The other day, Matt Cerrone of MetsBlog.com discussed an ESPN.com article about the Mets worst on-field failures since they last won the World Series in 1986. As part of the panel on the ESPN article, Cerrone asked his readers what they thought was the worst moment in Mets history.
ESPN and Cerrone listed Kenny Rogers walk of Andruw Jones in 1999, Mike Scoscia’s home run in 1988, the season ending chokes of 2007 and 2006, the Yankees celebrating their World Series win in Shea Stadium in 2000, and Carlos Betran’s strikeout to end the 2006 playoffs. Some readers mentioned Yadier Molina’s home run to give the Cardinals the lead in the last game of the ’06 playoffs as well as Luis Castillo’s muffed fly ball in 2009.
All of these are incorrect. Although it happened in 1985, the year before the Mets won it all, there was one moment that profoundly affected Mets history since 1986.
In late 1985, in the last inning of a late-season game against the St. Louis Cardinals, pitcher Hayden “Sidd” Finch placed the baseball on the mound, walked off the field, out of the clubhouse, and boarded a plane to London with his girlfriend. The only reason Finch gave was sealed in an envelop addressed to the Mets front office. To this day, they have never addressed the issue.
Although the Mets won the World Series in 1986, they could have used Finch in the years that followed. A starting rotation of Finch, Dwight Gooden, Bob Ojeda, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez would have meant right-hander Rick Aguilera would have been regulated strictly to the bullpen or perhaps packaged with Kevin Mitchell for a different leftfielder than Kevin McReynolds – maybe to Toronto for young left fielder George Bell, to Cincinnati for Eric Davis, or maybe to Pittsburgh for a very young Barry Bonds?
With Finch, the Mets could have also survived Gooden’s drug problems and suspensions. Could Finch have even been a calming influence in the chaotic Mets clubhouse, a positive influence on a team now known for their reckless partying? Maybe he would have kept Darryl Strawberry on the straight and narrow.
From a front-office perspective, maybe the Mets still swindle the Royals for David Cone, although I am not sure what they would do with him. Maybe Cone goes in the Aguilera/Mitchell for Bonds trade.
On the field, there is no doubt the Mets would have not lost a step in 1987 and possibly beaten the Twins in the World Series. And in 1988, Finch undoubtedly outduels Orel Hershiser.
Not needing money, I think Finch would have stayed with the team through the early 90s. Maybe his Buddhist sensibilities and philosophies create a positive team vibe that is hampered only by age and the early-90s Mets never see the arrival of Vince Coleman, Eddie Murray, and other perennial sourpusses.
Maybe the Mets create a dynasty.
If only Davey Johnson or Robert Temple could have talked Finch into staying with the team.