Meet the 1986 Mets

The Bad Guys Won! Jeff Pearlman, HarperCollins.

The  Bad  Guys  Won

“Meet the Mets, meet the Mets, step right up and greet the Mets,” begins the New York Mets’ official theme song, currently heard prior to every home game at Shea Stadium. In “The Bad Guys Won!” former Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman invites the reader to meet a different group of Metropolitans—namely, the motley collection of players that battled personal demons (not to mention each other) en route to winning the 1986 World Series over the Boston Red Sox. As Pearlman’s detailed account reminds us, the ’86 Mets were adored by fans, hated by rivals, and despised by just about anyone unlucky enough to cross paths with members of the team. 

While Pearlman takes pains to recount the club’s most memorable wins and losses, most of this book is devoted to the players’ outrageous exploits. Virtually every Met seems to find trouble, making “The Bad Guys Won!” less a baseball book and more a compendium of irresponsible behavior—the kind practiced by professional athletes. Off the field, the players trashed planes and hotel rooms, took drugs, abused tobacco products, gambled, chased women, cheated on wives and girlfriends, made a habit of sexual and verbal harassment, played cruel practical jokes, assaulted each other, drank to excess and generally offended almost everyone in sight. On the field, they were no less insufferable—arrogantly professing their superiority, relentlessly cursing the opposition and occasionally instigating a bench-clearing brawl. 

After winning 108 regular-season games in 1986 the club seemed destined to become a dynasty. With the likes of Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Lenny Dykstra in the fold, the Mets had the talent to win multiple championships. But drug abuse and the parade of off-the-field incidents eventually took its toll, and the franchise’s fortunes soon declined precipitously. With management increasingly concerned about the team’s incorrigible behavior, the front office broke up the club prematurely rather than risk being publicly embarrassed by the antics. Trades were sought out that might not have been made otherwise. 

Although “The Bad Guys Won!” isn’t likely to win any sports writing awards (the absurdly long subtitle is indicative of the writing and editing quality), baseball fans should find it a lively trip down memory lane. Still want to meet the 1986 Mets? “The Bad Guys Won!” allows one to do so at a safe distance.

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