Best Mets Of All Time: No. 41 Tom Seaver
There is no doubt here. Not only is Tom Seaver the best player in Mets and baseball history to ever wear the number 41. He is simply the best player in the history of the New York Mets. More than that, he could be the best right-handed pitcher in the history of baseball who, to date, has the highest ever voting percentage of any starting pitcher inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The fact Seaver even became a Met was pure luck. The Atlanta Braves had illegally signed Seaver leading to the Commissioner’s Office to declare the contract null and void. As Seaver was not allowed to return to pitch in college, ti was determined that any team willing to match his bonus could sign him. Three teams stepped up, but it was the Mets who won that lottery forever altering the course of franchise history.
Not only did Seaver become the first Mets rookie to win the Rookie of the Year award, but he would begin to completely rewrite the Mets history books in the process. Part of that was his making his first All-Star team, which was the first of his seven consecutive appearances and 10 total as a member of the New York Mets.
In 1968, Seaver began his rewrite of some of baseball’s history books. Coming off his Rookie of the Year season, Seaver would be the Mets Opening Day starter. This was the first of what is a still standing MLB record of 16 Opening Day starts. That was just one of the many incredible and record setting things Seaver did as a member of the Mets.
While Seaver was known to be destined for greatness, we saw him be truly great, clearly a step ahead of everyone, in 1969. In that season, he would have a great season setting more Mets records along the way, and he’d have one of his signature performances with the Imperfect Game:
That game was great for many reasons. Aside from the greatness it showed, it was a message sending game to the Cubs the surging Mets were for real, and the Mets had the pitching to take them down, which they eventually would.
Seaver was the man who got the ball in their first ever postseason. While not being classic Seaver, he still won the first ever postseason game the Mets ever played. He would not, however, win the first World Series game in Mets history. He would rebound, and he would be great in Game 4 picking up the win after limiting the Orioles to just one run over 10 innings.
The Mets won that improbable World Series, and they only got to that point because they had Seaver, who at the point was already the best pitcher in the game. There would be so much more in store, including his 19 strikeout game in 1970, which was a then Major League record:
As great as he was in those seasons and those moments, Seaver had an absolute season for the ages. In 1971, Seaver was definitively the best pitcher on the planet. He led the Majors in ERA, ERA+, FIP, and K/9, and he was third in strikeouts. By ERA+, only Dwight Gooden‘s 1985 season would be better in Mets history. Somehow, Seaver, despite being the best pitcher on the planet, finished second to Fergie Jenkins in Cy Young voting. To this day, it remains one of the worst decisions voters have ever made.
While cheated in 1971, Seaver would the Cy Young in 1973 and 1975. When Seaver won the Cy Young in 1975, he became the first right-handed pitcher in Major League history to ever win three Cy Young Awards.
Of note with that 1973 Cy Young, when he won that award, he became the first ever pitcher to win the award without winning 20 games. It should also be noted Seaver was one of the major reasons the Mets were even able to win the division that year.
In the NLCS, he took the loss in Game 1 despite allowing just two earned over 8.1 innings. In the deciding Game 5, he would not be denied. He shut down the Big Red Machine over 8.1 innings this time allowing just one earned. With that Seaver once again led the Mets to the World Series. In an alternate universe, Yogi Berra held onto Seaver to pitch and win Game 7.
In reality, Seaver should have been a Met for life. However, M. Donald Grant thought he was bigger than the team, and instead waged a war against Seaver using his newspaper connections to help force Seaver out of town. While fans lament many deals, the trade which sent Seaver to the Reds remains the worst in team history. Certainly, the Midnight Massacre was among the most depressing days to be a Mets fan.
Seaver’s Mets story didn’t end there. He would have a hero’s return in 1983. Not only would he pitch well that year, but he would serve as a mentor to the young players on that staff like Ron Darling. Ironically, he was part of the contingent who bonded with Keith Hernandez and helped convince him to stay.
After the season, the Met miscalculated. They left Seaver exposed to claims never believing he would be claimed. Sadly, he was claimed by the White Sox. This meant Seaver’s 300th win would be with the White Sox. Still, that moment would happen in New York as Seaver would ruin Phil Rizzuto Day for the Yankees.
When Seaver’s career was over, he was clearly one of the best pitchers to ever take the mound. At the time, his three Cy Youngs were the most of any right-handed pitcher of all-time. His 3,640 strikeouts were the third most of all-time and the sixth most in Major League history today.
Since World War II, only Warren Spahn has more shutouts meaning he has more shutouts than any other right-handed pitcher over that stretch. His WAR is the seventh best of all-time, and since World War II only the steroid driven career of Roger Clemens was better. When you take it all into account, Seaver could rightfully stake a claim as the best right-handed pitcher of all-time and the best pitcher since World War II. Seaver is definitively the best National League pitcher ever.
He’s also definitively the best Mets player ever. That is why he is The Franchise. His number was the first player’s number retired by the Mets. Citi Field is now located at 41 Seaver Way. He owns almost every record of significance in Mets history. He is the best 41 in team history.
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
29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza
32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey
34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon