(7) Jesse Orosco – we are still awaiting for his glove thrown to the heavens to descend to the Earth. Won three games in the 1986 NLCS and recorded two saves in the 1986 World Series. Also had an RBI single in Game 7. His 1983 season was likely the best any Mets reliever ever had, and he finished third in Cy Young voting. Has the most appearances in Major League history, and he was the last member of the 1986 team to be an active player.
(11) Bob Ojeda – Joined the Mets in 1986 and was a key part of the club winning the World Series while one of the players traded to obtain him, Calvin Schiraldi, blew the save in Games 6 and 7. Led the 1986 team in ERA+. Had a number of big starts in that 1986 postseason playing the part of the stopper. Led league in FIP in 1988 and his injuring his hand was pointed to as one of the reasons the Mets lost the NLCS. Was a beloved and respected post-game analyst for SNY before being replaced by Nelson Figueroa.
(6) Howard Johnson – First Mets player to have a 30/30 season. Is the only Mets player with multiple 30/30 seasons, and he is the only switch hitter to accomplish that feat in Major League history. Once held the Mets and National League record for homers and RBI by a switch hitter. To date, still has the best offensive season in Mets history as determined by offensive WAR, OPS+, and wRC+. Returned to the Mets after his playing days and was a mentor to David Wright first in the minors and later in the majors as the hitting coach.
(11) Lee Mazzilli – Brooklyn born player who was the Mets first round draft pick in the 1973 draft. Was an All-Star in 1979, and he would drive home the winning run. After he was traded to the Rangers for Ron Darling, he would return later in his career as a role player for the 1986 Mets. In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, he would have a pinch hit single against Calvin Schiraldi, and he would later score the tying run helping set the stage for the later game drama. In Game 7, it was he sparked the Mets game winning rally in the sixth inning.
Every time a team makes a trade, you hope that it is helping you win a World Series. There are few times you can pinpoint a trade as a significant reason why your team was able to beat the other team. In many ways, that is exactly what the Bob Ojeda trade was for the Mets.
Before the 1986 season, the Mets acquired Ojeda from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for a package which included Calvin Schiraldi. The motivating factor for this deal was for the Mets to get another left-handed starter into the rotation to help them deal with the Cardinals line-up which included the left-handed Andy Van Slyke as well as the switch hitting Tom Herr, Ozzie Smith, Vince Coleman, and Willie McGee.
What the Mets really got was the best pitcher in their rotation. Yes, even with Dwight Gooden atop the rotation, Ojeda would lead that Mets team with a 140 ERA+. In fact, he was arguably the second best pitcher in the National League that year after Mike Scott. Overall, Ojeda was 18-5 with a 2.57 ERA.
As great as he was in the regular season, he was even better in the postseason. His first ever postseason start came in Game 2 of the NLCS with the Mets already down 1-0 in the series. He would respond by out-dueling Nolan Ryan in his complete game victory:
That postseason Ojeda made four starts, and the Mets won all four games he pitched. All four of those games were crucial games the Mets had to have. That included this Game 3 and the subsequent Game 5. The next time he took the mound was in Game 3 of the World Series.
In that Game 3, Ojeda was facing his former Red Sox teammates; teammates who were up 2-0 in the series as it headed to Fenway. Staked to a 4-0 lead before he ever took the mound, Ojeda would shut down the Red Sox offense and get the Mets back into the series. Over seven innings, he yielded just one run on five hits.
In Game 6, the Mets once again handed him the ball asking him to keep hopes alive. With all the drama of that game, one thing which gets completely lost is how well Ojeda pitched. He did all he could possibly do to keep the Red Sox at bay limiting them to just two runs over six innings. When he departed that game, the score was tied, and the Mets were still alive.
An important note to that game was while Ojeda was keeping the Mets alive, Schiradi melted down. After two quick outs, he allowed Gary Carter to start the greatest World Series rally of all-time. Ultimately, Schiraldi would be the losing pitcher of that Game 6, and he would be the losing pitcher of Game 7.
In the history of baseball, you may never get a clearer indication of who won and lost a trade than this 1986 World Series. For the Mets, they have no chance at winning it if they did not have Ojeda in the rotation. With respect to the Red Sox, it’s possible they win that World Series if they had someone else on the mound in those crucial Game 6 and Game 7 moments.
Ojeda’s Mets career was more than just 1986. In 1987, he would get the Opening Day start due to Dwight Gooden‘s drug problems. Unfortunately, his season would be hampered by injury. He would recover to again be an important part of the 1988 rotation.
That year, due to the emergence of David Cone, he was “only” the second best pitcher in the rotation with a 112 ERA+. Yes, he had a losing record, but that tells you more about the that stat than it does about how Ojeda pitched. After all, he had a 2.88 ERA and a 1.004 WHIP. Aside from that record, everyone knew how good Ojeda was. That was evident from his five shutouts, a mark which ranks as the sixth best single season mark in Mets history. His HR/9 that year was also sixth best.
Many to this day, pinpoint his severing part of the middle finger in a hedge clipper accident as the reason the Mets lost the 1988 NLCS. That’s how good he was that year, and really, that is how much of a big game pitcher he was.
Ojeda would last two more years with the Mets pitching well. He would finish his Mets career with a 51-40 record with a 3.12 ERA, and a 1.182 WHIP. His ERA and WHIP are the ninth best in Mets history. That is all the more remarkable when you consider it puts him ahead of pitchers like Johan Santana. Finally, he is ninth in terms of shutouts which puts him not only ahead of Santana but also Jacob deGrom.
More than any of that, he was a driving force for the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. His importance to that team could not be overstated. As a result, Ojeda is the best Mets player to wear the number 19.
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
All the time we talk about key trades or signings which take teams over the top. While it was Keith Hernandez which helped the Mets realize their potential, it was Gary Carter which took this team from a very good team to a World Series winner, and as a result, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 8.
The Mets obtained Carter in a bold move to help take this team over the top. The team traded away their starting third baseman (Hubie Brooks) and starting catcher (Mike Fitzgerald) along with two well regarded prospects to get Carter. One of those prospects was Floyd Youmans, who was a high school teammate of Dwight Gooden.
In retrospect, even with Brooks having a long career, this was an absolute steal. It wasn’t even in retrospect. In fact, Carter would immediately show Mets fans the type of Hall of Fame player the team acquired:
In the Mets history, they have had Mike Piazza, and they had Todd Hundley setting home run records. Despite all of that, to this date, Carter’s 6.9 WAR during the 1985 season still stands as the best ever produced by a Mets catcher. In fact, at the time, it trailed just Cleon Jones‘ 7.0 mark in 1969 as the best a Mets position player has ever had.
It was during that season Carter began to sow the seeds of the 1986 World Series. He mentored a young staff that included Rick Aguilera, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Gooden, Roger McDowell, and others. Darling would tell the Baseball Hall of Fame, “And the thing about Gary was that before computers, before Sabermetrics, he had it in his brain. The entire National League, he could pull up that knowledge at any time and direct it on a very talented, young pitching staff to heights they probably wouldn’t have reached without him.”
Those Mets had a chance late in the season. In the penultimate series of the season, the Mets took the first two games in St. Louis, and if they completed the sweep, they’d tie atop the division with one series remaining. Unfortunately, their eighth inning rally came up short, and the 98 win team would miss the postseason. As we know, that is something that would never happen in the Wild Card Era.
The 1986 Mets would not be denied, and that team established themselves as one of the great teams in Major League history. Once again, Carter was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and he finished in the top six in MVP voting. However, when we talk about that postseason.
Looking at his stats that postseason, it is hard to conclude anything but Carter struggled. Still, when he was absolutely needed, he came through for the team. The first time we saw that happen was when he hit a walk-off single in the 12th off Charlie Kerfeld to help the Mets get a 3-2 series lead and achieve their goal of not seeing Mike Scott again in that series.
Carter’s biggest moments came in the World Series. After looking fatigued and getting beat by the Red Sox in the first two games at Shea Stadium, Lenny Dykstra ignited the Mets with a lead-off homer. Carter would take it from there hitting an RBI double in that game and then having a two home run game in the Mets Game 4 win.
While the Mets absolutely needed both of those homers, and they needed Carter’s performance in both of those games, Carter will always be remembered for just one single. In Game 6, the Mets were down 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th. After Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez flew out, Carter strode to the plate against Calvin Schiraldi. He was the last man standing between the Red Sox winning their first World Series since 1918:
As written in Jeff Pearlman’s book, The Bad Guys Won, Carter would say, “I wasn’t going to make the last out of the World Series.” Carter accomplished much more than that. He would spark the greatest rally in World Series history. In sparking that rally, he accomplished exactly what the Mets intended to do when they obtained him – win a World Series.
We didn’t realize it at that time, but 1986 was the last truly great year from Carter. Still, he was an All Star in each of the ensuing two seasons, and he would be named just the second captain in team history joining his teammate Hernandez as co-captains.
While people realize how great Carter was and how important he was to those Mets teams, they may not realize his impact on the Mets record books. By the time he left the Mets, he had the second highest single-season WAR for a position player. He had the third highest single season offensive WAR. In fact, it was the highest when he accomplished the feat in 1985.
In that 1985 season, he was just a hair behind John Stearns and Jerry Grote for the best defensive WAR from a Mets catcher. His 105 RBI in 1986 tied Rusty Staub for the Mets single-season record. He still holds the single season record for RBI. He is all over the single season record lists.
Mostly, he was the only Hall of Fame caliber player on those Mets teams. Aside from Willie Mays, he is arguably the best position player to ever wear a Mets uniform. Yes, even better than Piazza. On that note, Carter and Piazza are currently the only two position players in Mets history who were Hall of Famers who played like it on the Mets.
If not for the Hall of Fame frankly selectively enforcing a rule they did not enforce for players like Reggie Jackson, he would wear a Mets hat on his Hall of Fame plaque, and he would have had his number retired by now. Despite that decision, nothing can take away from the impact he had on the Mets and the World Series he brought to the team. No one can change his being the best Mets player who ever wore the number 8.
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 Carter was the eighth best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 8.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
It is interesting when you think about it. The Mets waited and waited and waited before they would bring up Amed Rosario. They waited for the Asdrubal Cabrera situation to calm down. They wanted him to be playing well. In essence, the Mets wanted the perfect situation to call-up Rosario to put him in the best position to succeed.
The Mets did this despite many believing he was ready. The Mets were willing to deal with poor defense at shortstop, and perhaps the 2017 to protect him.
The Mets handling of Rosario makes how they are handling Chris Flexen all the more curious.
Unlike Rosario, there was no calls for Flexen to be called-up to the majors. Even with the injuries, most thought the right call would have been to put Tyler Pill back into the major league rotation. There was nothing to lose there. The Mets season was already going nowhere, and Pill had some success in an earlier stint in the Mets rotation. Instead, the Mets made the bold and perhaps inspired choice to call Flexen up to the majors from Double-A. It was something the Mets have not done since 2006 with Mike Pelfrey.
Flexen was initially set up for success with him making his debut in San Diego. Petco Park is a pitcher’s park, and the Padres are not a great team. Unfortunately, Flexen would struggle, and he would last only three innings.
From there, Flexen took the mound in Coors Field, which was hardly the ideal spot for a any pitcher let alone one whose best pitch is his curveball. Like he did in San Diego, Flexen struggled, and again, he would last just three innings. He would depart that game with a blister.
Instead of sending him down after two tough outings, or putting him on the disabled list with the blister, the Mets are going to send Flexen back on the mound. This time it is against the Texas Rangers. While it is a down year for the Rangers, they do have veteran hitters like Adrian Beltre who can give a young pitcher fits. He’s doing this coming off two rough starts and with a blister on his finger.
Who knows? Maybe this is the best way to test a young pitcher and find out something about him. It’s possible he will be better for the experience. He could learn what he needs to improve to be able to get outs at this level. All in all, there’s an argument for made for letting him struggle. To that end, Flexen has shown poise on the mound despite him not getting results.
However, this all begs the question – if the Mets are so willing to call up Flexen before he was ready and put him in difficult situations, why wouldn’t they do the same with Rosario?
I remember back in 2000, the stories were that Bobby Valentine needed to make the World Series in order to keep his job. The amazing thing is he actually did it.
Just think about everything that had to happen that year for the Mets to make the World Series. First, the Mets had an overhaul of its outfield during the season. On Opening Day, the Mets outfield was, from left to right, Rickey Henderson–Darryl Hamilton–Derek Bell. At the end of the year, it was Benny Agbayani–Jay Payton-Derek Bell. Agbayani was only on the Opening Day roster because MLB allowed the team to have expanded rosters for their opening series in Japan.
On top of that, Todd Zeile was signed to replace John Olerud. Zeile had to become a first baseman after playing third for 10 years. Edgardo Alfonzo had to adapt from moving from the second spot in the lineup to the third spot. The Mets lost Rey Ordonez to injury and first replaced him with Melvin Mora for 96 games before trading him for the light hitting Mike Bordick. More or less, all of these moves worked. Then came the postseason.
A lot happened in the NLDS. After losing Game One, the Mets faced a quasi must win in Game Two. They were leading before Armando Benitez blew a save. I know. I’m shocked too. The Mets regained the lead, and they won the game when John Franco got a borderline third strike call against Barry Bonds. In Game Three, the Mets won on a Agbayani 13th inning walk off homerun. This was followed by Bobby Jones closing out the series on a one-hitter.
The Mets were then fortunate that the Braves lost to the Cardinals in the other NLDS series. The Mets tore through the Cardinals with new leadoff hitter Timo Perez. We saw all that luck run out in the World Series. We watched Zeile’s potential homerun land on top of the fence and bounce back. On the same play, Perez was thrown out at home. In the same game, Benitez blew the save. Unfortunately, there were no more heroics.
We saw this repeated in 2015. The epically bad Mets offense had to have its pitching hold things together until help came. Part of that required the Nationals to underperform while the Mets were fighting tooth and nail just to stay in the race.
In the NLDS, the Mets were on the verge of elimination. They weren’t eliminated because somehow, some way Jacob deGrom pitched six innings with absolutely nothing. The Mets then needed Daniel Murphy to have a game for the ages. He stole a base while no one was looking, and he hit a big homerun. It was part of an amazing run through the postseason for Murphy. Like in 2000, it came to a crashing halt in the World Series.
No matter how good your team is, it takes a lot of luck to win the World Series. Look at the 86 Mets.
In the NLCS, they barely outlasted the Astros. In Game Three, they needed a Lenny Dykstra two run homerun in the bottom of the ninth to win 6-5. In Game Five, Gary Carter hit a walk off single in the 12th to send the Mets back to Houston up 3-2. It was important because they didn’t want to face Mike Scott and his newfound abilities. With that pressure, they rallied from three down in the ninth, blew a 14th inning lead, and nearly blew a three run lead in the 16th inning.
Following this, the Mets quickly fell down 0-2 in the World Series before heading to Boston. After taking 2/3 in Boston, the Mets had to rally in the eighth just to tie Game Six. There are books that can be written not only about the 10th inning, but also Mookie Wilson‘s at bat.
First, they had to have a none on two out rally with each batter getting two strikes against them. For Calvin Schiraldi to even be in the position to meltdown, he had to be traded by the Mets to the Red Sox heading into the 1986 season. In return, the Mets got Bobby Ojeda, who won Game Three and started Game Six. John McNamara removed Schiraldi way too late and brought in Bob Stanley. His “wild pitch” in Mookie’s at bat allowed the tying run to score. You know the rest:
By the way, keep in mind Bill Buckner wasn’t pulled for a defensive replacement. Also, the Mets had to rally late from 3-0 deficit just to tie Game Seven.
We need to keep all of this is mind when setting expectations for the 2016 season. Terry Collins is right when he says World Series title or bust is unfair. We know way too much can happen between now and the World Series. Right now, the only goal should be winning the NL East. If the Mets do that, they have met their reasonable expectations. After that, the Mets are going to need a little luck to win the World Series.
Fortunately, the Mets are carrying a four leaf clover in the form of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Jeurys Familia