By Jason Keidel
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There are reasons a team goes 86 years (Red Sox) or 108 years (Cubs) without a championship. And not all of them are a matter of strategy, or even personnel. You needn’t blame the Bambino or Billy goat. But it’s something that transcends the pages of Moneyball.
And this injury to Noah Syndergaard, which has sad ballads and eulogies pouring into Queens, is the latest example of why the Mets haven’t won a World Series in 31 years, and have won just two in 55 years.
The Yankees are the Big Apple’s big team for myriad reasons. Of course, they’ve had more great players and pitchers and managers than anyone. They also started winning 40 years before the Mets existed. But it’s also hard to recall a time when the Yanks banged into the bad luck that seems to befall some teams, like the Mets.
And it made me think of a time when I got a close look at the karma or luck or whatever haunts the Mets.
[graphiq id=”fHTkkRUowex” title=”New York Mets Record Over Time” width=”600″ height=”495″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/fHTkkRUowex” ]
In a dozen or so years of interviewing sports celebrities, only one refused to speak to me. It wasn’t Mike Tyson, Joe Torre, or some industry behemoth who only speaks to his pet reporter.
It was Willie Randolph. After he’d been fired by the Mets. When few, if any, were trying to grab 15 minutes of his time.
Randolph had taken a job with the Milwaukee Brewers, a nice, safe landing after the baseball powder keg he had just left. The dust had long settled since his exit from New York, and the newspaper I was writing for agreed that it would be nice to get Randolph’s side of the story.
It never happened. The Brewers’ media people told me to wait until spring training started. Then once workouts kicked off he would need a couple weeks to settle in. Upon my third attempt I was told he was now focused on the regular season. A curious claim for someone whose duties as bench coach were vague, at best.
If anyone were groomed to be manager of a baseball team in New York City — even more than Torre — it was Randolph. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he was a wonderful Yankee, beloved by everyone. He played with his chin up and his head down. A pro to the core. Winning six rings as a player and coach, Randolph had seen the glory and gory of Gotham.
The Mets were universally lauded for such a forward-thinking hire. Yet he couldn’t handle it. He couldn’t even talk to a reporter from a free local newspaper (amNew York), who was there to give him carte blanche to tell his side of the Mets divorce. Randolph did lead the Mets to the 2006 NLCS, which ended in as heartbreaking a fashion as you could imagine.
Was that Mets incompetence? Was that perfect pitch from Adam Wainwright to Carlos Beltran about the club’s culture? How about the collapse in 2007? Or 2008?
The Ozzie Smith homer? The Mike Scioscia homer? Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez said that the 1985 team may have been as good or better than the ’86 club. But it didn’t even make the playoffs.
Doc Gooden may have been the most naturally gifted pitcher ever to grip a baseball, whose bronze bust should be beaming from Cooperstown. Just like his equally talented and similarly tormented teammate, Darryl Strawberry. Were their failures the result of team ineptitude?
Yet both gathered their gifts and their souls long enough to win a World Series or two in the Bronx. Painful. But was that the Mets’ fault? Terry Collins was vaporized for leaving Matt Harvey in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. What were his options? The Mets were up in the eighth inning three times, and lost each time, with their closer blowing each lead.
The Mets did nothing to spark the injuries to Zack Wheeler or Steven Matz or Matt Harvey or Lucas Duda or Seth Lugo or Wilmer Flores. If we indeed make our own luck, someone please share that with the Mets. Most of us thought this was the Mets’ year and next year would likely belong to the Yanks. Now this.
Like any losing team or season, there’s a combination of mojo and management. While we’ve been assured that the injury that landed Syndergaard on the DL was unrelated to the one that scratched him from last week’s start, the Mets should either have talked him into an MRI or kept him off the mound until they were sure he could pitch.
Likewise, they should have rested Yoenis Cespedes longer than they did, especially with a hamstring issue, perhaps the most tricky of all below the brain.
But to put this all on a decades-long string of stupidity is, well, stupid. Yes, good ownership begets good management, which begets good players, who beget good results. But some teams are really good and blessed, like the Yankees. Some are sometimes really good and, well, the Mets.
Please follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel