The 1999 New York Major Example of a Tail Spin

As a special October (Bobby) Valentine’s day approaches in New York, save a nice thought for your favorite Mets fan. Wish him well next year, or if you’re feeling really friendly, buy them season tickets for 2000. Mets fans shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to watch this tremendously talented team choke for a third straight year.

Hello and welcome everyone to the late-September edition of your New York Mets. Ten days ago, the mighty Mets were one game behind the first place Braves in the race for the National League East Division when they traveled to Atlanta to begin a head-to-head battle. They stood four and a half games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds at that time in the race for the wild card. Now, the Mets are in a race against a collapse that would rank among the worst late-season disasters in baseball history. Losing to Chipper Jones and Atlanta was tough. Getting swept in Philadelphia was terrible. The Mets lost all three games to a Phillies team which had lost 34 of its last 44 games. The sweep was as sweet as when Phillies fans chanted “last place Mets” in their magical 1993 season.

In my sensitive ways, I feel for my New York friends. So I told one of them Tuesday night after Atlanta’s 9-3 spanking of the Mets that the Falcons missed the extra point. Well, at least the Mets didn’t fall apart late last season. Oh, wait. The Mets needed to win just one of its final five games last year to force a wild card tie. New York proceeded to lose two to Montreal and three to Atlanta. The Chicago Cubs won the wild card, defeating San Francisco in a one-game playoff.

The Mets would not be the only team to falter this terribly at the end of a season. Leading the American League West division by 11 games in August of 1995, Anaheim went on two separate nine-game losing streaks in a month and dropped three games behind Seattle with five games left. As only a heartbreaking team can do, the Angels managed to win their final five games to force the one-game playoff, only to get smacked around by Randy Johnson and the Mariners.

In 1964, the Phillies led the NL by six and a half games with 12 remaining when they went on a 10-game losing streak. The St. Louis Cardinals went on an eight-game winning streak and stole the pennant. In 1951, the Brooklyn Dodgers led the New York Giants by 13 games midway through August when the Giants won 52 of their final 63 games. Brooklyn lost six of its last 10 games and a three-game playoff resulted. In the third game, Bobby Thomson blasted his game-winning “Shot Heard `Round the World” home run, capping New York’s four-run bottom of the ninth.

The 1999 Mets can still win the wild card despite everything that has happened to date. Not to overstate the obvious, but the Mets cannot afford to lose anymore this season. New York hosts Pittsburgh to end the season and the Mets are 4-2 against the Pirates this year. Both the Reds and the Houston Astros, the two teams the Mets are rooting against, also have winning records against their opponents. The destined Reds own the best road record in the majors, and they will travel to Milwaukee, where they hold a 5-4 advantage over the Brewers. Houston hosts Los Angeles, where the Astros are 4-2 against the mediocre Dodgers this season.

Most baseball fans remember New York’s eight-game losing streak at the end of May and early June. It resulted in the firing of almost every coach, except for the manager, Bobby Valentine. The next night, a Sunday night game on ESPN, Mike Piazza rocketed a home run off the Yankees’ Roger Clemens, and the Mets won the game. They went on to play the best baseball in the majors for nearly three months. I hate to admit it, but I picked this team to play the Yankees in the World Series.

Mets fans everywhere are scared – and with great reason. As the final weekend approaches, all we can do is watch the games and let the final song – it’s up to you New York – be sung. Should my pleasure and Mets fans’ anguish come to be, let it be known that October Valentine’s day will arrive, and the Mets will be searching for a new manager.

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