An autopsy on what went wrong with the 2002 New York Mets

Sports Contributor Archive 2020
Sports Contributor Archive 2020 / Ron Vesely/GettyImages

The New York Mets are a team with a long-standing history. From the glorious days of the 1969 and 1986 championships to the collapses of 2007 and 2008. There are 60 years worth of history to look back on. Some days I like to go back and reflect on what this team has accomplished and what it hasn’t.

It’s easy to look back on the Mets success but breaking down their failures, as painful as it may seem, has always been intriguing to me. 

I decided to reflect on a season that began with a lot of promise. A season that brought a lot of changes to the roster. One season that ended up being an epic failure. That was the 2002 season.

So what went wrong you ask? So much went wrong for the 2002 New York Mets, so much!

Coming off back-to-back playoff appearances in 1999 and 2000, including a World Series appearance, the Mets took a step back in 2001 finishing only 2 games above .500. This forced then General Manager Steve Phillips to reshape and restructure the roster.

Phillips started that change with an uncharacteristic trade with the New York Yankees as he sent fan favorite Robin Ventura to the Bronx for David Justice. It was a weird trade because like I said the crosstown rivals rarely trade with each other, especially during the height of the Subway Series. It didn’t matter much as Justice was then flipped to Oakland for LHP Mark Guthrie.

With a hole at 3rd base, Edgardo Alfonso was moved back to his original position after playing 2nd for three years. He moved back to 3rd because the Mets acquired 12-time all-star Roberto Alomar from the Cleveland Indians to play 2nd base. Mo Vaughn, Jeremy Burnitz, and Roger Cedeño were all added to add some pop to the lineup. Phillips also reshaped the starting pitching staff adding Pedro Astacio, Shawn Estes, and Jeff D’Amico to go alongside Al Leiter and Steve Trachsel.

The season started off well with another opening day victory and the team got off to a hot April start going 16-10. From there on out, the team struggled big time. Outside of Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo who put up numbers that we are used to seeing, the rest of the offense really didn’t click.

It was the new acquisitions that really struggled. Mo Vaughn hit for power but was not his usual self, even struggling to play first base. Roger Cedeño, who was brought back after his amazing season in 1999 could not replicate anything that made him an offensive threat.

The even bigger problem which stunned us all was the downfall of Roberto Alomar. It was like we got an entirely different player from the one who was a 12-time All-Star. He just could never get comfortable playing in New York for some reason.

The new starting rotation never took off either as both Estes and D’Amico finished under .500. The bullpen was one of the lone bright spots of the team but even that took a hit when John Franco was lost for the year due to reconstructive elbow surgery.

The biggest death nail in the coffin of the ‘02 Mets was the entire month of August. They played dreadfully to a 6-21 record, losing 12 games in a row in the process. There would be no return to playoff glory as the Mets finished the year with a disappointing 75-86 record.

This meant the end for manager Bobby Valentine who I think was fired prematurely after what he was able to do with that team during his tenure. It would have made more sense if ownership let both Valentine and Phillips go but that was not to be the case.

It would only go downhill for the team from Queens as they got worse in 2003 and 2004 but this ‘02 season set the stage for the disaster to come.

Next. 3 reasons to be excited about the 2022 Mets . dark