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New York Metropolitans: 1887 Season Preview

By Michael Lecolant
Mar 28, 2017; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; A young New York Mets fan waits for an autograph prior to the spring training game between the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals at First Data Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2017; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; A young New York Mets fan waits for an autograph prior to the spring training game between the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals at First Data Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
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After capturing the aforementioned 1884 American Association pennant, last year’s performance resulted in a second straight futile finish.  They posted a 44-64 (.406) record in the last season under Day/Mutrie.  Last season, the Mets smartly terminated former manager Jim Gifford upon the club’s poor 5-12 start and replaced him with Bob Ferguson.  Despite the change, the Mets still only registered a 53-82 (.392) record for a second straight seventh place standing.

Bob Ferguson will open the 1887 season as continuing pilot of the New York Mets.

Lifting restrictions on pitching angles in 1884 has levied a heavy tax on hurlers throughout baseball.  There’s little debating how the over-hand pitch has transformed matches into wildly more exciting affairs.  The first casualty, however, was the two-man pitching staff.  Even three-man rotations are seemingly coming under duress.

On that note, last year’s three-man starting rotation returns in tact.  Jack Lynch, Al Mays, and southpaw Ed Cushman, all earned the dubious distinction last season of losing 20 or more games. They posted a joint 48-78 record, but with a fairly respectable 3.48 ERA.  While none placed within the league’s top five in any major pitching statistic, Lynch led the staff with a 20-30 record, and Cushman led the trio with a 3.12 ERA through 38 starts.  The Mets are additionally counting on young John Shaffer again to aid with pitching duties.

Circling back, the over-hand pitch has also meant seemingly unending rule changes.  For instance, starting this season batters must now conform to a standard strike zone – gone are the days when one could ask for a high ball or low ball.  As a compromise, this season the league will experiment with increasing the number of strikes required for a strikeout to four.   Meanwhile, the number of called balls needed for a base-on-balls continues contracting from nine to eight in 1880, to seven in 1881, then down to six by 1884, and is now being further reduced for the upcoming season to five.

Behind the plate, manager Bob Ferguson will be starting the season with former back-up catcher Bill Holbert, but expects Jim Donahue receiving a very fair share of playing time.

First baseman Dave Orr enjoyed a prolific 1886 season at the plate, leading the American Association in hits, triples, total bases, and slugging average.  He also placed third in both batting average and home runs.  Over the course of 136 games and 571 at-bats, Orr slashed .338/.363/.527, with 25 doubles, 31 triples, seven home runs and 91 RBI, 93 runs scored, and also swiped 16 bases for good measure.

In fact, the stolen base will finally become an officially recorded statistic beginning this season.

Up the middle, gone from last season are Tom Forster and Candy Nelson.  They’ve been replaced by former Giants rival Joe Gerhardt at second, and former Kansas City Cowboy shortstop Paul Radford.

Third baseman Frank Hankinson returns for his third season with the Mets.  Last season, Frank played a career high 137 games.

Brooklyn born Chief Roseman also returns for his fifth season with the Mets.  The outfielder set career highs last year with five home runs and 53 RBI, but his overall batting and slugging was admittedly down.

The rest of the outfield remained undermanned, under skilled, and utterly unwatchable.  This season is shaping up no differently.

Aside from getting a full look at rookie Darby O’Brien, manager Ferguson will be crossing his fingers and closing his eyes with regard to off-season acquisitions Mortimer Hogan and Jon Morrison.  Even Henry Chadwick would be hard pressed finding two more inexperienced, and inconsequential players.  Hogan played all of 11 games for the 1884 Milwaukee Brewers during the Union Association‘s lone season of operation.  That same year, Morrison played 44 games with the former American Association Indianapolis Hoosiers club.

Needless to say, this year’s potential efforts towards breaking out of the second division will surely be met with great resistance.  The St. Louis Browns dominated last year’s circuit, and there’s little reason to believe they will not again do so this season.  The Grays of Brooklyn and Louisville Colonels are sure first division contenders.  There’s also much excitement building in Baltimore and Cincinnati over off-season improvements they’ve made.

On a more positive note, the Mets seem a cut above Philadelphia, and should experience little trouble out-classing the new Cleveland Blues club, whom replace the Pittsburgh Alleghenys after their defection to the confounded National League!

I digress …