For the Mets, it's like the late '70s all over again
If you're old enough to remember the Mets of the late 1970s, the 2012 Mets might be ringing a bell for you.
Back then, as now, a group of popular players had just left: Tom Seaver, Tug McGraw; Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran.
The fans were frustrated, then and now, at an ownership group that wouldn't or couldn't spend enough money to keep the team from deteriorating.
And the Mets' spin, then and now, was that it was all part of a long-term plan.
The 2012 Mets are playing at a 77-win pace, whereas their 1977 counterparts finished 64-98.
But their rosters aren't dissimilar, statistically: Both teams had five everyday players worth at least one win above replacement player. (Briefly on this stat, commonly referred to by stats-geeks as WAR: It represents a player's value, measured in wins, over the best available player a team could replace him with.)
The 1977 fivesome was Lenny Randle (4.0), John Stearns (3.2), Steve Henderson (2.5), John Milner (1.6) and Lee Mazzilli (1.0). The 2012 fivesome is David Wright (5.6), Daniel Murphy (1.8), Ruben Tejada (1.8), Scott Hairston (1.5) and Josh Thole (1.1).
In 1977, all five of those players were 28 or younger. Randle played third base, Milner first base, Stearns catcher, and Henderson and Mazzilli were outfielders.
In 2012, four of the five are 29 or younger; Hairston, an outfielder, is a veteran of 32. Wright plays third base, Murphy second base, Tejada shortstop, Thole catcher.
Among pitchers, the 2012 Mets have three with at least one WAR: R.A. Dickey (3.4), Jonathon Niese (1.4), and Johan Santana (1.1). They are unlikely to have any other pitcher reach that threshold; the next two highest on their list, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee, are both out for the season.
The 1977 Mets had three as well (four, really, but by this point in 1977, they'd traded Tom Seaver): Nino Espinosa (3.1), Jerry Koosman (2.7) and Skip Lockwood (1.5). Jon Matlack was just under that threshold at 0.9, while young, talented Pat Zachry and Craig Swan (0.7 and 0.5, respectively), stood ready to play the parts of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.
If that appears to sell Harvey and Wheeler short, consider that Zachry had been a huge prospect and was the center of the Seaver trade, while Swan went on to win an E.R.A. title. The median outcome for the two prospects can't be much different than what the Mets ultimately got from Zachry and Swan.
Median outcome isn't the same thing as predestined outcome, of course: Harvey and Wheeler could turn into the new Seaver and Koosman.
But it is unclear that anything other than hope for the future separates the 2012 team from the 1977 team, which, for those who may not remember, went on to become a 66-96 1978 team and a 63-99 1979 team, before the Mets were sold to a new owner.