FanPost

The Bad Guys Won

Okay, my first diary on Fishstripes. I already write for two blogs (my own for fun stuff and a group one for business and politics), but I'm not worried about spreading myself too thin.

Anyway, I'd like to recommend a sports book. No, not the type where I lose $200 every time I visit Vegas, but the type with words and photographs. It's The Bad Guys Won by Jeff Pearlman, a chronicle of the 1986 New York Mets.

I grew up in Miami when pro baseball meant spring training with the Orioles and Miami Marlins (later Miami Miracle) games at Bobby Maduro Stadium, before that facility was used to house Nicaraguan refugees. Then the O's left, the Marlins/Miracle shut down, and baseball meant U of Miami games at "the Light." So in the early '80s, I adopted the Mets in honor of my birthplace in NYC. (I was actually born in the Bronx, but the Yankees seemed really boring to root for.)

In '84, the Mets showed a lot of promise. Dwight Gooden won a bunch of games at age 19, and Darryl Strawberry made his first appearances. In '85, they picked up Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling, Wally Backman, Roger McDowell and Sid Fernandez emerged, and the Mets put on a strong challenge to the powerful Cardinals.

1986 was amazin'. Gary Carter joined the team, Lenny Dykstra exploded onto the team, and Bobby Ojeda contributed 18 wins to a staring rotation of Gooden, Darling, Fernandez and Aguilera. I watched at least 100 games that year, plus the most exciting post-season the world would see until 2003.

I was 12 going on 13 in '86, and the Mets were my sports idols (along with my beloved Dolphins). They had some incidents that year -- some fights, some legal troubles here and there -- but I just assumed it was par for the course.

As an adult, it's incredible to read The Bad Guys Won. The members of that team, most of whom Pearlman interviewed, were really a bunch of boozing, amphetamine-popping, skirt-chasing, violent bastards who were hated by every other team, manager, and owner in the National League. To read about how they trashed charter planes, how they fought with each other and brawled with other teams, how they came up with unspeakable names for each other and their wives, is utterly fascinating.

Pearlman's main point to this book is that the '86 Mets were also one of baseball's last interesting teams. Drunken fights on planes are in baseball's past; now you get 25 guys quietly listening to 25 IPods en route to wherever. Players go home to their mansions or hotels instead of romping around clubs and honkytonks. In many ways, the '86 Mets took things so far, that the whole sport had to dial things back.

As we approach -- yikes! -- the 20th anniversary of that incredible season, the most enduring memory of which is a ball dribbling underneath Bill Buckner's golden glove, it's important to recognize how the game has changed, for better or for worse.

Go Fish.