Click here for my weekly Mets Geek column, where I picked the best players to wear a Mets uniform. This was NOT a list of the best players in Mets history, but rather a list of players who played for the Mets at one time or another that had the best overall careers. This is why Willie Mays, Duke Snider, and Nolan Ryan (who played for the Mets but undoubtedly had their finest seasons elsewhere) made the cut. I thought it would be fun and debate provoking (i.e. Who was better: Yogi Berra or Mike Piazza?), but it wasn't too well received by the faithful MetsGeek readers. Anyways, here is the full column, reprinted to reflect changes I've made after reading some of the few intelligent comments on the MetsGeek site:
Tom Seaver’s number 41 is the only retired Mets player number, which is surprising for a team that’s been in existence since 1962. The Tampa Bay Rays have been around since 1998 and have retired a number: Wade Boggs’ 12. However, this does not mean the Mets haven’t had some truly great players don the orange and blue over the years. With the help of the great website Ultimate Mets Database, I compiled the all-time Mets roster, composed of the best players to don a Mets uniform. These players may not have had their best years in Flushing (just imagine if they had), but they are the all-time greats to play there, regardless of their actual level of play as a Met. Included on this roster are seven Hall of Famers and three likely future Hall of Famers. The years each player played for the Mets are listed as well.
Tom Seaver (1967-1977, 1983)
Nolan Ryan (1966, 1968-1971)
Warren Spahn (1965)
Tom Glavine (2003-2007)
Pedro Martinez (2005-2008)
Honorable Mention: Jerry Koosman, Bret Saberhagen, Dwight Gooden, Johan Santana, David Cone
Seaver, Ryan, Spahn and Martinez are four of the greatest pitchers of all time. As dominant as Ryan was, I think his ridiculously high walk totals would’ve driven me nuts, had I been alive to watch him in his prime. Ryan walked 100+ batters in a season 11 times. Compare that to Seaver who never walked more than 89 in a season. I’m still amazed by the fact that Saberhagen walked just 13 batters in 177.1 IP for the Mets in 1994. Santana might eventually supplant Glavine in this rotation.
Rick Aguilera (1985-1989)
Armando Benitez (1999-2003)
John Franco (1990-2001, 2003-2004)
Jason Isringhausen (1995-1997, 1999)
Tug McGraw (1965-1967, 1969-1974)
Jesse Orosco (1979, 1981-1987)
Billy Wagner (2006-2008)
Honorable Mention: Jeff Reardon, Mike Stanton, Roger McDowell, Mike Marshall, Randy Myers
This was the toughest group to decide, as all of the honorably mentioned players have a strong case. I may be biased towards the more recent pitchers, but keep in mind starters threw a lot more complete games and relievers weren’t used as much in the Mets’ early days. Marshall appeared in a record 106 games and threw 208.1 highly effective innings out of the bullpen for the Dodgers in 1974. Add that to the list of records that will likely never be broken.
Yogi Berra (1965)
Honorable Mention: Mike Piazza, Gary Carter
Piazza and Berra are interchangeable here, but I went with Berra because he was probably better than Piazza defensively. His endless list of great quotes adds to his value as well. Berra was no slouch offensively either, and he finished in the top-four in MVP voting each year from 1950-1956. His Mets career consisted of four games and nine plate appearances, but he coached for or managed the team from 1965-1975.
Eddie Murray (1992-1993)
Honorable Mention: Carlos Delgado, Keith Hernandez, Gil Hodges
Murray is the second-best switch-hitter of all time (Mickey Mantle is first) and still had some pop left in his bat when he came to the Mets in 1992 at age 36. Hernandez is one of the best defensive first baseman ever, and I think if he hit some more home runs his Hall of Fame case might have been stronger.
Jeff Kent (1992-1996)
Honorable Mention: Roberto Alomar, Edgardo Alfonzo
I think Kent is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and the only thing that hurts his case is his prickly personality. Who knew in 1996 that he would eventually set the record for most home runs by a second baseman? Kent was a late bloomer, and continued to be a productive hitter even through his 40th birthday. Just reading Alomar’s name makes me cringe, as I am reminded of those painful 2002-2003 Mets seasons. However he is a very close 2nd here, and on any given day I'd put him above Kent.
Tony Fernandez (1993)
Honorable Mention: Jose Reyes, Bud Harrelson, Mike Bordick
Definitely the weakest position on this list, Reyes will probably replace Fernandez with about two more seasons like he had in 2008. How different is the game today? Harrelson slugged .288 in his career and managed to keep his starting job during most of it.
Robin Ventura (1999-2001)
Honorable Mention: David Wright, Howard Johnson, Bobby Bonilla
There have been 138 third basemen in Mets history, but all four listed here made their name playing in the last 25 years. Baseball lifer Don Zimmer was the first, starting at third for the 1962 Mets on opening day. Zim put up a hilarious .077/.127/.096 line in 55 plate appearances that season. Give Wright four more seasons and he will be the greatest hitter in Mets history.
Willie Mays (1972-1973)
Duke Snider (1963)
Rickey Henderson (1999-2000)
Honorable Mention: Darryl Strawberry, Cleon Jones, Moises Alou, Carlos Beltran, George Foster, Lenny Dykstra
Mays, Snider, and Henderson all had some of their best seasons playing in New York – just not with the Mets. Mays’s number 24 remains unofficially retired to this day, although Henderson wore it during his rocky stints in Flushing.
Please share if you think any player has been omitted, and hopefully one day the Mets come to their senses and retire 17 and 31.