How the Mets Were a Few Pitches Away From Three World Series Titles Since 2000 (Part 1 – 2000)

I’m still not over 2015, I’m still not over 2006, hell, I’m still not over 2000 and I was only two-and-a-half. I watched the Mets lose the 2000 World Series on TV, watched Carlos Beltran strikeout to end the NLCS in 2006 on TV and watched Matt Harvey stay in for the ninth and the Royals defeat the Mets in the 2015 World Series live in person. It was cool to see a team win the World Series but heartbreaking to see it against the team you bleed. I’ve been a Mets fan for eighteen years now—ever since my step-father entered my life I have been a Mets fan since. My true following of the team, when I was old enough to sort of understand, began in 2006. My first year of watching baseball, my team lost the World Series. My first year of following baseball, my team was a strike away from the World Series. In 2015, the first year I was old enough to appreciate the fact that my team had made the playoffs, they lost the World Series. The Mets are 0-2 in my lifetime in the World Series. Yes, it’s a great accomplishment to even see my team in the World Series in my lifetime, but honestly, I think the Mets could have had three additional World Series titles in my lifetime had a few plays gone differently and had the Mets not, well, “Mets-ed it up.” 

The 2000 World Series was one every New York baseball fan has dreamed about since the Mets inception in 1962. A battle between the city reminiscent of when the New York Giants and The Brooklyn Dodgers would square off against the Yankees all the time. The 2000 Mets exceeded their expectations; they finished 94-68, a game back of the Braves, and earned the NL Wild Card spot. They weren’t a powerhouse team by any means, their offense was average and so was their pitching. Not great in any one particular aspect, like the current Mets and their starting rotation, but they were a good team. The team was led by Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo on offense and Al Leiter and Mike Hampton on defense. Piazza and Alfonzo both hit .324 that year, and the whole rotation had 11+ wins a piece, not that average and wins are regarded as important in today’s game. Armando Benitez and John Franco held down the bullpen. In the playoffs the Mets were able to defeat the Giants 3-1 in the NLDS and defeat the Cardinals 4-1 in the NLCS. This brought them to a matchup with the team that the Mets always find themselves in the shadow of. 

The 2000 Yankees finished 87-74 and were by no means a typical Yankee dynasty team. It was their weakest performance since 1995. The Yankees only made the postseason by two games, finishing two games better than the Red Sox and 4 games worse than the AL Wild Card team. The Yankees actually lost 15 of their last 18 games and ended 2000 on a seven-game losing streak. The Yankees core was still there—Rivera, Posada, Jeter, Pettitte, Williams, Clemens, etc.—but this team just did not perform as well as the other Yankee teams of the time. The Yankees narrowly beat the Moneyball Athletics in the ALDS but easily defeated the Mariners to advance to the World Series.

The Mets could have been World Champions in 2000. No game in the series was decided by more than two runs, three were decided by one run and two were decided by two runs. The Yankees did not overpower or blow out the Mets in any game. The Mets had the lead for the majority of the game in two of the five games and blew the lead late, like the 2015 Mets. The Mets had the 3rd best pitching in all of baseball in 2000, according to FanGraphs. It was not normal for their pitching staffs to blow leads and give up home runs to players who normally don’t hit home runs. The Mets pitching led the league in Clutch measurements with a 5.74 (for scale the Marlins were 2nd with 3.10). This stat proves that Benitez and the bullpen were able to lock down in the 9th inning and not blow leads. The Yankees had a -0.54 clutch factor. This makes all these postseason walk-offs and heroic home runs unlikely for the Bombers. The Mets pitching WPA on the season was 4.81, good for 5th in the MLB and their offensive WPA was 3.94, which was 6th in the MLB.

In Game 1, the Mets had a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. Armando Benitez retired Jorge Posada to get the first out, he needed only two more outs. Benitez walked Paul O’Neil on a 3-2 count and then gave up back to back singles. After that he allowed the tying run to score on a sacrifice fly by Chuck Knoblauch. In the 12th, the Mets were one out away from forcing another inning but would end up losing the game on a walk-off single. The Yankees had won a decisive game that I believe if the Mets wouldn’t have blown the lead, it would have changed the course of the series.

In Game 2, the Mets were down 6-0 heading into the 9th inning and did something very few teams in history have done, they got to Mariano Rivera. After Rivera came in with the game 6-2, he allowed two runners to get on base and then gave up a home run to make the game 6-5, that home run was arguably a rally killer as one more man on base would have tied the game, and Kurt Abbot ended up striking out looking to end the game. Think of how impressive it is to score a run off of Rivera, no less score four runs in the World Series. This was another game the Mets, could have won, and should have won had the Mets not let four runs score with two outs in the first, fifth and eighth innings. The Mets won game three, so at this point, the series should have at worst been 2-1 Mets heading into the second game at Shea Stadium. The Mets allowed the Yankees to score three easy runs in the first three innings of this game, including a home run to Jeter on the first pitch of the game, and immediately answered back with a Piazza home run. In a game where no one really overpowered anyone and both teams looked weak, the Mets could have mustered up a run or prevented a run to win this ball game. By game five, the Mets should have had a 3-1 series lead, not the other way around. 

In Game 5, the Mets had a 2-1 lead heading into the 6th inning when Derek Jeter hit a home run off Al Leiter. Jeter is not a power hitter and Leiter had been lights out all game, so this was unexpected. In the 9th inning, with the score tied and two outs in the inning, Luis Sojo hit a ground ball up the middle that scored two runs on an E8. The Mets were down 4-2 and went on to lose the game and the World Series. The Mets should have won Game 1, they should have won 2 games between Games 2-4 and should have won Game 5. The New York Mets, if they did not make the mistakes the franchise is known for making should have been the 2000 World Series Champions. 

Interestingly enough there was a report in 2007 by Patrick Lyons that stated that the Yankees should be stripped of their 2000 World Series title and the Mets have it. The reasoning was the Mitchell Report, a report given to the Commissioner of baseball concerning the use of steroids and other illegal drugs in baseball. The Mitchell Report listed many names of implied steroid users at the time. Lyons states that “a crucial number of Yankee players were listed in the report, including the starting pitcher in every game.” He also counters that only two Mets players were listed, and they were bench players who had little to no impact on the series. Pete Colaizzo went on to do the math by “adjusting” the results of each game. He removed the “cheater RBI’s” and “cheater strikeouts” and all the “cheater plays” as Lyons described and the result has the Mets winning the series 4-1. Granted, you could do this with any World Series during the ’90s and 2000s and it is not a strong enough argument on its own, but to me, it is a very interesting point and another supporter of just how close the Mets were. 

Featured Photo: slgckgc/Flickr

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