New York Mets
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All-Time Team – New York Mets
First Base – Keith Hernandez
John Olerud had three outstanding years for the Mets, posting the greatest single season by any first baseman in team history in 1998, when he hit 22 home runs, knocked in 93 runs, scored 91 others, and batted .354, while also compiling a .447 on-base percentage and a .551 slugging percentage. But Keith Hernandez brought stability and veteran leadership to the club when he arrived in New York in 1983, also bringing along with him a winning attitude and an air of self-confidence. Hernandez helped make the Mets relevant again, restoring them to prominence in the National League East. He also performed extremely well on the field, providing the Mets with a clutch bat in the middle of their batting order and a Gold Glove at first base. Hernandez batted over .300 in three of his four full seasons as New York’s starting first baseman. He also drove in more than 90 runs twice and compiled an on-base percentage in excess of .400 twice. Hernandez earned All-Star honors and a top-10 finish in the league MVP voting three times as a member of the team, and he also won five Gold Gloves.
Second Base – Edgardo Alfonzo
Edgardo Alfonzo played all over the infield during his time in New York, excelling at both third base and second base. He had his two best seasons, though, while serving as the Mets’ starting second baseman. Alfonzo batted .304 for the team in 1999, while also hitting 27 home runs, driving in 108 runs, and scoring 123 others. He followed that up by hitting a career-high .324 in 2000, hitting 25 homers, knocking in 94 runs, and scoring 109 times. Alfonzo batted over .300 in four of his eight years in New York, and his five errors in 1999 remain the club record for a second baseman.
Third Base – David Wright
Howard Johnson had three extremely productive years for the Mets, surpassing 30 homers and 30 stolen bases all three times. The only problem with Johnson was that he didn’t perform nearly as well his other six seasons in New York. Meanwhile, David Wright has excelled for the Mets ever since he joined them midway through the 2004 campaign. Wright has batted over .300 and driven in more than 100 runs in five of his six full seasons, scored more than 100 runs twice, and hit more than 20 home runs five times, surpassing the 30-homer mark on two separate occasions. He has earned five All-Star nominations, two Gold Gloves, and three top-10 finishes in the league MVP voting. At only 28 years of age, Wright has already established himself as the face of the franchise.
Shortstop – Jose Reyes
One of the most naturally-gifted players ever to wear a Mets uniform, Jose Reyes can do just about anything on a ball field. He has exceptional running speed, good power, and a very strong throwing arm. Injuries and a somewhat questionable attitude are the only things that have prevented the young shortstop from establishing himself as one of the game’s finest all-around players in his eight years in New York. Yet, Reyes has still been able to bat over .300 twice, score more than 100 runs three times, steal more than 50 bases four times, and earn two All-Star selections. He had arguably his best year in 2006, when he established career highs with 19 home runs, 81 runs batted in, and 122 runs scored, while also batting .300 and leading the league with 17 triples and 64 stolen bases. Reyes has topped the senior circuit in stolen bases and triples three times each.
Left Field – Cleon Jones
This was a close call between Kevin McReynolds and Cleon Jones. McReynolds spent five years in New York, posting solid offensive numbers for the club during that time. He hit more than 20 homers and knocked in more than 80 runs four times each. McReynolds also did a good job in the outfield and on the base paths, going a perfect 21-for-21 in stolen base attempts in 1988. He had more power than Jones, drove in more runs, and was perhaps a bit more talented. But McReynolds was also a somewhat dispassionate player who drew the ire of Mets’ fans for the relative lack of interest he often seemed to display on the field. Although the Mets were an extremely talented team his first few years in New York, they failed to live up to their advanced billing, and Mets’ fans considered McReynolds to be one of the primary culprits. Meanwhile, Cleon Jones never hit more than 14 home runs in any single season. Nor did he drive in more than 75 runs. However, Jones was a very solid hitter, batting over .300 on two separate occasions and posting a mark of .297 another time. The right-handed hitting outfielder had his finest season in 1969, helping the Miracle Mets win the National League pennant by batting .340, compiling a .422 on-base percentage, knocking in 75 runs, and scoring 92 others, en route to earning a seventh-place finish in the league MVP voting. Jones spent parts of 12 seasons in New York, serving as the team’s regular left fielder in eight of those years. He compiled a batting average of .281 during that time, knocked in 521 runs, and scored 563 others. He played on two pennant-winning clubs and one world championship team in New York. All things considered, Jones seemed like the best choice for the starting left field job.
Center Field – Carlos Beltran
With all due respect to Tommie Agee, Lee Mazzilli and Mookie Wilson, Carlos Beltran is clearly the best player ever to patrol center field for the Mets. The switch-hitting outfielder has hit at least 27 home runs, driven in at least 112 runs, and scored at least 93 others in three of his four full years with the club. After struggling somewhat in his first year in the Big Apple, Beltran had a sensational 2006 campaign in which he hit 41 home runs, knocked in 116 runs, scored 127 others, stole 18 bases, batted .275, and compiled a .388 on-base percentage. He drove in 112 runs in each of the next two seasons, before injuries severely limited his playing time in both 2009 and 2010.
Right Field – Darryl Strawberry
If Jose Reyes isn’t the most naturally-gifted player ever to perform for the Mets, then Darryl Strawberry likely was. The Straw Man seemed destined for Cooperstown before substance-abuse problems got the better of him. Strawberry hit at least 26 home runs in each of his eight years in New York, surpassing 30 homers on three separate occasions and leading the National League with 39 four-baggers in 1988. He also drove in more than 100 runs three times for the Mets, scored more than 100 runs twice, and stole more than 20 bases five times.
Catcher - Mike Piazza
Jerry Grote was an outstanding defensive receiver, and he did an excellent job of handling New York’s young pitching staff during the late 1960s. Gary Carter had a couple of big years for the Mets, helping the team capture the 1986 world championship. And Todd Hundley’s total of 41 home runs in 1996 remains the club record for a catcher. But Mike Piazza was unquestionably the best player ever to squat behind home plate for the Mets. After coming over to New York early in 1998, Piazza put together five outstanding years, before injuries and age began to take their toll on him. He batted over .300 and hit more than 30 home runs four times for the Mets, while also knocking in more than 100 runs twice. Piazza had his two best seasons in 1999 and 2000, hitting 40 homers, driving in 124 runs, scoring 100 others, and batting .303 in the first of those years. He followed that up by hitting 38 homers, knocking in 113 runs, and batting .324 in 2000, en route to earning a third-place finish in the league MVP voting.
Starting Pitcher – Tom Seaver
Known simply as The Franchise during his time in New York, Tom Seaver was the greatest player in Mets history. Seaver posted 198 of his 311 career victories as a Met, also compiling an exceptional 2.57 ERA in his 12 years with the team. The right-hander won three Cy Young Awards and led the league in wins twice, ERA three times, and strikeouts five times while pitching for the Mets. His total of 25 victories in 1969 remains a franchise record, and he also surpassed 20 victories three other times.
Starting Pitcher – Dwight Gooden
Had Dwight Gooden not joined his good friend Darryl Strawberry in succumbing to drugs, he might have been able to challenge Seaver for the right to be called the greatest player in Mets history. Gooden performed brilliantly for the team his first two seasons, compiling a record of 17-9 in 1984, along with a 2.60 ERA and a league-leading 276 strikeouts. He followed that up by leading all N.L. hurlers with a mark of 24-4, an ERA of 1.53, 268 strikeouts, 16 complete games, and 277 innings pitched in 1985, en route to winning the Cy Young Award. Gooden remained an effective pitcher for the team the next six years, before his off-field indiscretions no longer permitted him to pitch successfully at the major-league level. Gooden left the Mets in 1994 with an overall record of 157-85 and an ERA of 3.10.
Starting Pitcher – Jerry Koosman
Although he spent much of his time in New York pitching in the shadow of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman was a fine pitcher in his own right. The left-hander surpassed 15 victories in four of his 11 full seasons with the Mets, winning 21 games once and posting 19 victories another time. Koosman joined Seaver in New York’s starting rotation in 1968, compiling a record of 19-12, along with an ERA of 2.08 as a rookie. He then won 17 games for the eventual world champions in 1969, while also compiling an ERA of 2.28. After failing to win more than 15 games in any of the next six seasons due to a lack of run support, Koosman finished 21-10 for the Mets in 1976, while also posting a 2.69 ERA and a career-high 200 strikeouts. Koosman left New York three years later with an overall record of 140-137, along with an ERA of 3.09.
Starting Pitcher – David Cone
Although he spent parts of only seven seasons with the Mets, serving as a regular member of the team’s starting rotation in just five of those, David Cone established himself during that time as one of the best pitchers in team history. He compiled an overall record with the club of 81-51, having his best year in 1988, when he finished 20-3, with a 2.22 ERA and 213 strikeouts. Cone led the National League twice in strikeouts and appeared in two All-Star Games while with the Mets.
Starting Pitcher – Sid Fernandez
Sid Fernandez spent 10 seasons in New York, during which time he compiled an overall record of 98-78, along with an ERA of 3.14. He posted a mark of 16-6 for the 1986 world champions, while also striking out 200 batters in 204 innings of work. The portly left-hander had perhaps his finest season for the team, though, in 1992, when he finished 14-11, with a 2.73 ERA
Closer – John Franco
I could just as easily have gone with Jesse Orosco here – the man who got the final out of both the 1986 NLCS and the 1986 World Series. In the end, though, John Franco’s franchise-record 276 saves were impossible to ignore. Franco saved at least 30 games for the Mets five different times, leading the National League in that category twice as a member of the team. Orosco and Roger McDowell will ably assist Franco as the club’s set-up men.
Manager – Gil Hodges
No other Mets manager experienced the level of success that Davey Johnson had from 1984 to 1990. Johnson led New York to one world championship, two division titles, and five second-place finishes. The Mets won 108 games in 1986 and posted an overall record of 595-417 under Johnson, for an outstanding .588 winning percentage. But Johnson had a considerable amount of talent with which to work, and the Mets often failed to reach their full potential. While Johnson certainly cannot be blamed for the partying ways of several of his players, the fact remains he failed to bring out the very best in them in at least one or two seasons. Meanwhile, Gil Hodges squeezed everything he could out of a far-less talented Mets squad in his years as the team’s skipper. The team he inherited in 1968 had previously served as a doormat to the rest of the National League. Yet, he turned the Mets into world champions by the very next year. To a man, the players on that squad credit Hodges with turning them around, not only as players, but also as men. Molding men was perhaps Hodges’ greatest strength, and that was one of the primary reasons I selected him to manage this All-Time Team.
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