Friday, March 5, 2010

All Time Top Players per position: Mets

So last weekend I got into an interesting conversation at a sports bar (where my band “Second Chance” was playing by the way – plug, plug) about the all time top players for the Mets. It branched out into a wide discussion and we also started encompassing the Yankees as well. Afterwards, I thought the whole thing might make for a fun post…. so… here I go (note: I’ll do the Yankees sometime soon).

What I’m going to do here is break it down by position and go for the top five players (in the order I feel they should be in) per position, except for starting pitcher and outfield, who will get the top ten players listed.

Please feel free to argue, agree, complain, scream, praise or burn me in effigy.

First Base
1. Keith Hernandez
2. John Olerud
3. Ed Kranepool
4. Carlos Delgado
5. Dave Magadan

Ok, yes I’m a little biased here since Keith Hernandez is my favorite all time player. However, I can’t imagine ANYONE arguing that it was Hernandez that was the driving force behind transforming the 1984 Mets from a decent young team into true contenders. He was the on-field general, leader and heart of the Mets in the 80s. His defense was beyond extraordinary. His clutch hitting was paramount. He was ultra important. John Olerud was the only player that came close to Hernandez. He was quiet but superb defense, could hit with his eyes closed, and was as solid a player as they come. Kranepool was a team leader in more ways than one and was a solid player you could count on. Delgado was heavily relied on while a Met and his absence was felt whenever he wasn’t in the lineup. Magadan was an excellent hitter who may have lacked power, but had an incredible average and on base percentage. Todd Zeile came VERY close to making the cut mainly because he was just such an awesome player who had never played 1st base before joing the team and playing excellent 1st base and having a solid two years there.

Second Base
1. Edgardo Alfonzo
2. Wally Backman
3. Jeff Kent
4. Felix Millan
5. Gregg Jeffries

Second base has NOT been a good position for the Mets overall. Alfonzo and Backman easily outdistance anyone else for thre top two honors. When Alfonzo moved over the 2nd base to make room for Robin Ventura, he was in his total prime and was one of the best pure hitters on the team. In fact in 1999 and 2000 Alfonzo was one of the best hitters in the National League. Backman was a sparkplug and a gritty player who gave 110% everyday. From there, the list gets grim. Kent wasn’t the Jeff Kent that would be a superstar quite yet and his trade to the Indians for Carlos Baerga was one the Mets would regret for years. Millian was an averge 2nd baseman who was decently solid, but unspectacular and Jeffries made the list mainly because no one else had any real consistancy.

1. Jose Reyes
2. Buddy Harrelson
3. Kevin Elster
4. Howard Johnson
5. Rey Ordonez

The Mets have had a lot of decent shortstops with short term success, but few big time ones. Reyes is easily the best to ever play the position and is only lacking in major power. Everything else he does amazingly well and is a true superstar. Harrelson was solid and a bull dog and a team leader who is fondly remembered for starting a brawl with Pete Rose during game three of the 1973 National League Championship Series. Elster’s play was always solid and above average but he never quite lived up the hype. Johnson didn;t play shortstop majorly, only logging 263 games at the position (he played more at 3rd) but he was fantastic from an offenseive standpoint when he was there (but no so much defensively). Ordonez was another one with HUGE hype who never lived up to it but pretty much was the best defensive shortstop in the MLB for years. He bat was below average for the most part, but his glove was unreal.

Third Base
1. David Wright
2. Howard Johnson
3. Robin Ventura
4. Edgardo Alfonzo
5. Hubie Brooks

Wright, despite his lack of home runs last year, is pretty much the best the Mets have ever had at the position which has seen more changes in the last 25/30 years then Jimmy Carter had pills (and how is THAT for a dated reference?). Johnson, as I stated before, was more of a third baseman but makes the list twice because of how big he was as both a home run hitter and a SB threat. Robin Ventura’s stint only lasted three years but it was oone filled with amazing defense, leadership, levity, and some really nice hitting (Grand Slam Single anyone?). Alfonzo was fun to watch and a nice producer at 3rd base, as he was at 2nd and Hubie Brooks made it mainly due to his solid, if unspectaular play and longevity.

1. Mike Piazza
2. Gary Carter
3. John Sterns
4. Todd Hundly
5. Jerry Grote

The Mets have been lucky to have not one, but TWO Hall of Fame caliber catchers in their history. Piazza’s defense/footwork may have always been suspect, but the guy could call a great game and blocked the plate quite well. Oh yeah, he was also the best hitting catcher in baseball history. Carter was a great all around player and clutch hitter, even if he kind of got on other players nerves. Sterns was a true team leader and gritty behind the plate player who gave his all. Hundly was never the same after his surgery and the trade that brought Piazza to NY, but for a few years he was tops in the NL. Grote was a solid player who got a lot of respect around the league and pitchers liked the way he called a game. LoDuca almost made the list mainly because the guy was a solid hitter and a bulldog, despite the way he left the Mets and the steroid revelations that followed.

1. Carlos Beltran
2. Darrell Strawberry
3. Kevin McReynolds
4. Tommy Agee
5. Lenny Dykstra
6. Lee Mazzilli
7. Cleon Jones
8. Mookie Wilson
9. Cliff Floyd
10. George Foster

Ok, this was hard. Beltran barely edged out Strawberry for one reason and one reason only. I’m STILL miffed at Strawberry for messing up his hall of fame career with drugs. Straw should have been a lifetime Met and 1st ballet hall of famer. Both Beltran and Straw are glowing examples of superstars (although Beltran IS a beter defense player, Strawberry wasn’t bad himself and had a hell of an arm) with the bat and glove. McReynolds’ two stints with the Mets were full of some really excellent moments and he was actually a hell of a player who never seemed to emit a single emotion which is why I think he’s not remembered for being as good as he was. Agee’s stats don’t show how important he was to the Mets.Dykstra was an exciting player who, along with Backman and Mookie Wilson) was a greast tablesetter with fire and pop. Mazzilli was the closet thing the Mets had to a superstar for a while. Jones was another player who’s stats might seem a little light but who was a leader andexcellent player who’s contribution was invaluable. Floyd and Fosters best years might have preceeded their Mets stints, but both had solid numbers and some big moments. Floyd was also a great clubhouse presence.

Starting Pitcher
1. Tom Seaver
2. Dwight Gooden
3. Johan Santana
4. David Cone
5. Jerry Koosman
6. Ron Darling
7. Al Leiter
8. Jon Matlack
9. Rick Reed
10. Sid Fernandez

The starting pitchers weren’t too hard. I feel kind of like Santana is a little too high on the list here since he’s only been a Met for two years, but the guy is so good it’s hard to drop him down. Seaver is not only the best Mets pitcher ever, but is in the conversation for inclusion of the top five pitchers in MLB history. Gooden was so great in his prime that a hall of fame career never seemed in doubt. He’s another one who I still have anger towards for ruining himself with drugs and alcohol. He would have won 300 easily I feel. Cone was a great pitcher who had a great fastball when he was young and learned to be a crafty pitcher when that fastball lost some zip as he got older. Koosman and Darling both take back seats to the guys they played with (in Seaver and Gooden) but both were awesome pitchers who brough their A game all of the time and were smart and talented. Leiter doesn’t get enough credit for being a great staff leader for a long time. It bugs me he’s more involved with the Yankees in the last number of years than the Mets. Matlack was a great pitcher who has some rough luck and his arm injury might have kept him from being a superstar, but he was a solid lefty pitcher who you could rely on and who’s lifetime ERA of 3.18 was damn good. Reed is another one who is easily forgotten but who was quietly excellent for the Mets for years. Fernandez had so much talent that many thought he was as good as Gooden and better than Darling on that great staff of the 80s, but despite never quite living up to his potential, El Sid was still an arm that opposing hitters just didn’t want to face.

Relief Pitcher
1. Jesse Orosco
2. John Franco
3. Tug McGraw
4. Amando Benitez
5. Roger McDowell/Billy Wagner

Orosco gets top honors here for being able to slam the door shut for the Mets great 1986 NL Championship and World Series victories. Franco was good for a long time and him owning the all time Left Handed save record deserves him being #2. McGraw was an excllent pitcher who is remember for his line “Ya Gotta Believe!” more than he’s remembered for being a very reliable guy in tight situations. Benitez might have actually deserved to be #2 on this list. He actually had more saves in ALL of baseball over the five years he spent as Mets closer than anyone else, but the guy just couldn’t seem to REALLY get it done in the big spot. McDowell and Wagner had solid runs with the Mets and were both pretty fun to watch. I also wanted to mention Turk Wendell who wasn’t a closer but was a great set up guy and was such a fun guy to watch that I wish he had spent more time with the Mets.

There you go. It wasn’t an easy list to compile, and I’m already starting to doubt some of my choices… but take a look and let’s start the debate!

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