October 27, 2000, is not a date that specifically stands out in New York Mets history, but it was a date that had a great impact on the direction of the franchise. It was day one of the 2000 offseason; a day of mourning after Luis Sojo's two-run ninth-inning single delivered the New York Yankees a 4-1 World Series win over the Mets.
As disappointing as that game and series were, things still looked bright for the Mets. They had been increasing their win total for much of the decade and had taken the step forward from the 1999 NLCS to the 2000 World Series. The team had won 191 games over the past two seasons and even though they were led by veterans, they didn't have a regular over the age of 35.
Despite the disheartening World Series loss, the Mets' future seemed bright.
While the current Mets roster is constructed much differently than their 2000 counterpart, there are lessons to be learned about the painful disintegration of the franchise over the subsequent years. Despite the high standards set by the Mets during the 2000 and 2001 seasons, their record declined each year before bottoming out at 66-95 in 2003.
The main culprit in the initial demise was that General Manager Steve Phillips didn't make one significant move to improve the team after their World Series loss. In fact, the only lineup changes from Game 5 of the 2000 World Series to Opening Day of 2001 were that Darryl Hamilton replaced Bubba Trammell in right field and Rey Ordonez took over for Kurt Abbott at shortstop. All five of the Mets' pitchers used on Opening Day in 2001 (Al Leiter, John Franco, Dennis Cook, Turk Wendell and Armando Benitez) pitched in the 2000 World Series.
The lesson here is clear. Just because a team is good enough to win the National League pennant one year doesn't mean it is good enough to do the same the next year.
The way the current Mets roster is constructed, changes are inevitable. With nine players filing for free agency earlier this week, the Mets have a lot to replace, including Yoenis Cespedes, whose big bat and formidable lineup presence helped the Mets to the first division title since 2006.
For Mets fans, hopefully Sandy Alderson has more success replacing this star if he leaves than Phillips had replacing his top free agent departure in 2000: Mike Hampton.
In 2000, the Mets' staff was led by Leiter and Hampton, two workhorses who combined for over 425 innings pitched and 31 wins while each posting sub 3.20 ERAs. Hampton famously left for $121 million and the fine school systems in Colorado and Phillips was left to hunt for the second ace to team with Leiter going forward.
Phillips crapped out with Kevin Appier, who pitched well enough but lasted just one year in New York before being flipped to the Angels for Mo Vaughn.
Hampton was never the same pitcher, but Phillips's inability to land a viable replacement for him was crippling.
The second and most significant letdown of the 2000 offseason was the Mets' failure to sign Alex Rodriguez, who had a public affection for the franchise. In fact, in a 2008 interview in the Daily News, Rodriguez flat-out admitted that he made the wrong decision.
The best player in the game at the time said, "I went for the contract when my true desire was to go play for the Mets."
In a 2011 interview with ESPN, Phillips said the Mets were never even able to come up with a number for Rodriguez and couldn't come close to matching the $252 million contract the Texas Rangers offered.
Besides not seriously coming close with Rodriguez, the Mets also missed out on Manny Ramirez, Juan Gonzalez, and Mike Mussina in the free agent class of 2000.
Without significant upgrades, the Mets went 82-80 in 2001. It would be the last time they finished over .500 until 2005.
The Mets are a franchise that lauds the accomplishments of the 1986 team at every turn, and rightfully so. What they need to do now is look at that 2001 team and not make the same mistakes that Steve Phillips made.
If Cespedes leaves, finding the 2016 outfielder version of Kevin Appier will not suffice. If a megastar like Rodriguez is on their doorstep, cave in to his diva demands this time. Phillips may have dabbled with superstars in the 2000 free agent market, but the only two players he landed were Appier and Steve Trachsel. That wasn't good enough then, and Alderson needs to do better now.
The current Mets clearly have more to build on than their 2000 version. The 2000 Mets did not have the young pitching or budding youngsters like Michael Conforto and Travis d'Arnaud. They were a veteran squad that needed an infusion of youth and some star power to go along with Mike Piazza. They got very little instead.
Alderson can't expect to take a leap forward next year without getting creative and making some significant changes. The National League figures to be loaded again in 2016, especially if the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants rebound.
Their 2015 run was enjoyable and magical, but Alderson's goal has always been sustained success. Steve Phillips had the right ideas in 2000, they just never came to fruition and he was left holding an empty bucket. Let's hope Sandy Alderson doesn't make the same mistake.