2015 has been crazy and unexpected, but that's nothing new
By Marty Noble
NEW YORK -- The 2015 World Series already is a surprise party because the Mets are involved. When the season began, the Mets reaching the postseason was difficult to imagine, and by midseason, when David Wright was an observer, Travis d'Arnaud was also on the DL and a three-run rally was a fantasy, it was unfathomable. But here they are, alive and well, operative well into Reggie's month and surprising us at every turn.
As Halloween approaches, Daniel Murphy is masquerading as Babe Ruth, the starting pitchers have disguised themselves as Murderers' Row-tation and all the flaws that were so conspicuous at times in the regular season have been masked.
Beginning with the home run hat trick by Kirk Nieuwenhuis in July, this Mets' season has been, in the words of Gomer Pyle, "Surprise, surprise, surprise."
But of course, the Mets often have provided the unexpected and the unlikely in their 54 seasons. Herein, MLB.com presents what it considers the 41 most unlikley occurrences in Mets history. Why 41? It's a salute to Tom Seaver, of course. The Franchise became a most pleasant surprise for the franchise.
20. Pitcher Steven Matz delivered three hits and four runs in his big league debut, June 28, 2015.
19. A truly remarkable sequence of events beginning on July 29 had greater nationwide impact than Matz' performance. According to the Brewers, they had struck a deal that night with the Mets that would have sent Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler to the Brewers in exchange for Carlos Gomez. The Mets never announced the trade, but a newspaper report and social media spread the word.
Fans seated near the Mets' on-deck circle at Citi Field alerted Flores to the deal, and subsequent ovations afforded him supported the story. Struck by the seeming likelihood that he would be leaving the organization that had signed him at age 16, Flores openly wept as he took his position at shortstop for the top of the eighth inning. And he was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the ninth.
The scenario became celebrated throughout the media -- social and mainstream -- the following day. Two nights later, Flores made a handsome play at second base, drove in the Mets' first run and hit a final-pitch, 12th-inning home run to secure a 2-1 victory against the first-place Nationals in the first game of a critical series at Citi Field. And on that night, the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers, a deal that initiated a stunning about-face in their season, a season that may force its way into this retrospective of unlikelies.
18. Leading the division by seven games with 17 games remaining in the 2007 season, the Mets lost six of their last seven games and 12 of their final 17 to finish one game behind the Phillies in the National League East and in third place in the Wild Card standings. Implausible.
17. The Mets lost Seaver to the White Sox in the free-agent compensation pool on Jan. 20, 1984. As the story goes, taking Seaver was the White Sox's revenge for the Mets' opposition to the Sox launching a cable "superstation."
16. Doug Flynn was a slick fielder whose offensive contributions were mostly modest. On Aug. 5. 1980, when his career slugging percentage stood at .298, he tripled three times against the Expos at Shea Stadium. His hat trick still stands as a Mets record.
15. The Mets scored nine runs and Jay Hook pitched a complete game at Forbes Field against the Pirates on April 23, 1962. He won, and for the first time in their history -- in their 10th game -- the Mets did, too.
14. After being ejected in the top of the 12th inning for disputing a call of catcher's interference, manager Bobby Valentine returned to the dugout in disguise -- T-shirt, mustache and sunglasses -- in the 14th inning. Plate umpire Randy Marsh, unaware of Valentine's shenanigans at the time, eventually reported the manager. Valentine was suspended for three games and fined $5,000.
13. Veteran second baseman Luis Castillo muffed a quite catchable popup with two out in the ninth inning of the Mets' game at Yankee Stadium on June 12, 2009. Two runs scored and the Mets lost, 9-8.
12. Al Weis had hit six home runs in 1,449 career at-bats when he faced Orioles lefty Dave McNally in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the 1969 World Series. He hit his lone postseason home run (in 12 at-bats) and his lone career home run at Shea (in 273 at-bats). They were the Miracle Mets, weren't they?
11. Unconvinced by what they had witnessed firsthand, the Mets re-signed Oliver Perez for three years and $36 million. He hardly earned his keep.
10. Nieuwenhuis, a headline writer's worst nightmare, had hit 13 home runs in 489 big league at-bats before he hit three in three at-bats at Citi Field on July 12, 2015.
9. Ron Swoboda's diving catch in Game 4 of the '69 World Series was a stunner. It was neither a well-conceived attempt nor an essential out achieved. Moreover, Swoboda was a challenged defender. But that attempt and the improbable catch were consistent with what those Mets were and what they did that year.
8. The Wall Ball in 1973. So many factors in that stunning play favored the Mets. The Cleon Jones-to-Wayne Garrett-to-Ron Hodges relay produced a critical out at the plate -- Richie Zisk of Pittsburgh was the victim, but it didn't win the pennant for the Mets. To those who believe in omens, however, it strongly suggested they would.
7. Trailing the Braves 8-1 through 7 1/2 innings at Shea, the Mets scored 10 times in the eighth and won 11-8 on June 30, 1999. The final three runs were the product of a stunning home run off the bat of Mike Piazza, pulled down the left-field line.
6. The most widely recognized and strangely appreciated void in Mets history created a curious distinction because their history was so steeped in dominant pitching performances. Until June 1, 2012, when Johan Santana eliminated the haunting double negative -- no no-no -- from the team's lexicon, generations of Mets pitchers had started 8,019 games without throwing a no-hitter. No franchise had played more games from the beginning of its existence without one. So the start at Citi Field against the Cardinals by Santana would have qualified as a shocker on its own merit. But that Santana had overcome so much just to be on the mound and that he was supposed to be on a pitch count made the scenario implausible.
5. Without question, the stakes never had been higher for the Mets when they opposed the Orioles in '69. And the stark contrast between how Mets teams had acquitted themselves in their first seven summers and the conquest of the favored O's qualifies that World Series result as more than unlikely. But the Mets hardly had snuck up on the O's. They had won 100 games, thrown 16 shutouts in their final 58 regular-season games and crushed the Braves in the NL Championship Series. Moreover they had that black cat on their side. But with retrospect available, what some consider the greatest upset in World Series history doesn't qualify here as the most improbable development in franchise history.
4. Given what the Reds had been in 1970 and '72, champions of the NL, and the rampaging powerhouse they became in the mid-'70s, what the Mets accomplished against them in October '73 was mind-boggling. Power pitching often prevails in the postseason, but for the "Ya Gotta Believe" Mets to deny the Reds in such a convincing manner in the NLCS stands above all but three of the implausible developments in the history of the franchise.
3. Having established a career high in home runs, 14, in the 2015 regular season, Murphy hit a home run in six consecutive postseason games, including each of the games in the Mets' four-game sweep of the Cubs in the NLCS, and in doing so, established a record for home runs in successive postseason games.
2. That the Mets won 100 games in '69 after winning more than 66 just once in their first seven seasons was more amazing -- make that amazin' -- than their '69 postseason exploits because it required extended excellence by a club that never had produced a season that approached mediocrity.
1. The three-run rally initiated after two outs by Mets in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the '86 World Series stands as the single most improbable development in franchise history. That they had tied the score on successive hits by Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight and a wild pitch -- which should have been scored a passed ball -- trumps even what followed, the ground ball by Mookie Wilson that bounced through the legs of Billy Buckner and into history. But taken as one unforgettable improbability, the inning stands as the most implausible of the multitude of Mets unlikelies.
Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.