When Major League Baseball retired the number 42 across all of baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson, at the time it meant Butch Huskey was going to be the last Mets player to wear that number. That was until the Mets acquired Mo Vaughn who had been grandfathered in as he was wearing the number in honor of Robinson.
Neither Huskey or Vaughn are the best Mets players to ever wear that number. That honor goes to Ron Taylor.
While we look back at those Mets teams who went from laughingstocks to a World Series winner, oft times, Tug McGraw was seen as the closer for those teams. After all, he was the larger than life personality who had the swagger you have come to expect to see from closers. However, truth be told, back in those days, it was Taylor.
From 1967 – 1970, it was Taylor who would lead the Mets in saves. When it came down to it, more times than not, it was Taylor who was the reliever the Mets trusted most. That was the most evident in 1969.
In Game 1 of the NLCS, the Mets first ever postseason game, Taylor entered the game in the eighth inning after Tom Seaver departed with the Mets leading 9-5. After pitching two scoreless innings, Taylor was credited with the first ever postseason save in Mets history.
One humorous anecdote from that game was in the ninth, as detailed in Tales from the Mets Dugout, was after Felix Millan had hit a lead-off single, Gil Hodges had instructed Taylor to walk Hank Aaron to face Orlando Cepeda. Hodges knowing he had difficulty against Cepeda demanded to face Aaron. An angry and incredulous Hodges let Taylor have his druthers leaving him with a faint warning.
Taylor would retire Aaron, and when he came back to the dugout, Hodges remarked to him, “You know, you’re crazier than I thought!”
After Taylor picked up the save in the Mets first ever postseason game, he would become the first reliever in Mets history to pick up a win in the postseason. The day after pitching two scoreless, he relieved Jerry Koosman in the fifth. He got Koosman out of that jam, and with the Mets leading 9-6 after five, he was the pitcher of record.
Again, in the World Series, it was Taylor who got the call when the Mets were in trouble. After another scoreless appearance in a losing Game 1, Taylor was called upon to relieve Koosman in Game 2.
Taylor entered Game 2 with runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth of a 2-1 game, and Brooks Robinson due up. Taylor got Robinson to ground out to Ed Charles to end the game. With that, Taylor became the first Mets pitcher to earn a save in a World Series game:
In that 1969 postseason, Taylor made four appearances pitching 5.2 scoreless innings. In those appearances, he allowed just three hits and walked one while striking out seven. When you look through Mets history, you can actually argue Taylor is the Mets best ever postseason reliever.
When Taylor departed the Mets organization, he was the Mets all-time leader in saves. Now, he ranks 12th all-time. In essence, he was the first big time reliever in Mets history, and his performance in the 1969 postseason was an all-time great one. As such, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 42.
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
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza
32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey
34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver
The following people were mentioned: Curtis Granderson, J.D. Davis, Seth Lugo, Jake Marisnick, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Jeremy Hefner, Luis Rojas, Carlos Beltran, Mickey Callaway, Phil Regan, Jeremy Accardo, Steven Matz, Dellin Betances, Edwin Diaz, Justin Wilson, Jeurys Familia, Mo Vaughn, Jared Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Andres Gimenez, Mark Vientos, Rick Porcello, Jason Vargas, Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Asdrubal Cabrera, Devin Mesoraco, and others.
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.
The Mets Fan
Hi, my name is Ed Marcus – aka:
@LaGrandeRusty .. or RustyJr back when I was a blogger.
How You Became a Mets Fan
I was born a Mets fan. Allegedly, my first Mets game was during the ‘73 playoffs when I was a year-and-a-half.
Favorite Mets Player
Favorite Moment in Mets History
Message to Mets Fans
There is more than life than baseball. It’s just a distraction from the stress of real life . We shouldn’t live and die by every pitch – that’s just not normal . Go outside live life – neither the Wilpon’s not the players care about us . Watch as a fan – not as a fervent acolyte. There’s a difference between a fan and a fanatic.
Unlike last season, the Mets were proactive in replacing an injured player on their roster when the obtained James Loney from the San Diego Padres to replace Lucas Duda who was slated to be on the disabled list for a long time with a broken back.
Coming into the season, Loney was a .285/.338/.411 hitter who averaged 10 homers and 64 RBI in a season. His OPS+ was 105 meaning he was roughly a league average hitter. In his 55 games with the Mets, Loney has been a slightly better version of himself hitting .289/.339/.443 with six homers and 23 RBI. His OPS+ is 108, which is what Mo Vaughn‘s OPS+ was as a Met. Long story short, Loney is the perfect stopgap, but he is not a difference maker. The problem is he was taking over for a difference maker in the lineup.
Since Duda became the Mets everyday first baseman, he has hit .249/.350/.483 while averaging 28 homers and 82 RBI. His OPS+ over that stretch is 133 meaning he is batting at an All Star caliber level, and he is a difference maker at the plate. To put it into context, David Wright‘s career OPS+ is 133.
Essentially, the Mets have gone from a David Wright level of production at first base back to the days of Mo Vaughn. This drop in production goes a long way to explain why the Mets offense has been struggling since Duda has gone down with the broken back.
With the grim prognosis for Duda this season, and with the trade deadline having gone by, the Mets never made the necessary upgrade at first base. If the Mets were to shift Jay Bruce (128 OPS+ this season) or Michael Conforto to first base (129 OPS+ last year), they would go a long way to replacing that production. It is certainly worth a shot. The time for stopgaps is over. The Mets now need to find a real replacement for Duda’s offense. That isn’t Loney. Hopefully, it could be Bruce or Conforto.
One of the biggest punchlines about Steve Phillips tenure as the Mets GM has been this:
December 27, 2001: Mets acquire 1B Mo Vaughn for pitcher Kevin Appier. pic.twitter.com/Vvo9v8zlRO
— Mets Rewind (@metsrewind) December 27, 2015
Not his personal conduct. No, he’s routinely mocked for the Mo Vaughn trade. To this day, I do not understand the vitriol over the deal. I guess it’s because Mets fans do not realize the Mets won that trade. Seriously.
First, keep in mind the Mets gave up Kevin Appier. That’s it. Yes, the same Kevin Appier the Mets signed after they lost the World Series instead of making big moves to improve the team. Yes, I’m talking about the 2000 offseason, not this one. Appier signed a four year $42 million contract with the Mets.
In his only year with the Mets, Appier was decent going 11-10 with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.185 WHIP. He would then be traded for Mo Vaughn. Appier was good again in 2002. He has a ring despite having a historically bad World Series start. Appier was bad, really bad, in 2003. Despite being owed over $15 million on his deal, he was released. Appier would go back to Kansas City, where he would pitch only 23 innings more between 2003 and 2004 before retiring and putting an end to a very good big league career.
In exchange, the Mets got the impressive batting practice hitter Mo Vaughn (the last Met to wear 42). Say what you will about Mo Vaughn. You’re probably right. His 2002 wasn’t as bad as people remember with Vaughn hitting .259/.349/.456 with 26 homers and 72 RBI. It was good for an OPS+ of 115. It’s more impressive when you consider he missed the 2001 season due to injury. Like Appier, his 2003 was a nightmare. Like Appier, his career was effectively over after the 2003 season.
So why did the Mets win the trade? No, it was not because of this homer:
I was at that game. It was awesome. However, this was Vaughn’s line highlight. In reality, Vaughn’s play had nothing to do with the Mets winning this trade.
No, the Mets won the trade due to Vaughn’s insurance policy. Vaughn’s arthritic knee prevented him from playing again. Like Appier, Vaughn was terrible in 2003, and his career was effectively over. The Angels paid Appier $12 million in 2004 alone to go away. The Mets only owed Vaughn $4.25 million over the next two years. The remainder of the $17 million owed was paid by insurance.
The Mets didn’t do anything with the money found that offseason, but they would invest it the next offseason when they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. So overall, the Mo Vaughn deal was really beneficial to the Mets regardless of whether or not anyone wants to recognize it.
There are still reasons to mock Steve Phillips, but this trade wasn’t one them.
Did you ever hear of the saying, the more things change the more they stay the same? The saying drives me absolutely nuts. Inherently, something that is static cannot also be idle at the same time. However, for the first time I am starting to understand this saying.
I believe this season is starting to resemble 2005. Sure there was some optimism before that season with the signings of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. This was also going to be the first full season David Wright and Jose Reyes were going to play together. That team also had some holes: Doug Mientkiewicz had a great glove but not the bat to play 1B, Kaz Matsui was being shifted to play 2B after he showed he couldn’t play SS the prior year, and let’s not forget the closer was Braden Looper in a largely ineffective bullpen. However, I don’t know of anyone that expected the Mets to realistically make the playoffs that year.
At that point, the Mets fans were suffering. In 2001, the Mets rallied around the city, but they fell short of making the playoffs in an otherwise disappointing season. In 2002, we watched Steve Phillips attempt to recreate the team as an offensive juggernaut with the likes of Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, and Roger Cedeno. This lead to three years of just bad baseball. Now, the Mets fans were clamoring for a move to be made. We wanted to see Piazza go out on his last year with the Mets with a winner. At the Trading Deadline, the Mets found themselves only 4 games out of the Wild Card.
However, Omar Minaya stayed the course. The Mets made no trades. He kept his bullets for the offseason. If you recall, that was a magical offseason with the additions of Paul LoDuca, Carlos Delgado, Jose Valentin, Xavier Nady, Endy Chavez, Julio Franco, Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, John Maine, Jorge Julio (was was then traded in season for El Duque), Darren Oliver, and Billy Wagner. Omar showing restraint permitted the Mets to build that great 2006 team the fans loved.
Now, Mets fans have been suffering longer than they were in 2005, and they are begging for just one bat (which I don’t think will do the trick). While Mets fans were disappointed in 2005, I don’t remember them being a distraught as they are now. I think the difference is trust. We trusted that ownership and Omar would spend the money to get the players that were needed. In fact, they just come off of a spending spree that netted Pedro and Beltran. Now, fans don’t trust that ownership will spend the money. I believe this is the trust gap that is the biggest sense of frustration with this team.
It’s a shame too because I remember 2005 being a fun season. So far, I think 2015 has been gut-wrenching with all the tight, low-scoring games. My only hope is that if the Mets don’t make a move now, they have a plan for what can be realistically accomplished this summer. There will be LF available who can really help the team in the short term, but the market is scarce on middle infielders. My fingers are crossed. I want to be able to go to a playoff game with my father and son.