The Return of the 1969 Mets
Bud Harrelson (Photo: Getty Images)
Bud Harrelson (Photo: Getty Images)

Posted Nov 3, 2010


Sometimes it happens. An impostor, a poseur, a fluke, sneaks away with the World Series title. It happened in 1906. It happened in 1914. It happened in 1969. And it sure as shooting (for that’s what they typically do in Texas – shooting -- and that’s what the Rangers did... shot themselves in the foot) just happened in 2010.

Actually, upsets in the World Series aren’t that unusual. It just takes a certain kind of upset to make headlines that suggest that the current WS champion is one of the worst ever. In most cases, it’s a team with very little hitting prowess that gets really good pitching, and rides same all the way to the title. And, in extreme cases of the poseur, in cases where a WS winner should bow down and say, “we’re not worthy,” it’s a team of, to be polite, generally undistinguished talent that somehow sneaks into, and off with, the World Series.

It is still possible that Pablo Sandoval will become a great hitter. And that Buster (Pocket Full of) Posey will become one of the great catchers of all time. Or that Pat Burrell will be one of those sluggers that lasts as a force until he’s 40. Or Aubrey Huff experiences a late-in-career renaissance. Or that Cody Ross is really a great clutch hitter in the postseason. Or that Freddy Sanchez will get 1000 hits in the next five years and end up with another batting title or two (now we’re really starting to stretch). But don’t count on it, because all but the first two scenarios are highly unlikely, and they’d all pretty much have to happen for anyone, 20 years from now, to look back and say, “that 2001 Giants team REALLY was loaded.”

No one who knows anything has ever said that about the 1969 Mets, the poseur poster child of World Series winners. The Mets were, quite simply, a terrible team that took advantage of tremendous pitching and a hot streak late in the season. Put it this way, absent the Tom Seaver-led pitching staff (and certainly no one can deny that Seaver was a great pitcher), the ’69 Mets’ best player over the course of his entire career was probably… wait for it… Donn Clendenon, who couldn’t even spell his first name correctly, and who didn’t even spend the entire year in New York (he came over from the Expos in a trade and only had 202 ABs with the Mets.) Number two was Amos Otis – a fine all-around ballplayer to be sure, but one who, as a rookie with the 1969 Mets, had 93 at bats and hit .151/.202/.204 – that’s right, a .406 OPS.

Herewith are the 1969 Mets who made more than 100 plate appearances with the 1969 Mets, starting with the regulars…

                                    69 OPS+         Career OPS+

Jerry Grote                     84                                83

Ed Kranepool                 87                                97

Ken Boswell                 103                                85

Bud Harrelson                 81                                76

Wayne Garrett                 56                                95

Cleon Jones                  151                                110

Tommy Agee                122                                109

Ron Swoboda                91                                101

                       

Art Shamsky                139                                110

Al Weis                         53                                   59

Rod Gaspar                   66                                   55

Donn Clendenon           114                                116

Bob Pfeil                         49                                 63

J.C. Martin                      59                                 73

Ed Charles                      68                                103

Amos Otis                       13                                114

To coin a phrase… what a bunch of stumblebums. And it wasn’t even a case of a bunch of normally lousy hitters having good years all at once. Only Boswell, Jones, Agee and Shamsky had years significantly better than their career norms, with Jones and Shamsky having huge fluke career years. And, offsetting that were such absolute clunkers as Garrett, Weis, Gaspar, Pfeil and Martin – all of whom had bad years amongst largely undistinguished and short careers.

The 1969 Mets finished, out of 12 teams in the National League,

Seventh in batting average

Eighth in hits

Eighth in home runs

Eighth in stolen bases

Ninth in runs

Tenth in on base percentage

Eleventh in doubles

Eleventh in slugging percentage

Eleventh in OPS

On the other hand, there was the pitching staff

                                    W-L     ERA+

Tom Seaver                  25-7     165

Jerry Koosman             17-9     160

Gary Gentry                 13-12   106

Don Cardwell               8-10     121

Jim McAndrew             6-7       105

And the bullpen was almost as good.

                                                W-L     SV       ERA+

Frank Edwin McGraw              9-3       12        163

Ron Taylor                               9-4       13        134

Nolan Ryan                              6-3       1          104

Cal Koonce                              6-3       7          73

Jack DiLauro                            1-4       1          152

Now maybe Don Cardwell, Cal Koonce and Jack DiLauro weren’t names to strike fear in hitters’ hearts, but any staff with Seaver, Koosman, Ryan and McGraw (two no-questions-asked Hall of Famers, and two stars) doesn’t have anything to apologize for. The Mets’ 1969 pitchers were first in shutouts and hits allowed, second in ERA and runs allowed, third in saves and fourth in strikeouts. Maybe the hitters should have apologized for taking the same bus to all their away games.

The 2010 Giants’ story isn’t quite as extreme, and can’t even be completely written, since most of these guys will be playing somewhere next year. But, it still wasn’t a lineup that featured a single hitter that a good pitcher should normally be afraid of, to say nothing of any realistically potential Hall of Famers…

                                    10OPS+          Career OPS+

Buster Posey                129                  rookie year

Aubrey Huff                 138                  115

Freddie Sanchez           98                    97

Juan Uribe                    99                    85

Pablo Sandoval            95                    120

Andres Torres              119                  100

Pat Burrell                    132                  116

Aaron Rowand             75                    100

Nate Schierholtz           81                    87

Edgar Renteria              90                    94

Bengie Molina              74                    86

Travis Ishikawa            91                    91

Eli Whiteside                86                    70

Jose Guillen                  85                    99

Mark DeRosa              46                    96

Cody Ross                   118                  104

To coin a phrase… what a bunch of mediocrities. Their best hitters in the regular season were either rookies (Posey), guys having career years (Huff, Torres), or guys who only spent part of the season in SF (Burrell, Ross). The bench was terrible and only two regulars throughout the entire season (Huff and Torres) had good years. (Recalling that Posey didn’t come up from the minors until after Molina, another stiff who can’t hit, was shipped off to, of all places, Texas .)

Even with the late-season additions of Burrell, Guillen and Ross, the 2010 Giants finished, out of 16 teams in the NL,

Ninth in runs

Ninth in doubles

Ninth in on base percentage

Thirteenth in walks

Fifteenth in stolen bases

On the other hand, the pitching was,

First in ERA

First in saves

First in hits allowed

First in strikeouts

Second in runs allowed

Third in home runs allowed

                                    W-L     ERA+

Tim Lincecum               16-10   119

Matt Cain                     13-11   130

Jonathan Sanchez         13-9     133

Mason Bumgarner        7-6       136

Barry Zito                     9-14     98

                                    W-L     SV       ERA+

Brian Wilson                 3-3       48        226

Sergio Romo                5-3       0          188

Santiago Casilla            7-2       2          210

Guillermo Mota            1-3       1          94

Jeremy Affeldt              4-3       4          99

Everyone Else               11-0     2

The 1906 White Sox and the 1914 Boston Braves also fit this mold. Without going into excruciating detail, it’s worth noting that the 1906 Sox were eighth, or last, in the American League in hits, home runs, batting average, slugging and total bases – although they did finish third in runs scored, because they played small ball so well. (They were also second in ERA and first in runs allowed.)

This was also a largely undistinguished team of sub-100 career OPS+ batters. (In fact, a lot of them were sub-90.) Outside of future Hall of Famer George Davis, the only hitters worthy of the name over their careers were player/manager Fielder Jones (and that was his real name) and fourth outfielder Patsy Dougherty.

The 1914 Braves actually weren’t outstanding in either hitting or pitching over the course of the season. They just got hot in the second half of a season wherein the National League was pretty well-balanced in the first half of the year. Plus, the three aces of their staff, Dick Rudolph, Bill James (who had a very short career – the other two had sort of average careers) and Lefty Tyler had, what were up to that point, career years and the two best players in the field, Rabbit Maranville and Johnny Evers, while they were both later elected to the Hall of Fame, were both mistakes by the Veterans Committee, and essentially good field, no hit players.

More recently, this same poseur case could be made for the 1987 Twins and the 2006 Cardinals, except that the Twins would also win the 1991 Series and the Cardinals had previously won more than 100 games in both 2004 and 2005… so they were both pretty decent teams that really just won it all with mediocre season records.

You can’t say that for the Giants, and, unless there’s some huge influx of hitting talent in the off-season, you won’t be able to even say that the Giants are repeat National League champions in 2011. Even with a fine pitching staff, they’re poseurs.




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