what team is this?: the 1988 national league east division champion new york mets
why this team?: this team wasn't too different from the 1986 world champions, winning 100 games for the second (and to date, last) time in franchise history. the '86 squad won 108 games while this team hit the century mark on the nose. they won the east by 15 games over the pirates and were 10-1 in the regular season against the nl west champion dodgers. as a result, they were heavy favorites going into the nlcs, but were defeated by orel hershiser and company in 7 games.
which players are featured?: the same folks we saw in the 1986 team post, except for jesse orosco (now with the dodgers) and ray knight - darryl strawberry, dwight gooden, gary carter, howard johnson, keith hernandez, lenny dykstra, mookie wilson, wally backman, and sid fernandez.
why these players?: well, we've got the runner up in the mvp vote, the all-star game starting pitcher, and most of the team's starting lineup. let's break it down.
darryl strawberry, the mets' right fielder, led the national league in home runs and ops in 1988, but lost the mvp to kirk gibson. it was not his last great season (that came in 1990), but he did score over 100 runs for the second and final time in his career that year. come playoff time, strawberry did well, hitting .300 in the seven game series against the dodgers with a home run, 6 rbi and an ops of .810.
dwight gooden was the national league's starting pitcher at the midsummer classic who wound up 18-9 on the year with a 3.19 era. his 6.3 k/9 ratio was the lowest of his career at that point, and he didn't post a lower ratio until 1997 with the yankees. in the nlcs, gooden started games 1 and 4, and relieved in game 7. he got a no-decision in the mets' game 1 victory, striking out 10 in 7 innings, and then went 8 and a third innings in game 4, but was pulled two batters after allowing mike scioscia's huge game-tying home run. in game 7, gooden pitched 3 innings in relief of starter ron darling, who was charged with 6 runs in one inning of work although gooden allowed a couple of inherited runners to score.
gary carter was the mets' primary catcher for the last time in 1988. he appeared in 130 games, 119 of them while donning the tools of ignorance. he hit .242 on the season with just 11 home runs and a paltry 46 rbi - a function of hitting 7th in the lineup for parts of the season i would guess. in the nlcs, carter hit just .222 with a couple of extra base hits, one of which was a triple.
howard johnson had a bret saberhagen thing going on in the mid to late 1980's. in the odd years, hojo was a 30/30 machine with a decent average, surpassing 30 homers and 30 steals in 1985, 1987, and 1989. in the even years, however, he didn't so as well. in 1988 for example, he hit only .230 and was a 20/20 player (24 homers and 23 steals). he spent most of the season as the mets' third baseman, but was used primarily at shortstop in the nlcs. in that series, he was just 1 for 18. he got his lone hit in his second at bat of game 5, which meant that he had extended his postseason hitless streak which began in the 1984 world series and continued in the 1986 postseason to 22 at bats. ouch.
keith hernandez won his last career gold glove in 1988, even though he only made 90 starts at first base during the season. he hit just .276 - his lowest average since 1978 - and shared time with dave magadan in the field. he hit .279 in the nlcs with a home run and 5 rbi.
lenny dykstra spent his last full season with the mets in 1988, as he was dealt to the phillies during the 1989 campaign. in '88, he patrolled center field and hit .429 in the nlcs, although he started only 4 of the 7 games.
mookie wilson hit .296 in 1988 (also his final full season with the mets), playing all three outfield positions and appearing in 112 regular season games. he started 3 of the first 4 games of the nlcs in center field, but gave way to dykstra for the final 3 games of the series.
wally backman hit .303 in 99 games for the 1988 mets, playing at second base as part of a platoon with tim teufel for davey johnson's squad. he hit .273 in the nlcs with a double and a stolen base to his credit, getting 6 of the 7 starts against the dodgers.
sid fernandez was 12-10 despite a 3.03 era in 1988. he had his traditionally low whip as well, but i didn't see too many losses that he didn't deserve after a quick look at his game log. there were some no-decisions that he deserved to win, however. he finished the season on a high note, as his last 6 decisions were victories, and he won his last four starts. he didn't appear in the nlcs until game 5, however, as he got the start in the day game that followed the game 4 12-inning affair. he lasted just four-plus innings, giving up 6 runs including a 3-run home run to kirk gibson in the fifth which was the knock out blow for fernandez and the mets in that game.
the stadium on the back is…?: shea stadium. i mentioned in the 1986 team post that the photo is from a game in 1983.
did upper deck get it right?: like i said in the 1988 dodger team post, the 1988 a's should have been included in the set. having said that, the mets also have a place on the checklist, even if there are no new players featured beyond the 1986 subset. the player selection is solid, however, as upper deck gave us 7 of the 9 regulars (kevin elster and kevin mcreynolds are missing) along with two-fifths of the starting rotaion. a case could be made for mcreynolds, as well as david cone (20-3), ron darling, roger mcdowell, randy myers, and even manager davey johnson and late season call-up sensation gregg jefferies as other folks deserving of inclusion. cone especially would have made sense, since he then could have also been included as part of the 1995 yankees (yet to be featured on the blog), and johnson had already been featured in the set with the 1969 and 1970 baltimore orioles, so it would have been easy to fit him in here as well.
as for the photos, they all look good based on the uniforms except for keith hernandez (his photo comes from sometime between 1983 and 1986 based on the script 'mets' on the away jersey) and wally backman (his photo looks to be from anywhere between 1982 and 1984 based on the blue jersey). gary carter's photo is inconclusive because of the chest protector, but i'll give upper deck the benefit of the doubt for a change.
is this team timeless?: nope. the 1986 team that won the world series certainly is, but this team became an afterthought once they lost the nlcs to the dodgers.