Best Mets Of All Time: No. 26 Terry Leach
To a certain extent, it is surprising this isn’t Dave Kingman. After all, he was the first Mets player to have back-to-back 30 home run seasons. However, even with the home run power, Kingman wasn’t nearly as productive as people might’ve remembered. In fact, over his six year Mets career, he accumulated just a 3.0 WAR.
First baseman, Rico Brogna surpassed that mark despite having a Mets career half that than Kingman. Brogna left an impression during his brief tenure which included his being the first ever player to homer at Coors Field. Still, he wasn’t the best player to wear the number 26. That honor goes to Terry Leach.
Leach came to the Mets in one of those under the radar trades Frank Cashen would become famous for as he built that 1986 squad. His first big moment as a member of the Mets would come in the final week of the 1982 season. As the Mets were playing out the string of yet another 90 loss season, Leach would be phenomenal pitching a one hit shutout over 10.0 innings to earn the win.
Even after that great start, Leach would not appear in a game for the Mets again until 1985. Part of the reason for that is the Mets traded him to the Cubs who traded him to the Braves. Once the Braves released him in 1984, the Mets brought him back to the organization. In 1985 and 1986, Leach would be on the shuttle between Tidewater (the Mets then Triple-A affiliate) and New York.
While he had been an effective reliever in brief stints, Leach was going to turn 33 years old, and you wondered if he was ever really going to get an extended chance to establish himself as a Major Leaguer. In 1987, fate would intervene.
On the eve of the 1986 World Series, Dwight Gooden would be suspended for cocaine, and Rick Aguilera would suffer an injury. The Gooden suspension created room on the Major League roster, and the Aguilera injury opened up a spot in the rotation. Leach would step up and have one of the more remarkable and surprising stints for a Mets starter.
As a starting pitcher that year, he was 7-1 with a 3.51 ERA. During that stretch, he had some absolutely brilliant pitching performances. In his first start of the season, he outpitched Fernando Valenzuela. On June 27, he beat the Phillies after allowing two earned over eight. In his next start, he’d pitch his second career shut out against the Reds allowing just two hits.
Over his first seven starts, he was 5-0 with a 1.87 ERA. At that point, Leach was 8-0, and he would run his record to 10-0 by August 11. That 10-0 start to the season is still a Mets record to this day.
What was remarkable about Leach’s run is as good of a starter he was that year, he was an even better reliever. In his 32 relief appearances, he was 4-0 with a 2.84 ERA. Overall, he was 11-1 with a 3.22 ERA. His .917 winning percentage that year remains a Mets single-season record.
Leach’s 1987 season helped him secure a spot in the 1988 bullpen. Leach pitched very well that season going 7-2 with a 2.54 ERA and three saves. In the NLCS that year, Leach would make three appearances pitching five scoreless innings.
Unfortunately, Leach took a step back in 1989, and he would be traded to the Royals. Eventually, he would find his way to the Twins, where he was once again teammates with Aguilera on the 1991 World Series winning Minnesota Twins.
Overall, Leach was one of the more surprising stories in the course of Mets history, and it is remarkable a relative journeyman still owns a Mets single season record. That just speaks to how great he was in 1987. His second stint with the Mets was very effective, and it is a large reason why he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 26.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky
25. Pedro Feliciano