Mets OF Lee Mazzilli breaks the team’s SB record in our 1977 simulation
By Tim Boyle
The New York Mets head into the 1977 season in our simulation of the franchise’s history.
It has finally arrived. It’s 1977 in the virtual world and we all know what’s about to happen. The New York Mets are embarking on a year where halfway through they slap the fans in the face when they trade Tom Seaver.
Coming off a productive 1976 season which saw the Mets finish 88-74 but out of the playoffs, there’s little doubt in my mind we will see better days ahead until at least the 1980s. Let’s see if they can surprise us.
As we do each week, twice a week, let’s remember what happened in the years prior:
1970: 101-61 (NLCS loss 3-2)
1971: 100-62 (World Series Champions)
I fear the worst for the 1977 Mets. I hope the virtual world has different results.
Not knowing the Midnight Massacre is on its way in mid-1977, the virtual experts predict the Mets will finish this season with a record of 83-79. Oddly, Tom Seaver isn’t expected to be one of the top ten pitchers in the National League. Jon Matlack is, but not Tom Terrific. The record is good enough for the Mets to finish in a distant second-place by 26 games.
Spring training has been hit and miss as far as predicting what will actually occur in the coming season. This preseason, the Mets finished 18-12.
Maybe 1977 won’t be all doom and gloom. Even with the Seaver trade on the horizon in only a few months, could it be possible that we see this team head back to the playoffs for the first time since 1971?
Regular Season Results
The Mets were 34-27 and 7 games out of first place when they traded Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman in two separate deals on June 15. Although it doesn’t seem like they were all that far away from a playoff spot, they were still behind four other teams in the division. This doesn’t make it right, but I suppose in this virtual world it can explain why the team did what it did.
At the All-Star Break, the team was 47-45. This was bad enough for 13 games out of a playoff spot, all following a five-game losing streak.
Speaking of losing, someone who didn’t do it much of it in the first half is Jon Matlack. He had a 10-game winning streak and went into the All-Star Break 13-5 with a 2.46 ERA.
The first half featured some good offense including the rise of Lee Mazzilli. He began the year hitting .302. At the halfway point, his 34 stolen bases already set a new franchise record. Previously, it was held by Bud Harrelson and the 26 he had in 1967. Mazzilli’s right up there with some of the best in stolen bases. In the second half, it’s something to watch for.
Minus their franchise player, Seaver, the virtual Mets carried on with the year falling further out of the playoffs each week. With little to do other than play spoiler, the team went on to finish with a 78-84 record. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t horrible. It also wasn’t good enough for anything special.
For whatever it’s worth, the Cincinnati Reds finished 1 game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. So their big swing to land Seaver didn’t work out as they wanted.
I should note the number of major injuries the Mets had when the year concluded. Jerry Koosman will miss all or almost all of 1978 due to a torn flexor tendon suffered in September. Pat Zachry, one of the guys the Mets acquired for Seaver, is questionable to be ready for Opening Day next year.
Finally, there’s Mazzilli whose separated shoulder at the very end of the season put a dent in his chance to steal even more bases than he actually did.
The lone All-Star in this virtual world is Jerry Koosman. For the fourth time in his career and the first time since 1970, Koosman headed to the Midsummer Classic to represent the Mets. At 11-8 with a 2.26 ERA, he certainly deserves it.
Fans hoping to see Koosman step on the mound against were sorely disappointed to only watch him in the pregame introductions. The lefty never got into the game.
Koosman managed to do one other special thing in 1977. On June 18, against the Houston Astros, he pitched the fifth no-hitter in Mets history. He joins Tom Seaver (2), Nolan Ryan (1), and Jon Matlack (1) on the list.
Notable Individual Statistics
Watching Lee Mazilli destroy the Mets stolen base record was one of the few enjoyable moments in 1977. He ultimately ended the year with 53 of them, just two behind the league leader, Frank Taveras.
Jerry Koosman finished the year 15-14 with a 2.40 ERA while Jon Matlack outdueled him with a 19-7 record together with a 2.49 ERA.
We also got to see a 13-win season from Craig Swan and a 12-win campaign out of Doc Medich.
Offensively, there wasn’t anything else spectacular to note. As we’ve seen many seasons prior, the Mets didn’t get any boisterous power numbers to propel them to victory.
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Win, lose, or draw, we’re heading into the 1978 virtual Mets season with lower expectations. Thankfully, this is the virtual world and nothing has gone exactly to plan.