one of those, either, but it does contain a slew of demographic reminders of the season for which the Mets saw fit to apologize. They don’t do that every year.

May the Mets born in 1993 emerge as avenging angels very soon.