Robinson Cano came back, and he apparently offered an apology to the team and the press. Now, he wouldn’t tell us why he took the PEDs, but he said he might tell us one day. Of course, the answer was to return to form, but we’ll let him say it or his other excuse another day.
According to Buck Showalter, Cano is a guy who can hit until he is 50. That was actually something we used to say about former Met Julio Franco, and he nearly did. What is notable with Franco was he was a solid pinch hitter and clubhouse presence for that 2006 NL East winning New York Mets team. In some ways, you could compare him to 1985 Rusty Staub.
Of course, that pinch hitting role doesn’t quite exist anymore, at least, not in the same way it used to exist. Now, we have the universal DH. As a result, you’re not quite burning that guy who should be pinch hitting and not quite stepping on the field. Even if these Mets seem to acknowledge a sunk cost, it is difficult to imagine them paying Cano $20.25 million to fulfill that role.
That begs the question as to what his role will be. Jeff McNeil was announced as the starter for second base, which as we all know, is Cano’s position. The Mets gave Eduardo Escobar starter money, and as a result, we can assume he will be the everyday third baseman. That pretty much leaves Cano with either the DH or a utility role.
On the later, Cano is said to be working at second and first. We know he has played some third, and there are indications he could be good there. However, lost in all of that is the fact Cano is 39 and did not play at all last year. Overall, we don’t know where his conditioning is and just how much he can withstand the 162 game grind anymore.
Maybe, Cano can be the DH. However, the Mets have Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith. There is also the fact their starting outfield of Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte, and Mark Canha have all had durability issues in their career, and they could probably use the DH break every now and then while the Mets keep their bats in the lineup.
In the end, there is really no clear role for Cano. Ultimately, that may just mean Cano sits around with the Mets picking and choosing his spots until an injury happens or someone struggles necessitating Cano to be plugged into the lineup. Whatever the case, Cano’s role isn’t so much a problem for this team inasmuch as it is something which needs addressing to make sure it won’t be an issue during the season.
Typically speaking, deciding who is “THE BEST” at something is a futile endeavor. After all, trying to apply objective measures to reach a subjective opinion is a concept somewhat at odds with itself.
In terms of baseball, it’s nearly impossible with the change of eras. Should Babe Ruth be considered the best ever when he played before integration? Should Barry Bonds be disqualified due to PEDs? Should we split the difference and say it’s Willie Mays?
Again, there’s just too many factors at play to determine who is THE BEST. To that end, we should look at this more as who’s in the discussion rather than who is atop the list.
In terms of the Mets, we know Tom Seaver is the best player to ever play for the team. That’s one of the rare instances where it’s clear-cut. It’s far from clear-cut on the manager side.
For 25 years, it was clearly Gil Hodges. He led the Miracle Mets to the 1969 World Series partially due to innovation. Hodges utilized platoons, and he might’ve been the first manager to utilize a five man rotation.
As we all know Hodges never got the chance to cement himself as the best manager ever as he suddenly died of a heart attack on the eve of the 1972 season. You can’t help but wonder what he could’ve done with the Mets getting Rusty Staub.
In 1984, the Mets hired Davey Johnson, who arguably went on to become the best manager in team history. In addition to winning the 1986 World Series, his teams never finished lower than second in the division.
Johnson was also the only Mets manager to win multiple division titles. In his tenure, his teams averaged 96 wins. It’s part of the reason why he has the most wins and highest winning percentage. Those were the Mets glory years, and he was at the helm.
Arguably, Hodges and Johnson are the Mets two best managers. However, there could be a case for Bobby Valentine.
Valentine is third in terms of wins and winning percentage. He came one year short of Johnson’s team record by having five consecutive winning seasons. However, notably, Valentine’s teams were not as loaded as Johnson’s.
Despite that, Valentine was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons. He’s the only Mets manager to lead his team to a postseason series victory in consecutive seasons. In fact, he’s the only one to do it in any two seasons.
Overall, that’s the top three, and people should feel comfortable ranking them as they see fit. There’s a justifiable reason to put them in any order from 1-3. That said, Hodges and Johnson have the edge having won a Word Series.
After that trio, it’s fair to say Willie Randolph was a clear fourth. In addition to his leading the Mets to the 2006 NLCS, he never had a losing record while amassing the second best winning percentage in team history. His hand in developing David Wright and Jose Reyes to not only reach their potential, but also handling the city should never be discounted.
Honestly, if that isn’t your 1-4, you’re simply doing it wrong.
Terry Collins has a losing record and the most losses in team history. He blew a World Series. He also unapologetically destroyed reliever careers (see Tim Byrdak, Jim Henderson) while admitting he didn’t want to develop young players like Michael Conforto.
Yogi Berra was the manager who led the Mets to their second pennant, but he also finished with a sub .500 career despite having a World Series contending type of roster for part of his tenure.
After that, well, just consider there are only six Mets managers with a winning record. Two of them, Bud Harrelson and Mickey Callaway, were not generally well regarded for their managerial abilities. After that, there’s a lot of bad, including Hall of Famers Casey Stengel and Joe Torre.
Through Mets history, it’s clear who the four best managers are even if the order isn’t nearly as clear. Past them, it’s an uninspiring debate among pretty poor choices.
In the end, your list is personal to you, and no one can quite tell you you’re right or wrong. That is unless you do something monumentally stupid like having Hodges outside the top three or putting Stengel on your list.
Short of that, everyone’s opinions are valid, and it’s a fun debate. And remember, that’s all this is – a fun debate. It’s nothing more than that because you can’t definitely prove one is better than the other.
The first round in the Citi Bracket and the first round of the tournament are complete. There was no surprise with David Wright and Jacob deGrom advancing, but there were still some significant upsets at least as far as seeding is concerned.
The biggest upset of the tournament so far was Wilmer Flores over Jose Reyes. That made Flores the lowest seed to advance. That is likely due to a combination of Flores love of the Mets as well as Reyes’ domestic violence. The other upset was Pete Alonso over Noah Syndergaard, but that was likely driven by Alonso’s all-time great rookie season coupled with his off the field actions.
The second round of the Citi Bracket will feature 2015 postseason heroes deGrom and Curtis Granderson. We will also see Alonso and Carlos Beltran face off. They are 1-2 in the Mets single season home run totals.
When it comes to the storied past of the Mets turning the corner from losers to World Series contenders, Cleon Jones is as an important figure as nearly any other Mets player on that team. Really, Jones was in the middle of everything which happened on those teams.
For a while, it didn’t seem like that was going to be the case. Even with his finished fourth in the 1966 Rookie of the Year vote, he had not done much to distinguish himself. Then, in 1967, the Mets got a manager in Gil Hodges who believed in him, and at the end of the year, the Mets obtained his close childhood friend Tommie Agee. With them in the fold, Jones would turn the corner in a big way in 1968
In that 1968 season, Jones, now a left fielder, had the type of breakout year you desperately want to see from 25 year old players. He set career highs in nearly every offensive category. Mostly, he made the transition from promising young player to reliable everyday player. He would then have one of the great seasons in Mets history in 1969.
In 1969, Jones would post a 7.0 WAR. At that time, it was easily the Mets single-season record. It was a record which stood for 27 years. Fifty-one years has passed since that season, and with players like David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Gary Carter, that mark has dropped from one to seven. Even if numerically it ranks seventh, Jones’ 1969 season still remains the greatest single-season a Mets position player has ever had.
During that year, Jones would make the All-Star team, becoming the Mets first left fielder to accomplish the feat. He would hit .340/.422/.482 with 25 2B, four 3B, 12 homers, 75 RBI, and 16 stolen bases, and he led the team in nearly every offensive category. He would then power the Mets in the NLCS. In that three game sweep against the Braves, he ranked second on the team, trailing just his friend Agee, in OPS.
While Jones had a great NLCS, he will forever be remembered for the World Series. It may not be as remembered now, but Jones really struggled in that series against the Orioles great pitching. It wasn’t until Game 5 that he really had an impact. In the famous shoe polish play, Jones was the batter hit by the pitch, and he was the one who began arguing he should go to first.
Jones being awarded first would allow him to score on the Donn Clendenon homer pulling the Mets to within 3-2. They’d tie the score later, and it was Jones with a lead-off double in the sixth which began the series winning rally. In fact, it’s a footnote lost in Mets history, but Jones is the first Mets player to score a World Series winning run. Even if he’s not recognized as such, we all know it was him who caught the final out:
In Mets history, we talk about Art Shamsky and Endy Chavez, but if you really think about it, that might really be the greatest catch in Mets history. Yes, it was a routine fly ball off the bat of Davey Johnson, but it was the catch which secured the final out of what remains the greatest upset in World Series history.
Jones remained a good and productive player for the Mets for a few years, but he would never again be able to repeat his 1969 success. That is even with him having a very good 1971 season where he had a 4.8 WAR. In that year, he set a career high with six triples. However, it would not be until the 1973 season we would see his next truly impactful play in Mets history. It was called the “Ball on the Wall” play.
On September 20, 1973, the Mets were attempting their improbable run to a division title, and they trailed the first place Pittsburgh Pirates by 1.5 games in the standings. Entering this five game series, the Mets had trailed the Pirates by 2.5 games. Even after dropping the first game, they could claim first place by sweeping the remaining games.
The Mets took the next two games, and they rallied to force extra innings in this game. In the top of the 13th, Pirates rookie Dave Augustine hit what looked like a go-ahead two run homer. However, much like Todd Zeile‘s ball in the 2000 World Series, it hit the top of the wall and came back into play.
Jones tracked the play perfectly, and he made a perfect relay throw to Wayne Garrett, who got it there in plenty of time to get Richie Zisk out at the plate. It was about as well executed a relay as you will ever see, and the Mets would win the game on a walk-off single by Ron Hodges. Much like other times in Mets history, Jones’ other contribution was overlooked with his hitting an RBI single which first got the Mets on the board.
The Mets finished off the Pirates in that game and that series. They took first place, and they never looked back. Of note, Jones hit six homers over the course of that final month of the season which saw the Mets go from 5.5 games back to their second ever division title. Again, Jones was good in the NLCS hitting .300/.364/.400 in the Mets five game upset of the Big Red Machine.
Jones saved his best for last. In the winner-take-all Game 5, he was 3-for-5 with a run, double, and two RBI. One interesting fact is after scoring the winning run of the 1969 World Series, Jones would drive in the winning run of the 1973 NLCS meaning he was involved in the winning runs in consecutive series.
Jones was very good in the World Series. In fact, he was second to just Rusty Staub in team OPS. Unfortunately, despite his efforts as well as those from his teammates, the Mets would lose that series in seven games.
Jones had a good 1974 season before things got so bad it was past the point of reconciliation. There was an incident during his rehab from knee surgery, and despite charges being dropped, M. Donald Grant levied the largest ever fine in Mets history against him. Things deteriorated, and after a 1975 altercation with Yogi Berra, he was released.
That wasn’t his first altercation with a manager as he was infamously lifted from a game in 1969 by Hodges, but things only improved from there. For some reason or another, probably Jones’ knee or Grant being Grant, that was it.
When Jones left, he was definitively the best left fielder in Mets history, a title he still holds to this day. He won a World Series and another pennant with the team, and he played a vital role in both. He is prominent in the Mets record books including his having the fourth most hits, 10th most doubles, and fourth most triples. He is in the Mets Hall of Fame, and he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 21.
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
The first round of the Miracle Bracket is complete, and for the most part it went chalk. The first round winners were Tom Seaver, Rusty Staub, Ed Kranepool, Bud Harrelson, Jerry Grote, Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee, and Jerry Koosman.
If you want to call Agee over a Jon Matlack you could, but that could have also been the case of seeding issues with this part of the tournament.
The next round has some interesting match-ups. In particular, the Kranepool/Harrelson and the Grote/Jones ones should be close. With the other two, it is expected for Seaver and Koosman to continue through to their Elite Eight clash between Mets pitchers who have had their uniform retired.
There have only been three people who have worn the number 14 in Mets history – Gil Hodges, Ron Swoboda, and Ken Boyer. Of the three Hodges has the lowest WAR as a member of the Mets, but when you break it all down, Hodges is the only choice for the best Mets player to ever wear the number 14.
Hodges was an original Met after spending the first 16 years of his career with the Dodgers. One of the reasons the Mets selected him in the Expansion Draft was he was a beloved Brooklyn Dodger, and he was a borderline Hall of Famer. In his brief playing career with the Mets, Hodges would hit the first homer in Mets history, and he would retire with the 10th most homers in Major League history.
In 1963, the Mets traded Hodges to the Washington Senators where he would become the team’s manager. Four years later, the Mets were making a trade with the Senators to bring Hodges back to New York so he could manage the Mets. While we talk about Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Noah Syndergaard, and Yoenis Cespedes, this could have been the best trade the Mets ever made.
While many focus on the miracle, and rightfully so, lost in the shuffle was his immediate impact. Prior to Hodges being hired, the Mets had lost 100 games in five of their first six seasons, and they never won more than 66 games in a season. In Hodges first year, the Mets avoided the 90 loss mark. Yes, the Mets were still under .500, but that was a 12 game improvement.
It was during that 1968 season where Hodges put the first touches on what would become the most shocking season in Major League history. In that year, he began platooning players to get the most out of their respective abilities, and he pushed the Mets towards a five man rotation. That certainly helped Jerry Koosman, who was an All-Star and finished second to Johnny Bench in the Rookie of the Year voting.
In that magical 1969 season, the Mets were actually two games under .500 entering June. As far as the Mets went, that meant they were having a great year. Little did everyone know what was going to happen next.
After an 11 game winning streak, the Mets were six games over .500, but still, they were not much of a factor yet as that pulled them up to seven games behind the Cubs. The Mets were still alive but trailing significantly through July. It was on July 30, when Hodges made a move which may have ignited the team again.
In an extra inning game, Hodges not only pulled star Cleon Jones for not hustling, but he would go out to left field to do it. That was emblematic of his leadership and demand for accountability. For what it is worth, years later, Jones showed no bitterness, and he spoke about how great a leader Hodges was.
It would be in that World Series where Hodges would show how great and quick thinking a manager he was. After a Game 1 loss, he took the unusual step of allowing Clendenon to address the team. Then, in Game 5, he would help swing the momentum of the clinching game:
With Dave McNally dealing, and the Mets down 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth, there was a pitch Jones believed hit him in the foot. As the story goes, Hodges turned to Koosman and had him swipe the ball against his freshly polished shoes to make sure there was a mark on the ball. Seeing the mark on the ball, Home Plate Umpire Lou DiMuro awarded Jones first base.
The Orioles were incensed and lost their cool. Two pitches later, McNally allowed a home run to Clendenon pulling the Mets to within one, and the Mets would eventually pull off the 5-3 and win their first ever World Series.
That season Hodges won the Sporting News Manager of the Year, and the Mets became the first ever team to have a 15 game improvement before winning the World Series. Until the Marlins won the 1997 World Series, the Mets were the fastest expansion team to win a World Series.
The Mets were not able to win the division again under Hodges, but they also would be above .500 in each of the ensuing two years. Hodges was one of the driving forces behind the Mets acquiring Rusty Staub. Finally, he got his wish on the eve of the 1972 season, and Hodges was able to talk with Staub at Easter services. However, with the medicals being reviewed, Hodges was unable to tell Staub about the trade, nor was he going to be able to manage him in 1973 when the Mets won their second pennant.
He never would as Hodges would die of a heart attack. That heart attack devastated Mets fans and Dodgers fans alike. It devastated all of baseball. Jackie Robinson was reported to have said, “Next to my son’s death, this is the worst day of my life.”
With his death, Hodges was easily the best manager in Mets history, a mantle many still believe he should hold to this day. He now ranks third all-time in manager wins and fifth in winning percentage. He was the first ever player to have his number retired by the Mets, but as we all know, his number was retired for his impact as a manager. Ultimately, he was posthumously inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.
There are those who believe he should one day be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. When you consider his guiding the Miracle Mets and his lasting impact on the game, it is hard to argue with those people. For now, he is the greatest Met to ever wear the number 14.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Met to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Hodges was the 14th best in Mets history, but rather the best Met to wear the number 14.
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
If we were to take the totality of Rusty Staub‘s Mets career, he would be here, but he doesn’t get the nod here because he did most of his damage when he wore the number 4. While having a very good year in 1975, he wore 10 primarily as a pinch hitter extraordinaire for the Mets in the early 1980s.
Looking past Staub, when you look at the number 10, you may think of Endy Chavez robbing Scott Rolen of a homer in what was the greatest catch made in NLCS history. While Chavez isn’t the best Mets player to ever wear the number 10, the number is defined by defense.
Rey Ordonez defected out of Cuba when he was in the United States as part of the 1993 Summer Universiade tournament held in Buffalo, NY. He’d sign on with the Saint Paul Saints before the Mets signed him to a deal. Three years later, he would be at Shea Stadium showing himself to be the best defensive shortstop in team history.
Ordonez was great defensively literally from day one. On Opening Day, Ordonez fielded a throw from Bernard Gilkey, and from his knees, he would throw out Royce Clayton at home plate. It was the first of many unbelievable defensive plays in his career:
Orodonez was never a hitter, but really, he never needed to be. First off, his defensive greatness more than offset his bat. Second, the Mets were smart in building teams which focused on allowing him to do what he does great. That started a stretch from 1997 to 1999 where he won three straight Gold Gloves.
In Major League history, there are only five National League shortstops to accomplish that feat. Ordonez was the fourth to do so following Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Barry Larkin. If nothing else, Ordonez’s defense was Hall of Fame caliber. Really, it was the stuff of legends. As noted by SABR, Bill Pulsipher once said Ordonez’s Mets teammates called him “SEGA” due to all the video game plays he would make in the field.
Really, good luck trying to find his greatest defensive play. Out in the field, Ordonez was a human highlight reel who could make even sure base hits into outs.
There are so, so many more plays than this. If he played during the age of YouTube, his defense would have been an absolute sensation.
The best season for Ordonez came in 1999 when he was the best defender on the best infield in Major League history. On that team, he and Robin Ventura both won Gold Gloves with John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo deserving them as well. That year, Ordonez would set the Major League record for errorless games/innings at shortstop.
That 1999 season, he would also have some personal offensive highlights with his hitting his first career grand slam. In Game 1 of the NLDS, he would get the bunt down against Randy Johnson to score Ventura from third. In the ninth, with the game tied, he hit a one out single moving Ventura to second in advance of Alfonzo’s grand slam off Bobby Chouinard. Due to a Rickey Henderson fielder’s choice, Ordonez would actually score the winning run of that game.
In Game 3, Ordonez actually delivered the Mets first run of the game in what would prove to be a Mets 9-2 win which put them on the precipice of the NLCS.
The 1999 season would be the last of Ordonez’s Gold Glove seasons. In the following year, Ordonez would suffer a season ending broken forearm. In typical Ordonez fashion, he broke his arm on a truly spectacular play. Al Leiter picked F.P. Santangelo off first, and Todd Zeile made an offline throw to Ordonez. Ordonez leaped and spun himself to put the tag down on Santangelo, but he broke his arm in the process. With his arm not healing, he was not a part of the run 2000 pennant run.
It was a play only he could make, and it was the reason his season ended. To a certain extent, that was the end of Ordonez’s Mets career. In Mets history, Ordonez has the third highest defensive WAR. To put that into perspective, Ordonez accumulated his 10.2 over seven years. The two players ahead of him, Bud Harrelson (13 years) and Jerry Grote (12 years) had much longer Mets careers.
As such, it is very fair to say Ordonez is the best defensive player in Mets history, and ultimately, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 10.
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 Ordonez was the tenth best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 10.
All the time we talk about key trades or signings which take teams over the top. While it was Keith Hernandez which helped the Mets realize their potential, it was Gary Carter which took this team from a very good team to a World Series winner, and as a result, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 8.
The Mets obtained Carter in a bold move to help take this team over the top. The team traded away their starting third baseman (Hubie Brooks) and starting catcher (Mike Fitzgerald) along with two well regarded prospects to get Carter. One of those prospects was Floyd Youmans, who was a high school teammate of Dwight Gooden.
In retrospect, even with Brooks having a long career, this was an absolute steal. It wasn’t even in retrospect. In fact, Carter would immediately show Mets fans the type of Hall of Fame player the team acquired:
In the Mets history, they have had Mike Piazza, and they had Todd Hundley setting home run records. Despite all of that, to this date, Carter’s 6.9 WAR during the 1985 season still stands as the best ever produced by a Mets catcher. In fact, at the time, it trailed just Cleon Jones‘ 7.0 mark in 1969 as the best a Mets position player has ever had.
It was during that season Carter began to sow the seeds of the 1986 World Series. He mentored a young staff that included Rick Aguilera, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Gooden, Roger McDowell, and others. Darling would tell the Baseball Hall of Fame, “And the thing about Gary was that before computers, before Sabermetrics, he had it in his brain. The entire National League, he could pull up that knowledge at any time and direct it on a very talented, young pitching staff to heights they probably wouldn’t have reached without him.”
Those Mets had a chance late in the season. In the penultimate series of the season, the Mets took the first two games in St. Louis, and if they completed the sweep, they’d tie atop the division with one series remaining. Unfortunately, their eighth inning rally came up short, and the 98 win team would miss the postseason. As we know, that is something that would never happen in the Wild Card Era.
The 1986 Mets would not be denied, and that team established themselves as one of the great teams in Major League history. Once again, Carter was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and he finished in the top six in MVP voting. However, when we talk about that postseason.
Looking at his stats that postseason, it is hard to conclude anything but Carter struggled. Still, when he was absolutely needed, he came through for the team. The first time we saw that happen was when he hit a walk-off single in the 12th off Charlie Kerfeld to help the Mets get a 3-2 series lead and achieve their goal of not seeing Mike Scott again in that series.
Carter’s biggest moments came in the World Series. After looking fatigued and getting beat by the Red Sox in the first two games at Shea Stadium, Lenny Dykstra ignited the Mets with a lead-off homer. Carter would take it from there hitting an RBI double in that game and then having a two home run game in the Mets Game 4 win.
While the Mets absolutely needed both of those homers, and they needed Carter’s performance in both of those games, Carter will always be remembered for just one single. In Game 6, the Mets were down 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th. After Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez flew out, Carter strode to the plate against Calvin Schiraldi. He was the last man standing between the Red Sox winning their first World Series since 1918:
As written in Jeff Pearlman’s book, The Bad Guys Won, Carter would say, “I wasn’t going to make the last out of the World Series.” Carter accomplished much more than that. He would spark the greatest rally in World Series history. In sparking that rally, he accomplished exactly what the Mets intended to do when they obtained him – win a World Series.
We didn’t realize it at that time, but 1986 was the last truly great year from Carter. Still, he was an All Star in each of the ensuing two seasons, and he would be named just the second captain in team history joining his teammate Hernandez as co-captains.
While people realize how great Carter was and how important he was to those Mets teams, they may not realize his impact on the Mets record books. By the time he left the Mets, he had the second highest single-season WAR for a position player. He had the third highest single season offensive WAR. In fact, it was the highest when he accomplished the feat in 1985.
In that 1985 season, he was just a hair behind John Stearns and Jerry Grote for the best defensive WAR from a Mets catcher. His 105 RBI in 1986 tied Rusty Staub for the Mets single-season record. He still holds the single season record for RBI. He is all over the single season record lists.
Mostly, he was the only Hall of Fame caliber player on those Mets teams. Aside from Willie Mays, he is arguably the best position player to ever wear a Mets uniform. Yes, even better than Piazza. On that note, Carter and Piazza are currently the only two position players in Mets history who were Hall of Famers who played like it on the Mets.
If not for the Hall of Fame frankly selectively enforcing a rule they did not enforce for players like Reggie Jackson, he would wear a Mets hat on his Hall of Fame plaque, and he would have had his number retired by now. Despite that decision, nothing can take away from the impact he had on the Mets and the World Series he brought to the team. No one can change his being the best Mets player who ever wore the number 8.
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 Carter was the eighth best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 8.
(8) Rusty Staub – Staub was a superstar caliber player the Mets acquired who helped the 1973 Ya Gotta Believe! Mets make an incredible run. During that time, he suffered a number of injuries, including a separated shoulder. Despite that, he hit .423 in the series. He was the first ever Mets player to reach 100 RBI, and he held the single season record for well over a decade. He returned to the Mets at the end of his career, and he would effectively be a player/coach for those young Mets teams. He would tie a record with eight consecutive pinch hits and 25 RBI by a pinch hitter. After his career, Staub had extensive charitable work helping first responders.
(9) Tug McGraw – It was McGraw who had the “Ya Gotta Believe!” rallying cry for the 1973 Mets. Even with him being a part of the 1969 Mets, he was best known for that season and run. He was unscored upon in that NLCS, and he was 1-0 with a save and a 2.63 ERA while pitching 13.1 innings over five games in that series. To this day, his rallying cry rings throughout Mets history.
Results of this poll and the Twitter poll will be combined, and the winner of this contest will be updated here.
The number four has had a number of folk heroes and fan favorites in Mets history. The first was Ron Swoboda with his diving catch catch robbing Brooks Robinson of a hit in the 1969 World Series. There was Rusty Staub who gallantly fought while injured for the 1973 Mets.
Robin Ventura had the Grand Slam single, and Wilmer Flores has more walk-off hits than anyone in Mets history. Even with all of these Mets greats, when it comes to the number four, Lenny Dykstra was the best player to ever wear the number.
While he was first called-up in 1985, Dykstra would first establish that as the case during the 1986 season. In that season, Dykstra was pressed into action as an everyday player when Mookie Wilson suffered a Spring Training injury. We would soon find out that not only was Dykstra up to the task, but he would emerge as the Mets second best position player that season (by WAR).
It was more than his numbers. He presented a fire and grit for this Mets team (not that they needed it), and we would see exactly why he had the nickname Nails. Of all the special things Dykstra had done that year, he would save his best work for the postseason – something that would become the hallmark of his career.
In Game 3 of the NLCS against the Houston Astros, the Mets were facing going down 2-1 in the series with Mike Scott slated to start Game 4 and Nolan Ryan in Game 5, the 108 win Mets team was in real trouble. They could not lose this game. Ultimately, they wouldn’t as Dykstra would become the first ever Mets player to hit a walk-off homer in Mets postseason history:
Overall, Dykstra would hit .304/.360/.565 with a double, triple, homer, and three RBI. In a series where the Mets offense really struggled against the Astros pitching, especially the top of their rotation, it was Dykstra who helped keep the Mets afloat for their late inning miracle rallies. Really, next to the pitchers, Dykstra was unarguably the best player for either team in the series, and to some extent, he deserved the MVP award.
Just like he did in Game 3 against the Astros, Dykstra again game up huge in Game 3 of the World Series. After that emotional NLCS, they found themselves down 2-0 heading to Fenway. The Mets were in deep trouble. However, Dykstra would revitalize that Mets team leading off the game with a home run off Oil Can Boyd:
To some extent, that moment would be somewhat tainted by allegations Ron Darling made towards Dykstra. Overall, the off-the-field stuff during his career (steroids) and after his career, marred Dykstra. However, when he played, he was a terrific player who always came up big in big moments.
Again, in the 1986 World Series, Dykstra was terrific hitting .296/.345/.519. From there, he would find himself splitting time with Wilson with the Mets obtaining Kevin McReynolds in an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres. When Dykstra got to play, he was a very good player on the field.
He would again be great in the postseason. In a losing effort, Dykstra was phenomenal hitting .429/.600/.857 with three doubles, a homer, and three RBI. Just like two years prior, pitchers aside, Dysktra was very clearly the best position player on the field.
Seeing how he played in that series and in his Mets career, it is a wonder to everyone as to exactly why Dykstra would be traded during the ensuing season to the Philadelphia Phillies along with Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel. There are not enough ways to describe just how epic a blunder this was for the Mets. This was a franchise altering decision for the Mets and Phillies.
Ultimately, the one thing you can always say about Dykstra was the Mets were always better with him. He was always prepared for the biggest moments on the biggest stage in the biggest city in the world. While he was far from a perfect person, he was the perfect player to play in New York, and if not for him, it is likely we are talking about the Mets only having won one World Series in their history.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Granderson was the third best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 3.