Kevin McReynolds

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 30 Michael Conforto

Michael Conforto may have only been with the Mets for five years, but he has already established himself as one of the best outfielders in team history, and he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 30.

On July 24, 2015, Conforto was finally called up to the majors after fans had been clamoring for him for at least a month. At that time, the Mets offense was injury riddled, and the back-ups of the back-ups just couldn’t hit. An early season lead turned into a deficit, and the team needed capable bats.

What was surprising about Conforto wasn’t that he was ready to hit despite spending little time in Double-A, but rather, it was the fact his defense was much better than advertised. More than anything, Conforto was Major League ready little over one year from being drafted in high school:

In that rookie year, Conforto hit an impressive .270/.335/.506 with 14 doubles, nine homers, and 26 RBI in 56 games. He spend that time platooning with the veteran Michael Cuddyer, and he would show he was ready for the highest level of competition in the postseason. In his first ever postseason at-bat, he would homer off of Zack Greinke:

That was nothing compared to what we would see in the World Series. In the five game series against the Royals, Conforto hit .333/.313/.733 with two homers and four RBI. In that World Series, Conforto led all players in slugging, and he trailed only Curtis Granderson in OPS. He also became the first ever Mets player to have a two home run game in the World Series:

With those homers, he became just the third ever player to play in the Little League World Series, College World Series, and the World Series. He is the only person to homer in all of them. This is how you set the stage for stardom.

It seemed Conforto was just doing that in the beginning of the 2016 season. That was until he suffered a wrist injury which hampered his ability to hit. It was mostly a lost season, but we did see Conforto begin to learn center and right that season in an effort to help the team. This is just an example of the type of team first player he is and the type of leader he would become.

With the wrist injury behind him, Conforto emerged as one of the best players in baseball in 2017. He would become a new style of lead-0ff hitter, and he would become an All-Star. It was one the way to becoming a historically great season in Mets history. At 24, he seemed to be scratching the surface of his immense talent. That’s what made his shoulder injury all the more devastating.

The good news is Conforto would recover. After rushing back from the injury (in typical Mets fashion), Conforto would have a good year with a 122 OPS+ and 2.7 WAR. Notably, he would go off on a tear to finish that season with a .286/.365/.616 batting line in September.

Last year, Conforto re-emerged as a top player on the Mets. Again, to help the team, he played right field everyday instead of his natural left field. He was unheralded for his work there. While he was not even a finalist for the Gold Glove, he would tie Jason Heyward for the best OAA among National League right fielders.

More than the defense, we saw his bat return to what we expected from him all along. In 151 games, Conforto would hit .257/.363/.494 with 29 doubles, a triple, 33 homers, and 92 RBI. It wasn’t just that he hit well, it was the fact he got the big hits when the Mets needed them from him. That was especially the case late in the season when he had a walk-off hit which began the Mets bizarre streak of ripping off each others’ jerseys:

What is amazing with Conforto is while he is beginning to etch his name into the Mets record books, he has yet to enter his prime. At the moment, he has already made his way onto the Mets top 10 all-time rankings in SLG, OPS, and OPS+ (8th). By WAR, he is already the Mets third best left fielder trailing just Cleon Jones and Kevin McReynolds.

Honestly, he is one good season away from over taking both. He is also seventh in WAR among all outfielders. In his next full season, he will very likely jump to fifth, and he will soon be among the ranks of Carlos Beltran and Darryl Strawberry as the best outfielders to ever wear a Mets uniform.

That’s exactly what Conforto is and will continue to be. He is one of the best players to ever wear a Mets uniform, and he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 30.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
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
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy

29. Frank Viola

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 28 Daniel Murphy

The story with Daniel Murphy goes when he was in Jacksonville University, he introduced himself as “I’m Daniel Murphy from Jacksonville, and I hit third.” That would perfectly describe Murphy’s Mets career to an extent. While he played some questionable defense, he will forever known for his offensive exploits.

Murphy’s story with the Mets began in 2008. The team was fighting with the Phillies for the National League East crown in August, and due to a number of injuries, they rushed Murphy up from the minors and stuck him in left field despite his being primarily a third baseman in his career.

Murphy was a revelation for the Mets that year hitting .313/.397/.473 with nine doubles, three triples, two homers, and 17 RBI in 49 games. He’d also notably hold his own him left field. Thus began the odyssey of Murphy with the Mets where he played mostly out of position, hit, and was clutch.

In 2009, he was severely miscast as the Opening Day left fielder in Citi Field. The ballpark was far too spacious, and he was not really an outfielder. Due to a number of injuries, he would find himself at first base in place of Carlos Delgado. In that season, he would not only lead the team in homers, but he would also have the first homer at Citi Field which came as a result of replay review.

After an injury plagued 2010 season which he began in the minors because new GM had more faith in Brad Emaus and others, Murphy returned to the Majors in 2011, and he eventually won the everyday second base job. It was a breakout season for him where he had his second highest OPS+ in his Mets career.

From there, while trade rumors would constantly follow him, he emerged as one of the teams best and most reliable players. One of the most interesting things which happened was Murphy became an extremely effective stolen base threat despite not having overwhelming or even good speed. From 2013 – 2014, he would steal 27 consecutive bases. That’s the second longest streak in Mets history trailing only Kevin McReynolds.

In that 2013, he would actually lead the league in stolen base percentage. He would also finish second in the league in hits. The 2014 season would be a special one for Murphy. First and foremost, he became a dad, and he would attend the birth to much consternation. Later that year, he would make his first All-Star team and his only one with the Mets. As great as that year was, 2015 would be Murphy’s best in a Mets uniform.

Working with new hitting coach Kevin Long, Murphy worked on improving his plate discipline, launch angle, and pulling the ball. We would see all of that come to fruition with Murphy having one of the greatest postseasons we have ever seen becoming the first ever player to hit a homer in six consecutive postseason games.

There’s no understating how great a postseason that was. In that postseason, he homered off of Clayton Kershaw (twice), Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, and others. Kershaw is an all-time great pitcher, Greinke is a likely future Hall of Famer, and Lester is a great postseason pitcher. Murphy beat them all, and he did something only Lou Gehrig had ever done by having a hit, run, and RBI in seven consecutive postseason games.

To put it succinctly, it was Murphtober.

He didn’t just beat teams with his bat. He had a great diving play to end Game 1 of the NLDS, and he would also steal a key base. On that note, in Game 5 of the NLDS, Murphy had such a great game, it should be known as the Murphy Game.

In that game, he was 3-for-4 with two runs, a double, homer, two RBI, and a stolen base. He gave the Mets a first inning lead with a double scoring Curtis Granderson. In the fourth, with the Mets trailing 2-1, he caught the Dodgers asleep with the defensive shift going from first to third on a Lucas Duda walk. This enabled him to score on a Travis d’Arnaud sacrifice fly. Later, in the sixth, he hit the go-ahead homer.

In the Mets 3-2 victory, Murphy played a key role in all three runs. It makes it fair to say in a tightly contested series and game, the Mets lose without him. Without Murphy, there is no NLCS or pennant. On that note, he would break Mike Piazza‘s team record for postseason homers and become just the second Mets player to ever win the NLCS MVP. Like Ray Knight, he would find himself playing for another team in 2016. That would prove to be a giant mistake.

Overall, Murphy had a very good and somewhat underrated Mets career. His .288 batting average is the seventh best in team history. His 228 doubles are the third most. His 13.6 WAR is second only to Edgardo Alfonzo among Mets second baseman. Only Ron Hunt, Alfonzo, and Murphy have been All Stars at second base.

Overall, he is arguably the Mets best ever postseason hitter, and he is their second base second baseman of all-time. He is one of the most clutch players to ever wear a Mets uniform, and he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 28.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
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
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 4 Lenny Dykstra

The number four has had a number of folk heroes and fan favorites in Mets history. The first was Ron Swoboda with his diving catch catch robbing Brooks Robinson of a hit in the 1969 World Series. There was Rusty Staub who gallantly fought while injured for the 1973 Mets.

Robin Ventura had the Grand Slam single, and Wilmer Flores has more walk-off hits than anyone in Mets history. Even with all of these Mets greats, when it comes to the number four, Lenny Dykstra was the best player to ever wear the number.

While he was first called-up in 1985, Dykstra would first establish that as the case during the 1986 season. In that season, Dykstra was pressed into action as an everyday player when Mookie Wilson suffered a Spring Training injury. We would soon find out that not only was Dykstra up to the task, but he would emerge as the Mets second best position player that season (by WAR).

It was more than his numbers. He presented a fire and grit for this Mets team (not that they needed it), and we would see exactly why he had the nickname Nails. Of all the special things Dykstra had done that year, he would save his best work for the postseason – something that would become the hallmark of his career.

In Game 3 of the NLCS against the Houston Astros, the Mets were facing going down 2-1 in the series with Mike Scott slated to start Game 4 and¬†Nolan Ryan in Game 5, the 108 win Mets team was in real trouble. They could not lose this game. Ultimately, they wouldn’t as Dykstra would become the first ever Mets player to hit a walk-off homer in Mets postseason history:

Overall, Dykstra would hit .304/.360/.565 with a double, triple, homer, and three RBI. In a series where the Mets offense really struggled against the Astros pitching, especially the top of their rotation, it was Dykstra who helped keep the Mets afloat for their late inning miracle rallies. Really, next to the pitchers, Dykstra was unarguably the best player for either team in the series, and to some extent, he deserved the MVP award.

Just like he did in Game 3 against the Astros, Dykstra again game up huge in Game 3 of the World Series. After that emotional NLCS, they found themselves down 2-0 heading to Fenway. The Mets were in deep trouble. However, Dykstra would revitalize that Mets team leading off the game with a home run off Oil Can Boyd:

To some extent, that moment would be somewhat tainted by allegations Ron Darling made towards Dykstra. Overall, the off-the-field stuff during his career (steroids) and after his career, marred Dykstra. However, when he played, he was a terrific player who always came up big in big moments.

Again, in the 1986 World Series, Dykstra was terrific hitting .296/.345/.519. From there, he would find himself splitting time with Wilson with the Mets obtaining Kevin McReynolds in an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres. When Dykstra got to play, he was a very good player on the field.

He would again be great in the postseason. In a losing effort, Dykstra was phenomenal hitting .429/.600/.857 with three doubles, a homer, and three RBI. Just like two years prior, pitchers aside, Dysktra was very clearly the best position player on the field.

Seeing how he played in that series and in his Mets career, it is a wonder to everyone as to exactly why Dykstra would be traded during the ensuing season to the Philadelphia Phillies along with Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel. There are not enough ways to describe just how epic a blunder this was for the Mets. This was a franchise altering decision for the Mets and Phillies.

Ultimately, the one thing you can always say about Dykstra was the Mets were always better with him. He was always prepared for the biggest moments on the biggest stage in the biggest city in the world. While he was far from a perfect person, he was the perfect player to play in New York, and if not for him, it is likely we are talking about the Mets only having won one World Series in their history.

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 Granderson was the third best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 3.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson

Best Mets Of All-Time: No. 1 Mookie Wilson

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.

Good Luck Lucas Duda

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.