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Schwei: How Different Would Mets History Be If MLB Instituted Wild Card In 1980s?

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Doc Gooden (credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Doc Gooden (credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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By John Schweibacher
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The Mets playoff hopes for 2011 have disappeared this month as New York begins the week 15 games behind the wild card leader Atlanta Braves.

So while the wild card won’t be of any help to the Mets this year, let’s pose this question; What if Major League Baseball had implemented an expanded playoff format in 1984, a decade earlier than it eventually did? Would the Mets have made more than just a pair of postseason appearances back in the 1980s?

There were just two divisions in both the NL and AL in the ’80s, so it is not likely that there would have been a three-division winner plus one wild card format, but how many times would the Mets have reached the postseason if the top four teams in each league advanced back then?

1984:  The Mets went 90 and 72, second to the Chicago Cubs in the NL East by 6 and 1/2 games. Only the NL West champion San Diego Padres at 92 and 70 had a better record than New York.

·       Cubs        96-65  .596
·       Padres      92-70 .568
·       Mets         90-72 .556
·       Cardinals  84-78 .519

1985:  The Mets lost a heart-breaking NL East race to St. Louis but their second-best record in the league would have gotten them into an expanded post-season tournament:

·       Cardinals  101-61   .623
·       Mets           98-64  .605
·       Dodgers      95-67   .586
·       Reds           89-72 .553

1986:  Would the eventual World Series champion Mets have come up short if there had been an NLDS that season?

·       Mets   108-64    .667
·       Astros   96-66    .593
·       Phillies  86-75   .534
·       Reds    86-76  .531

1987: The Mets came up short in the title defense but once again posted the second-best record in the National League:

·       Cardinals   95-67  .586
·       Mets          92-70  .568
·       Expos        91-71  .562
·       Giants       90-71   .556

1988:  The Los Angeles Dodgers upset the Mets on their way to the World Series but could someone else have knocked L.A. out earlier?

·       Mets     100-60  .625
·       Dodgers  94-67  .584
·       Reds        87-74  .540
·       Pirates     85-75  .531

1989: The Mets didn’t finish with either of the top two records in the NL, but could have snuck into the postseason with the fourth-best mark:

·       Cubs     93-69  .574
·       Giants   92-70  .568
·       Padres   89-73  .549
·       Mets      87-75  .535

1990:  Another second place finish for the Mets, four years before the wild card:

·       Pirates   95-67  .586
·       Mets      91-71  .562
·       Reds      91-71  .562
·       Dodgers 86-76  .531

Had there been an expanded playoff format, the Mets would have made the postseason in each of the seven seasons between 1984 and 1990, five more times than they actually did during that span.

Outside of this seven-year stretch, the Mets would not have reached a four-team playoff in any season other than 1969 or 1973 had there been one prior to 1994.

The only team other than the Mets to gain more than one additional postseason berth between 1984 and 1990 would have been the Cincinnati Reds, who made the playoffs just once in those seven seasons. The Reds would have gone to the post-season three other times.

Ironically, the only National League team that did not reach the playoffs between 1984 and 1990, and would not have even with a wild card format, were the Atlanta Braves, who would begin their streak of 14 consecutive post-season appearances in 1991.

Dillon Gee won his 11th game of the season last week in San Diego, to become the first Mets rookie pitcher to win more than 10 games in a season since 1984.

Both Dwight Gooden (17-9) and Ron Darling (12-9) topped the 10-win mark that season. Darling, who was 10 and 3 at the all-star break in 1984, reached 11 wins before Gooden, the eventual National League Rookie-of-the-Year did that year.

Darling recorded his 11th win on August 12th, 1984 while Gooden would pick up his 11th victory five days later. Darling, who went just 2 and 6 after the all-star break in ’84, would not get his 12th and final win until September 9th, while Gooden, who went 9 and 4 in the second half of that season, reached the 12-victory mark on August 22nd.

The Mets will have a brief road trip this week with three games against the Phillies in Philadelphia before returning home to begin a homestand against the Atlanta Braves.

The Mets are just 4 and 8 against the Phils so far in 2011, with a 2 and 4 record at Citizens Bank Park.

The Mets have gone 2 and 4 at home against Atlanta in 2011. The Braves come into this weekend’s series with an all-time record of 16 and 8 against the Mets at Citi Field.

Schwei’s Runs, Hits and Errors:

Runs: Angel Pagan. Mets CF has reached base safely in all 17 games he has played in August, hitting .384 with 11 runs scored, 3 homers and 8 RBIs.

Hits: Ruben Tejada. Mets SS is now hitting .357 since recall from Buffalo on August 8th when Jose Reyes went back on the disabled list.

Errors: Mets Bullpen. Mets relievers have now allowed 37 earned runs in 53 & 1/3 innings in August, a major league worst 6.24 ERA for the month with six losses.

How do you think Mets history would be different if the wild card were around back then? Let us know in the comments below…

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