I'll never forget that moment from my childhood. The New York Mets need a run to save their season and the captain Mike Piazza comes up to the plate, he hits a long fly ball and smiles along with the fans, but the ball falls into Bernie Williams's glove and the New York Yankees celebrate... It was a heartbreaking moment to watch. This also looked like a temporary setback, coming off two straight NLCS appearances and a pennant, it looked a World Series win was next, but then just like that the run of contention ended. What happened in 2001?
The New York Mets were seemingly close to a World Championship in the early 2000's.
After the aforementioned pennant run in 2000, the Mets finished with a disappointing 82-80 record and missed the playoffs in 2001. The Mets missed winning the division by 6 games. You know who could've helped bridge that gap? Alex Rodriguez. He gave Texas 8.3 WAR that year. A-Rod wanted to sign with the Mets prior to the season but his agent Scott Boras ruined that. Signing A-Rod could've affected the team's finances, so it's not as simple as signing him would've sent the Mets to the playoffs, buit it wouldn't have hurt.
In fact it's indeed the lineup that ended up ruining this team. The pitching had a collective 4.07 ERA, which was actually better than 2000's 4.16. The hitting however only scored 642 runs, compared to 807 in 2000. 2B Edgardo Alfonzo played a big part in that, going from hitting .324/.425/.542 in 2000 to .243/.322/.403. It was an unexpected collapse of the team's second best hitter after Piazza. 1B Todd Zeile heavily declined too, going from .268/.356/.467 in 2000 with 22 home runs to .266/.359/.373. His power disappeared as he hit only 10 home runs.
The lack of improvements to the shaky out field was another major culprit to the disastrous 2000 season. LF Benny Agbayani hit .289/.391/,477 in 350 AB. It came out of nowhere and sadly he was unable to repeat it in 2001, hitting .277/.364/.399 with his power gone as well. CF Jay Payton hit .291/.331/.447 in 2000 but only .255/.298/.371 in 2001. RF was a mess too, with Derek Bell getting the most AB's in 2000 and hitting 18 home runs. Timo Perez got the most AB's in 2001 and hit 5 home runs. It was a mess.
Here's a good look at their off-season prior to this disastrous season. A-Rod wasn't the only elite bat available in the off-season. There was another player originally from New York City that was available... Manny Ramirez. Manny ended up signing with Boston and slashing .306/.405/.609, good for 5.2 WAR. The Mets could've also improved the rotation a bit more and grabbed Mike Mussina instead of the Yankees. Mussina delivered a 2.92 ERA for the Yankees in 228.2 IP. The Mets needed to act like a team from New York and to follow up on a pennant winning season by adding a star to put them over the top.
The 2001 New York Mets were a missed opportunity. They could've landed a star in a blockbuster signing and followed up on a pennant winning season with at least a third straight playoff appearance. The Amazin's had to wait until 2006 for that instead. We'll at least always have Piazza's post-9/11 home run.