To a certain extent, it is surprising this isn’t Dave Kingman. After all, he was the first Mets player to have back-to-back 30 home run seasons. However, even with the home run power, Kingman wasn’t nearly as productive as people might’ve remembered. In fact, over his six year Mets career, he accumulated just a 3.0 WAR.
First baseman, Rico Brogna surpassed that mark despite having a Mets career half that than Kingman. Brogna left an impression during his brief tenure which included his being the first ever player to homer at Coors Field. Still, he wasn’t the best player to wear the number 26. That honor goes to Terry Leach.
Leach came to the Mets in one of those under the radar trades Frank Cashen would become famous for as he built that 1986 squad. His first big moment as a member of the Mets would come in the final week of the 1982 season. As the Mets were playing out the string of yet another 90 loss season, Leach would be phenomenal pitching a one hit shutout over 10.0 innings to earn the win.
Even after that great start, Leach would not appear in a game for the Mets again until 1985. Part of the reason for that is the Mets traded him to the Cubs who traded him to the Braves. Once the Braves released him in 1984, the Mets brought him back to the organization. In 1985 and 1986, Leach would be on the shuttle between Tidewater (the Mets then Triple-A affiliate) and New York.
While he had been an effective reliever in brief stints, Leach was going to turn 33 years old, and you wondered if he was ever really going to get an extended chance to establish himself as a Major Leaguer. In 1987, fate would intervene.
On the eve of the 1986 World Series, Dwight Gooden would be suspended for cocaine, and Rick Aguilera would suffer an injury. The Gooden suspension created room on the Major League roster, and the Aguilera injury opened up a spot in the rotation. Leach would step up and have one of the more remarkable and surprising stints for a Mets starter.
As a starting pitcher that year, he was 7-1 with a 3.51 ERA. During that stretch, he had some absolutely brilliant pitching performances. In his first start of the season, he outpitched Fernando Valenzuela. On June 27, he beat the Phillies after allowing two earned over eight. In his next start, he’d pitch his second career shut out against the Reds allowing just two hits.
Over his first seven starts, he was 5-0 with a 1.87 ERA. At that point, Leach was 8-0, and he would run his record to 10-0 by August 11. That 10-0 start to the season is still a Mets record to this day.
What was remarkable about Leach’s run is as good of a starter he was that year, he was an even better reliever. In his 32 relief appearances, he was 4-0 with a 2.84 ERA. Overall, he was 11-1 with a 3.22 ERA. His .917 winning percentage that year remains a Mets single-season record.
Leach’s 1987 season helped him secure a spot in the 1988 bullpen. Leach pitched very well that season going 7-2 with a 2.54 ERA and three saves. In the NLCS that year, Leach would make three appearances pitching five scoreless innings.
Unfortunately, Leach took a step back in 1989, and he would be traded to the Royals. Eventually, he would find his way to the Twins, where he was once again teammates with Aguilera on the 1991 World Series winning Minnesota Twins.
Overall, Leach was one of the more surprising stories in the course of Mets history, and it is remarkable a relative journeyman still owns a Mets single season record. That just speaks to how great he was in 1987. His second stint with the Mets was very effective, and it is a large reason why he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 26.
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
The New York Mets have been around since 1962, and in that time, they have two players in the Hall of Fame, three players with retired numbers, 31 people in the Mets Hall of Fame, and a whole host of other beloved players. The question is who exactly is the most beloved player?
Does Tom Seaver still have cache in 2020? Did Mike Piazza or David Wright surpass him? Does Keith Hernandez‘s work in the booth as well as his play on the field make him the one Mets player who has reached across all generations?
We really don’t know the answer to that and a whole host of other related questions. To that end, with there being no baseball, this site has set up a field of 64 akin to the NCAA Tournament. The field has been sectioned off in roughly 14 year increments to cover different eras of Mets baseball with each particular era having at least one Mets team who has won a pennant.
There were some tough choices to be made in selecting this field. The field was done using different offensive and pitching metrics, and it was done in consultation with Mets fans. On that note, special thanks are do to Joe D, Michael Mayer, Greg Prince, Tim Ryder, James Schapiro, and Bre S.
There were some tough decisions, and unfortunately, players like Ed Charles, Art Shamsky, Dave Kingman, John Stearns, Randy Myers, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado, and Zack Wheeler did not make the list. It is regrettable, but the cuts had to be made somewhere to make this a more manageable field of 64.
The plan is to have polls open each day with a blurb on the match-up on this site with the ability to vote both on this site and on Twitter. The results of both will be combined, so if you are truly interested, you will be able to vote in both places. While not perfect, this is somewhat akin to the All-Star Game which to some degree is voting for fan favorites.
May your favorite player win, and Let’s Go Mets!
Ron Swoboda Rusty Staub Tug McGraw Ed Kranepool Felix Millan Bud Harrelson Nolan Ryan Jerry Grote Ron Hunt Cleon Jones Donn Clendenon Jon Matlack Tommie Agee Jerry Koosman Gary Gentry Tim Teufel Ron Darling Lenny Dykstra Mookie Wilson Sid Fernandez Gary Carter David Cone Howard Johnson Lee Mazzilli Darryl Strawberry Ray Knight Jesse Orosco Bob Ojeda Dwight Gooden Wally Backman Rico Brogna Rick Reed Bernard Gilkey Robin Ventura Todd Zeile John Olerud Lance Johnson John Franco Turk Wendell Al Leiter Bobby Jones Todd Hundley Benny Agbayani Edgardo Alfonzo Armando Benitez Jeff McNeil Michael Conforto Daniel Murphy Johan Santana Matt Harvey Jose Reyes Wilmer Flores Noah Syndergaard Brandon Nimmo Carlos Beltran Pete Alonso Curtis Granderson Yoenis Cespedes Jacob deGrom R.A. Dickey
Much is made of the Mets having the best Opening Day record among all 30 Major League teams. That record expanded to 37-20 in what was Mickey Callaway‘s first game as the manager of the Mets. Considering the Mets have had more losing than winning seasons in their history, we know those good times do not keep rolling on throughout the season.
Looking throughout Mets history, as the excitement of Opening Day fades, so does the Mets record. In the 56 year history of the Mets, the team’s record in the second game of the season is 28-28 (.500).
The record does get a little dicier from there. In those previously famed 36 wins, the Mets have followed them with defeats in 20 of those games (.444).
When it comes to the Cardinals, the Mets are now 6-2 against them on Opening Day. The Mets are also 2-6 against them in the second game of the season.
When looking through the Mets managerial history, there have been 12 managers who made their debut with the Mets on Opening Day. Of those 12 managers only Joe Frazier debuted with the 1976 Mets by winning his first two games. That year, the Mets would finish 86-76. That would also be the last year the Mets would have a winning record until 1984.
Frazier and the Mets would start the 1977 season going 15-30, and Frazier’s managerial record would drop to 101-106. Of course, a large part of that was his losing both Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman, both of who were traded the previous season in the “Midnight Massacre.”
As an aside, Frazier, Willie Randolph, and Yogi Berra are the managers to begin their Mets managerial careers on Opening Day to have a winning record in their first season as manager. Willie’s and Yogi’s Mets both lost the second game of the season. Unlike Frazier, both Willie and Yogi would take Mets team to the postseason in their second season as the Mets manager.
Of course, past is only prelude. It is not determinative of what will happen in the future. Just because the Mets won their opener, it does not mean the Mets have just a 44% or 50% chance of winning that game. Really, with the Mets sending Jacob deGrom to the mound, you’d have to believe the Mets odds of winning are much better than that.
Having watched the Mets win on Opening Day, it seemed like this was a different Mets team. It felt like this was a team that is going to surprise us this season and really set themselves apart from Mets teams from years past. That’s part of the fun of Opening Day. Who knows how long this feeling will last? Perhaps, we will find the answer later today.
With the Mets 2018 season beginning today, we are all hopeful that this will be the first Mets team since 1986 to win a World Series. If history is any judge, fans will depart Citi Field with that feeling as the New York Mets do have the best winning percentage on Opening Day. Whether the good feelings and warm memories continue from there is anyone’s guess.
As you look to turn on the television or head to the ballpark, we thought we would share some of our Opening Day memories with you in the latest edition of the Mets Blogger Roundtable.
Roger Cormier (Good Fundies & Fangraphs)
Two words: Collin Cowgill (That’s not my actual answer)
I think I’m going to cheat here. The first game that came to mind for favorite Opening Day memory was the Mets’ home opener in 2000. It was their first game played in North America, if that helps? The Mets split a two-game set in Japan the week before and then faced off against the Padres at Shea, and I was there. It was my first time attending a home opener, and I had to bend the rules that day too, seeing as I was, technically speaking, scheduled to continue my high school education that afternoon. A couple of friends and I cut class, took the 2/3, transferred to the 7, sauntered up to the ticket window, bought four tickets, and enjoyed a 2-1 victory. I brazenly put the schedule magnet giveaway on the refrigerator, and as far as I know was never caught. Please do not tell my mother.
Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)
My favorite Opening Day memory was Tom Seaver‘s 1983 Opening Day start. It was tremendous.
The details of Seaver’s homecoming were detailed in this Sports Illustrated piece.
Joe Maracic (Loud Egg)
This one has me stumped since I have not been to a Mets opening day since the Shea days. One that stands out is the chilly home opener for Tom Glavine. A 15-2 Mets loss I believe. Good times.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
I cut school to go to Opening Day in 1980. My mother wrote a note to the teacher saying “sorry my son was absent. He went to Opening Day. P.S. the Mets won 5-2.” The teacher let me off the hook but only because the Mets won. I cut school in 1983 to see Seaver’s return as a Met. I cut school in 1988 to see Darryl Strawberry hit a HR on Opening Day, then left early to get back to theater rehearsal, and I had to platoon style elbow crawl my way under the director so she wouldn’t know I was gone. Luckily they never got to my scene yet so I was out of trouble. Until we left for the day and the director said “How was the game?” As many times as I cut school for Opening Day, it’s a wonder I can put a sentence together.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend 17 Opening Days/Home Openers (18, counting the first home game after the 1981 strike, which was functionally a second Home Opener), my favorite among them the 2001 Home Opener, when the 2000 NL pennant was raised, we were handed replica championship flags on our way in, Tsuyoshi Shinjo introduced himself to us with a homer, Mike Piazza socked two, the Mets obliterated the Braves and, not incidentally, the weather was perfect.
But with all due respect to the thrill of being on hand to, as Howie Rose says, welcome the National League season to New York, my core Opening Day memory is from 1975, when I convinced a friend to skip Hebrew School and watch the rest of the first game of that season.
The game began while we were still in shall we say regular school (sixth grade). Our teacher put the Mets and Phillies on the classroom TV. One wise guy tried to switch to the Yankees. Out of pique, the teacher switched it off.
Fast forward a bit, and my aforementioned friend and I went to my house to catch a little more of the game before we had to get to Hebrew School. This was Seaver versus Steve Carlton, and it was such an occasion that I said to him, “I’m not going to Hebrew School today.” He was convinced to not go, either.
We watched to the end and were rewarded for our truancy. Seaver pitched a complete game. Dave Kingman homered in his first game as a Met, and Joe Torre (also a new Met) drove in the winning run in the ninth, or what we would today call walkoff fashion. The whole winter was about reconstructing a dismal 1974 squad and hoping Seaver would be healthy. For one day, everything clicked as we dreamed.
When you go through Mets history, there are certain dark moments of Mets history which continue to haunt Mets fans.
The 1977 Midnight Massacre which saw a vengeful and frankly inept front office trade Tom Seaverand Dave Kingman. This would beget Grant’s Tomb.
The 1992 Mets were dubbed The Worst Team Money Could Buy. The Mets first real foray into free agency would see the team add Eddie Murray, Willie Randolph, Dick Schofield, Bill Pecota, Bret Saberhahen, and the prize of the offseason free agent class Bobby Bonilla. Under the guise of 1990 American League Manager of the Year Jeff Torborg, the Mets would go 70-92.
There would not be hope again until Generation K – Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, and Bill Pulsipher. With Isringhausen bursting out of the gate in 1995 going 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA in his first 14 starts, Mets fans anticipation was at a fever pitch.
The funny thing is due to a myriad of injuries to all three pitchers, the trio dubbed Generation K would never appear in the same rotation. Over time, they would be surpassed and traded away for spare parts. To put it in perspective, the best player the Mets would get in exchange for the trio would be Rick White.
Fast forward 20 years and Mets fans have dreamed about this generations crop of pitchers winning their first World Series since 1986. While not as clever as Generation K, they had their own nickname – The Five Aces. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.
They were going to scoff at the 1971 Orioles pitching staff and their measly 20 wins apiece.
Those 1990s Braves teams were going to laughed at for producing just three Hall of Fame pitchers.
This wasn’t “Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain.” It was Matz and Thor and We Got Three More!
Instead, what we got was Matt and Jake and All Five Pitchers Ache. Essentially, it all came off the Wheeler.
Each and every single one of them would go down with injury. Most of them went down with two or more. As a result, much like Generation K, these five pitchers have never appeared in the same rotation. Worse yet, in some sick cosmic twist of fate, last year would be the first year all five would start a game in the same season, and the end result was the worst ERA in team history.
Finally, this year was supposed to be the year. Everyone was shut down at a some point last year to help them get ready for this year. The team brought in Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and a whole new medical staff. It was all set up for them.
And then, the team signed Jason Vargas.
Yes, given their respective health issues, the Vargas signing made a lot of sense. However, with him getting a two ear deal, it may just kill the dream because so long as Vargas has a rotation spot, we will not see the Five Aces pitch together in the same starting rotation. With Harvey’s impending free agency, this was the last chance, and it is going by the wayside.
Maybe it is for the best because as we saw in 2015, so long as we have three completely healthy, this team can go to the World Series. That more than the Five Aces pitch in the same rotation is the goal. Still, not seeing it happen once leaves you a bit melancholy.
At the end of this run for the Five Aces, we are ultimately going to be left with Vargas and Montero Where Did Our Five Aces Go?
With the Mets trading Lucas Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays, we bring an end to the Mets career of one of the better Mets in their history, and we also see the beginning of the end of an era of Mets baseball.
Duda was a player with a promising bat the Mets that first Omar then Sandy tried to get into the lineup. With players blocking his path to his natural first base position, Duda would be moved to the outfield. Duda would be standing there ins what was then a fairly cavernous right field when Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Lost in that game was Duda homering in the sixth to put the game away.
Despite Duda being in the outfield during one of the biggest moments in Mets history, it became increasingly clear he wasn’t an outfielder. He belonged at first base. The fact he even forced a competition for the spot with Ike Davis was impressive. Duda did all he could to wrestle that spot from Davis, and he finally showed the Mets what he could do hitting 30 home runs in 2014. He had more in store in 2015.
When people have typically written about the 2015 season, they usually credit with Yoenis Cespedes for winning the National League East. This overlooks how Duda almost single-handedly pulled the Mets into first place in 2015:
In that pivotal series that saw the Mets go from second to first place, Duda was 8-9 with a double, three homers, and five RBI. With Mets fans debate over whether Duda was clutch or not, this series should answer the question in the affirmative.
As we know that season would eventually end in heartbreak. Duda played his part throwing away the ball in Game 5 allowing Eric Hosmer to score the tying run. It was hard to watch, and unfortunately, it masked all the good he had done that season including his grand slam in the division clincher and his homer effectively sealing the pennant:
These are many of the many great things Duda has done in a Mets uniform. He was the second Mets player in history to hit three home runs in a game at home. Shockingly, he was second to Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Speaking of homering at Citi Field, Duda leaves the Mets as the all-time leader in home runs at Citi Field.
Hitting homers was one of the things Duda did well. This year, he passed notable Mets like Edgardo Alfonzo, Kevin McReynolds, and Todd Hundley to finish his Mets career with the seventh most in Mets history. Depending on whether you view Dave Kingman as an outfielder or first baseman, Duda’s 125 Mets homers are either the most or second most for a Mets first baseman.
There were many great moments with Duda, but none of the aforementioned moments were my favorite. My favorite Duda moment was a seemingly meaningless Spring Training Game in 2015.
One night, I was sitting up watching the game with my then one year old half watching a Spring Training game when Duda ripped a double leading to an enthusiastic Gary Cohen call to the effect of “LUCAS DUDA rips an RBI double . . . .” My son immediately latched on and began screaming Duda, and he wanted to see Duda play more and hit more. As that season wore on, he became more and more interested in baseball, and he would learn the Mets players. First one he’d learn:
That was a magical year as both a father and a Mets fan. I’d get to see the Mets go to the World Series for the third time in my life, but it would be the first time I’d get to experience it with my son. I still remember him trying to stay up to watch the games with me. I remember him getting me a Duda jersey for Father’s Day and getting the Duda growth chart at one of the Mets games. Even with Duda gone, we will still use it. I also remember him going crazy during that World Series cheering for the Mets:
Duda leaving does not only mean we are saying good bye to a good player who began his career with the Mets. We are also saying good-bye to a part of a Mets era. It was an era that saw the Mets go from a frustrating team a team that came so close to winning a World Series.
On a personal note, I see Duda leaving as part of the ever changing realization that my son is no longer a baby – he’s now a little boy. He doesn’t just snuggle up with me at bedtime trying to watch Mets games, he now goes outside and plays baseball with me.
It was time to move on, especially with Dominic Smith waiting in the wings. Still, as Curtis Granderson would point out, you just want to hold onto all of these moments just a little longer:
Like Granderson, I still want to hold on to not just Duda, but all of these memories. In reality, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things. With that said, I enjoyed each and every minute Duda was a Met (except for that throw), and I appreciate all he has done in a Mets uniform. He was a class act, who was always there to answer questions in even the hardest of times. On a personal note, he helped make another great fan. He deserves another opportunity to win a World Series, and I hope he does get that ring.
Good luck Lucas Duda.
Over the course of their history, the Mets have made some really bad trades that were indefensible at the time they were made. While this isn’t a complete list, here are some of my “favorites”:
- The Midnight Massacre,
- Lenny Dykstra, Roger McDowell, and Tom Edens for Juan Samuel, and
- Scott Kazmir and Jose Diaz for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.
Again, this is not a comprehensive list. Also, these were traded roundly criticized at the time, not ones that eventually turned out badly.
It’s funny. Late last night into early this morning many people were joking about how people who went to bed early last night would react when they discovered the trade unraveled. It immediately made me think of the aforementioned Midnight Massacre.
I thought about how people felt when they read the newspaper the next morning. We all know everyone hated the trade and vilified the Mets to the point that Shea was once known as Grant’s Tomb. The trade worked out as bad as everyone thought it would. I began to wonder if the Carlos Gomez trade would’ve joined the list of worst Mets’ trades ever.
As I noted last night, Carlos Gomez was having a down year. Admittedly, I was unaware there were possible injury concerns. Reportedly, the Mets nixed the deal over Gomez’s hip issues. Gomez was reported that have said he’s stopped running due to his hip issues.
The arguments started over whether there was a hip issue or not. Many pointed out that he was playing everyday. Despite these opinions, the Mets believed Gomez had a degenerative hip issue. For what it’s worth, Gomez had trouble staying healthy this year. Regardless, the Mets seemed disappointed because they really wanted Gomez.
Mets fans wanted him too. Would they have been as enthusiastic if Gomez landed on the DL with a hip issue? Would they have booed him if he was ineffective due to his degenerative hip? Would they be screaming same old Mets? Yes to all the above, and part of the reason is they would’ve given up Zack Wheeler to get him.
I’ve detailed before how the Mets could afford to part with Wheeler for a non-rental player. However, it is dumb to trade him for a player that’s an injury risk even if he never gets injured and/or he would be a huge upgrade.
As I’ve noted, Wheeler has been a league average pitcher with the Mets with a lot of potential. However, he seemed to turn a corner in the second half last year. He went 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA. He averaged 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He dropped his WHIP from 1.357 to 1.286.
He was making real progress in his first full professional season. He’s under team control until 2020. This is a valuable asset and trade chip. You don’t give that up for a hope and a prayer especially when the Mets don’t have the best history dealing with injuries.
While Sandy Alderson and the Mets may invite criticism from time to time, this should not be one of those instances. Initially, he made a good trade to improve the team. He made a better decision walking away from the deal.