This series of articles will celebrate (or laugh at) some of the worst professional sports teams of all time. I will focus on teams within my lifetime so expect the worst from the 1970s to present day.
Oh those New York Mets. Such a colourful history. From winning only 40 games in their first season in 1962, to the Amazing Mets improbable World Series victory in 1969, to the “You Gotta Believe” Mets in 1973 that shocked the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS, to the 1986 World Series team that were controversial off the field, yet won the biggest prize in baseball in the craziest way possible. Then came 1993.
The Mets came into the 1993 season with high expectations, especially after the signing of power hitter Bobby Bonilla, who was one of the most sought after free agents in the offseason. Bonilla put up some great numbers with the Pittsburgh Pirates, placing in the top 25 in home runs and RBIs in his 5 seasons in Pittsburgh. The Mets were looking for some pop in the lineup, after the departure of Darryl Strawberry, who left for the Los Angeles Dodgers, after a well documented cocaine problem. Bonilla was a New York kid, born and raised in the Bronx, so it was thought that he would welcome the pressure of playing in a volatile city like the Big Apple.
The Mets also picked up left-handed pitcher Frank Tanana, after he was let go by the Detroit Tigers. Tanana started his career as a flame throwing, power pitcher, whose fastball reached the 100 mph mark. After he had shoulder surgery in 1979, Tanana developed off-speed pitches like the curve ball and a slider, which threw hitters off-balance. The Mets were hoping Tanana’s experience and smarts would help a Mets pitching staff battling injuries and a lack of confidence.
To say that things didn’t work out for the Mets would be an understatement. Granted, their record was worse in 1962, but they were an expansion franchise, just getting their feet wet in the Big Leagues, so they get have an excuse. The 93 Mets have no excuses for their horrendous play on the field, as well as boorish behaviour off the field.
The Mets finished with 59 wins and 103 losses for a winning percentage of .364. Instead of challenging for the National League East crown, the Mets ended up 38 games behind the division winning Philadelphia Phillies. They were so bad, the Mets ended up being a regular punchline on David Letterman’s monologue.
Bonilla did put good numbers for the Mets, belting 34 home runs, while driving in 87, but his attitude was atrocious, as he had numerous battles with teammates and the media. He was roundly booed by Mets fans at Shea Stadium for his “I’m better than you” persona, and he was labelled a cancer in the clubhouse.
As for the rest of the lineup, the Mets did not have a single .300 hitter. Eddie Murray’s .285 batting average was tops on this motley crew. Murray also led the team with 100 RBIs. No wonder he wanted to leave Queen’s for Cleveland come season’s end.
Howard Johnson battled injuries all season, which greatly affected his power numbers. The man they call HoJo only had 6 roundtrippers after posting 38 home runs just two years previous. Johnson joined the Colorado Rockies the following season.
Shortstop Tony Fernandez was also added in the offseason, but struggled to find his game in New York. After hitting only .225 in 48 appearances, Fernandez was shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he helped the Jays to their second straight World Series title.
Enough about the hitters, let’s go to the pitchers. Starting with Tanana who, as I mentioned earlier, a key pickup for the Mets. Tanana was a bust for the Mets, going 7-15 with a 4.48 ERA. He never found his game again, and retired after the season.
Dwight Gooden won the Cy Young award in 1985 and was considered the next great pitcher in baseball. In 1993, Gooden struggled to regain his past form, struggling with a cocaine addiction. It is quite possible that Gooden was snorting more coke than Keith Richards, when the Rolling Stones were recording Exile On Main Street. The difference is Exile is considered a brilliant masterpiece. Gooden’s performance in 1993 wasn’t. He did lead the Mets with 12 wins and 149 strikeouts. He also had 15 losses and led the Mets with 61 walks given up.
John Franco had a horrible season as a closer, saving only 10 games in 35 appearances. His 5.20 ERA is ghastly for closers. It was around this time that Franco was having shoulder issues, and this season was the start of the decline for John Franco.
Perhaps, no one player exuded the Mets season quite like pitcher Anthony Young. The right-handed reliever also started 10 games thanks to injuries in the rotation. Young had decent stuff, a good fastball, an above average breaking ball, plus a splitter that he had been working on in the offseason. However, whatever Young tried, just didn’t work that season. Young holds the major league record for consecutive losses by a pitcher. He lost 27 straight decisions dating back to 1992, before finally winning his one and only game on July 28 against the Florida Marlins. Young finished the season with a 1-16 record with a 3.77 ERA. After 2 nondescript seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Young finished his career with the Houston Astros in 1996.
Yes, this Mets team was horrid. It took a while for the team to rebound, but they did find some success in 1999, making the playoffs, and pushing the favoured Atlanta Braves to 6 games in the NLCS. The following year, the Mets did make it to the World Series only to fall short to their crosstown rival Yankees in 5 games. Only John Franco was left from the 93 team, that played for the Mets in the 2000 World Series.
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