It’s the Big Eighties. Ronald Reagan’s in the White House, fans are flocking to see the third Star Wars movie, “Return of the Jedi,” Cabbage Patch dolls are flying off the store shelves — and the Mets are building what will become their best team since the Miracle squad of 1969.
Record: 68-94, sixth in National League East.
Despite another last place finish, the stage is now set for the success of the ball club that would follow. With the Mets 16-30, George Bamberger resigns and is replaced by Frank Howard.
Tom Seaver (9-14, 3.57 ERA) is reacquired from Cincinnati while Mike Torrez (10-17) is acquired from Boston. Seaver, who goes to the White Sox after the end of the season, finishes his Met career at 198-124 and 2,537 strikeouts. Rookie Walt Terrell (8-8, 3.57 ERA) shows promise, while Jesse Orosco, (13-7, 17 saves, 1.47 ERA) emerges as one of the elite relievers in the game.
Darryl Strawberry is called up in May and, after a slow start, hits 26 home runs and drives in 74 runs to win Rookie of the Year. In the greatest deal in Mets history, Gold Glove first baseman Keith Hernandez is acquired from St. Louis on June 15, and immediately steadies both the defense and the offense. Mookie Wilson again shines with 91 runs and 54 stolen bases; George Foster rebounds from lackluster 1982 season to hit 28 home runs and drive in 90 runs. Rusty Staub gets 24 pinch hits, while Danny Heep hits four pinch hit home runs.
Record: 90-72, second in National League East.
Under new manager Davey Johnson, Mets make a complete turnaround. Dwight Gooden goes 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA and 276 strikeouts in just 218 innings to win Rookie of the Year; he is ably backed up by Ron Darling (12-9), Walt Terrell, (11-12) and Sid Fernandez (6-6) as the Mets boast the best young staff in the game. Orosco is again the big reliever with 31 saves.
On offense, Hernandez drives in 94 runs and bats .311; Strawberry hits 26 home runs and drives in 97. Hubie Brooks enjoys a 24-game hitting streak. The Mets are in first place for most of July but fall out of first in August and settle for second place. Following the end of the season, they make one of their boldest deals ever, acquiring All-Star catcher Gary Carter from Montreal in exchange for Brooks.
Record: 98-64, second in National League East.
The Mets’ rise continues, as they are in the divisional race until the final week of the season before finishing second to St. Louis. Gooden enjoys one of the finest seasons any pitcher has ever had, going 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA, eight shutouts, and 268 strikeouts to win the Cy Young Award. Ron Darling goes 16-6, while Orosco and rookie Roger McDowell man the bullpen.
Carter breaks in with a bang, hitting a walk off home run to win the opener over St. Louis 6-5; he winds up with 32 home runs and 100 RBI’S, which includes three home runs in a game in San Diego on Sept. 3. Hernandez has another fine year, batting .309 and driving in 91; Strawberry, despite missing seven weeks with a broken thumb, hits 29 home runs and drives in 79 runs. Strawberry also hits 3 home runs in a game on Aug. 5. Memorable games include a rain-soaked, 16-inning, 16-13 win in Atlanta on July 4 that does not end until 3:55 a.m., and an 11-inning, 1-0 win in St. Louis on Oct. 1 to keep the Mets pennant hopes alive. Attendance climbs to 2,761,601.
Next week, of course, “it gets through Buckner,” and the Mets win their second World Championship.