The Mets hired away manager Jeff Torborg from the Chicago White Sox after he led them to consecutive second place finishes including 94 wins in 1990. The Mets added free agent sluggers Bobby Bonilla and Eddie Murray to solidify the middle of the order. They also signed fundamentally sound free agent 2B Willie Randolph from the Brewers coming off a career season. And 1992 was the season catching prospect Todd Hundley was expected to make his first impact in the major leagues. Using Coleman and Magadan's 1990 seasons, heres what the numbers would have looked like if each player duplicated their prior season's 1991 stats.
Pos Player AVG HR RBI
CF Vince Coleman (1990) .292 6 39 77 SB
2B Willie Randolph .327 0 54
1B Eddie Murray .260 19 96
RF Bobby Bonilla .302 18 100 44 2B
LF Howard Johnson .259 38 117
3B Dave Magadan (1990) .328 6 72
C Todd Hundley (AAA) .273 14 66
SS Kevin Elster .241 6 36
Based on those numbers, I would take that lineup. It may not have been fair to expect Hundley to duplicate his AAA numbers and Randolph to match a batting season that he never came close to throughout his career. But at the time, a Mets fan had every right to think that they were getting close to that. In the 6th game of the season, Kevin Elster suffered a season ending injury which forced the Mets to trade for California Angels SS Dick Schofield. Heres what the prior mentioned players produced in the 1992 season.
Pos Player AVG HR RBI
CF Vince Coleman .275 2 21 24 SB
2B Willie Randolph .252 2 15
1B Eddie Murray .261 16 93
RF Bobby Bonilla .249 19 70
LF Howard Johnson .223 7 43
3B Dave Magadan .283 3 28
C Todd Hundley .209 7 32
SS Dick Schofield .205 4 36
Quite a dropoff. I will not include Hundley who was just a rookie and Schofield who was just not a hitter in my evaluation. Some of this had to do with injuries but the projected 2-5 hitters in the Mets lineup had just 44 homeruns in 1992 after hitting 75 in 1991. In 1991, the same players had 367 RBI as opposed to the 221 they had in 1992. Murray was the only player who matched his prior numbers (even he hit .330 with 26 HR in 1990). Bonilla couldn't handle the New York pressure and Coleman's legs broke down once he joined the Mets. Johnson was an MVP candidate in 1991, but had one of worst seasons when he was healthy.
The same could be said for the Mets pitchers of that season. They traded for former Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen, and in doing so, got rid of clubhouse cancer Gregg Jefferies. Add him to a staff who had two of the best pitchers in the game, Doc Gooden and David Cone, and it was expected to be among the best first three starters in the National League. In addition, there was the expected return of Sid Fernandez who would end up being the Mets best pitcher in 1992, going 14-11 with a 2.73 ERA. Here was their 1991 stats.
Pitcher W-L ERA G GS
Doc Gooden 13-7 3.60 27 27
Bret Saberhagen 13-8 3.07 28 28
David Cone 14-14 3.29 34 34
Here is what they gave us in 1992.
Doc Gooden 10-13 3.67 31 31
Bret Saberhagen 3-5 3.50 17 15
David Cone 13-7 2.88 27 27
Unfortunately the team's struggled forced the trade of Cone, who was in the midst of one of his best seasons, to Toronto. Cone wound up winning 17 games total for the Mets and Blue Jays. Saberhagen was a huge disappointment especially because he was expected to fill the shoes of Frank Viola, who went 20-12 and 13-15 in 1990 and 1991, respectively. In 1991, they went a combined 40-29. In 1992, they went 26-25 for the Mets with the bulk of that carried by Cone. Gooden's record was hurt by the lack of offense, but it was obvious he was no longer the ace he was in the 1980s.
Factor in John Franco missing half of the season and all the off the field issues, this was one disasterous season. This had to be one of the worst seasons I have ever witnessed. (I am not old enough to remember the late 70s and early eighties.) I remember very well the excitement of trading for Saberhagen and thinking Bonilla and Murray would give the batting order the length it had been missing. I thought HoJo would have some help and the team would be pretty good. Was I ever wrong. To this day, I don't understand Coleman, who went from being one of the best leadoff batters in the game to no longer an every day player. And I never knew that Torborg was going to turn out to be such a bad manager. But, by the end of that season, it was pretty obvious that it wasn't getting better for a while. And at least I knew that going in to 1993.