Before the start of the 1986 Mets season, then manager Davy Johnson stood in front of all his players in the clubhouse and confidently proclaimed that this would be without a doubt the year in which the New York Mets would go all the way to the World Series and win it.
Coming off of two very successfully seasons in ’84 and ’85 that virtually put the Mets back on the baseball map, fans were also beginning to see the maturation of their farm system in pitcher Dwight Gooden and slugger Darryl Strawberry emerge right before their eyes. Why wouldn’t Johnson feel compelled to profess that his ball club was the best in the business?
Eager to prove the naysayers wrong that the Mets weren’t just a bunch of overfed, immature, downright scum, they fulfilled their manager’s prophecy in dramatic fashion no less and won the whole goddamn thing.
Fast forward to this upcoming season and to present-day Mets manager, Jerry Manuel, who has also made some of his own personal predictions although none as bold as his fiery predecessor’s. Manuel, who will be starting the 2010 season under the veneer of a lame-duck year, stood in front of his players and demanded at the very least fundamental baseball. Instead of using words like achievement and redemption, Manuel spoke in terms of prevention and recovery.
With a large majority of his players returning from the disabled list, Manuel is proceeding with caution. Like any good manager, Manuel would rather have his starting shortstop Jose Reyes available for the duration of the season rather than push him for Opening Day and place his overall status in jeopardy.
Looking back on the 1986 season, the Mets had Dwight Gooden’s dominating pitching, Keith Hernandez’ consistent play both defensively and at the plate, and a lethal combination of power and speed in a young Darryl Strawberry. The Mets along with their manager, Davy Johnson, were ready for greatness.
As for Manuel, with the 2010 season on its way, the focus will be on staying healthy and deciding which reliever will be coming out of his bullpen to set up for his closer.