Ever see a family picture or some image of a friend after a brutal divorce? Maybe it is the first Christmas with a spouse no longer in the picture. Or perhaps a Facebook post of the first time one of the parents has the kids for the weekend.
Everyone is smiling. Everyone is putting on their best face. But there is an underlying bit of sadness mixed with the happiness and no small amount of resolve.
“Yeah, we know this happened. Yeah, we know the picture is different. But we are still here. We are still going to do the same things we used to do. There just won’t be the one face you were used to seeing.”
That is THIS team picture with the Mets. Because it is the 1978 series, the team picture is of the 1977 Mets. And Tom Seaver, for the first time since before the 1967 season, is not there.
And it was not an amicable divorce. It was not a “Hey, it has been wonderful. Maybe we should leave on good terms and start a new life.” It was a War of the Roses all out knock down drag out break up played through the press, the front office and ultimately the wife of Tom Seaver.
In a turbulent year in New York, including the Son of Sam, a bonkers Mayor election and George, Billy, Thurman and Reggie turning the Yankees into the Bronx Zoo, the lowly Mets only made headlines with the single worst decision in team history.
Contract disputes and clashing egos put Tom Seaver, by far the biggest figure in Mets history and still one of the elite pitchers in the National League, in conflict with the Mets front office and powerful sports writers.
Manager Joe Frazier was dumped 45 games into the season and Joe Torre, who was a player on the team, walked into the managerial office, not realizing it was a buzzsaw.
Eventually, the Mets cut off their nose to spite their face and traded Seaver to the two time defending World Champion Cincinnati Reds. They did get back Rookie of the Year Pat Zachary and other talented players. But it devastated the team and the fanbase.
To make matters worse, on that same day, June 15, the Mets also dumped popular slugger Dave Kingman to the Padres.
The Mets spiraled right afterwards. Between June 17 and July 7, the Mets lost 16 of 20 games. They went on a 6 game losing streak and a 9 game losing streak in that time.
Things didn’t get much better later. They lost 12 of 14 games in late August and finished the season narrowly avoiding 100 losses, 37 games out of first place.
Joe Torre’s first season as manager was a catastrophe. Perhaps this is why people labeled Joe “Clueless Joe” when he took over the Yankees in 1996. First impressions are tough to shake.
But they sat for the picture and smiled. They know that WE know what happened. Everyone knows that beloved Tom is not in the picture. But life goes on.
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