You might have noticed a trend in that I like to do lists. Admittedly this is a somewhat more personal one, but hopefully this could garner some discussion about your favorite Mets teams. Again, my starting point as a Mets fan is 1984, though I have a feeling that were I about 20 years older, I wouldn't have that much to add to this list.
10) 2008 - Maybe it's a sign of the mediocrity of the franchise that this would make my top ten favorite Mets team list, but there were some memorable moments that came from 2008. This was the final year of Shea Stadium, and I enjoyed some of the trips down memory lane that littered Mets blogs and television. And while the team fell short thanks to another September collapse (and just a great September run by the Phillies), I still had a lot of fun following the highs and lows, as well as seeing Johan Santana take the mound every fifth day, especially in September.
9) 1994 - The previous three seasons were true disasters, each worse than the last. As someone who only started watching in 1984, this was my first experience dealing with a losing team (and sadly not the last). The 1993 team was just pitiful, and so there were really no expectations for the 1994 edition of the team. But the Mets swept their opening three game series in Chicago, and already there was a sense that things were different. I never for once believed that the Mets had any shot to be truly competitive, but it was still refreshing to see a team filled with rather unspectacular talent - their second best player that season was Jose Vizcaino - manage to work their way nearly to .500 before the strike (or lockout, I can't remember which) ended the season in August.. That was also the season that such breakout stars as Rico Brogna and Jason Jacome made their impact felt, and also the final season in which Doc Gooden ever appeared in a Mets uniform, his Mets career ending way too prematurely.
My fond personal memory of the season is sitting through six hours of rain delay in July to see the Mets lose to the Giants (and these were rain check tickets from a game that got washed out in June against the Cardinals). I sat through nine hours of rain delay in order to see two and a half hours worth of baseball. No one can challenge my fan bona fides after that.
8) 1984 - This is when my love affair with the Mets started. As I explained in another fanpost, I actually started out as a Yankees fan. I was seven years old, and I guess I just heard more about the Yankees at that point. At any rate, my first memory of watching baseball was sitting in the kitchen, with my dad, and watching on this 13-in black and white television. I wanted to watch the Yankees, but my dad insisted on turning on the Mets game because it was the debut of this phenom pitching prospect named Gooden. And so we flipped back and forth, both New York teams winning.
It took me a while, but by the summer I was hooked on the Mets, and I would be for life. This was the team the turned around a decade of failure and showed the promise of quasi-dominance to come. I honestly don't remember all that much about this season as I would like, or else it would be higher on the list. But this is where it all began for me.
7) 1988 - You would think that 100-victory, division-winning season would be higher, but there was something not quite as enjoyable about this team as some of the other ones that weren't quite as successful. Oh, sure, they were good, but it seemed like the magic had worn off, and they were just a mechanical beast that didn't quite have the swagger of the 1986 club. Maybe this is all hindsight, but there was something off. Of course my feelings would be most likely much different had Mike Scioscia not homered off of Gooden in the ninth inning of game four of the NLCS. It was that moment that I think irrevocably altered the course of the franchise, and was an even worse blow than Beltran taking strike three.
That said, the team did win 100 games. Strawberry dominated like he never had before, and we all got see the emergence of Dave Cone as a legitimate ace. And it was during game three of the NLCS that I had the best time I ever had at a baseball game, in particular an 8th inning that saw a ferocious rally, and some great chants of "Fatso!" (for LaSorda) and "LA CHEATS!" after Jay Howell got caught with pine tar. I froze my ass off, but it was worth it.
6) 1997 - I was away at college for the first five weeks of the season, and this started off much like 1996 had ended - a complete looming catastrophe. The Mets were coming off the fizzled out debut of "Generation K", and on paper this looked like another 90-plus loss club. And looking back over the "talent" assembled on the roster, that they finished up with 88 wins and fell just short of a Wild Card is an amazing accomplishment.
Though there were some things to lament - Mel Rojas, anyone? - this was simply a fun team to watch. I know we mock things like "grission" on this site, but this was a team that, dare I say it, had a lot of grit. It never seemed like they were truly out of it (and Greg Prince wrote a beautiful recap of one such September comeback against the expos that I now can't find). I especially remember a four-game series they had at "The Ted." This was before the place became an albatross around the team, and they could actually win there. In each game of the at series they fell behind big-time in the early goings, yet they managed to take three out of four. They twice overcame deficits of 5-1, and int the final game of the series came back on Sunday Night baseball after falling behind 6-0 in the first. The Friday night comeback was particularly memorable. Aside from Todd Pratt losing his bat in the stands at least three times, I also recall driving back to my house in the ninth inning, letting out a tremendous, fist-pumping yell as I was about to get on the BQE after the Mets took the lead. The guys in the car next to me also let out a yell, either because they, too were listening, or - more likely - because they were mocking me. I didn't care. It was frakkin awesome.
5) 1985 - I started following baseball in 1984, but 1985 was the year I became a full-fledged baseball fanatic. As I was still a fan of both the Mets and Yanks, there probably wasn't a night where I wasn't tuned into WOR or WPIX, or ABC or WHN (before it became WFAN) radio. Actually the radio calls were some of my fondest memories, whether it was sitting through a 26-7 defeat at the hands of the Phillies, or winning an 18-inning marathon game against the Pirates on a Sunday afternoon, I stood (literally) glued to the radio.
It's hard to believe that the team had slipped all the way to fourth place at one point, a mere 38-35 on July 1. Strawberry had injured his thumb, on of all things, a diving catch, and the Mets played horribly without him. But when he returned, they were practically unbeatable. They finished the season 60-29, but fell short against those miserable Cardinals - not the last time they'd ruin a season. More than anything, that was the summer of Doctor K. He didn't lose a game for three months, and there was simply no one in the game as good as he was. This also was the summer of my first baseball game - a 2-1 loss, naturally, against the Phillies. I think I'll always remember the smell of spilt beer littering the entire stadium.
4) 2006 - When you live outside the boundaries of the team you root for, it can be difficult. I'm fortunate in that the Mets play in the same division as my local team, so that increases the opportunities of seeing them, even when not subscribed to one of the internet or tv packages. But that was a team where I would go to just about any length - holding up walkmen at weird angles just to catch a few innings, or sitting in my car on the eastern shore of Maryland as I tried to hear Howie Rose call the final outs of the game that clinched the division title and ended the Braves' reign of terror - just to keep track.
The 2006 team seemed to have all of the elements that made for a great baseball watching experience. Not only were they dominant, wielding a lineup that was just far and away superior to almost every team in the National League - but they were fun. You could tell that they all had an amazing chemistry, and it showed itself on the field. It was so thoroughly enjoyable watching or listening to every game, having that confident feeling - knowing that they were going to win. That was a feeling I hadn't had as a Mets fan in two decades. Even the Valentine playoff teams didn't seem to be this good.
And then Pedro got hurt. Then Duaner got into a freaking cab in Miami. And then Carlos . . .
Still, what a ride it was while it lasted.
3) 2000 - I graduated college in May 1999 and moved permanently to Washington DC in August 2001. I had one full season as an adult where I lived the entire year in New York City. One. And so I took full advantage, attending more Mets games than I ever had in my life. There were homestands where I attended three or four games. I saw Benny Agbayani hand the ball to a fan even though there were only two outs. I saw John Rocker "welcomed" back to Shea. I saw Agbayani do something else remarkable - win game three of the NLDS with a walkoff homer. I saw Dwight Gooden return to Shea and win - thanks in part to some incompetent umpiring and Lee Mazzilli's evident Jedi-powers. But the last time I left Shea that year was after game four of the World Series, knowing that it was for all intents and purposes over. At least my best friend - a Yankees fan - had the decency not to say a word on the long, long walk back to the car parked somewhere off the Grand Central.
And every memory - both the good and the bad - will always be cherished by me. It was a very good year.
2) 1999 - I touched down at LaGuardia airport at about 9:30 at night. I had just flown back from Atlanta, diploma in tow. The first thing I did as I reached the baggage carousel was flip to WFAN. It sounded like this Benitez guy was unhittable, and he closed out or helped close out another win against the Pirates. The Mets were looking good.
And just as suddenly, they looked very bad. They proceeded to lose every game after I came home - eight straight losses. Welcome back, Paul.
Then Leiter beat the Yanks, Valentine put on the goofy looking glasses, and just as they had done in 1985, they were completely dominant for most of the second half of the season. Luckily they had the Wild Card this time, and they barely scraped by, though they had to make it interesting down the stretch. I remember stumbling home that final Saturday of the season after an afternoon at Down the Hatch in the Village and enjoying their five hour, all you can eat wings and all you can drink beer special, and watching Rick Reed shut down the Bucks to somehow bring the Mets even with the Reds. At least this time the season-ending collapse would not end in total disaster.
This was the summer after college, and I was still thinking about where I was going with my life. I was back home with mom, hoping to find the job that would allow me to move the hell out, and through every second of that summer and Fall there were the Mets. Every second. I went to games, I watched on FSNY, I listed on WFAN when I walked to Blockbuster in order to rent another stupid wrestling video. After every win I'd pop on "LA Woman," just as they did at Shea.
Then I got to see Todd Pratt send us to the NLCS. I left Shea in misery after game three, yet somehow holding out hope. Then I left feeling a little bit better after game four, and then I watched at home as Ventura walked us off to victory. I turned off the tv after Leiter gave up six in the first inning of game six, but something told me to hang in there. And then the miracle comeback almost was completed. Almost. Fuck you, Kenny Rogers.
1) 1986 - It feels a bit cheesy and almost obvious to have the World Series winner be my favorite team. But really, i can't think of a more deserving number one. Not only was this an historically awesome team, but they were a bunch of arrogant punks who I absolutely adored. I laughed when they showed some poor schmuck's feet on fire in the dugout, thanks to to Roger McDowell no doubt. I had my own rally cap on at home, though I never really managed to keep the ball as still as they did.
It was all capped on the morning of September 17. My mother informed me that we had tickets to the game that night. I literally jumped for joy. I was going to the clincher! I actually didn't know for certain as I went to bed before the previous night's game ended, but then it was confirmed moments later. This was going to be the clincher! Of course my idiot brother was late picking me up, but we got there around the third inning. You could hear the noise from Shea Stadium blocks away. And no, I didn't get to storm the field, but I did get to see quite a few people carrying chunks of grass from the stadium.
And to think I almost missed the most glorious moment in Mets history. Downcast after they fell behind 5-3 in the 10th, I went to bed. Luckily that same idiot brother was still watching, and I overheard Vin Scully exclaim when Stanley threw the wild pitch and Mitchell scored the tying run. I turned it back on just in time to see the ball dribble between Buckner's legs. And then I watched with my sister and father as they won it all two nights later. I never would have thought that that would be the pinnacle of my baseball watching life until now. I'm just glad I got to see it.