On Aug. 16, 1969, New York’s most beloved team, the New York Mets, beat the victory-challenged expansion San Diego Padres in the first game of a 10-game home stand. At the time, the third-place Mets trailed the Chicago Cubs by nine games.
On Aug. 24, the Mets completed the home stand by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was New York’s ninth victory in the 10 games. They now trailed the Cubs by five games.
When the season started, no one expected the Mets to contend. The fact that 1969 was the first year of divisional play meant that the almost perennial cellar-dwellers from New York could finish last, but last now meant sixth place. The expansion Montreal Expos were expected to finish last, and they didn’t disappoint.
On Apr. 19, 2010, New York’s most beloved team, the New York Mets, beat the Chicago Cubs in the first game of a 10-game home stand. At the time, the last place Mets trailed the defending National League champion Phillies by four games.
On Apr. 28, the Mets completed the home stand by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers (sound familiar?). It was New York’s ninth victory in the 10 games. They now were in first place, one-half game ahead of the Phillies.
When the season started, few “experts” expected the Mets to contend, but some fans thought the Mets were better than the “experts’ believed. After all, Jose Reyes might be around for the entire season, Johan Santana was pitching effectively after missing much of 2009, and Mike Pelfrey was coming into his own.
The addition of Jason Bay, a solid slugger eschewed by the hated enemy of New York’s other team, was a great addition, and youngster Ike Davis might be for real.
When Reyes was moved to the third slot in the batting order, New York had Reyes, followed by Jason Bay batting fourth, and David Wright hitting fifth. The potential can be seen.
At the start of the 1969 season, the Cubs were “given” the divisional title. Of course, after the games were played, the Mets, in one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, easily out-distanced Chicago by full games, after having trailed by nine and one-half games on Aug. 9.
At the start of the 2010 season, the Philadelphia Phillies were “given” the divisional title, but some key Phillies have suffered injuries. Jimmy Rollins, closer Brad Lidge, A.J. Happ, and Joe Blanton have missed time, but all are expected to return soon.
The 1969 Chicago Cubs had some major weaknesses. Their pitching staff lacked depth, and their bullpen often let them down.
Ferguson Jenkins started 42 games and worked 311 and one-third innings, Bill Hands started 41 games and worked exactly 300 innings. Both were 20-game winners.
Ken Holtzman started 39 games, working 261 and one-third innings. Dick Selma started 25 games as the fourth started, pitched 168 and two-thirds innings, and managed to win 10 games.
Phil Regan, “The Vulture,” was the Cubs’ top relief pitcher, but he allowed 120 hits in 112 innings, and had a pedestrian 109 ERA+. He acquired his nickname because his team often came from behind to win after Regan either blew a lead or simply entered the game and managed to get the win.
The 2010 Phillies have some major weaknesses. How effectively can Cole Hamels pitch? Which Brad Lidge will appear this season? Will A.J. Happ overcome his tendency to get hurt? Does Jamie Moyer have anything left? Where is Pedro?
The 2010 Mets have two solid starters in Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey.
The often-injured John Maine showed he may have returned to form yesterday when he struck out nine Dodgers in six innings.
Oliver Perez has great potential, while young Jon Niese has pitched quite effectively over the short haul. Francisco Rodriguez is the closer.
Most of today’s fans and players dismiss teams that surprise early as flukes. “It’s only April.”
Well, folks, a win in April counts as much as a win in September. The Mets learned that fact in 2007 and again in 2008.
The Mets will play the Phillies three games this week-end. The feeling here is that they are going to send a message to the defending champions, and the Phillies are not going to like it.
1969 at Retrosheet