Worst Mets seasons
Think the Mets are bad this year? Here's proof that they have a long way to go to live up to their losing legacy.
--Compiled by Mike Casey
1962: 40-120, Last place in NL
"Can't anybody here play this game?" manager Casey Stengel wondered aloud during the Mets' 1962 campaign. For the most part, the answer was no. The Mets lost in historic ways during their inaugural season, dropping their first nine games before finally getting a win and losing seven games by 10 runs or more. They finished last in the majors in batting average (.240) and ERA (5.04) and their 120 losses are a major-league record that still stands today.
1963: 51-111, Last place in NL
The addition of 36-year-old former Brooklyn Dodgers star Duke Snider (above) was one of the few exciting things that happened to the Mets in 1963. Snider collected his 400th major-league home run, but the season's most memorable home run belonged to Jimmy Piersall, who ran the bases backwards after hitting his 100th home run. He did it after telling Snider he'd get more publicity for his 100th homer than Snider did for his 400th. It was the only homer Piersall ever hit for the Mets. The 1963 season included a franchise-worst 39-inning scoreless streak, which lasted from September 11-15.
1964: 53-109, Last place in NL
After two years at the aging Polo Grounds, the Mets opened Shea Stadium with a 4-3 loss to the Pirates. It was a sign of things to come. On June 21, they were were victimized by Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning's perfect game -- one of 20 in MLB history. For the third year in a row, they finished with the majors' worst record.
Above: Bunning strikes out John Stephenson for the final out in his perfect game.
1965: 50-112, Last place in NL
Prior to the season, the Mets acquired future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn from the Milwaukee Braves to be a starter/pitching coach. Bobby Bragan, Spahn's former manager, predicted "Spahnie won't win six games with the Mets." He won four, the Mets had the worst pitching staff in the NL and Spahn was let go in July. Wes Westrum replaced him as pitching coach and was eventually elevated to manager when Casey Stengel broke his hip stepping out of a cab in August. The Mets finished with the worst record in baseball for the fourth straight year.
Above: The 1965 Mets pose at Shea Stadium.
1966: 66-95, 9th place in NL
In 1966, Nolan Ryan debuted and the Mets drafted Tom Seaver. And, hey, they didn't finish in last place! (The Cubs lost 103 games.) Key elements of their 1969 World Series team began to come into focus as Jerry Grote, Ron Swoboda and Cleon Jones all played 100-plus games for the first time as Mets. But with a young lineup that averaged a little over 26 years old, the Mets hit .239 as a team. The pitching staff and bullpen were still in disrepair, and their 4.17 ERA was the second-worst in the majors.
1967: 61-101, Last place in NL
The debuts of Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman couldn't prevent the Mets from finishing last in the majors for the fifth time in their six seasons. Despite Seaver's 16-13 record and team-best 2.76 ERA, the Mets once again had one of baseball's worst pitching staffs, highlighted by No. 2 starter Jack Fisher's 9-18 record and 4.70 ERA. The hitters didn't fair any better; they produced the fewest runs in the majors. Without former Dodgers star Tommy Davis (.302, 16 HR, 73 RBI), things could have been much worse. After the season, the Mets traded Davis to the White Sox for Tommie Agee and Al Weis.
1974: 71-91, 5th place in NL East
A year removed from a seven-game World Series loss to Oakland, the Mets dropped to fifth in the six-team NL East. At fault was an aging lineup that hit .235 collectively. No Mets regular batted higher than .300 (Ed Kranepool hit .300 but played just 94 games). In fact, six of their eight everyday starters (Jerry Grote, Wayne Garrett, Bud Harrelson - above, John Milner, Don Hahn and Rusty Staub) batted under .260.
1977: 64-98, Last place in NL East
Mets fans will forever remember 1977 with disdain for the "Saturday Night Massacre," in which Mets chairman M. Donald Grant dealt franchise player Tom Seaver to the Reds for four players and traded popular slugger Dave Kingman to the Padres for Bobby Valentine and Paul Siebert. The Mets also fired manager Joe Frazier, replacing him with Joe Torre, who began the season as an active player on the team's roster. The Mets scored the fewest runs in the major leagues, and no one on the team hit more than 12 home runs.
1978: 66-96, Last place in NL East
In the aftermath of the unpopular trades of Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman and the trade of pitching star Jon Matlack in the 1977 offseason, Shea Stadium earned the nickname "Grant's Tomb." The name was inspired by chairman M. Donald Grant, who orchestrated the trades after squabbling with his stars over money. Grant paid a bigger price at the box office, as fans stayed away and a star-less Mets team finished last for a second year in a row.
1979: 63-99-1, Last place in NL East
"Grant's Tomb" was never more hollow than in 1979, when the Mets drew a total of 788,905 fans to Shea Stadium -- an average of 9,740 lonely souls per game. The undermanned Mets were only eight games below .500 as June ended. But from July 1 to Sept. 23, they went 25-59 (.298). Not even an All-Star season from Lee Mazzilli (above) could stop the freefall.
1980: 67-95, 5th place in NL East
With new owners Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon in charge, some optimism finally returned to Shea. Doubleday and Wilpon promised to spend money on top players and hired respected GM Frank Cashen to get the Mets back on track. They selected Darryl Strawberry in that year's entry draft and things were looking good when they were just a game under .500 on Aug. 13. But the Mets dropped 38 of their last 49 games to finish 28 games below .500.
Above: Mets owners Nelson Doubleday, left, and Fred Wilpon in 1993
1981: 41-62-2, 5th place in NL East
1981 wasn't a great year for baseball, with MLB cancelling roughly 38 percent of its season due to a players' strike. Still, because the season was split into two halves, the Mets had a shot at a playoff berth going down the stretch. But a five-game late-September losing streak torpedoed their chances. They fired manager Joe Torre on the last day of the season.
1982: 65-97, Last place in NL East
With George Bamberger (above) now at the helm and veteran outfielder George Foster on board, "Bambi's Bandits" got off to a good start. On June 20, they were 34-30 and just three games out of first place. But with a lineup that tied for the second-worst average in baseball (.247) and 297 total strikeouts by Foster and Dave Kingman, the Mets swooned in the dog days of August, dropping 15 consecutive games from Aug. 15-31.
1983: 68-94, Last place in NL East
As bad seasons go, this one wasn't so bad. Some good vibes returned to Shea as the Mets reacquired Tom Seaver and George Foster bounced back with 28 home runs and 90 RBIs. Also, the first seeds of the 1986 championship team began to blossom: Darryl Strawberry hit 26 home runs (earning NL Rookie of the Year honors) and the Mets traded closer Neil Allen to St. Louis for Keith Hernandez. After an awful start and the resignation of George Bamberger, the Mets played two games over .500 from July 31 on.
1992: 72-90, 5th place in NL East
Did Bobby Bonilla's daughter know something we didn't? After a disappointing 1991 and a fifth-place finish, the Mets reacted by signing the former Pirates star and trading for Kansas City Royals ace Bret Saberhagen in the offseason. Bonilla vowed that even the New York fans would never wipe the smile off his face. But that changed when he batted .249 with just 19 home runs in his first Mets season. With a pitching rotation of David Cone, Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez and Saberhagen, the Mets somehow managed to lose 90 games.
Injuries were part of the problem; the Mets used the diasbled list a then-team record 18 times that year. They traded Cone in August for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson, which would have been a pretty good deal if Jeff Kent played as well for the Mets as he later did for the Giants.
1993: 59-103, Last place in NL East
How bad were the Mets in 1993? They finished five games behind the expansion, sixth-place Florida Marlins! The season was lowlighted by starter Anthony Young's record-breaking 27-game losing streak. Begun in May 1992, the streak finally ended in July 1993 when Young gave up a go-ahead run to the Marlins in the top of the ninth, but the Mets scored two in the bottom of the ninth to get him the win.
Another ugly theme was the growing discontent of outfielder Vince Coleman, who began the season by injuring Dwight Gooden while swinging a golf club in the Mets clubhouse, and ended it by essentially getting kicked off the team for throwing a firecracker at a group of fans waiting for autographs outside Dodger Stadium. Three fans were injured, including a 2-year-old girl. Coleman was charged with reckless endangerment and sentenced to 200 hours of community service. That's him with lawyer Robert Shapiro, above.
1996: 71-91, 4th place in NL East
The Mets weren't good in 1996, but this season didn't leave fans with nearly the same bad taste they had after the early-90s debacle. Todd Hundley emerged as a star, setting an MLB record for catchers with 41 home runs. Centerfielder Lance Johnson set a team record with 21 triples and hit .333. Bernard Gilkey chipped in 30 home runs and 117 RBIs while batting .317. Cornerstones Edgardo Alfonzo and Rey Ordonez started to emerge.
The pitching staff, though, was too dependent on the disappointing 'Generation K' trio. Paul Wilson went 5-12 with a 5.38 ERA, Jason Isringhausen went 6-14 with a 4.77 ERA and Bill Pulsipher missed the entire season with Tommy John surgery. It was too much for the Mets to overcome.
2003: 66-95, Last place in NL East
The 2003 Mets started the year clinging to hope that aging stars Roberto Alomar, Mo Vaughn and Jeromy Burnitz could right the ship after a disappointing 2002. But things went sour when their one legitimate star, Mike Piazza, tore a groin muscle on May 16. Soon, the firesale was on. The Mets traded Alomar, Burnitz, closer Armando Benitez and reliever Graeme Lloyd in July as they entered full-scale rebuilding mode. Although the second half of the season wasn't any better than the first from a wins standpoint, it did offer fans their first look at Jose Reyes, who batted .307 and stole 13 bases in 69 games.
2004: 71-91, 4th place in NL East
2004 was a year of failed experiments for the Mets. The first failure was the signing of Kaz Matsui, an All-Star Japanese shortstop whose defense was thought to be so good, the Mets moved Jose Reyes to second base. Matsui made 24 errors and became one of the team's most unpopular players. The Mets also brought in Mike Cameron, a Gold Glove-caliber centerfielder with decent power. But Cameron's .231 average offset his 30 home runs. The next failed experiment was Victor Zambrano, who GM Jim Duquette acquired for prized lefty pitching prospect Scott Kazmir in an ill-advised playoff push for a team that was 49-53 at the time. Zambrano was said to have great stuff, but he also had control problems and a history of elbow issues. He made just three starts that season.
The final embarrassment was the brief Mike Piazza experiment at first base. The switch was made to keep the aging catcher fresh, but his defense was so bad, the plan was scrapped. Duquette was replaced by Omar Minaya as the season wound down, and manager Art Howe was shown the door after the season.
2009: 70-92, 4th place in NL East
The Mets weren't memorably bad in 2009; they were historically unlucky. They opened Citi Field on April 13, with Mike Pelfrey allowing a home run to the first batter, San Diego's Jody Gerut. Things didn't improve. Twenty different Mets, including stars Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Billy Wagner and Gary Sheffield spent time on the disabled list (Reyes, Beltran and Delgado each missed more than half the season). All told, Mets players spent more than 1,480 combined days on the DL. They somehow stayed in contention until July, but fell apart in the second half. Incredibly, they finished the season with highest batting average in the National League.
Above: A trainer examines David Wright after he was hit in the helmet by a 93-mph fastball from the Giants' Matt Cain in a game in August.