|September brings out the songwriters and the best of gutsy, spirited baseball teams. |
'Try and remember the kind of September... When life was slow and oh so mellow.'
This opening song of 'The Fantasticks,' a long-running musical, holds an important message for baseball purists - teams that are sitting back and ain't hustling late in the season... don't make the post-season playoffs.
After narrow misses in 1984 and 1985, the New York Mets vowed not only to win their division but to dominate it... and, they did indeed, by winning 108 games. In its wake, they left the second place Philadelphia Phillies 21 1/2 games behind.
The down-and-dirty, in your face style of manager Davey Johnson's team was quickly called by the media - 'the Macho Mets.'
The New Yorkers dominated the league with the best pitching, the best hitting, the best slugging and scored the most runs. Six pitchers won 10 or more games - Bob Ojeda, 18-5, 2.57 ERA... Sid Fernandez 16-6, 3.52... Dwight Gooden 17-6, 2.84... Roger McDowell 14-9, 3.02... Ron Darling 15-6, 2.81... Rick Aguilera 10-7, 3.88.
First baseman Keith Hernandez hit .310 with 13 homers, 83 RBIs, catcher Gary Carter .255, had 24 Hrs, 105 RBIs, right fielder Darryl Strawberry .259, with 26 Hrs, 93 RBIs, outfielders Mookie Wilson hit .289 with 25 stolen bases and Lenny Dykstra batted .295 and swiped 31 bases and third baseman Ray Knight hit .298, hit 11 homers and drove in 76 runs.
To be sure, second baseman Wally Backman rolled up his sleeves and bought into Johnson's team concept. Dubbed as 'Wally Ball,' the hard-edged, hustling efforts of the switch-hitting infielder made its mark during the 1986 season. Backman was hitting .341 at the All-Star break and finished with a career-high .320. And, he led all Mets by scoring 9 runs in 13 post-season games.
It wasn't just hitting that powered the team, it was the timely late innings rallies that propelled these Mets to a World Championship. It seemed that a new hero emerged every game.
First it was Mookie Wilson. And when popular center fielder got injured, the aggressive Lenny Dykstra took up the slack. Dykstra's all-around play in center and clutch-hitting dislodged Wilson after he returned to the team. Dykstra staying in center while Mookie was shifted to left.
Catcher Gary Carter and third baseman Ray Knight had Mets' fans cheering with their game-winning hits. Also taking the part of hero-for-the-day were infielder Tim Teufel, platoon outfielder Danny Heep, infielder/outfielder Howard Johnson, and of course, Darry Strawberry and Keith Hernandez.
However, even though the 1986 New York Mets won the their division, the mission wasn't yet completed. The Mets then-went-on and took Houston in 6 games (4 games to 2) then rallied to beat Boston 4 games to 3 in the 1986 World Series.
baseballhistorian.com - The History of Baseball - 1986 New York Mets