What do you do for an encore after winning the NL East by 21½ games, the largest margin in the history of divisional play, and then winning the NLCS and the World Series with the come-from-behind flair of Silky Sullivan? Well, besides feeding headlines to the tabloids this winter, the New York Mets strengthened their already potent lineup by trading some of their youth for Padre slugger Kevin McReynolds.
No world champion has repeated since the New York Yankees of 1977 and '78. But this is a special team whose pitching staff, the best in baseball, won't have anyone as old as 30 until Jesse Orosco's birthday on April 21. Dwight Gooden is coming off a disappointing year, if you can call 17-6 with a 2.84 ERA disappointing, but he says, "It was like I was a totally different person last year. I don't know who I was, but I wasn't me." Bob Ojeda, 18-5 last year, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez and even Rick Aguilera have shots at winning 20 games.
Ray Knight's emotional departure didn't produce many front office tears, for the Mets still have Howard Johnson and rookie Dave Magadan to play third base. McReynolds had 26 homers and 96 RBIs last year in San Diego, and he gives the Mets much-needed power against lefthanders behind the increasingly enigmatic Strawberry. The only other question for the Mets is, Can Gary Carter's battered knees take another 120 games behind the plate?
But let's not get too picky here. The Mets scored 205 more runs than they allowed last year; only one other team, the California Angels at +102, even reached the century mark.
In his 151 starts, Mets have .682 winning percentage; Yankees were .618 with Gehrig.
Career average of .312 vs. righthanders, .144 vs. lefthanders.
Has batted 3rd in every game he has started for Mets.
Higher average with men on than with bases empty each of last nine years.
Only player with at least 100 HRs and 100 SBs over last four seasons.
Hit more HRs (26) than any player ever acquired by a Series champion in off-season.
Batted .200 with runners in scoring position in '85, .362 in '86.
160-pounder has one stolen base in 1,179 plate appearances.
Hasn't lost consecutive regular-season starts since May 20-25, 1985.
His first-inning ERA was 4.80, but in all other innings it was 2.21.
Has allowed 38 HRs last two seasons, but only 9 with runners on.
His ERA in home games (2.17) was 2nd best in the National League.
First pitcher to win three games in relief in a postseason series.
Did not allow a HR either at Shea or to a righthanded hitter.