1885 METROPOLITANS

By Clifford Blau

As well as the 1884 season went for the Metropolitans, that's how poorly the 1885 season went. Following the transfer of manager Mutrie to the jointly owned New York National League franchise, management decided that the NL'ers would stand a good chance of winning the pennant if a couple of players switched leagues also. So while their former teammates were training for the upcoming campaign, Tim Keefe and Dude Esterbrook were sunning themselves in Bermuda, waiting out the 10-day release period until they could sign contracts with the Gothams. As replacements, the Mets signed ex-Gothams Ed Bagley and Frank Hankinson, and hired James Gifford as their new manager. While Hankinson was a suitable replacement at third, he couldn't carry Esterbrook's bat, and Bagley was just one of several disappointments for the Mets pitching staff. Furthermore, for much of the season, there were rumors floating about that the team would be disbanded.

The season started on the road. With Keefe gone, Jack Lynch realized that he was the ace of the pitching staff, and decided he should be paid like it. Therefore, he held out for the first week of the season, and didn't pitch for almost a month. To make matters worse, he came down with a sore arm after his first start and didn't get into 1884 form until late in the season. With Lynch out, opening day honors fell to Bagley. He and his teammates combined for 14 errors as they were humiliated by the Athletic club, 13-2. By the time the Mets arrived home, they were 1-4. They received the pennant flag at the Polo Grounds (they were no longer using Metropolitan Park), then went out and lost again. Their pitching woes mounted. Buck Becannon, who had pitched and won their final regular season game in 1884, opened the season as the number 2 starter and was an almost total failure. He was released in mid-June with a 2-8 record. With Lynch and Bagley both out with sore arms in May, the Mets picked up a local pitcher in St. Louis, Doug Crothers. Although he was bombed in each of his first three starts, he stayed with the team until mid-September, when he was released after losing three straight exhibition games against minor leaguers. Things got so bad that they tried Chief Roseman in the box one game, although he hadn't pitched since an arm injury forced him into the outfield years earlier. He was knocked back to the outfield in the first inning. Finally the team signed Ed Cushman after he was released by the Athletics, and he proved to be a solid starter.

Meanwhile, the league had fined the team $500 for allowing Keefe and Esterbrook to jump to the NL. Outraged by this, club president Frank Rhoner sold his shares in the team to Joseph Gordon, who replaced him as president. However, the team was still controlled by the owners of the Gothams.

Behind the plate, Bill Holbert and Charlie Reipschlager were still solid defensively, though Holbert's hitting, which wasn't strong in 1884, dropped off now that overhand pitching was allowed. They still filled in as needed at other positions. In an effort to help Cushman, the team signed Cal Broughton, his teammate in '84, to catch him. However, Broughton made three errors in his first and last games, and didn't hit in between, so his stay with the Mets lasted about a month and a half.

Dave Orr was one of the few bright spots on the team. He continued his potent hitting. In one game against the eventual pennant winning Browns, Orr smacked Bob Caruthers for six hits and 13 total bases. Jack "Candy" Nelson continued his steady play at short and showed a good eye at the plate. However, second base continued to be a trouble spot for the Mets. Dasher Troy had solidified the position in '84, but his play dropped off in '85. He was released in June, and replaced by Dick Pierson, whom the Mets acquired from Newark. However, three games and eight errors later, the Mets had second thoughts and resigned Troy. He celebrated with a home run in his first game back as the Mets beat Brooklyn 14-5, but he made three errors. He followed with two more costly errors in the next game as Brooklyn, despite only four hits off Cushman, won 4-0. A newcomer from the Midwest, Tom Forster (who had played for the Mets in the final World Series game the previous year), was tried out at second base in July and quickly won the regular job and plentiful praise for his fielding. Troy was released for good this time.

Steve Brady

The outfield of Ed Kennedy, Roseman, and Brady performed as well or better than it had in '84, with Brady earning the cleanup spot in the lineup by mid-season with his timely hitting. However, the decline in hitting at second and third, along with a 10% decrease in errors and unearned runs in the league, were major factors in the Mets' scoring more than 200 runs fewer in '85 than they had in '84. Together with their pitching problems, this weak batting relegated the Mets to last place with a record of 31-58 in early September. At this point, they switched to a two-man rotation of Lynch and Cushman, and closed with a 13-6 surge, enough to lift the team into 7th place. Despite the solid pitching of the last month, they finished with the worst team ERA in the league.

After the season closed, the team was bought by Erastus Wiman. He had obtained league permission to move the team to Staten Island for 1886, where he would build a new stadium. However, at a secret meeting in December, the other 7 AA teams voted to revoke the Mets' franchise, and replace them with the Washington Nationals. Various reasons were given for this action. Some claimed that the other owners believed the club was still owned by John Day and that Wiman was another front. Others insisted that it was a plot by Charlie Byrne of Brooklyn to allow him to sign Dave Orr. Whatever the reason, the league's action was contrary to its constitution, and Wiman was able to obtain a permanent injunction against the expulsion in a Philadelphia court.

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