this post covers the 1986 new york mets and cards numbered 255 to 264 in the set. here are the fronts:
what team is this?: the 1986 world champion new york mets
why this team?: the 1986 mets won 108 games en route to the nl east title, beat the astros in an epic 6-game nlcs, and then defeated the boston red sox in dramatic fashion to win their second world championship as a franchise.
which players are featured?: darryl strawberry, dwight gooden, gary carter, jesse orosco, keith hernandez, lenny dykstra, mookie wilson, ray knight, wally backman, and sid fernandez.
why these players?: this is a good representation of the 1986 team. pretty much all of the regulars (no rafael santana, though) plus three of the main pitchers on the staff. still, let's break it down.
darryl strawberry was just 24 in 1986, yet it was his fourth full season in the majors. he went 20/20 for the third straight year, with 27 homers and 28 steals. on the down side, his batting average was just .259 and he struck out a career high 141 times. he hit .227 with 2 homers in the nlcs against the astros (one off of nolan ryan), and .208 with a solo shot and 3 steals against boston in the world series.
dwight gooden had strawberry beat - he was just 21 in 1986, his third season in the majors. after posting an insane 1.53 era and a 24-4 record in 1985, gooden came back to earth a bit with a 2.84 era and 17-6 record in 1986. he made 4 postseason starts, two in each series, but was 0-3 overall. he lost game 1 of the nlcs 1-0 against mike scott (who was named series mvp despite being on the losing end), and then pitched 10 innings in game 5, allowing just one run. the mets eventually won that game in the 12th inning. in the world series, however, gooden didn't pitch as well. he was the losing pitcher in both game 2 and game 5, allowing a total of 8 earned runs in 9 innings of work.
gary carter had joined the mets in 1985, and in 1986 he finished third in the league mvp voting. he drove in over 100 runs for the third year in a row and the last time in his career. the 1986 postseason was the first time carter had returned since the 1981 nlcs in which his expos lost to the dodgers. he hit .207 against the astros in the nlcs, and then had 2 homers (both in game 4) and 9 rbi against the red sox in the fall classic. his biggest hit may have been his two-out single in the bottom of the 10th in game 6 to start the mets' unbelievable comeback.
jesse orosco is the all-time leader in games pitched. he was also the oldest player in the majors for a few years. and, he was a dodger double dipper. despite all that, jesse orosco is probably best remembered as the reliever who threw his glove to the sky at the completion of game 7 of the 1986 world series. during the regular season, orosco was the southpaw part of a closer platoon with roger mcdowell. he saved 21 games to mcdowell's 22, and had 2 more in the world series, including the game 7 clincher. orosco also won 3 games in the nlcs, thanks to all the extra innings and late inning met heroics.
keith hernandez finished fourth in the league mvp voting, behind mike schmidt, glenn davis, and teammate gary carter. he won his 9th straight gold glove (his streak started after steve garvey had won four straight), and also hit .310 with a league-leading 94 walks. he hit .269 and .231 in the nlcs and world series, respectively, but that's ok - he's keith hernandez.
lenny dykstra was a 23-year old spark plug for the 1986 mets. he hit .295 with 31 steals during the regular season, and in the nlcs the leadoff hitter hit .304 with 3 extra base hits and 3 rbi, including what turned out to be the series winning rbi in game 6. he also hit .296 with 2 home runs in the world series.
mookie wilson made the move from center to left field in 1986 to accommodate dykstra. he is best remembered for hitting (as vin scully said) 'a little roller up along first' that got 'through buckner' and allowed ray knight to score the winning run in game 6 of the world series. he hit just .115 in the nlcs and .269 in the world series otherwise.
ray knight, as mentioned above, scored the winning run in that wild 10th inning of game 6. he was also the mvp of the world series, hitting .391 with a home run and 5 rbi. 1986 was his third (and final) season with the mets, but the only season in which he was their full-time third baseman.
wally backman, the mets' second baseman, hit .320 in 124 games during the regular season. in the postseason, he hit .238 in the nlcs and .333 in the world series. despite the low average in the nlcs, backman contributed some key plays. his bunt single in the 9th inning of game 3 sparked the game winning rally, although it was not so much of a rally as it was a two-run walk-off homer by dykstra, and backman also scored the winning runs in games 5 and 6.
sid fernandez won a career high 16 games in 1986. nicknamed 'el sid' which is spanish for 'the sid' (thank you for the inspiration, chris farley), fernandez lost his only nlcs start (game 4) and then was moved to the bullpen for the world series. after allowing a run and 3 hits in a third of an inning in game 2, fernandez was lights out. he pitched 4 innings of shutout ball while striking out 5 in an appearance in game 5, and then turned in a key 2 and a third innings of hitless relief in game 7.
the stadium on the back is...?: shea stadium. in the 1969 mets post, i just noted that the photo wasn't from 1969 due to the presence of the diet coke sign. let's try to figure out just when that photo was taken. using the scoreboard, we know that the mets are hosting the astros. it's 3:05 in the afternoon, and the game is in the top of the 6th. it looks like the mets have only 1 hit and have yet to score, and the count is 1-0 on ed taubensee with 1 out. ok baseball reference, do your thing! and...my money is on april 11, 1993.
did upper deck get it right?: it's hard to argue with the player selection - sorry rafael santana. certainly, bob ojeda and ron darling were also strong starters on the team (ojeda led the staff in wins and era), and roger mcdowell led the team in saves. any of those three would have also made sense. the biggest headscratcher in terms of personnel featured however is davey johnson. johnson was the manager of the team, and was included in the set with one of the orioles teams. i am not sure why upper deck didn't add him to this team subset as well.
as for the photos, most of them match with the uniforms the mets were wearing in 1986. in fact, backman's card shows what i believe to be a photo from the world series. same for orosco. there are two cards, however, whose images don't work with 1986. keith hernandez's image is from no earlier than 1988 (that's when the team introduced the away grays with 'new york' on them, according to baseball reference), and mookie wilson's photo comes from 1980, 1981, or 1982 based on the collar and the lack of striping on the sleeves.
i would have liked the 1986 astros to have been included in the set, but you can't disagree with the angels, red sox, and mets. still, with nolan ryan and personal favorite davey lopes already in the checklist, upper deck could have made it happen.
is this team timeless?: no doubt about it - the '86 mets are a timeless bunch.