Home News Mets trying to find formula for consistent success — like the Yankees

Mets trying to find formula for consistent success — like the Yankees

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There are two paths to take if you wish to do a full forensic study of a stubborn question that has plagued a prominent portion of New York City for decades: What the hell is wrong with the Mets?

The first one brushed up against the mystical, though across the years it’s become borderline slapstick. That’s the part where some dark cloud or darker force is forever visible on a horizon, waiting to kneecap the team and its fans in the most hideous and horrific ways.

Sometimes that involves genuine tragedy (the death of Gil Hodges; the prominent role of cocaine in splintering the ’80s teams). Sometimes it involves baseball-specific calamity (the final-week collapses of 1998, 2007, 2008 and 2022). Sometimes it actually reaches the point of gallows humor, such as losing the ’99 NLCS on a walk-off walk, or back-to-back glory-years seasons ending on back-breaking home runs by players who’d hit a total of 15 homers in those respective years (12 for Terry Pendleton in ’87, three for Mike Scioscia in ’88).

And sometimes it’s just downright mean, such as Sept. 28, 2008, when 56,059 people somehow willed themselves to sit through a farewell-to-Shea-Stadium ceremony minutes after watching the Mets complete the final few wax droppings on an utterly epic meltdown.

And, well, there are other examples. Plenty of them.

And yes: it’s understandable why this sky-is-always-falling-somewhere narrative exists: it almost makes it easier to bear as a fan. For 86 years an element of Red Sox fandom took comfort in the belief that God Himself was furious for the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Even more logically, for the latter half of 108 years, Cubs fans blamed Billy Sianis’ goat for the many misfortunes that befell the North Siders. Blame the fates. It’s easier that way.


Steve Cohen watches the Mets’ 7-2 win over the Brewers from the owner’s box.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Here is the truth about the Mets:

In the two periods of genuine prosperity that were climaxed by their two championships, their organization — top to bottom — was the envy of the sport. The first time it was the three-pronged leadership of Gil Hodges (on the field), Johnny Murphy (assembling the roster) and Whitey Herzog (running the farm system). This was no accident. This was no fluke. The ’69 Mets became good for a reason.

The second time Frank Cashen was keystone, and he hired a perfect manager for the team he was assembling, Davey Johnson, and had an army of trusted lieutenants (led by Joe McIlvaine) who built the Mets to the point that in 1986 they not only had a world championship team but the No. 1-rated farm system, too. This was no accident. This was no fluke. The ’86 Mets became good for a reason.

Tragedy destroyed the first incarnation, Murphy and Hodges both dying young, Herzog run out of the franchise by M. Donald Grant, the man who fondled the wrecking ball. The second time around Cashen grew old at the same time the Wilpon Family Influence overtook the Mets, and the fall was epic and steep.

And it’s really never been the same again, despite pockets of prosperity (1999-2000, 2006, 2015-16, last year). Some of those teams were quite good; the ’06 and ’15 teams probably good enough to win titles. There have been moments of organizational competence. But nothing rooted and secure. Nothing that took hold.

That’s one of the things that really stands out if we are to compare — for geography’s sake, if nothing else — the Mets and the Yankees. Look, Yankees fans have plenty of gripes — some fair, some not so much — about Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner, but the Yankees are a model of stability. And if there is a legit frustration at 14 years without a title, there is also this:


The Yankees, under the stewardship of Hal Steinbrenner (right) and Brian Cashman, have been a model of consistency, despite the lack of World Series titles recently.
The Yankees, under the stewardship of Hal Steinbrenner (right) and Brian Cashman, have been a model of consistency, despite the lack of World Series titles recently.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

— 24 playoff appearances in the last 28 years

— At least one playoff series win in 14 of them

—  30 straight winning seasons (with No. 31 a pretty good bet)

There is a segment of Yankees fans that scoffs at this, because making the playoffs is so “easy” now with more teams. But the Mets work in the same city, have (at least now) as many available resources. And yet their numbers in the same time are jarring: six playoffs in 28 years, at least one series win four times, and — almost unbelievably — only 13 winning seasons in 30 years.

Steve Cohen has stated it’s his mission to model his franchise after the best ones in the sport — the Dodgers, the Braves, the Astros and, yes, the Yankees. Those teams have success year after year, and if there’s the odd hiccup now and again it’s quickly resolved. That’s no accident. That’s no fluke. Those teams are good every year for a reason, and not merely because they can throw money at their problems.

Deep pockets are helpful; deep thinkers are better. And if the Mets’ own history tells us anything, it’s that bright minds beat dark clouds every time.

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