In this week's Amazin' Avenue Audio Podcast, Jeffrey Paternostro and I discussed the idea that the tail end of this season has been monstrously depressing even by Mets standards. Since 2009, the Mets have specialized in pointless Septembers, but this year's finale feels especially Kafka-esque.
This feeling comes from a combination of the absence of stars (Matt Harvey, David Wright), the indifferent contributions of the prospects who've been called up (Travis d'Arnaud, Wilmer Flores), and the dreadful play of the anonymous crew that trots out there every night. The uncertainty of the team's plans doesn't help, since it makes 2014 seem as potentially futile as the end of 2013. But ultimately, what's most depressing is the fact that they seem to have zero chance every night, the occasional walkoff notwithstanding.
Following my discussion with Jeff, I was curious to see how 2013 stacked up with the worst finishes in Mets history. The table below shows the bottom 10 Septembers/Octobers in the franchise's first 51 seasons. I've combined September and October where applicable because in my estimation, once you hit September, that is The End, no matter how far the season technically extends into the next month. And also because it's my post and I'll make whatever dumb rules I feel like.
|7-19 in September, 0-3 in October
|7-21 in September, 1-2 in October
|7-21 in September, 2-2 in October
|8-17 in September, 0-2 in October
|10-21 in September, 0-1 in October
|10-18 in September, 1-2 in October
As of this writing, the Mets are 6-11 in September. At this pace, they would finish roughly 10-18, a win percentage of .357. That would place them just outside of the bottom 10, believe it or not. It would also be slightly worse than the 12-21 (.364) clip played by 1992's Worst Team Money Could Buy.
The table shows us that of the 10 worst endings (in pure W/L terms) in Mets history, six occurred in the team's first decade. While I was not around for these years, I can't imagine these seasons concluded as depressingly as 2013. After the trauma of losing the Dodgers and Giants, fans were simply happy to have the Mets to cheer for. Expecting them to be any good would come much later. Plus, some of these teams gave glimpses of the glory to come. The 1967 Mets lost 101 games and staggered to a .313 win percentage at the tail end of that year (sixth worst in team history), but you still could have gone to Shea and seen Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Cleon Jones, and Tug McGraw.
This year's September feels a little more like the other years that round this list. You'll see 2003-2004 listed above, dreadful years marked by injuries to the aging Mike Piazza, some awful trades (bye, Scott Kazmir), and a general sense of malaise that would rival the Carter administration. Like 2013, ten years ago it was unclear exactly when things might get better.
One big difference between now and then, however, is that no one connected with the Mets has tried to tell us that Terry Collins lit up a room the way they did with Art Howe. Also, 2003 saw Steve Phillips pay for his crimes, which was nice. And in back to back years, Mets fans were treated to the debuts of Jose Reyes and David Wright. With the exception of Harvey and possibly Zack Wheeler, we've had no such bright spots hit the majors in 2013. Certainly not in the lineup.
For a closer parallel on this list, you have to turn to 1979-1980, when the Mets were awful on levels we can barely comprehend today. The Tom Seaver trade scarred fans for life. Lee Mazzilli was as close as they came to having a star. During these seasons, the Mets' farm system produced exactly one serviceable major leaguer: Jesse Orosco. Their best pitcher, Craig Swan, suffered a shoulder injury mid-1980 and never fully recovered. Their lineup was positively Quintanilla-ish. The de Roulet ownership was unwilling to spend any money to make the team better. And once Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon bought the team, they found themselves unable to lure free agents to Queens because of how awful the team had been, and would surely continue to be for years to come.
By 1980, new ownership had installed Frank Cashen as the new GM, so help was on the way. But you couldn't have known that for sure back then. So it is with 2013. With reinforcements in the minors and (supposedly) money to spend this winter, the 2014 might be a vast improvement on this year's model. It might even be a precursor to another glorious five-year run like we saw in the 80s. But here in this September, it remains nothing more than a might. When it comes to treating depression, mights ain't exactly Prozac.