Figuring Out The d’Arnaud/Plawecki Platoon

Since cracking the Opening Day roster in 2014, Travis d’Arnaud has averaged 90 games per season behind the plate with last year being his high at 112 games.  This is because d’Arnaud has not withstood to the day-to-day rigors of catching.  Each and every year, he deals with a different injury to another part of his body, and as a result, the Mets have been left scrambling to figure out their Major League catching depth.

With the re-emergence of Kevin Plawecki as the Mets catcher of the future and the minor league signing of Jose Lobaton, the Mets are in a much better position from a catching standpoint than they have been in years past.  While the Mets have better depth, the end game should be to keep d’Arnaud healthy for a full season.

And for that matter, with Plawecki finally showing the type of bat the Mets believed he had, the team needs to find a spot for him in the lineup.

To that end, a platoon between the catchers makes sense.  Fortunately, both catchers seem inclined to go forward with the plan, and they both thrived under the situation last September with d’Arnaud hitting .297/.343/.656 in 20 games and Plawecki hitting .278/.400/.426 in 19 games.

So based upon their production in an admittedly small sample size, we know it could potentially work.  What we don’t know is how it should work next season, especially when you consider both are right-handed hitters.

Perhaps, the Mets should approach this from a different perspective.  Instead of focusing on what pitcher is on the mound for the opposing team, the Mets should focus on what pitcher is on the mound for their own team.   That is, much like what we saw in 2016 with Noah Syndergaard and Rene Rivera, assign a catcher to a Mets starter based upon whom the pitcher works best.

When you look at the numbers, what is quite startling is just how much better the Mets starters numbers are with Plawecki behind the plate.  There is a very important caveat to that.  Plawecki did the bulk of the catching of these pitchers back in 2015 when they were all healthy and dealing.  It was d’Arnaud who had to deal with each one of them having real injury issues which corresponded with diminished stuff and stats.

Basically, this will come down to comfort, and for starters, we know that likely means Plawecki will be catching Syndergaard because as we saw in 2016, he and d’Arnaud have had difficulty getting on the same page.  As an aside, it was somewhat telling Syndergaard was caught by Plawecki and Tomas Nido in his two “starts” at the end of the season.

Coincidence or not, there may be something to Plawecki not catching Jacob deGrom at all last season.  Given their track record together, which includes deGrom winning the 2014 Rookie of the Year Award and his amazing 2015 postseason, or their both having lower case ds in their last name, there is a rapport between deGrom and d’Arnaud which should continue.

Likely, you want to get each of the catchers 2-3 days in a row when they do play in order to afford them to maximizing rest and getting in rhythm.  To that end, d’Arnaud should catch deGrom with the fourth and fifth starter, whoever they may be.  This would set up this type of rotation:

  1. Jacob deGrom (d’Arnaud)
  2. Noah Syndergaard (Plawecki)
  3. Jason Vargas (Plawecki)
  4. Matt Harvey (d’Arnaud)
  5. Steven Matz (d’Arnaud)

Really, after deGrom and Syndergaard, you can order the pitchers anyway you want, and you can certainly resort them depending on which catcher and pitcher feel most comfortable as a tandem.  In the end, what really matters is Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Glenn Sherlock communicate with the starters and catching tandem to find the best fit for each pitcher.  If done properly, we may see the catchers last a full season, and more importantly, we could see the pitching staff as a whole revert to their 2015 level.

Platoon?

As I wrote in my last post, the Mets have a lot of versatility. After thinking about it, I noticed something:

2B: Kelly Johnson (L) & Wilmer Flores (R)

3B: Daniel Murphy (L) & Juan Uribe (R)

CF: Kirk Nieuwenhuis (L) & Juan Lagares (R)

This is the making of the perfect platoon situation.  Last night the lefties played against the right handed Zach Lee. The aforementioned lefties were in the lineup. Once the game was out of control, the better defensive players were the Juans who came out onto the field (can’t wait to use that pun again). 

I believe Collins will look to ride the hot hand more than he’ll look to platoon players. However, when the Mets have faced lefties this year, he has loaded the lineup with right handed batters. I think the platoon system is the prudent way to go that unless/until the Mets get reinforcements (trades, players returning from injury). 

Remember, the only two times the Mets won the Workd Series, they effectively used a platoon system. 

Brodie Van Wagenen Is Comically Bad

Last night, Travis d’Arnaud was 3-for-4 with five RBI. Three of those five RBI came on an eighth inning double which put the Braves ahead 11-10. This was the same d’Arnaud he rage released last year.

Since d’Arnaud was released he outplayed Wilson Ramos. That was readily apparent when Ramos’ framing, if you can call it that, cost Seth Lugo a strike in that fateful d’Arnaud at-bat.

You couldn’t help but notice the same game d’Arnaud won, the .208/.269/.250 hitting Ramos flew out with the tying run on second to end the game.

Ramos’ failures go beyond his offense. He can’t frame and his game calling has been poor. It’s one of the reasons Edwin Diaz has struggled in a Mets uniform.

Case-in-point, Ramos called six outside pitches when Marcell Ozuna was up last week, and on a 3-2 pitch, he called the same pitch Ozuna struck out on the previous day. Short of using a megaphone, Ramos couldn’t have made the pitch type and location any more obvious.

This is normally where we go to Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. On that note, the Mets called up Brian Dozier despite his bit really fully preparing for the season and his not taking part in summer camp.

By hastily starting an ill-prepared Dozier, the Mets have admitted Cano is no more than a platoon player making that trade somehow worse.

On the topic of the platoon, you know who was a really good right-handed platoon option? Wilmer Flores.

However, the Mets non-tendered Flores partially because of a knee condition he never actually had. Instead, they replaced him with Jed Lowrie, a player who actually had a knee injury.

That knee injury is the invented condition of PCL laxity. Even better than the conjured up diagnosis was it taking nearly a year-and-a-half to get a second opinion.

On the topic of the IL, Jake Marisnick landed on it. The Mets could’ve just signed a player like Juan Lagares for cheaper, but instead, they chose to trade Marisnick.

While the Mets are getting nothing from the impending free agent Marisnick, and their bullpen has been struggling Blake Taylor has been terrific out of the Houston Astros bullpen.

The list with Van Wagenen goes on and on. He told us he was replacing Zack Wheeler with Marcus Stroman, who was in the same rotation. He then let Wheeler walk and actually replaced him with Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha while trying to tell us the pitching improved.

Don’t forget his continuously telling us he wasn’t going to fire Carlos Beltran only to fire Beltran before he managed a game.

It’s like Van Wagenen is George Costanza. Every instinct is wrought with failure. The key difference is Costanza was the assistant to the traveling secretary, and Van Wagenen is the GM.

The other difference is Van Wagenen is real. He’s all too real.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Disappointing Red Sox Split

With the crazy 2020 schedule, the Mets had a four game two city set with the Boston Red Sox. The road teams had the better of it.

1. Luis Rojas hasn’t been any different than Mickey Callaway in his decision making.

2. Andres Gimenez having more PA than Dominic Smith is inexcusable. It’s even worse when Gimenez is getting critical at-bats late in games over Smith.

3. With Smith and Luis Guillorme, it’s hard to conclude anything other than the Mets aren’t prioritizing getting them into games. After all, Brian Dozier wasn’t in full game shape and missed Summer Camp, yet he was activated and started the finale.

4. While people are over-focusing on Edwin Diaz‘s tough inning, they’re missing just how bad Wilson Ramos has been in every aspect of his game.

5. Diaz imploding again, and the Mets essentially admitting Robinson Cano is now a platoon player, that trade somehow got worse.

6. Speaking of awful trades, Blake Taylor has been terrific in the Astros pen while the Mets can’t figure out the pen, and Jake Marisnick is on the IL.

7. Aside from Rick Porcello, the Mets have gotten good starting pitching. Their offense, while disappointing, has been good. And yet, they’re under .500. Why? Because they’re the worst defensive club in baseball.

8. Much of that is attributable to J.D. Davis, who has been dreadful in left. Much like last year, he’s the worst defensive LF in baseball. It was his defense which led to the game winning rally on Wednesday.

9. The Mets need to go back to the drawing board and re-figure things out. Davis doesn’t belong in left. Amed Rosario is not a lead-off hitter. Your top OBP guy in Brandon Nimmo can’t hit ninth. Jeff McNeil is struggling at third.

10. Seth Lugo is far too versatile and important to be just a closer. If the Mets are moving on from Diaz, a committee led by Jeurys Familia is the right approach.

11. Don’t discount Drew Smith who has been terrific.

12. Speaking of terrific young Mets pitchers, David Peterson took his velocity and game to another level in his first career start. It this is who he is now, his ceiling is much higher.

13. Despite what delusional Yankees fans will tell you Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball. He now has a 2.23 ERA in no decisions.

14. deGrom should’ve had the win, but that’s nothing new. He needs more run support.

15. The Mets had some very ugly ABs in crucial situations. Michael Conforto had a few of those. Don’t make too much of that as Conforto is a terrific hitter.

16. It’s interesting Dozier was activated but not Juan Lagares when both were very similarly situated. It’s all the more interesting when the Mets activated Ryan Cordell over Lagares when the team needed to replace Marisnick’s defense.

17. Overall, this Mets team should be better. It’s just better situational hitting (which comes and goes) and playing a better defensive lineup, which the Mets refuse to do.

18. You wonder how much longer the Mets can stick with Yoenis Cespedes. At times, he looks lost. Other times, he’s battling in AB and seems very close.

19. Speaking of Cespedes, it seems odd today is July 31 and we’re not awaiting Brodie Van Wagenen making a dumb trade.

20. We may never reach that new trade deadline with the Phillies on the cusp of an outbreak themselves, no one knowing when the Marlins can play again, and with Rob Manfred not taking this pandemic seriously.

Game Recaps

No Joking: Wacha And Mets Offense Were Terrific

David Peterson Debut Knocked The Red Sox Off

Mets Loss Was Not Luis Rojas Best Managed Game

Vazquez Beats Matz

Ranking Mets Managers

Typically speaking, deciding who is “THE BEST” at something is a futile endeavor. After all, trying to apply objective measures to reach a subjective opinion is a concept somewhat at odds with itself.

In terms of baseball, it’s nearly impossible with the change of eras. Should Babe Ruth be considered the best ever when he played before integration? Should Barry Bonds be disqualified due to PEDs? Should we split the difference and say it’s Willie Mays?

Again, there’s just too many factors at play to determine who is THE BEST. To that end, we should look at this more as who’s in the discussion rather than who is atop the list.

In terms of the Mets, we know Tom Seaver is the best player to ever play for the team. That’s one of the rare instances where it’s clear-cut. It’s far from clear-cut on the manager side.

For 25 years, it was clearly Gil Hodges. He led the Miracle Mets to the 1969 World Series partially due to innovation. Hodges utilized platoons, and he might’ve been the first manager to utilize a five man rotation.

As we all know Hodges never got the chance to cement himself as the best manager ever as he suddenly died of a heart attack on the eve of the 1972 season. You can’t help but wonder what he could’ve done with the Mets getting Rusty Staub.

In 1984, the Mets hired Davey Johnson, who arguably went on to become the best manager in team history. In addition to winning the 1986 World Series, his teams never finished lower than second in the division.

Johnson was also the only Mets manager to win multiple division titles. In his tenure, his teams averaged 96 wins. It’s part of the reason why he has the most wins and highest winning percentage. Those were the Mets glory years, and he was at the helm.

Arguably, Hodges and Johnson are the Mets two best managers. However, there could be a case for Bobby Valentine.

Valentine is third in terms of wins and winning percentage. He came one year short of Johnson’s team record by having five consecutive winning seasons. However, notably, Valentine’s teams were not as loaded as Johnson’s.

Despite that, Valentine was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons. He’s the only Mets manager to lead his team to a postseason series victory in consecutive seasons. In fact, he’s the only one to do it in any two seasons.

Overall, that’s the top three, and people should feel comfortable ranking them as they see fit. There’s a justifiable reason to put them in any order from 1-3. That said, Hodges and Johnson have the edge having won a Word Series.

After that trio, it’s fair to say Willie Randolph was a clear fourth. In addition to his leading the Mets to the 2006 NLCS, he never had a losing record while amassing the second best winning percentage in team history. His hand in developing David Wright and Jose Reyes to not only reach their potential, but also handling the city should never be discounted.

Honestly, if that isn’t your 1-4, you’re simply doing it wrong.

Terry Collins has a losing record and the most losses in team history. He blew a World Series. He also unapologetically destroyed reliever careers (see Tim Byrdak, Jim Henderson) while admitting he didn’t want to develop young players like Michael Conforto.

Yogi Berra was the manager who led the Mets to their second pennant, but he also finished with a sub .500 career despite having a World Series contending type of roster for part of his tenure.

After that, well, just consider there are only six Mets managers with a winning record. Two of them, Bud Harrelson and Mickey Callaway, were not generally well regarded for their managerial abilities. After that, there’s a lot of bad, including Hall of Famers Casey Stengel and Joe Torre.

Through Mets history, it’s clear who the four best managers are even if the order isn’t nearly as clear. Past them, it’s an uninspiring debate among pretty poor choices.

In the end, your list is personal to you, and no one can quite tell you you’re right or wrong. That is unless you do something monumentally stupid like having Hodges outside the top three or putting Stengel on your list.

Short of that, everyone’s opinions are valid, and it’s a fun debate. And remember, that’s all this is – a fun debate. It’s nothing more than that because you can’t definitely prove one is better than the other.

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 30 Michael Conforto

Michael Conforto may have only been with the Mets for five years, but he has already established himself as one of the best outfielders in team history, and he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 30.

On July 24, 2015, Conforto was finally called up to the majors after fans had been clamoring for him for at least a month. At that time, the Mets offense was injury riddled, and the back-ups of the back-ups just couldn’t hit. An early season lead turned into a deficit, and the team needed capable bats.

What was surprising about Conforto wasn’t that he was ready to hit despite spending little time in Double-A, but rather, it was the fact his defense was much better than advertised. More than anything, Conforto was Major League ready little over one year from being drafted in high school:

In that rookie year, Conforto hit an impressive .270/.335/.506 with 14 doubles, nine homers, and 26 RBI in 56 games. He spend that time platooning with the veteran Michael Cuddyer, and he would show he was ready for the highest level of competition in the postseason. In his first ever postseason at-bat, he would homer off of Zack Greinke:

That was nothing compared to what we would see in the World Series. In the five game series against the Royals, Conforto hit .333/.313/.733 with two homers and four RBI. In that World Series, Conforto led all players in slugging, and he trailed only Curtis Granderson in OPS. He also became the first ever Mets player to have a two home run game in the World Series:

With those homers, he became just the third ever player to play in the Little League World Series, College World Series, and the World Series. He is the only person to homer in all of them. This is how you set the stage for stardom.

It seemed Conforto was just doing that in the beginning of the 2016 season. That was until he suffered a wrist injury which hampered his ability to hit. It was mostly a lost season, but we did see Conforto begin to learn center and right that season in an effort to help the team. This is just an example of the type of team first player he is and the type of leader he would become.

With the wrist injury behind him, Conforto emerged as one of the best players in baseball in 2017. He would become a new style of lead-0ff hitter, and he would become an All-Star. It was one the way to becoming a historically great season in Mets history. At 24, he seemed to be scratching the surface of his immense talent. That’s what made his shoulder injury all the more devastating.

The good news is Conforto would recover. After rushing back from the injury (in typical Mets fashion), Conforto would have a good year with a 122 OPS+ and 2.7 WAR. Notably, he would go off on a tear to finish that season with a .286/.365/.616 batting line in September.

Last year, Conforto re-emerged as a top player on the Mets. Again, to help the team, he played right field everyday instead of his natural left field. He was unheralded for his work there. While he was not even a finalist for the Gold Glove, he would tie Jason Heyward for the best OAA among National League right fielders.

More than the defense, we saw his bat return to what we expected from him all along. In 151 games, Conforto would hit .257/.363/.494 with 29 doubles, a triple, 33 homers, and 92 RBI. It wasn’t just that he hit well, it was the fact he got the big hits when the Mets needed them from him. That was especially the case late in the season when he had a walk-off hit which began the Mets bizarre streak of ripping off each others’ jerseys:

What is amazing with Conforto is while he is beginning to etch his name into the Mets record books, he has yet to enter his prime. At the moment, he has already made his way onto the Mets top 10 all-time rankings in SLG, OPS, and OPS+ (8th). By WAR, he is already the Mets third best left fielder trailing just Cleon Jones and Kevin McReynolds.

Honestly, he is one good season away from over taking both. He is also seventh in WAR among all outfielders. In his next full season, he will very likely jump to fifth, and he will soon be among the ranks of Carlos Beltran and Darryl Strawberry as the best outfielders to ever wear a Mets uniform.

That’s exactly what Conforto is and will continue to be. He is one of the best players to ever wear a Mets uniform, and he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 30.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
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

Best Mets Of All Time: No 24 Art Shamsky

Joan Payson, the original Mets owner, loved Willie Mays so much that not only did she have the Mets trade to get him in 1972, she unofficially retired the number. In fact, since Mays retired after the 1973 World Series, the number has only been worn by Kelvin Torve (who switched his number in-season), Rickey Henderson, and now Robinson Cano.

Beyond that group, there were Mets players who wore the number briefly. Ed Charles wore it for one season before switching to 5. Ken Boswell switched from that number to 12. Jim Beauchamp gave up his 24 to Mays. Then, there was Art Shamsky who wore it throughout his three year Mets career.

Shamsky first came to the Mets in the same offseason as Gil Hodges. Things could not have been worse for Shamsky. He was leaving a good Reds team who already had Tony Perez and Pete Rose, and he was going to what was the worst baseball franchise in the history of baseball.

In his first year with the Mets, he was little more than a league average hitter, but this was an improved Mets team who seemed to pull off the impossible by not losing 90 games for the first time in their history. To that end, things seemed to be improving for Shamsky and the Mets, but that was only momentary.

Shamsky hurt his back entering the 1969 season, and he started late. What he couldn’t have known at the time was he was about to embark on the best season of his life. That 1969 season would prove not only to be his most memorable but also his best individual season.

While being platooned with Ron Swoboda, Shamsky hit .300/.375/.488 with nine doubles, three triples, 14 homers, and 47 RBI in 100 games. Nearly each of those marks were a career best for him including the 139 OPS+. Included in those 47 RBI were game winners.

Where Shamsky would really shine that season was the postseason. In the NLCS against the Braves, he was a difficult out hitting .538 in the series. When he reached base in his final NLCS at-bat, that would be the final time he would reach base in that postseason. Even if he didn’t get another hit, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have an impact.

Never known for his defense, it was a terrific diving play. It was one of the miraculous diving defensive plays from the Mets in that series which helped them pull off the miracle that was the 1969 World Series. Like the rest of his teammates, he would become a World Series champion.

Shamsky would play two more years with the Mets after that 1969 World Series with him having another good year in 1970 before being released in 1971. Through his career, he is the 50th best Mets position player by WAR putting him ahead of any other Mets player who wore the number 24. Overall, even if legends like Mays and Henderson wore the number 24 with the Mets, it was Shamsky who was the best Mets player to wear that number.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
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

Amazin Bracket: (1) Keith Hernandez vs. (16) Tim Teufel

(1) Keith Hernandez – His trade to the Mets was widely credited with bringing the Mets to prominence. Won a team record five Gold Gloves at first base further cementing reputation as best defensive first baseman of all-time. Member of the 1986 World Series team who famously threatened Jesse Orosco and Gary Carter not to throw another fastball to Kevin Bass. Was named the first captain in team history. Has become part of the iconic and loved GKR on SNY broadcasts.

(16) Tim Teufel – Came to the Mets in 1986 to serve as a platoon partner for Wally Backman. Hit .444/.500/.889 in three games of the 1986 World Series. After his career ended, he returned to the Mets as a minor league manager and then a Major League coach.

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Best Mets Of All Time: No. 14 Gil Hodges

There have only been three people who have worn the number 14 in Mets history – Gil Hodges, Ron Swoboda, and Ken Boyer. Of the three Hodges has the lowest WAR as a member of the Mets, but when you break it all down, Hodges is the only choice for the best Mets player to ever wear the number 14.

Hodges was an original Met after spending the first 16 years of his career with the Dodgers. One of the reasons the Mets selected him in the Expansion Draft was he was a beloved Brooklyn Dodger, and he was a borderline Hall of Famer. In his brief playing career with the Mets, Hodges would hit the first homer in Mets history, and he would retire with the 10th most homers in Major League history.

In 1963, the Mets traded Hodges to the Washington Senators where he would become the team’s manager. Four years later, the Mets were making a trade with the Senators to bring Hodges back to New York so he could manage the Mets. While we talk about Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Noah Syndergaard, and Yoenis Cespedes, this could have been the best trade the Mets ever made.

While many focus on the miracle, and rightfully so, lost in the shuffle was his immediate impact. Prior to Hodges being hired, the Mets had lost 100 games in five of their first six seasons, and they never won more than 66 games in a season. In Hodges first year, the Mets avoided the 90 loss mark. Yes, the Mets were still under .500, but that was a 12 game improvement.

It was during that 1968 season where Hodges put the first touches on what would become the most shocking season in Major League history. In that year, he began platooning players to get the most out of their respective abilities, and he pushed the Mets towards a five man rotation. That certainly helped Jerry Koosman, who was an All-Star and finished second to Johnny Bench in the Rookie of the Year voting.

In that magical 1969 season, the Mets were actually two games under .500 entering June. As far as the Mets went, that meant they were having a great year. Little did everyone know what was going to happen next.

After an 11 game winning streak, the Mets were six games over .500, but still, they were not much of a factor yet as that pulled them up to seven games behind the Cubs. The Mets were still alive but trailing significantly through July. It was on July 30, when Hodges made a move which may have ignited the team again.

In an extra inning game, Hodges not only pulled star Cleon Jones for not hustling, but he would go out to left field to do it. That was emblematic of his leadership and demand for accountability. For what it is worth, years later, Jones showed no bitterness, and he spoke about how great a leader Hodges was.

With a little help from a black cat, the acquisition of Donn Clendenon, great pitching, and Hodges out-managing Hall of Famer Leo Durocher down the stretch, the Mets would miraculously win 100 games.

It would be in that World Series where Hodges would show how great and quick thinking a manager he was. After a Game 1 loss, he took the unusual step of allowing Clendenon to address the team. Then, in Game 5, he would help swing the momentum of the clinching game:

With Dave McNally dealing, and the Mets down 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth, there was a pitch Jones believed hit him in the foot. As the story goes, Hodges turned to Koosman and had him swipe the ball against his freshly polished shoes to make sure there was a mark on the ball. Seeing the mark on the ball, Home Plate Umpire Lou DiMuro awarded Jones first base.

The Orioles were incensed and lost their cool. Two pitches later, McNally allowed a home run to Clendenon pulling the Mets to within one, and the Mets would eventually pull off the 5-3 and win their first ever World Series.

That season Hodges won the Sporting News Manager of the Year, and the Mets became the first ever team to have a 15 game improvement before winning the World Series. Until the Marlins won the 1997 World Series, the Mets were the fastest expansion team to win a World Series.

The Mets were not able to win the division again under Hodges, but they also would be above .500 in each of the ensuing two years. Hodges was one of the driving forces behind the Mets acquiring Rusty Staub. Finally, he got his wish on the eve of the 1972 season, and Hodges was able to talk with Staub at Easter services. However, with the medicals being reviewed, Hodges was unable to tell Staub about the trade, nor was he going to be able to manage him in 1973 when the Mets won their second pennant.

He never would as Hodges would die of a heart attack. That heart attack devastated Mets fans and Dodgers fans alike. It devastated all of baseball. Jackie Robinson was reported to have said, “Next to my son’s death, this is the worst day of my life.”

With his death, Hodges was easily the best manager in Mets history, a mantle many still believe he should hold to this day. He now ranks third all-time in manager wins and fifth in winning percentage. He was the first ever player to have his number retired by the Mets, but as we all know, his number was retired for his impact as a manager. Ultimately, he was posthumously inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

There are those who believe he should one day be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. When you consider his guiding the Miracle Mets and his lasting impact on the game, it is hard to argue with those people. For now, he is the greatest Met to ever wear the number 14.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Met to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Hodges was the 14th best in Mets history, but rather the best Met to wear the number 14.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
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

Best Mets Of All-Time: No. 1 Mookie Wilson

With COVID19, we don’t get baseball. Instead, we have memories of baseball. Our favorite games, moments, and players. Each team has their own legends who are mostly remembered for their own contributions. In an effort to recognize that, we are going to run down the greatest players in Mets history by going through the uniform numbers.

We begin at number 1, which in Mets history has become synonymous with Mookie Wilson.

The best stretch in Mets history began with him because on September 2, 1980, he batted lead-off and played center field for the Mets. In that game, Wally Backman was also in the line-up, and with that the first two members of the 1986 World Series champion roster were in place.

Much like the Mets as a franchise, Mookie had to fight for everything he got as he was constantly being challenged for playing time. In 1986, that came in the form of Lenny Dykstra, who had a great rookie season. Mookie would eventually force his way into the lineup taking over left from the released George Foster.

That situation became all the more complicated in the subsequent offseason when the Mets obtained Kevin McReynolds from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Kevin Mitchell and prospects. Through this time, he would have to platoon, and he would be frustrated by the process seeking a trade at one point. Still, through it all, he remained a Met.

In fact, Mookie was one of the longest tenured Mets in history. When he was finally traded in 1989 to the Toronto Blue Jays, he was the longest tenured Met on the team. He was also the longest tenured Met when they won the World Series in 1986. In fact, when he departed, only Ed Kranepool, Bud Harrelson, Jerry Grote, and Cleon Jones had played more games than him.

Over his 10 years with the Mets, he was the team’s all-time leader in triples and stolen bases. He was also third in runs and doubles. Really, at that point in Mets history, he was top 5-10 in most offensive categories. This shows how much of an impactful player he was for the franchise. That was perhaps best exhibited in his having the single greatest at-bat in team history:

In that at-bat, Mookie battled like few others we have seen in baseball history. Despite falling down 0-2 against Bob Stanley with the next strike ending the World Series, Wilson would take two pitches evening up the count at 2-2 before fouling off two pitches. The next pitch was the wild pitch.

Looking back at it, it was incredible he got out of the way of the pitch. His getting out of the way of the pitch allowed Mitchell to score from third and to permit Ray Knight to get into scoring position. He then fouled off another pitch before hitting the ball between Bill Buckner‘s legs. In that moment, the Mets made one of the greatest comebacks not just in baseball but sports history.

Mookie’s Mets contribution did not end there. He’d return to the franchise as a first base coach working on Bobby Valentine‘s staffs. On that note, he’d be standing in the first base coaches’ box during Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam single. That means Wilson was there up the first base line for two of the most improbable postseason comebacks with the Mets facing elimination.

Mookie is also the father of Preston Wilson, the former Mets prospect who was one of the headliners headed to the Miami Marlins for Mike Piazza. This only speaks to everything Mookie was. He was much more than the baseball player who got married at home plate in the minor leagues. He has been a good man and eventually became an ordained minister.

Through and through, Mookie is Mets baseball. He is an important figure in team history, and he is certainly the best ever player to wear the No. 1 in team history.