Mets History Simulated: Ronnie Collins is the hero of the 1971 season

The 1971 virtual New York Mets pulled off the impossible and the name we all left the season remembering is Ronnie Collins.

The 1971 virtual New York Mets are coming off their first playoff experience. Following a 101-61 season which ended with a disappointing loss to the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS, the Amazins are back, overdue for a miracle, and hungry for a championship.

The 1970 season was awesome historically and included some moments real-life Mets fans are not used to. For instance, Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver both threw no-hitters in May. Seaver’s performance also awarded him with the second MVP of his career.

Needless to say, this team has the pitching to contend. Can they do it in 1971?

For a quick yet evergrowing recap, here’s how previous seasons have gone:

1962: 52-108
1963: 43-119
1964: 44-118
1965: 50-112
1966: 56-105
1967: 64-98
1968: 74-88
1969: 93-69
1970: 101-61 (NLCS loss 3-2)

Let’s move onward to 1971 and cross our fingers for some better results.

Preseason

The taste of postseason blood is still on the tongues of the virtual Mets. If the preseason predictions are any indication of what is to come, the Mets will go wire-to-wire with the St. Louis Cardinals. New York is expected to go 91-71 this year behind another stellar year from Seaver. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are predicted to go 92-70.

The National League West absolutely obliterated the National League East in spring training action. At 17-13, our beloved Mets were the only team in the division to finish above .500.

There’s one other important achievement to note from the preseason. Cleon Jones led all National League hitters with a.375 average and 1.097 OPS. Could this be a big year for the Flushing left fielder? He did just win a Gold Glove in 1970. Can he do a little more?

Regular Season Notes

The Mets didn’t disappoint in April. They began the first month of the season 15-5, red hot in defense of their NL East title.

At the end of May, they were 33-13 and 8.5 games ahead of everyone else.

We all know better than to believe a hot start will lead to a parade. However, these virtual 1971 Mets were unstoppable in the first half of the season. They rolled into the All-Star Break with the best record in baseball at 59-27. An 8-game winning streak in late June helped propel them there, 9.5 games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies.

As expected, pitching was the strength in the first half. Seaver went into the break 14-4 with a 1.34 ERA. Ryan is 10-3 with a 1.79 ERA, Jerry Koosman is 8-4 with a 1.90 ERA, and Ray Sadecki is 5-2 with a 1.68 ERA.

If there’s one thing to complain about it’s how much starting pitching the Mets have. Since the settings will make all transactions happen as they did in real life, this problem gets solved in the future Jim Fregosi trade. We’ll cry about it later.

At the plate, Ed Kranepool has dominated. His .353 batting average leads the team. His 9 home runs also top each of his teammates. Jones has carried his success from the preseason into games that matter with a .301 batting average of his own.

A notable game from the first half is the 18 strikeout performance by Nolan Ryan on June 10. It’s the most by any Mets pitcher in a single game. His victim: the San Diego Padres.

The mission of the second half was to stay healthy and keep the foot on the gas. There’s room for error and the only worry for the cyber Mets is how much they do lack at the plate. With the best pitching staff in Major League Baseball, we’re going to have to hope the bats stay as hot as possible.

In late August, the Pirates crawled a pair of games behind the Mets. Hoping to avenge getting overtaken by New York one season prior, they battled with the Amazins into September.

On September 25, it became official. The Mets clinched the division. They went on to finish out the regular season 100-62 and in first place. For the second straight year, the orange and blue are going to the postseason.

Playoffs

Oddly enough, the Mets opponent in the NLCS this year is another we saw them face in real-life, the Houston Astros. In 1970 witnessed the virtual Mets face the Cincinnati Reds, their 1973 NLCS opponent. This time, we get way ahead of ourselves with the team the Mets defeated in 1986. Can we get the same result?

Game One ended with the Mets failing to score a run in a 3-0 loss down in Houston. The Astros had the third-best pitching staff in the regular season and the second-best offense. They also finished with an identical 100-62 record so there’s a big hill to climb to ensure the Mets move on beyond the NLCS.

Game Two was more rewarding for fans in New York. Koosman got the victory thanks in part to home runs by Wayne Garrett and Ken Singleton.

Game Three took the two teams back to Shea Stadium tied 1-1. Seaver took the loss in his 1971 playoff debut in a 4-2 ballgame.

Game Four had everything on the line for the Mets. Gary Gentry came through with a three-hit shutout. The 2-0 Mets win didn’t include a single extra-base hit for either team.

Another Game Five, this time on the road, takes the Mets to the brink. It’s a Game One matchup between Don Wilson and Nolan Ryan. Who wins it?

Ryan delivers in Game Five with a two-hit shutout featuring 10 strikeouts. Cleon Jones takes home the Series MVP in large part because of his clutch home run in Game Five.

Onto the World Series we go!

World Series

We get another earlier than expected historical matchup. Up against the 1971 Mets are the Oakland Athletics. These two teams meet up in 1973 in our real world. Here, they get it out of the way early in 1971.

Game One was a miracle, to say the least. Down 2-0 until the ninth inning, the Mets were literally one out away from getting shutout by Catfish Hunter. With Wayne Garrett on first, Bud Harrelson singled. Cleon Jones extended the inning with a hit of his own. This brought Ken Singleton to the plate. On a 2-2 pitch, a grand slam sent Shea Stadium into a frenzy. The Mets win 4-2.

Game Two had the reverse effect. Danny Frisella blew up in the ninth inning and allowed four runs to cross the plate to give Oakland the 5-3 lead. The Mets did score one in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn’t enough. The Athletics win the second matchup.

Game Three goes back to Oakland. This time, Frisella picks up the win in extras. The 4-3 Mets win ends after 11 frames. An error off the bat off Don Hahn plates Tommie Agee and sends the Mets up 2-1 in the series.

Game Four includes another late big inning from the Metropolitans to seal the deal. Four runs in the eighth lead to a 4-3 win over Oakland. Ronnie Collins’ three-run home run is the big swing that helps put the Mets one game away from a championship. For those wondering who he is, Collins never reached the major leagues in real life yet he has found himself right in the thick of this virtual run to the World Series after just 16 plate appearances.

Game Five has the result we were all hoping for. With a man on first and two out, Danny Frisella delivered a pitch to Bert Campaneris that didn’t travel far. A pop out to Collins ended the game, sealed the victory, and made Mets history.

Collins wins the World Series MVP with a .286 average and 3 home runs in the series. Virtual history nobody expected to happen, happens.

Honors

The big honor already happen. The 1971 Mets are Champions of the World!

Let’s cover a few others.

Four Mets went to the 1971 All-Star Game. Bud Harrelson won the shortstop vote, in the process going to the Midsummer Classic for the second time in his career. He was joined by pitchers Tom Seaver and Tug McGraw as well as Ed Kranepool who hadn’t been there since 1965.

For the second straight year, Seaver got the nod to start the All-Star Game. He tossed a perfect inning.

However, it wasn’t Seaver who shined the brightest. In relief, McGraw threw 5.2 innings. He did allow 3 unearned runs, but the performance was enough to award him with the game’s MVP. He even had a double in one of his trips to the plate.

Kranepool went 0 for 4 and Harrelson picked up a hit in one of his two plate appearances.

From the major awards category, Seaver won his third Cy Young and second straight. McGraw also managed to take home his first Reliever of the Year Award.

Cleon Jones was awarded the Gold Glove in left field. And for one final major award, Gil Hodges is Manager of the Year.

Notable Individual Statistics

Ed Kranepool and journeyman minor leaguer Dave Marshall led the Mets with 10 home runs in 1971. Marshall had only 210 plate appearances so to see him there was quite surprising. Kranepool’s .320 batting average would have set a new franchise record if not for falling short in the at-bats department. He shared time at first base with Donn Clendenon whose .315 batting average warranted the playing time he did get.

The pitching numbers are wroth gushing over most. Seaver had another fantastic year, going 23-10 with a 1.76 ERA. Ryan and Koosman both went 14-8 with ERAs of 1.89 and 1.97 respectively.

Finally, for McGraw, he saved 25 games while pitching to a 1.31 ERA in the regular season.

The 1971 season couldn’t have gone better. In what would become the final year for Gil Hodges, the Mets gave him one final gift for all of the years of services he gave them.

Next: Mets 1970 Season Simulation

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Will the 1972 virtual Mets be able to top what they did in 1971? Is there a dynasty forming in Queens?

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