By Mike Steffanos
In early November, while waiting for the hot stove to warm up, I started thinking about the Mets poor off-season performances under various GMs since the 1980s "dynasty" teams faded into "the worse team money can buy" years of the early and mid-90s. Memory is always somewhat subjective, though, so I decided to research the last 15 off-seasons from 1991-2005. It proved to be just about as bad as I thought it would be.
I divided it up into 5 year periods, and as I finished up I thought it would be interesting to go back 10 more years and cover the rise and fall of the championship team. For all intents, Frank Cashen was both the architect of the championship team and the man most responsible for destroying it. I finished 1981-85 in December, and then things got so nuts it took 3 months to finally finish with 1986-1990. What I hope I wound up with was a resource that other Mets fans would find valuable to go back and revisit the franchise's moves for the past quarter century.
I have done the best that I could to be accurate. Retrosheet.org was invaluable in my efforts, as was Baseball America's listings of Major League executives year by year. If anyone spots any inaccuracy, please let me know.
During this 5 year period the Mets were going from laughingstock to championship contender. Frank Cashen was at his finest, drafting Dwight Gooden and Roger McDowell, trading for Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Sid Fernandez, Ron Darling and Howard Johnson. There were a few clunkers here, but along with drafting Daryl Strawberry in 1980 Cashen was building a solid foundation for a championship.
This 5-year period began with a World's Championship, but never again would this team reach the heights. The Bob Ojeda trade was a great one for the Mets, as was the David Cone deal. Unfortunately this time period also saw Len Dykstra, Roger McDowell, Kevin Mitchell and Rick Aguilera go away in trades that were less than successful. The Mets would lose a crushing playoff series to the Dodgers in 1988, and then not see the playoffs again for more than a decade. So much for a dynasty.
This 5-year period featured The Worst Team Money Could Buy. Nothing worked well for the Mets at this time. Winners like Tim Tuefel, David Cone, Ron Darling and Bob Ojeda were sent packing, while players like Brett Saberhagen, Vince Coleman and Bobby Bonilla came in and disappointed.
This 5-year period saw Generation K crash and burn, but also saw players like John Olerud, Mike Piazza and Al Leiter come in and become cornerstones of the next championship contender. 1997 - 2000 were the years of the "good" Steve Phillips and an exciting, if ultimately disappointing World Series appearance.
This 5-year period saw Generation K crash and burn, but also saw players like John Olerud, Mike Piazza and Al Leiter come in and become cornerstones of the next championship contender. 1997 - 2000 were the years of the "good" Steve Phillips and an exciting, if ultimately disappointing, World Series appearance.
This 5-year time period featured the "bad" Steve Phillips of Kevin Appier, Mo Vaughn, Robby Alomar, and Roger Cedeno (the sequel). Dark years, as Bobby Valentine and Phillips were fired, Jim Duquette traded Scott Kazmir to the Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano, and Art Howe came and went. 2005 saw the beginning of Omar's reign as GM. It's been quite a ride so far -- how it will turn out is anyone's guess.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana, The Life of Reason