Saturday, April 26, 2014

How Do They Do It? ... How Do They Do It? ... Mirrors!

Hot Foot from 1986 Mets: A Year to Remember from The Wright Stache on Vimeo.

In 1986, the New York Mets steamrolled their way through the National League East en route to a World Series victory.  After the season, the Mets produced a VHS tape (for all you kids out there, a VHS tape was a rectangular prism that was inserted into a bulky machine called a video cassette recorder - or VCR for short - for video playback) featuring highlights of their historic campaign.

One memorable segment in the "1986 Mets - A Year To Remember" video cassette features Roger McDowell and Howard Johnson sharing the secrets of how to make a perfect hotfoot - a practical joke that usually ended up with a teammate or coach's shoe catching fire.  (This practice has since been discontinued because current Mets trainer Ray Ramirez has enough problems on his hands messing up other treatments of injuries.  If you were a Met, would you trust him with a fire extinguisher?)

When McDowell rolls a wad of gum onto the hotfoot to use as an adhesive, Johnson asks him, "How does he do it?  How does he do it?", referring to McDowell's gum-rolling technique.  Without missing a beat or taking the sticky gum out of his mouth, McDowell candidly says, "Mirrors".

Twenty-eight years after Mets fans were educated on the McDowellian way to make a hotfoot, the current generation of Metropolitan boosters are asking how the 2014 squad are doing it this year.  Mirrors must certainly be involved.  After all, how else can this team be 13-10 with the following things not going as planned?

  • Jenrry Mejia is the only starting pitcher with a winning record.  Dillon Gee has a 1-1 record, while the other three starters (Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese, Bartolo Colon) are all one game under .500.
  • Four different relief pitchers have recorded a save for the Mets.  And none of those "closers" is named Bobby Parnell, who was the the Mets' ninth-inning man on Opening Day.
  • The only Met hitting above .290 is Juan Lagares, who hasn't played in nearly two weeks.  Four of the eight regulars in the lineup (Eric Young Jr., Travis d'Arnaud, Ruben Tejada, Curtis Granderson) are hitting .225 or lower.  Of those four, d'Arnaud has the highest slugging percentage at .295, which doesn't even qualify as a good on-base percentage.
  • New York is one of six teams in baseball to have as many as four pitchers with one or more blown saves, as Bobby Parnell, Jose Valverde, Scott Rice and Gonzalez Germen have all coughed up late-inning leads.  Four of the other five teams on this list do not have winning records and are all either in last place or within one game of the cellar.
  • The Mets have played ten games in which their hitters combined to strike out at least ten times.  They are one of eight teams who can claim this.  But somehow, they've gone 7-3 in those high-strikeout games.  None of the other seven teams is above .500 in their 10+ strikeout games.

Curtis Granderson has a low batting average and a high strikeout rate, but he also has a high walk-off celebration rate.

No one is confusing the 2014 Mets with their 1986 counterparts.  The '86 team was supposed to be good, coming off back-to-back 90+ win campaigns.  This year's model, on the other hand, is trying not to post the franchise's sixth consecutive losing season.

Two years before becoming world champions, the 1984 Mets went 90-72 despite allowing 24 more runs than they scored.  This year's team has been outscored by three runs, yet they have a 13-10 record.  Only five other teams in baseball (Detroit, Oakland, Texas, Atlanta, Milwaukee) can claim a higher winning percentage than the .565 mark posted by the Mets.

Are these Mets trying to become the second coming of the 1984 team?  Will they make Sandy Alderson look like a prophet by reaching 90 victories, just like the '84 squad did?

Roger McDowell might have used mirrors to create the perfect hotfoot, but the 1986 club needed no such help to win the way everyone expected them to.  The 2014 Mets are clearly using something to rack up win after win.  It's not pine tar (that's the Yankee way) and it's certainly not because they're loaded with All-Stars.  But there's certainly something special coming together at Citi Field in 2014.  And if the team continues to win the way they have over the past three weeks, they just might mirror the squad that brought life back to Flushing thirty years ago.

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