As Keith Hernandez handles the pregame and postgame show of the Astros – Dodgers World Series, it is incredible to think how nearly 30 years ago, it would be the postseason series against both of these teams that would truly mark the rise and fall of those 1980s Mets teams.
After consecutive years of knocking on the door, the 1986 Mets destroyed the National League having a historically great season winning 108 games. The only thing standing in their way from going to the World Series as the Houston Astros and a pair of aces in Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan. It should not be lost on anyone both were former Mets prospects at one time.
The Mets would need miracle after miracle to win that series. Lenny Dykstra would hit the first walk-off postseason in Mets history. Darryl Strawberry homered off Ryan on a day when he looked as unhittable as he ever did. The Mets rallied from down 3-0 in Game Six to force extras and win that game in 16 innings. Famoulsy, Jesse Orosco struck out Kevin Bass for the final out after Hernandez threatened to fight him if he threw another fastball.
Perhaps on the strength of that series, the Mets were able to dig deep and find something during a World Series against the Red Sox where they found themselves down 0-2 at one point and were losing Game Six by two runs in the bottom of the 10th.
This should have been the springboard for a Mets dynasty. The attempt was stalled during a 1987 season with pitcher injuries and a Dwight Gooden suspension. In 1988, the Mets seemed back on track winning 100 games and facing a Dodgers team they beat 10 out of 11 times during the regular season.
Instead of another great World Series run, the greatest Mets run really came to a stop there. The two captains who were instrumental in helping this Mets team reach their potential, Hernandez and Gary Carter, struggled over the final three games getting one hit a piece. Davey Johnson over-managed starting Gooden on three days rest in Game Four and then not pulling him for the lights out Randy Myers for the ninth. Instead of a 3-1 strangle hold on the series, Mike Scioscia hit a long game tying two run homer off Gooden tying the game. It was all finally over when the Dodgers scored six off Ron Darling in one plus innings in Game Seven.
Just like that the Mets magical run was over. There would be second place finishes in 1989 and 1990, but the team never really competed for the division again. Carter and Hernandez had injury plagued seasons in 1989, and they were elsewhere in 1990. Johnson was fired early in 1990, and Strawberry was off to the Dodgers that offseason.
Twenty-nine years later, the World Series features the two teams that bookended what could have been a Mets dynasty. The door was opened with a win against the Astros in the 1986 NLCS, and it was closed with a shocking loss to the Dodgers in the 1988 NLCS. Since that time, the Mets have tried to break through, but ultimately, they have never been able to build what Frank Cashen built in the 1980s. Perhaps, the Mets never will again.