“Bring your kids to see our kids!”

So went the lame entreaty from the Mets to bring your kiddies, bring your wife out to the ol’ ballpark: Shea Stadium, 1978 vintage. The fossil front office tried to drum up interest in a whole new crop of Mets. In the absence of Tom Seaver, Dave Kingman, Bud Harrelson, Felix Millan, Jon Matlack, John Milner, Jerry Grote and player-Joe Torre – all either traded, non-retained as free agents or retired — the idea was that a bunch of semi-raw youngsters could generate excitement and gut their way into the NL East pennant race. Yep. In the same division as the ferocious Phillies of Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Greg Luzinski, as well as the soon-to-be “Fam-A-Lee” in Pittsburgh and the emerging Andre Dawson/Steve Rogers Expos. Somehow, the Cro-Magnons upstairs at Shea convinced themselves that the likes of Steve Henderson, Mike Bruhert, Joel Youngblood and Alex Trevino could compete. At the very least, if they were going to finish last, they would do it cheaply.

1978 yearbookIt is understandable if this sounds painfully, depressingly familiar. It just hasn’t been as drawn out as the situation 35 years ago. The Monday news of the shelving of Matt Harvey and his wonky forearm brought a gloom to the fan base really not seen since Seaver was heartlessly dispatched to southern Ohio. Hard on the heels of that bit of cheer, Marlon Byrd and John Buck were both shuttled to Pittsburgh in an admittedly shrewd deal, which may have netted the Mets their second baseman and closer of the future. Looking at the reality, neither Byrd nor Buck was figuring into the team’s plans for 2014. Fine, we get that. The problem here, though, is that with David Wright in dry dock with a bad hamstring, the removal of Byrd and Buck has thus taken away the team’s top three 2013 home run hitters. The active leader right now, then, is Lucas Duda with 11. Lucas Duda has missed 46% of the season due to injury and ineffectiveness. Daniel Murphy – who plays second base, not what you would call and “offensive” or “power” position — is right behind Duda, with a nice round 10. In place of the lost, we get to see Matt den Dekker make his major league debut. One can only hope that he can replicate Youngblood’s production. How sad is that?

If this column is taking on a funereal tone – and this isn’t the only one doing that today around here – it is because the hope generated for the future has been lost for the moment. The “kids to kids” veil was pretty thin in 1978 – even to a budding, 13-year-old intrepid columnist – and the idea is bitter medicine now, even looked at coldly, without that kind of pig’s lipstick. The best case scenario is that a few of these kids become half-decent major leaguers.

And how often do the Mets and their fans get to see the best case scenario?

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley

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8 comments on “Mets This Week: Reminders Of The Late-‘70s

  • metsilverman.com

    Charlie,
    I was also 13 in 1978 and like you didn’t fall for what the malarkey the team was trying to dish out, but all I can say–all I can hope–is that the current team is a lot closer to contention than the ’78 crew. (History shows it was still six years–six very long years away.) It is interesting that the Mets are seven points below the ’78 club’s paltry .245 batting average and, yes, their OPS is also 13 points lower. They may not catch the 607 runs scored by the ’78 crew and we can only hope they can surpass “Genius” Joe Torre’s 66 wins of ’78. Where is Joel Youngblood when you need him?

  • Steve Rogers

    One can easily say that the Mets have a brighter future now than they did in 1978. I mean Doubleday/Wilpon was barely on the radar as future Met owners!

    But I don’t know, it would be interesting, depressing, and a bit cathartic, to compare lean “eras” as I’d wager that the years since the 2007 collapse have probably been the worse in team history, with the 2002-2004 years a close second.

    Various reasons go into that opinion more so than statistical performance;

    Both of those eras have come in the thick of the mass media and internet explosion, meaning more insufferable outlets than just biased reporters/columnists in newspapers and talk radio trolls (both callers and hosts) for negative slants,

    Both eras have come during the peak of New York’s post 1980’s renaissance of sorts, so the idea of “how can a team be in this city and be so bad” gets a bigger focus when everything around NYC is proving the slogan “greatest city in the world” to be a factual statement.

    The MFYs have never been bigger in terms of the national spotlight and national popularity since this “run” began with the 1995 “gutty and gritty” Wild Card Winners (and even the team with the best AL record at the time of the 1994 Strike), so you constantly hear the idea that the Mets are “irrelevant” in their own market because of how bad they are as compared to the MFYs being “so good” in the same market. I doubt Art Rust, Jr. or anyone with a sports talk show or column back in that day was making such “Why should we even pay attention to what the Mets are doing” declarations as published material or talking points the way you’d hear today on the radio or in columns and such.

    Eh, just my .02 anyway.

  • steevy

    Hey!Steve Henderson was pretty good(especially after coming up from the minors in 77).The Mets also had Lee Mazzilli,John Stearns.Youngblood was at one point my favorite player,along with Stearns.Than Mookie took over.

    • Charlie Hangley

      As SI noted in 1980, WRT to the Henderson/Youngblood crew: “The Mets have a good bench. Unfortunately, it’s starting.”

  • Steve Rogers

    I’m always slightly bemused at the love that this era Mets tend to get as compared to more recent…emmm…”vintage” lean years (that includes the early 1990s).

    Yeah I’ve made a column pitch for Stearns and Mazz from this era (also Kingman and Matlack, but I’d put them more on the early 1970s side of things) being in the Mets HOF, but there is a “lovable losers” quality to this era that isn’t with the other three more recent crap fest eras.

    • Charlie Hangley

      That’s probably because we’re at a 35-year remove. While we were going through it, those losers were ANYTHING but lovable…

      • metsilverman.com

        I concur. The Yankees won three straight pennants and four division titles in five years (1976-80), including their comeback from 14 games back. Not to say things were crappier in my day, but as one of the few repeat customers among the 700,000 who came to Shea in 1979, I firmly believe the late 1970s to be the nadir of Mets fan existence. And the people running the Mets at this time had their head up their ass–even more than Stevie or Omar–culminating a decade in which no one of relevance was drafted, promoted, and NOT traded besides Lee Mazzilli, who would not have started on most first division teams of the day. But when you’re talking about Mets sucking, there are always so many sides to every argument.

  • […] Charlie Hangley’s piece on this season seemingly turning into 1978 before our eyes made me wonder about lean eras in Met […]

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