As Mets fans, we debate as to what the greatest moment was in Mets history, and we typically get it wrong. It wasn’t Cleon Jones catching Davey Johnson‘s fly ball. It wasn’t Gary Carter leading the impossible rally in Game 6, or Jesse Orosco striking out Marty Barrett for the final out. There are plenty of other moments fans can pinpoint. They’re all wrong.
The greatest moment in Mets history happened on April 3, 1966. That was the date the Mets were awarded the rights to Tom Seaver by Commissioner William Eckert.
Up until that time and not too long thereafter, the Mets were a laughingstock. In their first four and five of their first seasons, they lost over 100 games. Considering those more than humbling beginnings and how he completely changed the team, you understand how the Mets truly became a “Franchise” when Seaver joined the team.
The 19 strike out game. The 1971 season. The 1973 season. Game Five of the 1973 NLCS. Seaver’s return to the Mets in 1983 and making his final Opening Day start with the Mets, which was the 14th of his Major League record 16 Opening Day starts.
His 41 was the first number retired in honor of a Mets player. In 1992, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame with 98.8 percent of the vote. It was then a record for highest ever percentage and one which still stands for starting pitchers.
He and Mike Piazza closed Shea Stadium and would open Citi Field.
Through it all, Seaver is the only player in Major League history with a Rookie of the Year and multiple Cy Youngs. His 12 All Stars are the most among right-handed starters in Mets history. His 110.1 WAR is the highest WAR among (non-PED) pitchers in the post WWII Era and the sixth highest all-time.
Since 1920, he’s the only pitcher who had a quality start in over 70 percent of his starts.
All told, Seaver was 311-205 with a 2.86 ERA and 3,640 strikeouts.
He owns nearly every Mets pitching record – wins (198), ERA (2.57), innings (3045.2), starts (395), complete games (171), shutouts (44), and strikeouts (2541). His 76.1 WAR with the Mets is easily the best in Mets history.
In fact, it took Seaver just seven seasons to post a higher WAR than what took David Wright, who is second on the Mets career WAR rankings, to post in 13 years. The 41.2 WAR Seaver posted over the first six years of his career is just .4 behind the 41.6 WAR Dwight Gooden posted in his 11 year Mets career.
No matter how you analyze it, Seaver is easily the best player in Mets history.
During his time with the Mets, he gave Mets fans so many memorable moments. That makes his dementia diagnosis all the more heartbreaking. We can remember all the reasons why he was great, and we can remember all the great games and moments at a time when Seaver is being robbed of those moments.
He’s being robbed of those moments at the same time as his former teammate Bud Harrelson, a man who fought through tears the first time he faced Seaver as an opponent, is battling Alzheimer’s. As anyone who has seen loved ones suffer from this disease, you know how heartbreaking this is.
That’s what this is – heartbreaking. Seaver loses the memories we all cherish. He can’t be there to celebrate the anniversary of a World Series he made possible. Worse than that, his memories of his family and loved ones will eventually fade.
No one deserves this. Not Seaver. Not a Hall of Famer. Not the man who made the Mets, the Mets. Not a husband, father, and grandfather. No one.
But he is because life isn’t fair. This means he misses out not just on what’s to come (1969 reunion or a statue whenever it comes), but worse yet, all that’s already happened. His family gets to watch on while they lose a man who was much more than a Hall of Fame pitcher to them.
Heartbreaking. Just heartbreaking.