Throughout their history, the Mets have have had some bold uniform designs which have elicited strong reactions. For the most part, the bold designs are met with near universal disdain or mockery.
The underscore jerseys were tainted not just because of the poor sense of fashion, but also because it was the jersey of Anthony Young‘s losing streak. There was the ill conceived white cap dubbed the “Ice Cream Man” cap. Certainly, these stand out as the most despised, but they’re not the most controversial.
No, that honor belongs to the black jerseys.
The black jerseys were a shock to the system and a complete departure from Mets tradition. Beloved announcer Howie Rose repeatedly voiced his displeasure for them. Noted Mets fan and uniform guru Paul Lukas of Uniwatch launched a campaign against them. Eventually, they and the many detractors won the day when the black uniforms were disposed of after the 2011 season.
However, for all those who despised them, there were a legion of Mets fans who loved them. As previously noted, one of the main reasons why is those jerseys are so closely tied to beloved Met Mike Piazza and a whole era of Mets baseball.
Piazza wore the black jersey when he capped off the 10 run inning against the Braves with a home run. Robin Ventura was wearing the black jersey when he hit the Grand Slam single. Mike Hampton was wearing the black jersey when he pitched a complete game shutout to win the fourth pennant in Mets history. Overall, they were plenty of great moments in those jerseys.
Going back, you have to question why those jerseys elicited such a visceral reaction. The answer is multilayered, and it’s more than just the traditionalist point of view.
One aspect was it got to be too big, and the Mets were a bit of a laughingstock. It wasn’t just the black jerseys. There was also the snow white jerseys along with the pinstripes. There was also a gray and black road jersey. In addition to five different types of jerseys, the team had three different caps.
Personally, the caps were an issue as the black caps were not aesthetically pleasing. The blue bill on the black hat with the two toned interlocking NY was too busy. That was at least better than the three toned interlocking NY on the all black cap. It should be noted those caps were worn predominantly even with fans arguably preferring the traditional blue and orange caps, which did match all five of the jerseys well enough.
More than the caps, the jerseys were probably just overdone. The traditional blue pinstripes were all but forgotten, and they were awkward looking with the completely unnecessary drop shadow.
Really, when you ruin the pinstripes and push them by the wayside, you give traditionalists more ammunition. Between them not giving up the cause, and with the Mets collapses and the team falling apart when they moved to Citi Field, it was time for a change.
The change has been good with the blue jerseys looking sharp. Mostly, it’s been great to see the Mets wear the pinstripes with the traditional caps again.
Still, with Piazza going to the Hall of Fame and the 20th anniversary of the 1999 team, you do wonder if there’s room for the return of the black jerseys. Under the right circumstances, there should be.
With Tom Seaver being diagnosed with dementia, there is a renewed call for the Mets to honor their history and to build a Seaver statue outside Citi Field. For Mets fans and for other teams, this is something which should not be up for a debate. After all, when other teams built their new stadiums, they incorporated statutes of their great players around their ballpark. Even older stadiums are incorporating statues.
This is part of honoring a team’s past. This is something which seems obvious, but it never occurred to the Mets when they build Citi Field.
Looking at the original construct of Citi Field, the seats were green, and the outfield walls were black. The Home Run Apple from Shea Stadium was tucked away. The Mets Hall of Fame was nowhere to be seen. Really, the only trace of the team’s history was the retired numbers and pennants on what was then known as “The Great Wall of Flushing.”
To be fair to the Mets, it may have been an honest oversight. Moreover, it could have been the result of public pressure altering plans. Due to a number of circumstances, there was a push to name Citi Field after Jackie Robinson. For example, George Vecsey wrote an article about it in the New York Times. He would be far from the only one.
Really, this was a pressure the Mets had faced since 1997. Whether it was in response to the pressure or whether it was always part of the plans, the Jackie Robinson Rotunda was born in a ballpark which was meant to invoke memories of the old Ebbets Field. Certainly, that left plenty of room for the detractors before anyone ever stepped foot inside the stadium.
While the perception the Mets had no intention to honor their history may not have been fair, the team gave it credence when the Mets overreacted to Dwight Gooden signed a wall in what was then dubbed the “Ebbets Field Club.” Initially, the Mets planned to erase the signature. As reportedby the New York Daily News, the Mets heard the backlash, and they were going to listen to their fans:
PR honcho Jay Horwitz said the wall will be removed from the club, preserved behind Plexiglass and moved to an undisclosed area at Citi Field that is more accessible to all fans. He added that the Mets plan to procure similar autographs from other popular ex-Mets such as Tom Seaver, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza and Mookie Wilson and display them around the concourse.
It has almost been a decade since this incident transpired. Honestly, has anyone seen a wall with autographs from all the great Mets players? Is it hiding in some suite most fans don’t have access? Is it in the executive offices no one sees? Is it tucked in a corner somewhere in an area no one regularly passes during games?
Perhaps one good location for the wall would be the Mets Hall of Fame. The Mets Hall of Fame is a whole other matter all together.
You could point out one of the reasons why the Mets Hall of Fame may not be all you want it to be is due to limited space. Of course, that is a problem which arises when you don’t make provisions for one in your original plans for the ballpark. It’s also a problem when the team sells important memorabilia like the jersey Mike Piazza wore when he hit his post 9/11 home run.
Of course, this shouldn’t surprise anyone was the team store really spills into the Mets Hall of Fame. While you’re crowding to see the original Mr. Met costume, you can go through the racks of game worn wear and other merchandise which has spilled on over from the main team store.
But it’s not just the lack of statues, or the inaccessible and probably nonexistent wall, or even a ill-executed Hall of Fame. Just look at what happened to the retired numbers and pennants.
The once prominently displayed retired numbers on the left field wall now hang high above the left field Promenade above the foul pole. The pennants have also been removed from the left field wall. They now reside on the facade hanging above the field level in left field. Now, this may not seem like all that much. After all, most teams do not have their retired numbers and pennants on full display on their outfield walls, but for the Mets, this is a clear break in tradition with no real reason for it.
In the end, that’s the biggest problem. There’s no real reason for any of this. The Mets are a franchise which is now 57 years old. They have have had two players inducted into the Hall of Fame. They have won two World Series and been to three others. They have played in some of the most classic games in Major League history, and their status as an expansion team has forever ingrained them in the fabric of the game.
And yet, when you walk around their ballpark, with or without a Seaver statue, you’d have no idea that was the case.
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.
In this offseason, the Mets went out and signed Wilson Ramos to a two year deal hoping he will be the team’s answer at catcher. Barring injury, he will be the ninth Mets Opening Day catcher since Mike Piazza left in free agency after the 2005 season. Put another way, the Mets are still searching out a way to replace the Hall of Famer.
Can you name the eight Opening Day catchers between Ramos and Piazza? Good luck!
For the first time since 2004, David Wright is not in Spring Training with an eye towards being the Mets third baseman. Sadly, that went by the wayside when he played his last few games as a member of the Mets last year. Since that time, Wright has joined the front office, and he has not been the typical fixture in camp. Surely, the players notice it, especially Noah Syndergaard at lunch time.
But while people may feel it, there does seem to be a level of business as usual. After all, Robinson Cano has Wright’s old locker, and the third base position is a battle of sorts between Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie. Really, there is a lot going on right now. With all that is going on, there is a question about how much you have noticed Wright’s absence.
There’s definitely a different vibe at camp this year. Is it because David Wright isn’t there? Or is it because there’s a new order? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. I feel like Wright’s there in spirit, and his presence is irreplaceable. But I also think he’s left behind an example for everyone in the room to follow going forward, it feels like a new chapter has begun with the Mets, for better or for worse.
Pete McCarthy (OABT)
It’s hard to say his absence is felt when he has often been injured and rehabbing the last few seasons. Last September was truly special and showed all that Wright gave to the franchise both on and off the field. Hopeful that a player or players can truly ascend to a leadership role now that he is retired and there is no hope of the Captain making a grand return.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
That’s probably a better question to ask somebody on the team, since they know the difference. For me, I’m of the mind of “keep moving forward”, and that we care too much about nostalgia in general as a society. (I don’t care which shows premiered 27 years ago today so stop putting it in my Facebook timeline!!!) So while I think of David Wright fondly, I’m ready to look forward and not backward.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
The last couple of years prepared us well for our separation from David Wright as an active player. Still, he was such a constant for so long. I always assumed the earliest-reporting employee to St. Lucie every spring was greeted by David bouncing a ball against a wall, waiting for somebody to unlock the door to the facility.
Given his role as a special advisor, I imagine we’ll see him around in some capacity, which is comforting. May he find the new work rewarding and may fans never stop appreciating all he gave this franchise.
Tim Ryder (MMO)
To be honest, no. In my head I’ve already turned that page. This roster is full of talented guys, some of whom learned how to conduct themselves as major leaguers from David Wright. I have a feeling his impact on this clubhouse will continue to manifest itself over the next few seasons. Will I miss him on the field? Always.
Bre S (That Mets Chick)
Have I felt Wright’s absence from the team during spring training? I can’t say I have. That is a better question to ask the players. I can see from videos and players quotes that there is a different and fresh vibe from this team. Wright is no longer on the field with them being their leader and caption. Other players like Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, and Brandon Nimmo all know they need to step up in 2019. Whether Mets fans like it or not, the team must move on without Wright being in the clubhouse everyday. This reminds me of 2005. Mike Piazza‘s final season with the Mets. Going into 2006, bright and young new faces emerged the voices and leaders for the Mets: David Wright and Jose Reyes. Similar to 2006, a new leader for the Mets will emerge in 2019 and I can’t wait to see who that is.
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
I’ll notice the hole at third base once games start. Third base the last few years has almost been defined by “waiting for David Wright,” so now that David isn’t coming back anymore I expect the third-base position to have a completely different dynamic. We have Frazier, who was so-so last year; Lowrie, who can really hit…but may already be hurt? Jeff McNeil, who can also really hit but is unproven and might also be an outfielder; J.D. Davis, who seems like a complete mystery…David Wright’s absence, to me, is going to make itself felt most in the fact that when we go through third base options, there won’t be that pause we used to make, and no one will say, “well, this is just the backup plan until Wright comes back.”
Surprisingly, I have not noticed Wright’s absence. There are a number of reasons why with Pete Alonso fighting for a first base job, deGrom still going without an extension, and the fact there are still big name free agents on the board like Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel. There is a lot of noise in baseball right now, and it is overshadowing Wright not being a part of the team anymore.
I anticipate I will first feel his absence on Opening Day when Howie Rose is calling out the players’ names. His name will be a noticeable omission. If the Mets are fighting for a postseason spot, I know I will certainly notice Wright’s absence, and I will likely bemoan who Wright is not going to get a chance to get his World Series ring.
While I have not quite noticed Wright’s absence, I do notice the good work from the fine people who contribute to this roundtable. Hopefully, you notice it as well, and you take the time to read their excellent work.
Last night, the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl in team history. If you look at how the Mets have performed in the other five years the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you may not believe this to be a good thing:
Super Bowl XXXVI
After a disappointing season on the heels of a National League pennant, Steve Phillips decided it was time to make some drastic changes with the Mets. The team would clear out Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile to make way for Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. The team would also reunite with Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz. A disappointing rotation was “buttressed” with pitchers like Pedro Astacio, Jeff D’Amico, and Shawn Estes.
What would result was an unmitigated disaster as none of the imported players would perform close to their historical levels of production. In fact, only Estes would be playing baseball the next time the Mets made the postseason. Perhaps the biggest indignity to their also-ran season was Estes inability to exact revenge against Roger Clemens.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
This year was probably rock bottom for that era in Mets history. The team proved ill advised at trying to make Mike Piazza a part-time first baseman. Kazuo Matsui looked like a bust leading you to wonder why the Mets not only contemplated signing him, but also shifting Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate him. You also wondered if Reyes was going to prove out to be an injury prone player. Braden Looper should never have been contemplated as the closer.
As bad as that was, the team made a series of trade blunders. First and foremost, for some reason with the Mets being five games under .500 and seven out in the division, they talked themselves into contender status leading to the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade.
As bad as that was, we would also see the Mets first obtain Jose Bautista only to trade him away for Kris Benson. Again, this was done in the vein of the Mets are contenders despite being so many games out of contention.
Jim Duquette would shoulder the blame for the moves, which probably were not all his idea, and he would be reassigned in September. Without Duquette at the helm, the Mets would completely bungle firing Art Howe leaving him to manage the end of the season knowing he was doing it with the axe swiftly coming down on his head.
Super Bowl XXXIX
With Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph at the helm, this was a new look Mets team. Still, things weren’t quite there. Doug Mientkiewicz proved to be a bit of a disaster. The team leaned on Miguel Cairo too much. At the time, Carlos Beltran seemed to be channeling Bobby Bonilla with a year where he regressed in nearly every aspect of his game. As bad as that was, he had the horrific collision with Mike Cameron in right-center field in San Diego:
The biggest bright spot of that season was Pedro Martinez, who was vintage Pedro all year long. He flirted with no-hitters, and he led the league in WHIP. He was a throwback to a time when the Mets dominated with their pitching. He would also battle some injuries leading to Randolph smartly shutting him down for the rest of the year.
Except he wasn’t. As Pedro would detail in his eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch while he was hurt. This would exacerbate his existing injuries and would lead to other injuries. Instead of having Pedro in the 2006 postseason, he was watching with the rest of us.
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: Lost World Series 4-1
Even when things are going right, they fell completely apart. Alex Gordon jumped on a Jeurys Familia quick pitch. Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. Lucas Duda couldn’t make a throw home. Terry Collins did about as poor a job managing a World Series as you possibly could do. What was once fun ended in bitter fashion.
Super Bowl XLIX
The 2016 Mets made a late furious push to claim a Wild Card spot despite being without Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. The thought was if these pitchers could be healthy in 2017, then the Mets could return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe, the Mets could win the World Series.
Instead, Harvey would have off-the-field issues leading to a suspension. Back then, we thought those issues were affecting his performance. In actuality, it was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Joining Harvey on the shelf was Noah Syndergaard, who went down with at a torn lat. Matz had ulnar nerve issues costing him most of the season. With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman unable to reclaim their 2016 magic, the season was history.
Still, during that season there was a glimmer of hope in the form of Michael Conforto. The then 24 year old was playing at a superstar level. He was named a first time All Star, and he was proving himself to be a leader for a Mets team which still had the talent to be contenders in 2018. Instead on August 24, he would swing and miss on a pitch and collapse to the ground with a severe shoulder injury.
As if that all wasn’t enough, this would be the first time since 2003, David Wright would not appear in at least one game for the New York Mets.
Super Bowl LIII
This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen has set out to put his stamp on the Mets. He has rebuilt the bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson. He has reshaped the lineup with Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos. There are still some holes on the roster, but generally speaking, this is a stronger club than the Mets have had over the past two seasons.
The additions have come at a cost. The Mets traded away arguably their two best prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. The team has also parted with well regarded prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea for J.D. Davis. There was also a further burying of former first round picks Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini on the depth charts.
Sure, there is no real correlation between the Patriots winning a Super Bowl and the Mets performance during the ensuing season. To suggest that is foolish. And yet, there is an unsettling pattern where a Patriots Super Bowl begets a disappointing Mets season.
Really, when you break it down, the real analysis to be made here is the disparity between the Patriots and the Mets. Whereas the Patriots are regarded as one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports with a terrific owner, the Mets are regarded as one of the worst run organizations with meddlesome owners. If the Mets are to break this “streak,” it is going to be because the Mets are a much better run organization who has the full resources and backing it needs from ownership.
In recent news former Mets great Al Leiter has announced he will not be returning to the YES booth for the 2019 season. With him leaving the booth, he is leaving behind a promising and good broadcast career which had begun when he was a player providing commentary during the 2003 NLCS.
During that NLCS, you could see Leiter was going to be a gifted broadcaster. He hasn’t disappointed in his time as a Yankees color commentator or as an analyst on MLB Network. Seeing his work, you knew no one was pushing him out the door, and yet Leiter has announced he is leaving.
The reason is his son, Jack, is a senior in high school, and he is committed to Vanderbilt. If Jack is anything like his father, his uncle Mark Leiter, or even his cousin also named Mark Leiter, he has a real Major League future ahead of him. If that is the case, Al Leiter is going to be in New Jersey doing work for the MLB Network, or he will be in the Bronx, or he will find himself anywhere where the Yankees travel.
That does not leave him much time to watch his son pitch during his senior season. It doesn’t give him time to give parental advice to help prepare his son for college or even the draft. It doesn’t leave enough time for him to spend time with his son because his son finds himself in places like Tennesse, whether that is for college or for an Appalachian League affiliate.
In his career, Leiter made approximately $68 million. He’s done a fine job as a broadcaster presumably earning a good salary. With his reputation and his relatively young age (53), Leiter has the chance to do this. This is all every parent wants, and Leiter has that opportunity. Good for him for taking full advantage.
When he’s ready to return, there could be a chance for him at SNY as the Mets have begun taking more of a look at the 90’s Mets team. We have seen Todd Zeile recently hired to replace Nelson Figueroa and Bob Ojeda before him. Sooner or later, we know Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling are going to leave the Mets booth.
Maybe, there will be room for a new booth with Gary, Leiter, and Mike Piazza. It would be the type of booth which could generate the same chemistry and cache with Mets fans. And who knows, maybe we will see Leiter calling games his son is pitching.
But before then, let’s hope the best for Jack Leiter and hope Al enjoys each and every minute of the ride.
Today is the three year anniversary of Yoenis Cespedes officially signing a three year $75 million contract with the New York Mets. The contract came with the opt out the Mets had said they didn’t want to offer anyone, and it was a surprise for a team who had seemed to move on from Cespedes early in the offseason.
For those who recall, the Mets had signed Alejandro De Aza on December 23, 2015. With his signing, the plan was apparently to have him platoon with Juan Lagares in center field. He would be in the same outfield as Michael Conforto, who after a promising 2015 season, looked primed to be an everyday player and Curtis Granderson, a man who was a series of infield and managerial gaffes away from being the World Series MVP.
That was a respectable, but not an especially formidable outfield for a Mets team who had designs on winning a World Series. It caused frustration because the De Aza signing didn’t exactly put the team over the top. The money saved on Michael Cuddyer‘s retirement was arguably poorly spread between De Aza, Jerry Blevins, Antonio Bastardo, and Bartolo Colon.
No, this team needed Cespedes.
What was odd was Cespedes was still a free agent. Sure, there were better regarded free agent outfield options in Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Alex Gordon. There were other attractive options available as well. Still, this was a player who thrived in the biggest market in the world hitting .287/.337/.604 with 14 doubles, four triples, 17 homers, and 44 RBI in 57 games.
Extrapolating that over a 162 game season, and Cespedes would have accumulated 40 doubles, 11 triples, 48 homers, and 125 RBI. Now, it shouldn’t be anticipated Cespedes could do that over a 162 game schedule. However, what we did see is Cespedes is a difference maker just like he was with the Athletics.
Yet, still he lingered with little interest. Sure, the Nationals were rumored to have offered Cespedes $100 million, but it was the typical Nationals offer with deferred money, which did not seem to interest Cespedes. The fact this was the only real offer kept him around thereby allowing the Mets to swoop in and get Cespedes on a good deal for both sides.
It was a coup by Sandy Alderson. It was a necessary move which helped the Mets reach the postseason again in 2016. It marked just the second time in team history the Mets would go to consecutive postseasons. It happened because Cespedes lingered allowing the Mets to make a bold move.
Somehow, some way, the two best free agents entering this free agent class are still available. For reasons unbeknownst to us, there are few teams in on either one of these players. In adding either one of these players, the Mets would take their 2019 team and put it over the top. A team who is projected to win around 85 games would move into the 90+ win range. That’s what happens when you add superstars and potential Hall of Famers.
The Mets took advantage of unexpected opportunities. They struck when no one else expected them to strike. The result was a period of relevance, winning, and increased attendance. The chance is there. The Mets need to strike now and bring in one of Harper or Machado. The 2019 season rests on it.
Come this July, the Baseball Hall of Fame will see the largest Hall of Fame class we have seen in over 50 years. In this class, there will be six new Hall of Famers, none of whom even wore a Mets cap during his career. As we know, Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza are the only two players inducted as the Mets in the Hall of Fame.
Looking further, there are questions as to where the next Mets Hall of Famer will come.
Seeing how the Veterans Committee, or rather the Today’s Game Era Committed, elected Harold Baines and Lee Smith into the Hall of Fame, there is a chance for previously overlooked candidates who played in the 1980s to bet inducted into the Hall of Fame. Foremost in most Mets fans minds is Keith Hernandez.
With his being the best defensive first baseman of all-time, his 1979 NL MVP, five All-Stars, and two World Series titles, Hernandez has a strong case. When you look further, you see how every player who has led his position in Gold Gloves is in the Hall of Fame. Breaking it down further, Hernandez and Andruw Jones, who is still eligible, are the only two players with 10 Gold Gloves or more who have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Put another way, Hernandez is a worthy candidate who may very well be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the near future. The problem when it comes to Hernandez is he will likely be wearing a Cardinals or blank cap. With his playing seven years in St. Louis along with his obvious love of the organization, it’s possible the Hall will push him to wear a Cardinals or a blank cap similar to how they chose an Expos cap for the late Gary Carter. Admittedly, the case for Hernandez wearing a Mets cap is stronger than Carter’s was.
Past Hernandez, the next best case is Carlos Beltran. Judging from WAR, Beltran is the eighth best center fielder of all-time. That puts him ahead of of Hall of Famers like Duke Snider, Andre Dawson, and Kirby Puckett. Combine that with his ranks among all-time switch hitters, being a nine time All-Star, and his postseason exploits, and we can all reasonably assume Beltran will eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
However, like Hernandez, the cap may be an issue. In his career, Beltran played 44 games more with the Mets than the Royals giving him a reasonable option for either team. He may also feel a pull towards the Astros due to his postseason exploits and World Series ring, but he does not have nearly the time with them to wear an Astros cap.
When you consider how the Mets have consistently reissued Beltran’s number 15, the acrimony of Beltran receiving career saving knee surgery, and Fred Wilpon’s negative comments about Beltran in the infamous New Yorker article, it’s hard to imagine Beltran feeling a pull to wear a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
After that, there’s an issue. While David Wright is a beloved player, he likely falls far short of meriting induction. Just look at Scott Rolen. Rolen had a better career than Wright, and he has only been able to muster 17.2 percent in his second year on the ballot.
After Wright, you are looking towards current Mets players. Among the group, Jacob deGrom probably has the best shot. So far in his five year career, he has a Rookie of the Year Award and a Cy Young along with his epic 2015 postseason. His career 143 ERA+ currently ranks 10th all-time putting him ahead of Hall of Famers like Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and even Seaver.
It should also be noted deGrom is 30 years old, and he has only played five seasons. He is going to have to pitch at his 2018 level for a few more seasons to truly enter the discussion. While it may be an uphill battle, we have seen pitchers take off after turning 30. For an example, we need not look any further than Max Scherzer, who is making his own Hall of Fame case.
As for Noah Syndergaard and even Michael Conforto, both have age on their sides. They have shown periods of dominance, but they have had health issues, which have also prevented them from putting up big years early on in their careers from building a more solid foundation to their Hall of Fame chances.
Breaking it down, in an odd sense, the Mets player with perhaps the best chance of induction is John Franco – seriously.
The Today’s Era Comittee just opted to induct Lee Smith, and they opted to elect Baines from seemingly out of nowhere. When you stack Franco up against Smith, Franco has a better ERA+. Franco also has a higher ERA+ than Hall of Fame closers Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley. Moreover, Franco is just one of six closers in baseball history with over 400 saves, and he is the all-time leader in saves for left-handed pitchers.
For those who don’t believe in Franco ever being able to be inducted in the Hall of Fame, the doubt is understood. After all, Franco, like Baines, fell off the ballot in his first year after he garnered just 4.6 percent of the vote.
The dubiousness underlying Franco’s chances underlies just how long it may be before we ever see another Mets player inducted into the Hall of Fame. That should surprise no one as the organization did not see its first Hall of Famer until the franchise was 30 years old. It then had to wait another 24 years for its next Hall of Famer.
The Mets have been quite busy this offseason, and they have improved their roster. Their bullpen now has Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia. Robinson Cano is now the everyday second baseman with last year’s revelation, Jeff McNeil, hopefully becoming a super utility player in the ilk of Ben Zobrist. Wilson Ramos replaces an uninspiring group of Travis d’Arnaud, Jose Lobaton, Devin Mesoraco, Tomas Nido, and Kevin Plawecki behind the plate.
All told, the Mets are undoubtedly better. In fact, they have gone from being a 77 win team to Fangraphs projecting they will win 85 games. That’s a big eight game improvement, but when you dig deeper, it’s not enough.
Assuming the projections are correct or reasonable, that 85 win mark puts them six games behind the Nationals, and it has them just two games ahead of the Braves for second place in the division. Moreover, it has the Mets capturing the second Wild Card. It is very difficult to believe the Mets are doing this for just the second Wild Card.
Then again, despite Brodie Van Wagenen’s bravado, the Mets may be lucky to capture that second Wild Card.
First and foremost, you’re relying upon a Braves team who signed Josh Donaldson to win eight fewer games. More than that, you’re relying on the Phillies not going out and making significant additions this offseason.
We know the Phillies owner wants to spend a stupid amount of money. He has reached that threshold, but the Phillies have improved the team. The Carlos Santana trade permits the Phillies to move Rhys Hoskins to first base, which is where he belongs, and they replaced Santana’s disappointing production with Andrew McCutchen. In that Santana trade, the Phillies obtained Jean Segura, who presents a massive offensive and defensive upgrade over what the Phillies had last year.
The Phillies are also rumored to be hot in their pursuit of Manny Machado. It’s possible the Phillies will lose out on him to the Yankees or even the White Sox, who made a trade for his brother-in-law Yonder Alonso. If they lose out on him, you can guarantee they will be even more dogged in their pursuit of Bryce Harper. Either player is a game changer.
At a minimum, that makes the Phillies more of a player in the division, and it makes the Mets efforts to win the division or to even capture one of the Wild Card spots all the more difficult. Even the most ardent believer in what the Mets have done this offseason has to admit Machado or Harper on the Phillies severely complicates matters.
If nothing else, this is why the Mets have to stop it from happening. We know they will not be in on Machado, but there they can let the Yankees do their dirty work, but when it comes to Harper, they are going to have to do their own heavy lifting. They are going to have step up and try to sign Harper much in the same way they stepped up and gave up Jarred Kelenic to ensure Diaz did not go to the Phillies.
An outfield of Michael Conforto–Brandon Nimmo–Bryce Harper would be among the best in baseball. For those wringing their hands over Yoenis Cespedes, both Harper and Cespedes have indicated this past year they would be willing to move to first base. Then again, no one should be counting on Cespedes to return at any point in 2019 let alone be the type of player again who can force anyone to the bench.
More than anything, Harper is one of the best players in baseball, and he’s just only 26. He’s one of the more recognizable players in the game, and he could have a Mike Piazza like impact on the field, with attendance, and on the back pages. He could be the next Carlos Beltran. With his talent anything is possible, including not just one but multiple World Series titles.
The main point here is the Mets are far from done building this team into a World Series contender. The same goes for the rest of the division including the Phillies. One team is going to be willing to do everything it takes to win. For the first time in over a decade, it would be nice if that team was once again the Mets.