Every year on Opening Day, my favorite baseball stat is brought out of the cupboard and dusted off:
The Mets are 32-17 on Opening Days, the best such winning percentage in baseball.
This year it got me thinking - imagine if those Opening Day wins turned into 32 successful seasons.
And then I thought, I doubt the Mets have even 10 successful seasons in their history.
So now, let's discover together just how many successful seasons the Mets have had since their inception in 1962.
I guess we need to start by defining "successful". Funny that this comes a day after the death of George Steinbrenner, for whom success was nothing short of a championship. The Mets' expectations have been lower. Fred Wilpon got killed for saying it, but sometimes "meaningful games in September" is exactly the expectation for the Mets. Now, 'meaningful games in September' has a different feel when we're talking 1984 versus 2007..but we'll get to that. Let's say 'successful' for this argument is closer to Wilpon on the scale of success than Steinbrenner...but only a bit.
The funny thing about the 32-17 on Opening Days is that the Mets went 0-8 in their first 8 openers. The first 7 were harbingers of the Mets' first 7 years of existence - but the 8th turned into the first successful season in Mets' history - their 1969 World Series championship.
The Mets were basically a .500 team (or worse) for the next 14 years. In 1973 they went 82-79, which was good enough for 1st place in the National League East. (Records of 83-79 in 1970 and 1971 couldn't get the Mets above third place.) I'm not sure this division championship alone would be enough to call it a successful season if not for the fact that the Mets were opportunistic, taking the Oakland A's to Game 7 of the World Series before losing.
I'm going to call 1984 a successful season, because it re-established the Mets as contenders. They went from 68 wins to 90, and put the pieces in place for their successful run through the rest of the decade. 1986 was a World Series championship, so it was a clear success, and though they fell short of a World Series in 1988, it also has to be considered a successful season.
Why 1984 but not 1985 and 1987? Well, 1984 laid the groundwork for high expectations in 1985, which the Mets ultimately fell (barely) short of. And in 1987, anything short of a repeat championship was unsuccessful. Though 1988 was ultimately a disappointment, getting to within a game of the World Series can't be considered a total failure...can it?
The Mets returned to irrelevance from 1989 to 1998 (well, they were second place in '89 and '90, but that doesn't meet my criteria), and 1999 and 2000 were playoff years, and again, though ultimately disappointing, they were successful. Following the 2000 World Series loss, the Mets did not have another successful season until 2006. And 2007 and 2008 were NOT successful seasons - if the Mets win the final day of either year, it's a different story. But they didn't.
So that leaves us with:
1969, 1973, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1999, 2000, 2006
Wow. 8 successful seasons. (I suppose we can even throw 1985 and 1987 in there just so we get to 10.)
And if we were ranking them:
1. 1969/1986 (I don't know that you can put one of these above the other - both years are so important to the franchise)
Very soon the Mets will be celebrating their 50th anniversary. To have barely 20% of their seasons be successful is a little disappointing. But with baseball, the "what have you done for me lately" mentality is huge. And a successful end to 2010 will help push the other 80% to the back of Mets fans' minds.
I'm not saying the Mets are the most snake-bitten franchise. At least they have two championships. Others are worse off. (Seattle and Houston come to mind.) I'm not saying 20% is a bad success rate - to be honest, I have no idea how other teams stack up. All I'm saying, I guess, is that a little more frequent success would be nice.
Hey Mets - let's add 2010 to the list.