NEW YORK -- Being a relatively young franchise has not prevented the expansion Mets from having a number of peaks and valleys over the decades. Their World Series championships in 1969 and 1986 continue to define the organization to this day. Dryer periods in the late 1970s and early 1990s have been less memorable.
Success, of course, is measured in different ways. For example, one of the Mets’ five pennant winners posted one of the best records of any team in Major League history, while another barely finished above .500. Regular-season records may carry less weight now than ever, but they do still matter.
Here are the five best the Mets have produced:
Year: 1986 | Record: 108-54
The ’86 Mets were the best team in franchise history, and it’s not all that close. They won the most games by a wide margin, finishing 108-54. (No National League team has won that many games in a single season since.) The Mets won the World Series as well, and to say they needed a stroke of luck to make that happen would be underselling the true strength of this team. General manager Frank Cashen created a modern blueprint for championship contenders when he constructed the ’86 Mets, building a dynamic core through the Draft (Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden) and supplementing it mostly through trades for Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and many others. The result was a team that had virtually no flaws, save for its own self-destructive nature. The Mets overcame that for one season only, putting it all together in 1986.
Year: 1988 | Record: 100-60
If the ’86 Mets were a marvel, the teams that followed were relative disappointments. The 1987 Mets won 16 fewer games than their predecessors, despite competing with largely the same roster. The ’88 Mets rebounded to win 100 games, becoming the third team in franchise history to reach that mark, but they lost to a 94-win Dodgers team in a memorable seven-game National League Championship Series. Orel Hershiser threw a shutout in the deciding Game 7 of that series, and just like that, a potential dynasty found its end. The Mets dropped to an 87-win team in 1989 and were only competitive for one more season after that, before descending into the Flushing Dark Ages of the early 1990s.
Year: 1969 | Record: 100-62
The ’69 Mets were the antithesis of the ’86 team in so many ways. Far from a dominant team, they needed a miracle second-half run just to win the NL East (though they wound up doing so by eight games). They were heavy underdogs in the World Series to the Orioles, largely because their offense was relatively weak. But manager Gil Hodges squeezed the most out of his roster, revolutionizing the use of platoons to make the Mets greater than the sum of their parts. That, along with a dynamic pitching staff led by Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, was enough for the Mets to buck expectations en route to the first World Series title in franchise history.
Year: 1985 | Record: 98-64
If the 1987-88 Mets were a model of lost potential, the ’85 Mets were a beacon of success to come. The ’85 season was Carter’s first in New York and statistically his best, with 32 homers and an .853 OPS. It was also the finest performance for Gooden, who won the NL Cy Young Award with a campaign that was, statistically, one of the most dominant by a pitcher in modern baseball history. With most of their ’86 core already in place, the Mets stayed in contention until the final week of the season, when they dropped three of their last four to finish three games back of the pennant-winning Cardinals. Had the Wild Card been in play in 1985, there’s no telling what the Mets might have accomplished.
Year: 2006 | Record: 97-65
Like the 2000 and 2015 Mets, the ’06 club was a fan favorite. Unlike those other two, the ’06 Mets didn’t win the pennant, instead losing a gut-wrenching NL Championship Series to St. Louis. Still, this was the best of the mid-aughts Mets rosters, featuring in-their-prime versions of David Wright, José Reyes, Carlos Beltrán, Carlos Delgado and more. Pitching was a bit of an issue, though not as much as it would be for the ’07 team that followed. One of the more disappointing aspects of the 2006 Mets was not that they lost to a Cardinals team that went on to win the World Series, but that they failed to build off their successes in the years to come. Instead, this young, talented core never won a National League pennant.