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.
It was officially one year ago today reports surfaced of Jed Lowrie‘s knee injury. When it first occurred, we assumed this was probably nothing more than one of those early aches some players feel during Spring Training. As is usually the case, the Mets really had no idea of the severity of the injury, how to properly manage or diagnose it, or how to get the player back on the field.
Jed Lowrie is sore behind his left knee, Mickey Callaway said.
The Mets are being cautious, focusing on making sure he’s ready for opening day.
They’re not sure how serious it is.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) February 20, 2019
By and large, this injury kept Lowrie from playing in the field, and it limited him to just eight pinch hitting appearances in 2019. In those appearances, he had no hits, drew one walk, and struck out four times.
Fast forward to this year, and Lowrie is wearing a leg brace to help him participate in Spring Training. At the moment, no one knows if Lowrie will be able to effectively play with the brace, if he can only play with a brace, or for that matter when or if he will be able to ever play.
What makes this signing all the more troubling is Lowrie’s agent was Brodie Van Wagenen. If there was any GM in baseball who was well aware of the health issues of Lowrie, it would be his agent. Looking back, instead of the enthusiasm for the signing, perhaps there should have been more inquiry why a player coming off an All-Star season and had an 8.8 WAR over the previous two seasons could do not better than signing with the Mets to split time with Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, and Amed Rosario.
The Mets have completely and utterly wasted $20 million on a player who cannot play due to knee injuries. What makes this ironic is the Mets purportedly non-tendered Wilmer Flores partially due to knee injuries which never really existed.
While it was initially reported Flores had arthritis, subsequent reports indicated that was a misdiagnosis. In fact, Flores had tendonitis. Instead of paying him less than $5 million, or working out a team friendly extension he might’ve been inclined to sign, Flores would go to Arizona.
While he had his usual health issues, Flores had a productive season with the Diamondbacks. While continuing to improve against right-handed pitching, he had a 120 wRC+, which was the best of his career. He mostly held his own at second with a -2 DRS and a 1 OAA. That’s right, according to OAA, Flores was a positive defender. Overall, he was worth a 0.8 WAR in 89 games.
Lost in that was Flores’ clutch gene. The same player who is the Mets all-time leader in game winning RBI came up huge down the stretch for the Diamondbacks. From August to the end of the season, he hit .368/.410/.623. His 166 wRC+ over this stretch ranked as the fifth best in the majors.
While this was not enough for Flores’ option to be picked up by the Diamondbacks, he was signed by the San Francisco Giants to a two year $6.25 million deal. In total, that’s $10 million over three years for Flores. Put another way, that’s what Lowrie made in 2019 alone for his eight pinch hitting attempts.
Going forward, the Mets attempts to get another team to take on Lowrie’s contract so they could make another move failed. Meanwhile, Flores is 28 years old and in the prime of his career. Seeing the continued improvements he has made against right-handed pitching and OAA rating his defense much better, Flores could out-play his contract.
In the end, the Mets had a player in Flores who was popular, had a right-handed bat which complimented their heavy left-handed hitting lineup, was comfortable and effective on the bench, and could backup at all four infield positions. Rather than keep him around, Van Wagenen opted to sign his former client who cannot play to a $20 million deal.
Looking at this past offseason, the Mets have traded away much of their future to improve the 2019 team. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn were part of a package for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana were traded for J.D. Davis. Finally, Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl were traded for Keon Broxton.
There has been some debate on each of these moves. Whereas many saw the Mets undervaluing assets, there have been a contingent who have justified the deal under the auspices of how not all prospects work out.
To a certain extent, there is validity to the prospects not panning out. With respect to Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen had a successful career, and that was as a reliever not the front line starter we expected him to be. Outfielders Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Alex Ochoa weren’t even so much as a part-time player. Relievers like Eddie Kunz did nothing. The list goes on and on . . . .
Of course, this overlooks the prospects which have had successful careers. Tom Seaver was a Hall of Famer. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Edgardo Alfonzo were all-time Mets greats. As we know, that list is much longer than that. It also includes Nolan Ryan, which was a trade which lives on in Mets infamy.
That was a trade of a young player who hasn’t figured it out for a past All-Star Jim Fregosi. While prevailing wisdom is that trade was a Mets disaster, the school of thought were you trade young players for proven Major League talent would be fully onboard with that deal. That does beg the question why people are against keeping prospects and are not against the Mets making trades.
Looking over Mets history, this team has made many horrible trades. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan for Fregosi trade, we have also seen several other poor trades in Mets history:
- Amos Otis for Joe Foy
- Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel
- Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga
- Jason Isrinhausen for Billy Taylor
- Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano
There are several others which have blown up in the Mets faces. In addition to that, there have been trades for players which have greatly under-performed for the Mets. In addition to the aforementioned players, you can include Roberto Alomar, Willie Mays, Joe Torre, and a litany of others did not perform when wearing a Mets uniform.
With the Mets losing valuable young players and with the team getting veterans who have not performed, you have to wonder why the Mets don’t just operate on the free agent market. Of course, the reason there is the extensive failures the Mets have made on that front. The list is well known, and Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Vince Coleman, George Foster, Oliver Perez, and many, many others.
Point is, no matter which way you look, you see a history of failures when it comes to the Mets organization. Their prospects always fail. They only trade for veterans in decline. Every free agent signing is a bust.
Of course, that’s not remotely the truth. When looking at each area, the Mets have had plenty of successes and failures. The goal for every General Manager is to have more success than failures and for those failures to not come back and bite you. That’s what defines periods like the 1980s Mets and also the period immediately thereafter.
So in the end, when judging moves, do it on their own merit and not because you believe the Mets prospects fail, trade acquisitions production declines, and every free agent is a bust.
In their history, the Mets have had a number of truly awful free agent signings. Their foibles on the free agent market have inspired books, and they have led to the Mets having prolonged down periods which have led to the team being under .500 for extended periods and eventually rebuilding. Their mistakes are not limited to just any position. Really, they have made mistakes across the diamond:
C Rod Barajas (1 year, $500,000) – In the Mets history, they have had just four free agents catchers as their Opening Day starter with Barajas being one of them. With respect to Barajas, he was the cheap option in a truly uninspiring free agent group of catcher, and he would not last the season getting released towards the end of August.
1B Eddie Murray (2 years, $7.5 million) – Murray was the first piece the Mets locked down in what was to be known as the Worst Team Money Could Buy. In his previous stops, he was a surefire Hall of Famer and one of the best switch hitters to ever play the game. With the Mets, Murray had two disappointing seasons where he hit .274/.330/.446.
2B Luis Castillo (4 years, $25 million) – In 2007, the Mets needed a second baseman, and the team was able to get Castillo for nearly nothing. While that team collapsed, Castillo was hardly to blame hitting .316/.404/.418 over the final month of the season. To that end, it made sense to bring him back but not for the extreme overpay which was immediately panned by everyone. Castillo would disappoint from that point forward, and eh woudl become a symbol of what was wrong with the team with the seminal moment being his dropping Alex Rodriguez‘s pop up leading to the Mets losing a game to the Yankees.
3B Todd Frazier (2 years, $17 million) – After a year in which Frazier had his first ever trips to the deisabled list and he had a careeer worst .390 SLG and .693 OPS, he was an obvious candidate. Frankly, the choice was much easier when you consider how well Robin Ventura played during his Mets tenure and the Mets predominantly using homegrown players or trades to fill the position.
SS Kazuo Matsui (3 years, $20.1 million) – Despite the presence of Jose Reyes, the Mets opted to sign Matsui to be their shortstop. It looked like a great move when Matsui homered in his first ever at=bat, but it was all downhill from there as Matsui disappointed at the plate and in the field. Matsui dealt with injuries, was moved to second base, had a negative WAR in his last two years with the Mets, and he was eventually traded for Eli Marrero, who lasted just two months with the Mets.
LF George Foster (5 years, $10 million) – The Mets first free agent splash was Foster, and in many ways, Foster set the tone for some for the big moves the Mets would make in the future. Foster would go from being an All Star who hit .295/.373/.519 to someone who hit .252/.307/.422 in a Mets uniform. Overall, Foster had a rocky tenure with the team, and he would be released in 1986 after making comments to the press.
CF Vince Coleman (4 years, $11.95 million) – It wasn’t enough the Mets let Darryl Strawberry go to the Dodgers they replaced them with Coleman, a player who tortured the Mets. If Mets fans didn’t despise him enough when he wore a Cardinals uniform, they certainly did during his Mets tenure which featured not just poor play but also throwing firecrackers at a group of fans.
RF Roger Cedeno (4 years, $18 million) Cedeno wasn’t just an important part of the 1999 team, but he would also serve as a key piece of the trade which brought the Mets Mike Hampton. When he was a free agent, the Mets pounced to bring him back. Just three years later, he was a shadow of the player he was leading to his being traded to Wilson Delgado.
SP Oliver Perez (3 year $36 million) – After being obtaine by the Padresx, Perez was great in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, won 15 games in 2007, and gave the Mets every chance to win in the final game every played in Shea Stadium. Despite all of that, there were red flags everywhere, and Perez predictably failed after getting his big free agent deal. He struggled, and he would refuse a stint in the minors leading to the team freezing him out. His Mets career would end in infamy as he was brought into the 14th inning of the final game of the season after not having pitched in nearly a month. He’d be released after the season with a one year and $12 million left on his deal.
RP Francisco Rodriguez (3 years, $37 million) -Needing a close, the Mets went out and signed the closer who just set the single season saves record to a massive contract. In his first year in the deal, he had the second most blown saves in the NL and a then career worst ERA, strikeouts, WHIP, HR/9, BB/9, and K/9. In the second year of his deal, he was placed on the restricted list after being arrested for assaulting his girlfriend’s father in the family room at Citi Field. The Mets finally traded him in the last year of his deal to accomplish both rebuilding and to prevent an onerous option from being activated.
In Brodie Van Wagenen’s first offseason as Mets manager, it is incumbent upon him to navigate through the minefield of potential free agent busts which are lurking. The success of the 2019 Mets and his success during his tenure as the Mets General Manager depends on it.
For the second straight year, Seth Lugo has the best Player’s Weekend jersey with “Quaterrican.” Seeing that jersey as well as some others we will see over the course of this weekend coupled with the color players from Mets past, it does not you wonder which jerseys Mets players from years past would have selected. On that front, the Mets bloggers offer some of the jerseys we would have like to have seen.
Tom Seaver. “THE FRANCHISE.”
Second place is Gary Carter. “KID.”
Franklin Gutierrez, who was a Met for ten minutes, was nicknamed “Death to Flying Things”. I’m sorry but the only two things that could top that would have been Richie Hebner using a middle finger emoji, or anything Willie Montanez would have come up with.
Also, did you know that George Foster‘s nickname was “Yahtzee”? I would buy that.
I like seeing the nicknames we don’t learn about as matter of course, the ones that are personal or known more in the clubhouse than in the public. So ideally, Tom Seaver would have been SPANKY, Willie Mays BUCK and Howard Johnson SHEIKH.
Also, though it would have been hard to resist CHOO-CHOO for Clarence Coleman, I’d like to believe the catcher of few words from the 1962 Mets would have gone with BUB. And given that it was 1962, I could only hope everything was properly spelled.
Looking back, a Darryl Strawberry “Straw” jersey would have been hilarious for the noted coke problems of that team. It would have been funny to see Paul Lo Duca wear a “Captain Red Ass” jersey. Funny, but not likely to happen.
Ultimately, the jersey I would have liked to have seen could have been done this year. After all, what would have been better than seeing Jacob deGrom opting to chose “Sidd Finch” for his jersey?
The answer to the rhetorical question is reading the blogs from the writers who are so generous in contributing their time. Certainly,t hey all have stories to tell about these and many more players. In fact, they may have some nicknames all of their own, but to find that out, you will have to visit those sites.
The Mets Fan
My name is Jeff Pearlman. I’m a longtime sports writer and author of seven books, including “The Bad Guys Won,” which Mets fans seem to like. Also, to be clear, once I became a journalist I set rooting aside. So while I was a Mets fan, and while my son and wife are Met fans, I root for good games and great stories.
How You Became a Mets Fan
Two houses up on Emerald Lane in Mahopac, N.Y. My pal Dennis Gargano lived in a yellow house. I’d go over there, and his dad Vincent Gargano would often be sitting on a couch, TV on, Coca Cola in hand, cigarette in other hand, watching the Mets. I’d hang with Dennis, then drift to Mr. Gargano, who told me all about Seaver and Koosman and and Tug and Doc and all the Met legends and near-legends. It was a magical education
Favorite Mets Player
Favorite Moment in Mets History
The moment they acquired Foster via trade from Cincinnati. I was a kid, 11-years old, and I couldn’t believe it. Huge star, former MVP. At the introductory press conference he warned the jets to beware. Granted, it was all downhill from there. But still …
Message to Mets Fans