For many Mets fans, the number 11 is associated with Tim Teufel and the Teufel Shuffle, or Ruben Tejada, who went from frustrating player to folk hero when he was attacked by Chase Utley at second base in Game 2 of the 2015 NLDS. That said, when you go through Mets history, Wayne Garrett is the Mets player who wore number 11 who stands above the rest.
Garrett was first obtained from the Mets because the team felt they needed an effective backup to Bud Harrelson, who was dealing with knee issues in the offseason. As a result, the team obtained him in the Rule 5 Draft. As a Rule 5 pick, the Mets had to use him or lose him in 1969, so they would up using him.
During that 1969 season, he would bounce all over the infield. Ultimately, he would find himself in some sort of a rotation at second with Ken Boswell and Al Weis at second, but mostly, he played third where he split time with Ed Charles.
Over the first two months of the season, he was a sensation, and he would prove himself defensively. After the year wore on, he regressed significantly at the plate. In the game before the famous black cat game, Garrett broke the tie with a go-ahead RBI single in the sixth. As great as that was, his best work was in the postseason.
In the Mets shocking three game sweep of the favored Atlanta Braves, Garrett hit .385/.467/.769 with two doubles, a homer, and three RBI. It was his two run homer in Game 3 which put the Mets ahead for good and sent them to their first World Series. Garrett didn’t have much of an impression in the World Series, but he was a key part of that team nevertheless.
Garrett’s career from that point was marked by the Mets looking to bring someone over him, like Jim Fregosi, and Garrett outplaying and outlasting that player. The Mets were lucky that was the case as Garrett was one of the best players on that team. In fact, by WAR, Garrett was the best position player on that team.
In that 1973 season, Garrett hit .256/.348/.403, and he had a career best 4.3 WAR. More than that, he rose to the occasion. He hit leadoff and was a sparkplug. He would also lead the team in game winning hits. That included four in September when the Mets needed every last win they could get to win the division.
Garrett didn’t have many hits that 1973 postseason, but when he got them, he made sure they counted. In Game 2, he homered in the Mets victory. He would hit a lead-off homer in the next game, one which the Mets unfortunately lost.
Overall, Garrett would set what was then a World Series record with 11 strikeouts, and he would pop out to short to end the series. Still, there is no way the Mets ever get to that point without Garrett.
One interesting note to consider with Garrett was when he came to the Mets, they went from perennial loser to World Series champions. In his eight years with the Mets, they had a winning record in seven of those years. That’s a remarkable feat considering the Mets didn’t have a winning record in the their first seven years.
After the Mets traded him in 1976, the Mets would not have a winning record again until 1984. In fact, they’d finish in last place in five of the ensuing seven seasons. You can’t put all of that on him, but certainly moving on from a versatile player and leader like Garrett took its toll on the franchise.
By the time Garrett left the Mets, he was the all-time leader in games played at third. He was also fifth all-time in WAR among position players. He was also the all-time leader in walk rate, and he was second in OBP and walks. Today, he is still fifth all-time in walks, and he still has the best walk rate out of any Mets player who has played at least 500 games.
Overall, Garrett was an important player in Mets history, and to a certain extent, he was the first ever player who represented an answer to a murky third base position. He was a leader, could get on base, and ultimately, was the best Mets player to ever wear the number 11.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Garrett was the 11th best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 11.