Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Remembering the Titans

The announcement from Flushing yesterday that the 1986 World Series Champion Team will be recognized is exciting news for everyone. An on-field presentation before a game on the weekend of August 19th will highlight all events. Jeff Wilpon was the voice of the announcement and hopefully will use his continuing influence to make this the special event it deserves. Its most politically correct to say, "invited back."

There will be some easy ones to be sure. Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling will already be in the ballpark doing TV. Gary Carter, Howard Johnson, and Randy Niemann will easily get permission to miss days from work as they are already employed by the Mets. I understand from speaking with Ed Hearn, that Davey Johnson has had some health problems of late, but I'm sure the Mets will be able to get hom here nonetheless. Frank Cashen, the man who put the Mets back together in the 1980's will easily be there. And the Mets have thankfully re-embraced Darryl Strawberry, so his attendance is assured.

There are concerns that the Mets may have some difficulty pulling this off, as aside from card shows and the like, few of the guys have stayed in touch. And no real effort seems to have existed by the club to maintain its legacy from this era. The 1969 team was alive in more than spirit during the 80's, and it is mostly through blogs that any real nostalgia exists for this team. Perhaps its a generational thing, but the 86 Mets clearly weren't you father's New York Mets.

Jeff Pearlman's lively book, "The Bad Guys Won" gave great attention to the juicy, and well, dark side of the 86 Mets. And it underscored the philosophy that permeated the powers that be afterwards when the championships became elusive. It was they way they were the suits in the offices upstairs felt.

The bad boy stuff was fun, I guess.... while they won. The 1987 season proved a wash with all the injuries and Doc Gooden's first club-mandated suspension. And the club that year that was together in September certainly bested a Cardinal team in the final month. The Cardinals were grateful to have clinched the night the Mets arrived in St. Louis for what would have been a three-game showdown. But after what was a domination of the 1988 season, the seventh-game loss to the Dodgers in the NLCS proved especially bitter.

A sort of institutional loathing began from above. Frank Cashen sought what he described as a "fire in the belly." Fred Wilpon asked Johnson whether or not the club was going to quit on him. The club performed below expectations per a collective opinion of sub par professionalism. Other factors were at work-most of them documented, but the prevailing wisdom of the time was wrongly focused on desire.

Davey had the pulse of the team and protected and embellished it. So it was Johnson who was emasculated after the 1989 season with two loyal coaches, Sam Perlozzo and Bill Robinson being fired. Johnson's influence clearly diminished, the die was cast for one of many beginning's of the end.

A new attitude prevailed upon Johnson's and all the other departures. Perceived character and professionalism dictated player acquisitions and it marked the beginning of lean years and several regime changes. It was only the unlikely acquisition of Mike Piazza and the hiring of a manager with his own swash-buckling style in Bobby Valentine did a return to excellence take place.

Through the 80's the 1969 team was perched iconic around Shea Stadium, with the 1986 team all but forgotten during the 90's. True, some of its most notable members have not distinguished themselves in the post playing years. But the 1986 team was about winning and being the best. It was about overcoming long odds and subduing foes in hostile venues. Yes, many of them indeed lived hard, but they covered the bottom line and brought to the city and franchise one of baseball's most storied world titles.

Hopefully, the return of Strawberry to the family and the inclusion of Lenny Dykstra at spring training signals that its time to forget the bad, and remember the glory. I hope the Wilpons will continue to personally reach out. Bring them all back this summer-Danny Heep and Rafael Santana and Bobby Ojeda and Jesse Orosco and Wally Backman and Ray Knight and Sid Fernandez and Roger McDowell. Bring them all back. Bring them all back home.


At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really enjoying this series, both for the memories and your writing. Keep it up, please!

I'll be sure to link your site to mine (mbtn.net) next time I update.

At 3:15 PM, Blogger Mets Guy in Michigan said...

Another excellent job! And I can't wait to see that 1986 reunion.


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