To hear their fans talk about it, no baseball franchise has had more misery over the past sixty years than the New York Mets. Arriving in MLB in 1962 as one of the first ever expansion teams, the Mets were the laughingstock of baseball for their first seven years of existence, only for them to find miraculous success out of nowhere.
The 1969 World Series is one of the great underdog stories in sports, as the “Miracle Mets” stunned the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles with a pitching staff led by the legendary Tom Seaver. The Mets tasted October glory once more in 1986, as they defeated the Boston Red Sox thanks to the iconic error by first baseman Bill Buckner. To most Mets fans though, these glorious moments have been few and far between, as much of the space in between these years and since has been mostly defined by mediocrity and underperformance.
Besides these two moments of World Series glory, it seems that the defining moments of Mets fan history are a series of embarassing mishaps. The infamous free agency contract given to Bobby Bonilla, which was signed in the early 1990s but will see the team continue to pay him $1.19 million every year until 2035. Other high profile free agent signings since failed to work out, such as those for closer Francisco “K Rod” Rodriguez, and outfielder Jason Bay.
There have also been a laundry list of disastrous trades throughout Mets history, going back to their early years as a franchise. This “tradition” began with the trade of future strikeout king and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan to the Angels in 1971. The most recent of these mishaps took place during the 2018–19 offseason, when the Mets traded top prospects Jared Kelenic and Justin Dunn to the Seattle Mariners for second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz.
In trading for Cano and Diaz, new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen thought he was getting an eight time All Star and one of the best young closers in the game, respectively. However, that was not the case, as Cano showed his age of thirty-seven years by turning in an injury-plagued season, the worst of his career to date. Diaz, meanwhile, regressed hard from his 57-save season in 2018. In 2019 he posted a disastrous earned run average of 5.59, nearly four runs worse than what the ERA he posted in 2018.
To make matters worse, Kelenic and Dunn have become top prospects for the Mariners, particularly Kelenic, who is currently ranked the 11th best prospect in all of baseball by official prospect evaluator MLB Pipeline. If he lives up to his potential, he could be a star player and face of the Mariners franchise. Dunn does not have nearly as high of a ceiling as Kelenic, but nevertheless he projects as a solid mid-rotation starter in the big leagues.
Mets fans speak of the front office led by Van Wagenen with such ire thanks to moves like the Kelenic/Dunn trade, but the Mets have made a number of sound decisions under this regime as well. One of Van Wagenen’s first moves as GM was to sign ace starting pitcher Jacob DeGrom to a long term contract extension, when he otherwise would have hit free agency after the 2019 season. DeGrom showed the value of this move by winning the Cy Young Award for the second consecutive year in 2019, and looks to be one of the best pitchers in baseball for years to come. On the position player side, first baseman Pete Alonso hit fifty-three home runs in his debut season in 2019, winning National League Rookie Of The Year and establishing himself as a force in the middle of their order for years to come.
Despite trading away some top prospects, the Mets have assembled a promising collection of talent through the last few MLB Drafts. In 2019, they were able to come away with two of the most highly rated prospects in the draft, high school third baseman Brett Baty (considered one of the best pure hitters in the draft) in the first round, and even more impressively, high school pitcher Matthew Allan in the third round. Allan was considered a top of the first round talent, but concerns that he would not sign and go to college caused him to drop- and it was a coup for the Mets that they were not only able to draft him, but sign him too.
The Mets may have pulled off a similar coup in the 2020 Draft that took place in June. With the 19th overall pick, the Mets selected Pete Crow-Armstrong, an outfielder from Harvard Westlake High School in Los Angeles. Rated as one of the top high school position players in the draft- Armstrong has tremendous upside- the ability to play a strong defensive center field in pro ball, and the potential ability to hit for both average and power.
Just as in 2019, the Mets landed a first round talent later on in the draft. Pitcher J.T. Ginn was drafted at the end of the first round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018, but decided instead to attend college at Mississippi State University. Ginn was projected to go as high as the top 10 in 2020, but when he required Tommy John surgery, his stock fell, allowing the Mets to scoop him up in the second round.
All of these causes for optimism can be easily dismissed by Mets fans with one name- Wilpons. These would be the oft-reviled owners of the team, hated by most fans for their perceived stinginess and interference with baseball operations. However, even the ownership situation looks to change- as the Wilpons are actively looking to sell the team. The Wilpons leaving would be the last barrier towards Mets fans overcoming their mentality of expecting the worst, and help them realize they have a talented team with potential to become even better in the future.