Archive for January, 2010

What We Expect and What Happens

Friday, January 29th, 2010

I am now going to come out of hibernation, slowly but surely. I haven’t actually been hibernating, I’ve been working my butt off writing a book that has nothing to do with baseball. But now it is time to get back to baseball blogging.

I had actually been planning to get back into things by writing a “State of Our Union (With the Mets)” piece right around now. The thing is that as I read other blogs, I find that I don’t have much to add to what others are saying. Like most of our most perspicacious bloggers, I am not happy right now. I remain, as I’ve often written, perpetually unhappy with the way in which Mets ownership and management seem chronically to believe that the only things fans care about are winning and losing, and that we have no interest in such things as democratic access to batting practice, making sure that every fan feels as valued as every other, or making sure that fans have wonderful things to remember like Banner Days and Old-Timers Days. I do have hope that the Mets are going to start doing better on that score. But this is an old anger.

I can’t honestly say that I’m angry about the baseball decisions that have been made during this offseason. I am not upset about the Mets not getting any of the players they didn’t get. I am also not convinced, as many others seem to be, that players are steering clear of the Mets. There are all kinds of reasons why particular players may choose to sign with this or that other team. Being rejected by so-so players who are not worth extravagant offers is not necessarily a sign that nobody loves us. I am happy about Bay. I don’t know any more than you do about his knees. But if Bay is well, he at best replaces Delgado’s power in the lineup. That just brings us up to the level of a team that will be fortunate to win 85 games, given a starting roster of five question marks.

The situation we find ourselves in right now is delineated expertly by Greg Prince over at Faith and Fear in Flushing (Identity Issues). The team wasn’t made much better during the off-season. It’s not clear who’s in charge or why they do what they do. But it’s hard to jump on the bandwagon of despair when it’s not clear that anything was even possible that could have plausibly turned our hope into belief. We Mets fans just keep talking across the canasta table in front of the beach cabana. We’re just talking. We won’t know much until later.

Lacking belief, all we have is hope. That is not enough for fans who have been through the particularly cruel dance of dream and disaster we’ve just been through. But hey, as Greg points out without much conviction, there was 1984 and 1997. Things happen. Yeah, and planes sometimes crash.

This has all got me thinking about the history of the Mets in relation to our expectations. For your amusement, I offer a list of how I think the Mets have done in each of their seasons, in relation to the expectations most fans had of them at the beginning of the season. This list can’t be used to predict anything, since only the most recent years may tell us much about the Mets’ current hopes. But this will give you a sense of how reliably our hopes have been rewarded. To give you an idea of what I’m doing here, let me say that if the Mets were to win between 75 and 85 games in 2010, I would say they had done as well as expected. If they won between 85 and 90 games, or made it to the playoffs winning fewer than 85 games, I would say they had performed better than expected. If they won more than 90 games and/or made it at least as far as the NLCS, I would say that they had performed much better than expected. If they won between 70 and 75 games, I would say they performed worse than expected. If they won less than 70 games, I would call their season much worse than expected. You may not agree with all of my judgments, and you are encouraged to offer your input, but I am prepared to defend each of the following categorizations.

In xxxx (year) the Mets did _____

1962 – Worse than expected

1963 – As expected

1964 – As expected

1965 – As expected.

1966 – As expected

1967 – As expected

1968 – As expected

1969 – Much better than expected

1970 – Worse than expected

1971 – As expected

1972 – As expected

1973 – Better than expected

1974 – Worse than expected

1975 – As expected

1976 – As expected

1977 – Worse than expected

1978 – As expected

1979 – As expected

1980 – As expected

1981 – As expected

1982 – As expected

1983 – As expected

1984 – Much better than expected

1985 – Better than expected

1986 – Better than expected

1987 – Worse than expected

1988 – As expected

1989 – Worse than expected

1990 – As expected

1991 – Worse than expected

1992 – Worse than expected

1993 – Much worse than expected

1994 – Better than expected

1995 – As expected

1996 – Worse than expected

1997 – Much better than expected

1998 – As expected

1999 – Better than expected

2000 – As expected

2001 – Worse than expected

2002 – Worse than expected

2003 – Much worse than expected

2004 – Worse than expected

2005 – Better than expected

2006 – Much better than expected

2007 – Worse than expected

2008 – As expected

2009 – Much worse than expected

The breakdown: Much better than expected: 4 Better than expected: 6 As expected: 22 Worse than expected: 13 Much worse than expected: 3.

The Mets, overall, do what they’re expected to do about half the time. When they don’t, they are somewhat more likely to disappoint than to please us. One consolation, I suppose, is that for the past decade, the Mets have shown a real tendency to not perform as they were predicted to perform at the start of the season. The bad news is that they’ve usually been worse. The good news is that if Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, and John Maine perform as well as they did for large portions of the 2007 and 2008 season and if someone new comes out of the blue, the Mets could win the division and who knows what else. Is that good news? No. Is that news? No. There is no news.

*****

There may not be news, but here is a list of some of my upcoming appearances. At each, I will be talking about and reading from my new book, The Last Days of Shea: Delight and Despair in the Life of a Mets Fan. I try to vary my program, so that I do different things at each.

February 6, 11:20 am to noon – This is my time slot as a featured speaker/reader at the annual meeting of the Casey Stengel (New York City) chapter of SABR. This will be a great all-day program of interest to all NYC baseball fans. It will be held from 10:30 to 3:30 at the Mid-Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library, 455 Fifth Avenue (at 40th Street), 6th Floor.  This is the building diagonally across from the one with the lions.  Check out the full program here.

February 9, 7 pm. Greenwich (CT) Library.

February 11, 7 pm Ridgefield (CT) Library

February 23, 7 pm Rye (NY) Library (The Rye Free Reading Room)