It’s 1969 and the virtual New York Mets hope they don’t disappoint the non-fiction fans. Will there be a miracle in Flushing?
The virtual decade is coming to a close with the New York Mets ready to play the 1969 campaign. We know what actually happened in the summer of love. Will the digital Mets be as lucky?
The 1968 campaign was a huge one for this fictional version of the Amazins. Tom Seaver captured the NL Cy Young and MVP Award. The club sent him and four others to the All-Star Game including the game’s winner, Jim McAndrew, and the National League’s starting shortstop and leadoff hitter, Bud Harrelson.
Before we dive into what happened in the 1969 virtual world, let’s did a quick decade-in-review:
Winning hasn’t been easy for this club. In 1969, we’ll look to see virtual history rhyme with what the ball club did in the non-fiction world.
Baseball expanded further in 1969. The American League now has the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots. In the National League, the Mets will have the chance to play the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres.
The MLB playoffs will also include a championship round. So if the virtual Mets pull off a miracle, there is no direct trip to the World Series.
The preseason predictions for the 1969 campaign think very highly of the Mets. They are expected to go 92-70 this year with only the Pittsburgh Pirates finishing higher than them in the National League East.
Seaver’s MVP and Cy Young defense will include a 19-13 record and 2.17 ERA. Bob Gibson, however, is projected to go 20-11 with a 1.82 ERA. Let’s see if the virtual Gibson has some payback for Seaver after stealing his 1968 spotlight.
Spring training results give the Mets a positive outlook for the upcoming year. Tommie Agee had one of the best offensive performance of anyone in the preseason, finishing spring training with some of the better statistics.
As a team, though, the Mets did even better. Their 19-11 spring record tied for first place with the Chicago Cubs.
Strap in. This could be a big year.
Regular Season Notes
After a promising spring, the 1969 virtual Mets went into the year with high hopes. With two expansion teams to beat up on, wins were easier to come by. A 23-game hitting streak from Cleon Jones helped carry them through May and into early June as a contender.
This year’s All-Star Game was scheduled a little later than the ones in the past so the first-half included a longer trek. When all teams were able to take a respite, the Mets sat in third place, 6.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.
The club’s leading hitter in the first half is Ed Kranepool with a .309 average. Agree is paving the way with 11 home runs. None of this is really shocking. The jaw-dropping numbers are coming from the mound.
Seaver has unfortunately taken a step back. Through 21 starts, he’s 8-7 with a 2.75 ERA. It’s not bad but it’s also not what we had hoped for.
Jerry Koosman, however, has picked up the slack. He’s 11-5 with a 1.73 ERA. The ERA is second in the league. Through the first-half, he’s an early contender for the Cy Young.
The Mets will need more from the bats and arms to make the playoffs. A collapse by the Cardinals would also do them a favor.
Sadly, that wasn’t the story of the virtual 1969 season. St. Louis couldn’t be stopped. Despite this, the Mets remained one of the most competitive teams in the NL East down the stretch. With a final season record of 93-69, it was the best year in the standings for this club. Unfortunately, they still finished 9 games behind the Cardinals.
The miracle will need to wait.
For his great first-half, Koosman was awarded his second straight All-Star selection. In his one inning of work, the lone Metropolitan All-Star tossed a shutout frame.
There was one big award handed down to a Mets player. Third baseman Wayne Garrett slashed .286/.366/.420 as a rookie while adding 9 home runs and 44 RBI across 429 trips to the plate. The performance was good enough for Rookie of the Year honors. It’s a promising start I didn’t expect.
The biggest honor, again, is what the team was able to do. For the first time in virtual Mets history, they didn’t finish in last place. Perhaps there is a championship in this franchise’s near future.
Notable Individual Statistics
The offense didn’t provide us with any truly notable numbers. Agee led the team with 19 home runs and Jones was the leader in batting average at .287. Both, as you may recall, are below what happened in our non-virtual world.
The pitching is where the fattest numbers happened. Seaver finished 15-11 with a 2.44 ERA. Koosman eventually gave up some runs, ultimately going 18-12 with a 2.17 ERA. Hey, I’ll take it.
Nolan Ryan even got into the action with a 9-6 record and 2.44 ERA. But his performance didn’t stand out the most.
Let me introduce you to virtual Gary Gentry. In 35 starts, Gentry went 20-7 with a 2.25 ERA. He is the first pitcher in Mets history to be a 20-game winner. His .230 BABIP also happened to lead the league.
I like to see guys I know will stick with the Mets for a few more years put together seasons like this. The settings for this simulation have all trades and free agent signings mimic real life. I’m excited to see what Gentry can do for this potentially all-time great rotation.
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Another pitching-heavy season for the Mets resulted in a successful campaign. Some improvements at the plate could lead them to the playoffs. We’re moving onto the 1970s next, in search of the championship we thought would come in 1969.