Best Mets Of All Time: No. 29 Frank Viola
Believe it or not, the number 29 is tied for the second most chosen uniform among Mets players. Currently, it is worn by Brad Brach, and there has been a player wearing it every year, sometimes multiple players in a year, every year since Alex Trevino and Tom Gorman wore it in 1978.
This is a number which probably should have been synonymous with Ken Singleton, but the Mets traded him far too soon. When you look at the history of the number, three names stand above the rest.
There is Steve Trachsel, who was a human rain delay. He also had some highlights like pitching two one hitters in the 2003 season and being the winning pitcher in the 2006 NL East clincher. He should also be forever commended for being willing to take a demotion to 2001 to figure things out.
There was also Dave Magadan who had a great game himself in the 1986 clincher, and he nearly won the 1990 batting title. He was also in the top 10 in OBP and OPS.
However, when you look at the number 29, there is only one Mets player who was truly great wearing that number – Frank Viola.
In 1989, the Long Island native and St. John’s alum came home to pitch for his hometown New York Mets, the team he rooted for as a child. That 1989 season was a difficult one for him in Minnesota and New York. Entering the 1990 season, he switched his number from 26 and 29, and he was once again the pitcher who was the 1987 World Series MVP.
In 1990, Viola had a great All Star year where he had the second most wins in the National League. In fact, with him winning 20 games that season, he is the last Mets left-handed pitcher to win 20 in a season. The only other Mets pitcher to win 20 in a season since him was R.A. Dickey in his 2012 Cy Young award winning season.
He’d lead the league in starts and innings pitched that season. He’d also have the second highest WAR in the league among pitchers, and he would finish third in the Cy Young voting. He would only trail teammates Dwight Gooden and David Cone in FIP.
Although the win/loss record didn’t show it, Viola backed up his 1990 season with another All-Star campaign in 1991. In making that second All Star Game, Viola joined Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack, and Sid Fernandez as Mets left-handed starters who have gone to multiple All Star games. Since Viola went to back-to-back All Star Games, no other Mets starting pitcher has accomplished that feat.
In a little over two seasons with the Mets, Viola was 38-32 with a 3.31 ERA with a 110 ERA+ and a 3.26 FIP amassing a 9.8 WAR. In addition to his time spent on the mound, he returned to the Mets as a minor league pitching coach who helped build that 2015 staff. That included his picking up a dejected deGrom by telling him he wanted to be there for deGrom’s Major League debut.
In all, Viola was not with the Mets long as a player, but he did things rarely done in team history, and some of his feats have not been repeated. He was a very good pitcher in his brief Mets tenure, and he has had a profound impact on the franchise both as a pitcher and a pitching coach. All told, that is why he is the choice for the best Mets player to wear the number 29.
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
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy
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