Best Mets Of All Time: No. 35 Rick Reed
Due to the 1994 baseball strike, Rick Reed was not welcome in many clubhouses. For a brief time that included the Mets one, but with the way he performed for the team, the pitcher who was a replacement player to help pay for his mother’s medical bills, would endear himself to a team, a city, and a fanbase.
After he left the Reds partially due to his teammates consternation with his being a replacement player, the Mets picked him up on a minor league deal. While he may not have been accepted in Cincinnati, he would be accepted in New York. When he pitch the way he did and help turn the Mets around, you understand why.
His first ever start for the Mets was seven scoreless innings against the San Francisco Giants. Through June 1 of that year, he would have a 1.18 ERA, and for the season, Reed was 13-9 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.042 WHIP, and a 3.65 K/BB. To put in persective how good a season he had, he was ahead of pitchers like Tom Glavine and John Smoltz in ERA and ERA+. Remember, this was the era where the Braves pitchers got triple the size of the strike zone than everyone else did.
If there was any doubt about him in 1997, he would put those doubts to rest with a very good 1998 where he would be named an All-Star for the first time in his career. While it was not looked upon at the time, Reed was once again one of the best pitchers in the National League. He would finish in the top 20 in many categories like FIP indicating he was much more than just a replacement player.
When you pitch as well as Reed did in 1997 and 1998, fans will certainly remember you. However, it was what he did in 1999 and 2000 which led to Mets fans forever cherishing him. In 1999, Reed had dealt with finger issues, and we saw a dip in all of his stats as a result. However, when the Mets needed him most, Reed was there pushing the Mets to the postseason.
It gets overlooked a bit now, but the 1998 Mets had collapsed much in the same way the 2007 and 2008 teams would, but we don’t remember that as much because of the 1999 team. That 1999 team was on the verge of collapsing and missing the postseason like that 1998 team did. Enter Rick Reed.
Entering that final series, the Mets needed to sweep the Pirates and hope for some luck. On the penultimate day of the season, Reed took the ball, and he pitched perhaps his greatest game as a Mets. Sure, there were times he flirted with no-hitters, but in this game he rose to the challenge pitching a complete game shutout while striking out 12 batters.
He didn’t even give the Pirates a chance to play the role of spoilers. It was this outstanding effort which helped the Mets reach a tie atop of the Wild Card standings and eventually grab that Wild Card spot.
Reed’s first postseason start was the pivotal Game 3 of the NLDS against the Diamondbacks. With the series tied 1-1, Reed held onto an early 3-0 lead, and he would be the winner after allowing just two earned over six innings. The next time Reed took the mound, the stakes were even higher.
In Game 4 of the NLCS, the Mets were in risk of being swept by the Braves. For seven innings, he had actually out-pitched Smoltz, perhaps the best big game pitcher of his generation. However, he didn’t pick up the win as he allowed back-to-back homers to Brian Jordan and Ryan Klesko to start the eighth. Even though the Mets fell behind 2-1, Reed had kept it close enough for John Olerud to deliver a clutch two RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to extend that series.
Unfortunately, Reed did not get the ball in Game 7 like was planned. Instead, he took the ball in Japan for the Mets second game of the season. Through the first month of the season, Reed was the Mets best pitcher keeping a team in flux and turmoil afloat until they could figure it out.
In that season, Reed once again emerged as a top of the rotation type starter sitting JUST outside the top 20 in many key stats like FIP. What’s interesting is at the time Reed was never perceived as that, but truth be told, the Mets players and fans trusted him just as much as anyone there was in baseball when he toed the rubber.
We saw that in action when Reed once again was the pitcher taking the ball in Game 3 of the NLDS. In that game, Reed pitched well allowing just two earned over six innings. He was rewarded with a no decision for his efforts in a game Benny Agbayani won with a walk-off homer in the 13th. To a certain extent, it was reminiscent of his first start of the season where he pitched brilliantly, and Agbayani hit the Sayonara Slam.
Reed didn’t have it in the NLCS, but he was still part of the last Mets team to win a pennant at Shea Stadium. Reed would also start the final World Series game the Mets ever won at Shea. With the Mets down in the series 2-0, Reed allowed two earned over six innings, but he would pick up the no decision as the game was tied when he departed. Eventually, the Mets won the game on an Agbayani go-ahead RBI single in the eighth.
Again, there was no scheduled Game 7 start for Reed, and little did we know it at the time, Reed’s career with the Mets was soon coming to a close.
In 2001, a vast majority of the Mets roster regressed. The exceptions to that were Reed, Al Leiter, and Mike Piazza. In that 2001 season, he and Piazza would be the Mets All-Star representatives. Soon after, with the Mets not really in contention, he would be traded to the Minnesota Twins. Years later, Reed would describe that trade as “baseball kinda died for us, my wife and I.” (Anthony McCarron, NY Daily News).
When Reed left, he left behind a larger legacy than many realize. In the history of the Mets, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Pedro Martinez, Jacob deGrom, and Reed are the only right-handed starters to make multiple All-Star teams.
By WAR, he is the ninth best pitcher in Mets history, and he is 10th best by ERA+. He is second in win/loss percentage, and he is also in the top five in WHIP, BB/9, and K/BB. That speaks to the way he had mastered his control to get batters out. By and large, it is why he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 35.
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