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Shades of 1997 With This Mets Team

By Mike Silva ~ June 29th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Mets.

Going into the spring of 1997 the Mets were not highly regarded. The up and coming trio of Generation K was injured, the front office had made no significant offseason moves (or so they thought, John Olerud turned out ok), and the Yankees were coming off a World Series. Some prognosticators had them pegged for 100 losses. Bobby Valentine was taking over his first full season as manager, and most pointed out his failures in Texas. Unlike today, where Bobby V can be choosy about employment, he had to go to Japan and manage at Triple-A Norfolk to get a managerial job again.

Players like Rick Reed, Butch Huskey, and Carl Everett were out to prove they belonged in the big leagues. They had a couple of veteran stars produce subpar offensive season (Carlos Baerga, Bernard Gilkey), and their main offensive cog, Todd Hundley, went down with an elbow injury in the second half. It was a staff made up of #3 starters, and a bullpen that relied on a good, but hittable closer in John Franco and some scrapheap bridge to get them to the ninth.

That team turned out to be a bit better than most expected. They won 88 games, led the Wild Card at various points that summer, and even had a knack for beating the Braves. They actually took three of four in a weekend series at Turner Field right after the All Star Break. They turned out to not be good enough, but it made for a fun summer and it set a foundation of success that would be realized under Valentine for the next four years.

Sounds quite a bit like the 2011 Mets? Sometimes seasons like ’97, and to date, 2011 are the most fun. The expectations are low; you get to see young ballplayers fight to earn credibility and you admire the veterans that are working their hardest to get one more season under their belt. You tend to appreciate the wins more, and don’t get aggravated at the losses. You realize its part of the process of development. Instead of Huskey, Everett, Reed, Hundley, Gilkey and Baerga, the names are Capuano, Isringhausen, Bay, Murphy, and Beltran. The injured star is David Wright, not Todd Hundley. Instead of Bobby Valentine proving he belongs in a big league dugout, it’s Terry Collins getting his chance. Even without David Wright and Ike Davis this Mets team is better than their ’97 counterparts. Sometimes looking at what Valentine did with the ’97 and ’98 teams makes you appreciate the talent level on hand today.

In the end, this team will probably fall short. They just don’t have enough to compete at a 90+ win level, what I believe it will probably take to win a Wild Card. In the interim, enjoy watching the young players and veterans leave it all on the field each night. Watch Terry Collins redeem himself, and perhaps establish himself in that dugout for the next five years; just like Valentine did.

1999 and 2000 were special seasons in team history. They had a different feel. It didn’t have the fun innocence that you experienced in 1997. It certainly didn’t have the same feel of 2011. Those seasons were about winning and misery. Winning at a high level is what it’s all about. It doesn’t mean those seasons leading up to it can’t be fun or fulfilling. Sometimes they are more fun because it exceeds your expectations, versus disappoints.

Thus far, Mets fans will probably say this year is more fulfilling than any since 2006. Enjoy the ride, just like 1997.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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2 Responses to Shades of 1997 With This Mets Team

  1. Maydog

    “but it made for a fun summer and it set a foundation of success that would be realized under Valentine for the next four years.”

    Ask any Mets ‘fan’ is those 4 years were a success and, stupidly, noone will say yes

  2. Mike in San Francisco

    I really enjoyed this post, Mike. I am just loving this year’s team; what a spirited bunch. I’ve been a Mets fan living in the Bay Area for a long time now. I was here for the entire Sandy Alderson regime with the A’s. I wanted him for the Mets for at least 15 to 18 months before he was hired. He is prudent, honoring the principle of due reflection, but not hesitant to pull the trigger once he’s
    convinced a move will help the team. He’s a shrewd trader, too. I know he will build us a winner; I’ve seen him do it before. He’s been dealt a challenging hand this time, however. Getting back to the 2011 Mets, I took a couple of long, slow breaths back in March. I appreciate the positive developments that we are witnessing, and am thrilled at the season Jose Reyes is having. Bottom line, I’m taking a long view, smiling a lot and enjoying this somewhat unexpected ride. Best Regards from San Francisco, and Let’s Go Mets.

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