On April 27, 2000, I celebrated my eighth birthday with the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. On that day, I met Tom Seaver, saw Ken Griffey, Jr. hit one of that year’s 40 homers, and, with assistance, caught a foul ball from a rookie Edwin Encarnación.
On October 26, 2000, I attended the very last game of the season: Game 5 of the Subway Series, the long-awaited clash of those up-and-coming New York Mets and the Bombers a borough away.
Both of those games ended in losses (one far more significant than its counterpart), but they were two of many incredible memories made during that wonderfully singular season.
From seeing Hall of Famers on a classic field to experiencing a World Series before turning 10, the 2000 baseball season solidified my love of this sport, and this team, as a cornerstone of my personality.
This is the story of those magical, amazin’ Millennium Mets, and the World Series that could have rewritten franchise history.
The 2000 Mets Season
Let’s be clear: the 2000 Mets weren’t some lovable bunch of ragtag misfits who stumbled their way into a World Series appearance. They finished the season with a 94–68 record and defeated Barry Bonds’ 97-win Giants in four games and a 95-win Cardinals squad in five en route to the Fall Classic.
It has often been suggested that those Mets benefitted from an unbelievably weak National League, especially the NL East. Hindsight though, in this case, is not exactly 20/20.
The Mets were not even the National League’s best team in 2000. In fact, those same vanquished San Francisco Giants were the best team in the bigs that year, securing a 97–65 record in the process. Notable NL rivals St. Louis and Atlanta each finished with 95 wins of their own.
Both the American and National Leagues had eight teams finish over .500 that year, with only seven teams in all of baseball winning 90+ games — the Mets being one of them.
They were also the best home team in baseball, securing a 55-26 record in Flushing. The team also consistently proved resilient, notching 45 comeback victories behind a group that wasn’t afraid to battle in the trenches to the final out.
Noteworthy additions to the roster include the acquisitions of Mike Hampton from Houston (who had gone 22-4 the previous year) and Mike Bordick from Baltimore, who shored up the infield in the absence of Gold Glover Rey Ordoñez. With most of 1999’s unit returning and some hardened vets joining the fray, this team was primed for a serious run.
The 2000 Mets postseason would prove itself one of the best in franchise history almost immediately. Facing the mighty Giants in the Division Series, the Mets dropped Game 1 at Pacific Bell Park but snatched back momentum with a win in the 10th in Game 2 to send the series back to New York tied at one apiece.
Then, in Game 3, a Mets legend was born.
In the bottom of the 13th inning, cult hero Benny Agbayani stepped to the dish and delivered a one-out walk-off home run deep to left field. The Flyin’ Hawaiian’s blast ended a five-and-a-half-hour marathon of a game that was, at the time, the second-longest playoff game in MLB history.
The win also provided the Mets all the momentum they needed to finish the series the next day on the back of a one-hit masterpiece from Bobby Jones, sending them rolling into St. Louis to continue their hunt for the pennant.
The Mets had a much easier time with the Cardinals. Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza led the way with a multi-HR campaign, helping the Mets outscore the Cardinals by 10 runs on fewer hits across all five games.
The series was capped by yet another masterful performance from the utterly unhittable Mike Hampton, who delivered a three-hit complete game shut out of his own, sending the Mets to their first Fall Classic in 14 years.
The Subway Series
Despite a better regular and postseason record that year, the Mets entered the Subway Series as heavy underdogs. That’s no surprise — their crosstown rivals were seeking a third straight World Series title, what would be their 26th in franchise history.
However, it became clear early on in Game 1 that the opening contest was the Mets’ to lose…so, they did.
The game was a pitcher’s duel between Al Leiter and the Yankees’ Andy Pettite, each ace tossing scoreless ball until the 6th inning.
In the top of the frame, Mets first baseman Todd Zeile hit a long fly ball to left field that bounced off the top of the wall. Thinking the ball had left the yard, outfielder Timo Perez was initially slow to get around the bases, only to be thrown out at home by a Derek Jeter relay.
The Mets went down 2–0 in the bottom of the inning but immediately took back the lead with a three-spot to start the seventh. They held that lead into the bottom of the ninth, where it all began to unravel.
In the bottom of the ninth, Armando Benítez gave up a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to Yankee second baseman Chuck Knoblauch to tie the game. Then, after two more innings of scoreless baseball, the Yankees’ José Vizcaíno hit a game-winning RBI single with the bases loaded, sealing the victory and helping the Bombers steal a victory to start the series.
Game 2 brought just as much excitement as the series opener, as it promised the first matchup between Piazza and Yankees ace Roger Clemens since their…”contentious” first meeting that summer.
In July 2000, during regular interleague play, Clemens hit Piazza with a fastball to the forehead. He crumpled to the ground, eventually needing to be escorted off the field. He was diagnosed with a concussion, which knocked him out of the All-Star game and several weeks of action.
During his first at-bat, Clemens jammed Piazza with a pitch high and inside. The bat shattered. Clemens caught the barrel and fired it in Piazza’s direction towards the home dugout along the first base line.
The benches cleared, with Clemens maintaining that he thought the barrel was the ball before tossing it off to the side. He claimed he didn’t Piazza coming down the line until the wood had already left his hand.
Piazza responded to the incident late in the game the only way he knew how. After entering the ninth inning down 6–0, Piazza’s launched a missile off the left-field foul pole, a bomb that lit the fuse that set off a five-run rally.
Unfortunately, the Mets ended up losing on a Kurt Abbott strikeout, one run shy of tying the game.
As the series shifted back to Flushing, longtime broadcaster Joe Buck had a thought that would prove prescient mere hours before first pitch.
During pre-game coverage, Buck suggested that “the Mets hope things turn around in a New York minute.” They did exactly that and more.
After going down 2-1 heading into the fifth, the Mets scored two unanswered runs in the final three innings to take a 4-2 lead into the ninth. Benítez came in to secure the final three outs, and the Mets left the stadium with a victory and some much-needed breathing room.
That Game 3 victory prevented a third straight World Series sweep, snapping the Yankees’ 14-game World Series winning streak dating back to Game 1 of the 1996 Series. The victory also ended Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez’s undefeated postseason record, putting him at 6–1.
The momentum, however, was short-lived, as Game 4 seemed to be decided almost instantly. On the first pitch of the game, New York legend Derek Jeter took Bobby Jones deep to left field.
The Yankees then scored two more unanswered runs before the Mets answered with two of their own in the bottom of the third. Neither team would score for the rest of the game, the Mets again falling a single run shy of completing their comeback.
Leiter returned to the mound for Game 5, delivering eight innings of two-run ball before demanding the ninth inning of a 2-2 ballgame. Though he started with consecutive strikeouts, a quick walk and a single led to a two-RBI base hit from Luis Sojo. It came on Leiter’s 142nd pitch.
Though Piazza gave the Yankees a brief scare with a long fly ball to center, Bernie Williams would catch the final out of what former Mets GM Steve Phillips described to longtime Mets reporter Mike Puma as “the closest five-game World Series…ever.”
The Aftermath: Baseball Doldrums, USA
Neither team saw the same level of success in the seasons immediately following this series, though of course, in this case, “success” is relative. The Yankees lost their next two World Series appearances before going largely silent until they won it all again in 2009, but they did win their division every year until 2007.
The Mets, meanwhile, averaged just 74 wins for the next four seasons. 2006 saw a brief resurgence of their not-so-distant former glory, as they took the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals to seven games in the NLCS, but that was it until 2015.
The core of the 2000 World Series team almost immediately fell apart; with Piazza’s departure in 2005, it took only half a decade for the organization to completely dismantle a National League juggernaut. Not a single member of the 2000 Mets was present on the field during their march to October in 2006; that team instead featured the likes of David Wright, José Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltrán, and Pedro Martínez, to name a few.
Though they didn’t come away with the Commissioner’s Trophy, the Mets were not just another victim of the Steinbrenner machine.
The series was very evenly split across the board. Every game was decided by two runs or less; each team won a game by two.
In their 1998 and 1999 championship runs, the Yankees had outscored their opponents by 25 runs across both series. This series was decided by a three-run swing.
While the Mets significantly outperformed the Yankees late in games, outscoring them 10–5 in innings 7–9 across the series, only the Yankees were able to generate runs in the first inning—three of them, specifically.
Game 1 was one of the best games in World Series history, needing 12 innings to be decided. The near comeback in Game 2 was just as thrilling.
The reason this series so frequently slips under the radar is in no doubt due to its regional relevance — while it fared decently in ratings, it was significantly more popular in the New York City metro area than in the rest of the country.
However, it’s time we look back honestly on just how good that 2000 team was. As excellent as the 1999 squad was on paper, the 2000 roster was full of guys who were hungry to prove that New York City was really Mets country. That hunger translated onto the field.
While the Yankees limped into the playoffs, the Mets were running roughshod over the National League. They lost all of two games on their way to the World Series and held the two-time reigning champions to less than four runs per game.
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At the end of that magical 2000 season, the Mets were a few plays (and a little luck) away from winning their first World Series since 1986. It’s time we look back on that series with the fondness it so achingly deserves.