The shocking part of The Oscars was when Will Smith responded to a Chris Rock joke about his wife by slapping him in the face and then yelling at him. Being a diehard Mets fan, Rock is obviously accustomed to unexpected slaps in the face.
In fact, through the years, there are just a number of players Mets fans just wanted to give the Will Smith treatment to for what they did on or off the field. To wit, here is the Mets all-time deserved a slap team:
SP Tom Glavine – Glavine was never truly appreciated by Mets fans after he had beaten them all those years with the Atlanta Braves. Despite his success, any goodwill he had unraveled as he did in the final game of the 2007 season. After the game, Glavine explained to devastated fans, he was disappointed but not devastated.
RP Guillermo Mota – How do you shake off Paul Lo Duca and then get beat by Scott Spiezio ? That moment forever changed the trajectory of that series. Also, why was he such a punk constantly throwing at Mike Piazza?
C Kevin Plawecki – When T.J. Rivera wore the crown after a Mets win (why was that ever a thing?), we saw the type of objects he kept in his locker. Making matters worse, he was a better relief pitcher than he was a hitter with the Mets (I kid, I kid).
1B Lucas Duda – Duda was an underrated Met, and he was a driving force for the 2015 Mets comeback to win the division, but that throw to home plate was one of the worst throws in Mets history.
2B Luis Castillo – How in the world do you just drop an easy pop-up which could end the game, and why did he have to do it against the Yankees? Consider he under performed his contract so much even the Wilpons were willing to eat money just to get rid of him.
3B Jim Fregosi – It’s astounding. The 1962 Mets were the worst team in Major League history, and yet, the first real instance we see the Mets mocked for is when the team traded Nolan Ryan in the deal for Fregosi. After the trade, Ryan became a Hall of Famer, and the Mets would eventually see Fregosi off to the Rangers. To make matters worse, we’re constantly reminded of this every single trade deadline when we hear about all-time worst trades.
SS Mike Bordick – In typical Mets fashion, Bordick went from career year to near career worst numbers when he went from the Baltimore Orioles to the Mets. Making this even worse is the fact the trade cost the Mets Melvin Mora who was both beloved and a future All-Star and Silver Slugger.
OF Vince Coleman – There should be no more reviled Mets player than Coleman. He was the enemy with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was flat out terrible with the Mets, and he would throw a firecracker at fans. He would even injure Dwight Gooden‘s shoulder practicing his golf swing, He’s literally the worst to put on a Mets uniform.
OF Roger Cedeno – Mets fans were beyond excited Cedeno was returning in what we hoped was a retooling of the pennant winning roster. Instead, what we got was “The Worst Team Money Could Buy” Part Deux with Cedeno being flat out terrible.
OF Bobby Bonilla – He wore earplugs because he couldn’t handle the heckling. He was playing cards in the clubhouse when the Mets lost the 1999 NLCS. He became a perpetual punchline for a team who never spent money.
Keep in mind, this is not a complete list. We can go on and on and on. No matter where you wind up on any of these players and your suggestions for others, please keep in mind, no one deserves the treatment more than Jeff Wilpon. No one did more to hurt the Mets than him during his stretch of absolute embarrassing incompetence.
Since 1989, you would tune into the occasional New York Mets broadcast, and you would hear Howie Rose incredulous another Mets player wearing the number 17. With the New York Mets announcing Keith Hernandez‘s 17 will now be retired, we will be forever robbed of those moments, but we can look back at the players who wore the number after Hernandez left the Mets.
David Cone – Cone would change his number from 44 to 17 in honor of his teammate. It would be the number Cone wore when he led the league in strikeouts and tied Tom Seaver‘s then National League record of 19 strikeouts in a game.
Jeff McKnight – McKnight became the first player assigned the number after Hernandez wore it, and you could argue it was even more of an eyesore because it was the year the Mets had the underscore jerseys. Believe it or not, McKnight just had a knack for wearing great numbers. He would also wear David Wright‘s 5, Jose Reyes‘ 7, Carlos Beltran‘s 15, and Darryl Strawberry‘s 18.
Bret Saberhagen – Saberhagen changed from his usual 18 with the Kansas City Royals and the number he first had with the Mets after his good friend Cone was traded to the Toronto BLue Jays. While Saberhagen did have some success with the Mets, he was probably the player least suited to wearing the number after the bleach incident.
Brent Mayne – Again with the former Royals wearing 17. Mayne’s first hit with the Mets was a walk-off RBI single off Dennis Eckersley to take the opening series of the season. Even after that, he still couldn’t get recognized on the 7 line on the way to the park.
Luis Lopez – Lopez was a utility player for the Mets for three years including the beloved team. His biggest hit with the Mets was the time he punched Rey Ordonez on the team bus. Hearkening back to the team photo incident between Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry, this may be the most Hernandez moment any of the subsequent players to wear the number 17 ever had.
Mike Bordick – Bordick was supposed to be the key pickup for the Mets to replace the injured Ordonez at short. He gave us all hope as he homered in his first Mets at-bat, but things would end badly as he would be benched for Kurt Abbott in the World Series, and he would return to the Baltimore Orioles in free agency. Worse yet, 1999 postseason hero Melvin Mora, who was traded for Bordick, would go on to be a star for the Orioles.
Kevin Appier – With Cone, Saberhagen, and then Appier, it seemed Royals pitchers really liked wearing 17 with the Mets. Appier came to the then pennant winning Mets in the hopes of winning a World Series, but unfortunately, he is forever known as the key piece sent to the Angels for Mo Vaughn.
Graeme Lloyd – Lloyd was one of the few who thrived with the Yankees who pitched well for the Mets. He didn’t last a full season as he and many of the 2003 Mets who battled under Art Howe was moved at the trade deadline.
Wilson Delgado – Mets fans were thrilled to obtain Delgado in 2004 as he would be the return for Roger Cedeno. Delgado played 42 games for the Mets in 2004. He’d never appear in a Major League game after that.
Jose Lima – The 2006 Mets pitching staff was so injured that we’d get Lima Time! for four starts. After struggling mightily, this marked the end of his MLB career as he then played internationally.
David Newhan – There really isn’t much to tell with Newhan. In his one year with the Mets, he proved himself to be that classic Four-A guy who annihilated Triple-A pitching but struggled in the majors.
Fernando Tatis – Omar Minaya first signed Tatís as an amateur and would bring him to the Mets organization. Tatís rewarded Minaya’s faith by winning the 2008 NL Comeback Player of the Year. For a franchise known for “what ifs,” you can’t help but wonder if the Mets don’t collapse for a second straight season if Tatis didn’t injure his shoulder. While Tatís had many memorable moments with the Mets, perhaps, his most memorable was his being one of the few actually capable of hitting it over the Great Wall of Flushing.
After Tatis, the Mets had finally said enough was enough. They were taking the number 17 out of circulation like they had done in the past with Willie Mays‘ 24. That meant the number was not going to be worn again. That is, unless, the next Rickey Henderson came long. However, now, with the number being officially retired, no one will ever wear Hernandez’s 17 again.
Well, it’s July 1, meaning this is yet another year the New York Mets make their installment payment to Bobby Bonilla on the 25 year buy out. It’s also the day people try to rush to be funny.
Truth be told, Bonilla Day and everything associated with it should be celebrated by Mets fans:
1. The deal got rid of Mel Rojas, who needed to go because he was terrible and cost the Mets the 1998 Wild Card.
2. His injuries opened the door for playing time for Roger Cedeño, who would set the then Mets single season stolen base record.
3. Cedeño’s breakout helped the Mets use him as a key piece to obtain Derek Bell and Mike Hampton. Of course, the other key was buying out Bonilla freed up the money to permit the Mets to make the trade.
4. Hampton was the NLCS MVP as the Mets won their first pennant in 14 years.
5. When Hampton departed in free agency for the Colorado Rockies money and Denver school system, the Mets used their compensation pick on David Wright.
As we know, Wright would go on to become the Mets best third baseman and arguably their best ever position player. Certainly, any organization would do all they could do buy out a player for a pennant and to obtain a player like Wright.
There’s also the fact the joke is on everyone else now. The Bonilla money is a rounding error for the Mets now. Unlike the Wilpons who were ashamed, Steve Cohen uses Bonilla to promote special experiences at Citi Field.
This #BobbyBonillaDay, Bobby is heading to the plate to host an @Airbnb stay at @CitiField, in the ultimate Mets overnight experience. Starting on July 8 at noon, #Mets fans can request to book one night at Citi Field on July 28. #LGM
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 1, 2021
Overall, the Bonilla buy out was one of the best things the Mets ever did, and it will continue to be. So everyone can repeat the same lame forced jokes while Mets fans bask in the glory of it.
When it comes to the Mets, there have been several bad to disastrous free agent signings. In fact, up until recently, there was a real debate over which signing was the worst.
Players like Bobby Bonilla and Kazuo Matsui never quite fulfilled his promise. Roger Cedeno was nowhere near the player he was in 1999 when he returned to Queens. Jason Bay didn’t hit for power before the concussions happened.
As bad as those were, there was Vince Coleman, who was an unmitigated disaster. Aside from his numbers falling off a cliff, he threw firecrackers at fans, injured Dwight Gooden with a golf club, and he was accused of sexual assault (charges never filed).
Looking at it, Coleman was probably the worst of the group. When you consider the long standing animosity Mets fans had towards him prior to the signing and his off the field problems, he may still have claim to that title.
However, when it comes to on the field performance, Jed Lowrie is definitively the worst ever Mets signing. We just need to look at video from the Mets summer camp yesterday to confirm that.
Jed Lowrie is participating in base running drills with his brace on. His speed is definitely not game-ready. pic.twitter.com/PyVmUqT9J4
— Deesha (@DeeshaThosar) July 5, 2020
Rewinding back to Spring Training last year, Lowrie was initially described as having left knee soreness. Time and again, the Mets downplayed the injury, and to date, they have yet to really reveal what the injury actually is.
They didn’t reveal it when he had multiple rehab assignments shut down. They didn’t reveal it when he was 0-for-7 as a pinch hitter in September. They didn’t reveal it when he came to Spring Training this year not really ready to play. Even months later, they’re still not revealing it. Worse yet, they’re downplaying it.
New manager Luis Rojas was put in the position today that Mickey Callaway failed far too often. He had to offer an out-and-out lie and make it sound believable. According to what Rojas said, Lowrie is a “full go.”
Later in the day, we saw the video running and realized there’s no way that’s true. Lowrie is not a full go, and to a certain extent the Mets talking about Lowrie ramping up to try to play without a brace is a strawman. All told, brace or no brace, this is simply a player who can’t get on the field.
The more you see the aborted rehab attempts, the lack of explanations for the injury, the mixed messages, and Lowrie’s inability to do anything but swing the bat, the more you’re reminded of David Wright. Before his send off, Wright would make similar attempts to get back, but ultimately his body wouldn’t let him. It seems the same with Lowrie.
Maybe Lowrie is different , but that’s anyone’s guess. Really, that’s all we have. That’s partially because the Mets revealed no news, and it’s because Lowrie didn’t either.
Asked what is exactly wrong with his leg, Lowrie said he doesn't want to create a distraction.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) July 5, 2020
Maybe telling everyone why his knee, left side, or whatever else the Mets want to call it would be more of a distraction than it is already. Maybe it won’t. Whatever the case, when you strip it all down, the Mets gave a two year $20 million deal to a guy who just can’t play.
The Mets didn’t need Lowrie when they signed him. They already had Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, and Jeff McNeil. What they needed was arms in the bullpen, but they already allocated their budget towards an infielder who would wind up doing no more than a few pinch hitting attempts (without a hit). You could say the Mets not having those extra arms in the pen is what cost them the postseason last year.
Ultimately, Lowrie is getting $20 million from the Mets, and he can’t get on the field. The money allocated towards him could’ve addressed other deficiencies on the roster and helped pushed the Mets into the postseason. Brodie Van Wagenen signed his former client, who was too injured to even start one game, and with that Van Wagenen quite possibly made the single worst free agent signing in Mets history.
When it comes to Armando Benitez, there is so much over-focus on the times he blew a save you almost get the impression he was a bad closer. Really, he was far from it. In fact, he is one of, if not the, most dominant reliever the Mets have ever had in their history.
For the most part, Benitez was an unknown to Mets fans when he was part of the Todd Hundley three way deal which netted the Mets Benitez and Roger Cedeno. He was not an unknown for long as he burst onto the scene.
His Mets career started with nine scoreless outings and 15 strikeouts in 9.2 innings. He was a dominant set-up man for long established John Franco, and when Franco went down to injury, Benitez seamlessly stepped in as a the Mets closer. In fact, Benitez was so great as the closer that when Franco returned from injury he remained in the closer’s role.
While the narrative changed in subsequent years, Benitez was great when the Mets needed him most. Over the final month of the season as the Mets were desperately fighting for the Wild Card, he was 1-1 converting 6/7 save attempts with a 0.64 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 14.0 innings. He would be the winner of game 162 which forced the tiebreaker game against the Reds.
In that season, he was the second best reliever in all of baseball trailing just Billy Wagner in K/9, ERA, FIP, and WAR. While overlooked, he carried that into the postseason.
In that 1999 postseason, Benitez was 1/2 in save opportunities with a 1.00 ERA in 9.0 innings pitched over seven appearances. He would strike out 11 batters. Many remember him for blowing a save in Game 6, but they forget his save in Game 4, and they forgot his pitching a scoreless 10th in Game 5. After allowing that run in Game 6, he rebounded to get the final out of the inning to send that game into the 11th.
In 2000, Benitez was arguably even better than he was in 1999. Benitez had battling gout that year, but he spent most of that time inflicting the pain on batters setting what was then a Mets single-season save record with 41 saves. He led the league with 68 games finished, which is still a Mets record to this day.
When focusing on his struggles in the postseason this year, it is still important to remember he helped pitch the Mets to the postseason. He would also be the last Mets pitcher to ever record a World Series save at Shea Stadium.
Benitez would again set the Mets single-save mark in 2001, and he would set the Mets mark for saves over two seasons. From 1999 – 2001, Benitez had the fourth most saves in the majors, and he struck out more batters than any other reliever in baseball. Arguably, this made him the most dominant National League reliever over this time frame. Inarguably, he was instrumental in the Mets success during this period.
Really, why many fans don’t want to accept it, Benitez was a great closer, and he is one of the best in team history. His 11.8 K/9 is best among all Mets relievers, and his 2.70 ERA is ninth best. By WAR, he is the fourth best reliever, and saves, he is the second best Mets closer of all-time. By WPA, he is the fifth best pitcher to ever don a Mets uniform. Ultimately, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 49.
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
42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw
46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
When the Mets sent Roger Cedeno and Octavio Dotel to the Houston Astros, they did so thinking they were getting an ace in return, the type of ace who could take this Mets team over the top and help them win the World Series. Over the first month of the season, Mike Hampton was definitively not that.
For the second straight start, Hampton has shown himself to be the ace the Mets hoped he would be. Part of being an ace is being a stopper who comes up with big time pitching performances when the team is struggling. Hampton did exactly that pitching a complete game against the Marlins. Really, he did it all.
After five-and-a-half scoreless innings, Hampton, who nearly hit a walk-off homer yesterday, dropped a perfect bunt down to start a one out rally. He would then score on Joe McEwing‘s RBI double.
It should be noted McEwing got the first crack at replacing Rickey Henderson batting lead-off and playing left. McEwing would look nothing like Henderson out there, which is to say, he played defense and hustled. For example, in the first, Hampton was in trouble allowing the first three batters batters to reach via single.
On the third single by Kevin Millar, McEwing charged hard and came up throwing. His aggressive defense led to the Marlins holding Mark Kotsay at third where he would stay after a Preston Wilson strike out and Derek Lee GIDP.
The Mets were up 1-0 after McEwing’s double, but they were not done there. On McEwing’s double, the throw from Danny Bautista got away allowing McEwing to go to third. Brad Penny would walk Derek Bell, and then on the second pitch of the at-bat to Edgardo Alfonzo, Bell stole second. That’s where you saw one of the most bizarre decisions you will ever see. Marlins manager John Boles ordered Alfonzo be intentionally walked in front of Mike Piazza.
No one is going to deny Alfonzo is clutch and a great hitter, but intentionally walked Alfonzo after a 2-0 count to face a future Hall of Famer is beyond a dubious decision. Piazza would make the Marlins pay for their disrespect by hitting a grand slam to give the Mets a 5-0 lead.
That was all the help Hampton needed.
The Marlins couldn’t get anything going against Hampton until the eighth. In fact, after the three singles in the first, the Marlins didn’t get another hit until the eighth inning. The Marlins again had three straight singles to start an inning only this time, the third single would drive home a run. Hampton then recovered by getting the next three outs and retiring six of the last seven batters he faced.
Suddenly, the Mets are back to a game over .500, and things look the way the team drew them up before the season . . . even if those plans no longer call for Henderson leading off and playing left.
Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.
So far, Mike Hampton just isn’t the ace the Mets thought they were getting when they paid the hefty price of Roger Cedeno, Octavio Dotel, and minor leaguer Kyle Kessel. This game against the Giants was just the latest example.
The Mets have lost two in a row, and their bullpen has been a bit taxed of late. They are without their best player in Mike Piazza. For the first time this season, the team needed a big start from him. He just wasn’t up to the task with walks once again being a big problem for him.
For the second time in as many days, the Mets gave their starter a 1-0 lead. This was courtesy of a Jon Nunnally lead-off homer off of Russ Ortiz. Then, for the second time in as many days, a Mets starter immediately gave back the lead.
The Mets manufactured their own run when Nunnally walked in the third, stole second, and scored on a Derek Bell RBI single. The rally ended there when Edgardo Alfonzo hit into the inning ending double play. Like in the first, Hampton gave that run right back.
The trouble started when Hampton walked the opposing pitcher to start the inning. After a Robin Ventura error, there was two on and no outs. Hampton did his job by getting Bernard to hit into a double play. However, he could not get that last big out when he allowed Barry Bonds to hit a game tying RBI single.
Again, the Mets would pick up their ace and not the other way around. Jay Payton reached via fielder’s choice and stole second. After a wild pitch, he was on third, and he scored easy on a Todd Pratt RBI double. That’s where the game was until Hampton completely unraveled in the sixth.
It started with Hampton issuing a lead-off walk to Kent. Things really fell apart quickly from there for Hampton with him walking four batters in that inning. It should be noted here the Mets were frustrated by the umpiring during this game (more on this later), and they have been over the past two games.
Still, Hampton didn’t adjust and locate well. Even Bobby Valentine making a rare mound visit did little to get him back into the game. Ultimately, Hampton would wind up walking the last three batters he faced in the game with the last two walks forcing in runs. Dennis Cook would have to come into the game to get Hampton out of the inning, but he would not do so before allowing an RBI single.
Hampton’s final line was an uninspiring 5.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 2 K. Yes, he was squeezed, and there was an unearned run, but frankly, Hampton just needs to be better than this. The Mets an ill afford for their purported ace to pitch like a fourth or fifth starter. That goes double when you consider they don’t exactly have a fifth starter right now.
Hampton would not get the loss because his teammates picked him up. In the top of the seventh, Melvin Mora hit a two RBI triple to tie the game. Despite his standing on third with less than two outs, he would be stranded there. That would cost the Mets as the game would go into extra innings.
One of the reasons it went into extras was the Mets again failed to capitalize on opportunities in the eighth. After Alfonzo led of the inning with a single, Ventura hit into a double play. Piazza came off the bench in his first at-bat since his home plate collision in Colorado.
Piazza nearly hit one out. Given the dimensions and wind in PacBell, it’s very likely that ball goes out in the other 29 parks. Just not here. Piazza was then stranded on second when Todd Zeile struck out looking to end the inning. To be fair to Zeile, neither strike two or three were in the strike zone. Again, this was a matter of an inconsistent strike zone which frustrated the Mets all game and series long.
Extra innings would be more of the same. After Benny Agbayani and Bell led off the tenth with back-to-back singles, no one could push them home. Turk Wendell did a tight rope in the 10th to send it into the 11th. That’s where the umpire problems really came to a head.
Zeile led off the the 11th with a single. Pratt hit a ground ball to Kent who threw wide to Rich Aurilia. Despite Aurilia not touching second before his relay to first, the umpires ruled it was a double play. Instead of a runner on second with one out, the Mets had two outs.
That bad umpiring decision loomed large when Wendell did not record an out in the bottom of the inning. After Bernard led off the inning with a single, Wendell wanted no part of Bonds effectively pitching around him to set up first and second with no outs.
As an aside here, Wendell would not typically be used in this situation. With the left-handed Bernard and Bonds due up to start the inning, that is a spot where Valentine would have normally gone with Cook. However, Cook was unavailable because he was needed to bail out Hampton earlier in the game. Also, Valentine could not go to Rich Rodriguez because he was coming off an extended outing, and more than that, he has been completely ineffective this year.
The end result was a rally started by the Giants, and once again, it was the former Met Kent there to do the damage. Kent would hit a walk-off three run homer to give the Giants an 8-5 victory.
There were a number of things wrong in this game including the umpiring. However, if the Mets aren’t going to take advantage of opportunities, and Hampton isn’t going to pitch like a top of the rotation starter, the blame will ultimately fall upon them.
Game Notes: With Piazza available to pinch hit, he appears set to start tomorrow’s matinee. Rickey Henderson was held out of the lineup, and he requested to speak with Steve Phillips about how he has been used this season.
Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.
When it comes to the number 9, there are some fan favorites and good baseball players who have worn the number in Mets history. There was J.C. Martin who paired with Jerry Grote to backstop the 1969 World Series champions. Gregg Jefferies accomplished the rare feat of twice finishing in the top six in Rookie of the Year voting.
Todd Zeile probably came an inch and Timo Perez hustle to claim this honor himself, especially with his spearheading the Mets players wearing the caps in the wake of 9/11. Brandon Nimmo is an on-base machine who already has the Mets single-season HBP record. Ultimately, this honor may one day belong to him, but for today, the best Mets player to wear the number 9 is Todd Hundley.
The son of former Cubs catcher Randy Hundley was born to play catcher. While there were questions about his bat, Hundley was known as a good defensive catcher. After Gary Carter was released, and Mackey Sasser struggled with the yips, he was rushed to the majors as a 20 year old.
While he got his first call-up in 1990, it took him a few seasons to stick on as the Mets starting catcher. Even with him being a good backstop, it was not until the 1995 season where Hundley truly established himself as a real everyday Major League catcher. That began from the first game of the 1995 season where he hit the first ever grand slam in the first game ever at Coors Field:
In that 1995 season, Hundley would deal with some injury issues, but he would put together his first real year as a player who could catch and hold his own at the plate. That 1995 season was an important year for him, but it was the following season which would define him.
The 1996 Mets were not a very good team, but they were a team with some of the best seasons in team history. In that year, Lance Johnson set the Mets single season record for triples. Bernard Gilkey set the Mets single season mark for doubles. Finally, Hundley would set the Mets single season mark for homers. It was actually much more than that.
Hundley’s 41 homers in 1996 would not only have him break Darryl Strawberry‘s single-season record for homers by a Met. It would also break Roy Campanella‘s single-season mark for homers by a catcher. Hundley would set the record with a homer off future teammate Greg McMichael:
For a Mets team with so much losing and with so many low points since that stretch in the 1980s, it was an important moment. It was so important to the team, they had a hologram picture of Hundley breaking the record on the 1997 year book.
That was an important moment for the Mets not only because of the record, but also because it was their first real sign of hope in years. With Hundley, they had a homegrown budding star to build a team around. In that year, he would make his first All Star team.
While Hundley didn’t set any records in 1997, he did something possibly even more important. He backed up what he did in 1996 by hitting 30 home runs the following year. He would once again be an All Star. More than that, he was a key part of a Mets team who was suddenly good. In fact, that team won a surprising 88 games, and they looked like an up and coming team.
More than that, Hundley and the Mets delivered the first blow in the first ever Subway Series game when baseball introduced Interleague Play. In the first inning of that game, Hundley would actually steal home. More important than that, he would catch every pitch of Dave Mlicki‘s complete game shutout which culminating in his framing a Mlicki curve to strike out Derek Jeter to end the game.
The Mets would take another step the following season emerging as real postseason contenders. Unfortunately, Hundley was not much a part of that. He missed the beginning of the year with reconstructive elbow surgery. That team got off to a slow start without him, and in an effort to save the season, the Mets obtained the shockingly available Mike Piazza, who was moved earlier in the season to the Florida Marlins.
That meant when Hundley came back there was nowhere for him to play. He tried left field, but he struggled out there, and for the good of the team, he told Bobby Valentine the team needed to reduce his role. That request did not come with a trade demand. Still, even though he was relegated as a back-up and pinch hitter, it did not mean he would not contribute.
Hundley’s last hurrah as a member of the Mets came in Houston. The Mets were a game out in the loss column for the Wild Card, and they needed every win they could get. In the top of the 12th, Hundley would hit a go-ahead homer helping the Mets keep pace. Unfortunately, it would not be in the cards for the Mets that year, and it was time from the team to move on from their homegrown star.
The Mets re-signed Piazza necessitating they trade Hundley. They did so moving him to the Dodgers in a deal which netted them Roger Cedeno and Charles Johnson, who was flipped to the Orioles for Armando Benitez. With that, even Hundley gone, he again helped make the Mets a postseason team.
In the ensuing years, he’d be one of the players named in the Mitchell Report putting an asterisk on some of his accomplishments. He’d also be long forgotten with the rise of Piazza, and he would see his record fall to Javy Lopez. Still, when he was with the Mets, in terms of the numbers, he was the best Mets player to ever wear the number 9.
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 Hundley was the ninth best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 9.
With all due respect to Ed Kranepool, an original Met who held many team records, there is no doubt whatsoever Jose Reyes was undoubtedly the best player to ever wear the number 7 for the New York Mets.
From the moment, Reyes was called up to the majors, he was one of the most exciting players who ever donned the Mets uniform. He had this rare combination of speed, hustle, and a rifle of an arm. Really, the best word to describe him was “electric.” That was evident in his first ever game hitting an infield single to second in his first ever at-bat against John Thomson and then scoring from first on a Roger Cedeno double.
Not too long after that was his first injury, triple, homer, and stolen base. On the triples and stolen bases, no one in Mets history would have more. On the homer, it showed how Reyes was just a dynamic lead-off hitter who was this incredible combination of speed and power.
For some reason, the Mets didn’t quite know what they had in him, and they went out to sign Kazuo Matsui to be their shortstop, and they moved Reyes to second. Ultimately, as would be the case many times in his career, his talent would shine through, and he would eventually overtake Matsui and force him to second.
However, due to injuries, he wouldn’t have his first full season until 2005. In that year, the once injury prone player would play all but one game. That year would be the first year of a two year stretch where he would lead the league in both triples and stolen bases. It was the next year which would be year he figured it out.
Working with Willie Randolph, Reyes finally harnessed himself, and he would become an All-Star. Mostly, he was a dynamic threat atop the lineup. He drove that powerful Mets lineup, and he would be just about as important as any player in the league. We saw an example of that when he had a great Game 6 in the NLCS when the Mets were in danger of elimination:
That game could have been the best game of his career. He led off the game with a homer to help get the Mets an early lead. He was 3-for-4 with two runs, a homer, and an RBI. He was also a perfect 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts against Yadier Molina. After his second stolen base in the seventh, he put himself in scoring position for Paul Lo Duca‘s two RBI single to seal the game. In Game 7, he would be absolutely robbed of a series winning hit.
Really, it was during this 2006 season Reyes established himself as the best lead-off hitter in the game, and he was on his way to becoming the best lead-off hitter in Mets history. In 2007, he beat Cedeno’s record for stolen bases in a year, and by the end of 2008, before the Mets moved out of Shea Stadium, he surpassed Mookie Wilson for the Mets all-time record.
While Citi Field seemed ill-suited for the Mets, it wasn’t for Reyes. The ballpark seemed designed just for him. When he wasn’t dealing with injuries, he was hitting the ball hard into the gaps. Finally, in 2011, he did what no other Met had ever done by winning the batting title. For a moment, his bunt single to ensure the title on the last game of the season would seem to be his last moment as a New York Met:
There was a war of words over whether the Mets offered Reyes a contract or not, and for some reason, Reyes was actually booed when he returned to New York as a member of the Miami Marlins. From there, he would go to Toronto, and then Colorado. Things took a completely unexpected turn when Reyes was arrested for domestic violence on the same day the Mets blew a lead in Game 4 of the World Series.
Reyes found himself suspended and without a team as the Rockies used the incident as an opportunity to release Reyes to hand over the shortstop duties to Trevor Story. With his friend and longtime teammate David Wright unable to play due to spinal stenosis, the Mets came calling to bring him back and begin his redemption.
Even with all that happened, Reyes would be greeted with open arms by the fans, and he would be welcomed again with the “Jose!” chants. It was during this run, Reyes would have his truly last great moment as a member of the New York Mets homering in the bottom of the ninth against the Phillies in one of the games which propelled the Mets to the top Wild Card spot:
From there, Reyes would not be able to replicate the type of success he had in his brief 2016 stint, but he would stick around to mentor Amed Rosario. He would also be there for one last time to play alongside Wright in 2018 in what would prove to be the final game they’d play beside one another in what was the final season for both players.
Overall, Reyes is not just the best shortstop in team history, he is on the shortlist of the best players in team history. He is undoubtedly the best lead-off hitter they have ever have with team records in triples and stolen bases. While his story is as complicated as they come, he is undoubtedly the best Mets player to ever wear the number 7.
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 Reyes was the seventh best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 7.