Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top 10 Greatest New York Mets

Am I, a Yankee Fan who despises the Mets, qualified to say who the Top 10 Mets are? Well, if I'm not, who's gonna stop me? Met fans? They don't even read this blog!

Honorable Mention to Ed Kranepool, still the team's all-time leader in games played, at-bats, hits and runs. He even gave his name to one of the more popular Met fan blogs: The Eddie Kranepool Society. You know, the guys who refer to the Yankees as "The Highlanders," the way some dimwit Tottenham fans still refer to Arsenal as "Woolwich."

(UPDATE: In 2012, the blog stopped updating. The same year, David Wright surpassed Kranepool as their all-time leader in hits. And yet, even with that, I can't yet put Wright in this Top 10. Nor Jose Reyes.)

Honorable Mention also to the members of the New York Mets Hall of Fame who are not otherwise mentioned here (Kranepool is also a member): Owner Joan Payson, benefactor William A. Shea, managers Casey Stengel and Davey Johnson, general managers George Weiss, Johnny Murphy and Frank Cashen; 1st baseman-manager Gil Hodges, shortstop Bud Harrelson; outfielders Rusty Staub and Mookie Wilson; catcher Jerry Grote, pitchers Tug McGraw, and broadcasters Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner.

Also to broadcasters Tim McCarver, Steve Zabriskie, Gary Thorne and Gary Cohen. They are not yet in the team's Hall of Fame, although McCarver has now been honored by the Cooperstown Hall.

10. Tommie Agee, Number 20, center field, 1968-72. He was the only Met to hit at least 20 homers or have over 75 RBIs on the 1969 Mets. His 2 amazing catches in Game 3 of the World Series saved the "Miracle." Earlier in the year, he hit the only fair ball into the upper deck of Shea Stadium. Not an easy feat, not so much because of the distance involved but because Shea's decks didn't extend very far into fair territory.

9. Cleon Jones, Number 21, left field, 1963-75. His .340 average in 1969 was a Met record until 1998. He also caught the last out of the World Series, something no other Met has ever done. (The other one ended with a strikeout.)

8. John Franco, Number 31 (later 45), pitcher, 1990-2004. The Brooklynite remains the all-time major league leader in saves by a lefthanded pitcher, with 424, 276 of them as a Met, making him 2nd on New York's all-time list behind Mariano Rivera. He is also 1 of only 2 Mets ever to save a World Series game. (The other is Jesse Orosco in Game 7 in '86; the Mets' other 7 wins in Series games were achieved without saves.)

7. Jerry Koosman, Number 36, pitcher, 1967-78. He was the winning pitcher in Games 2 and 5 of the 1969 World Series -- making him the only Met pitcher to win 2 Series games. The 1st Met lefty to win 20 in a season. He won 222 games, 140 as a Met. Struck out 2,556 batters, 1,799 as a Met. Let's not think about the recent stories involving him.

(UPDATE: He served 6 months in prison for tax fraud in 2010. Bad enough, but we're not talking about about an O.J. Simpson or Harvey Weinstein situation.)

6. Darryl Strawberry, Number 18, right field, 1983-90. He was the 1983 NL Rookie of the Year. He hit 335 home runs, 252 of them as a Met, making him the club's all-time leader.  He was known for his towering drives, his swagger, the slowest home-run trot this side of Mel Hall, and the 1986 World Championship. And... Well, there was the 3 World Series he won with the Yankees...

5. Dwight Gooden, Number 16, pitcher, 1984-94. In those 1st 3 seasons, Met fans told us he was the greatest pitcher in the world, and would become the greatest pitcher of all time. And then...

Let's be honest here, he also had injury problems. It wasn't just the drugs and the drinking that derailed his career: Even if he had been clean and sober, he might not have had the 300 wins or the 3,000 strikeouts that seemed his destiny in those 1st 3 years.

But he did pitch a no-hitter and win the World Series in 1996. With the Yankees. Then he helped the Yankees win the Series again in 2000, including winning an Interleague game against the Mets at Shea.

4. Mike Piazza, Number 31, catcher, 1998-2005. The most overrated player of his era. He was never "the greatest-hitting catcher ever." Nor was he a player capable of playing the position of catcher. Nor was he ever a World Champion. But, hey, it's not like he was a steroid user, was he... ?

3. Keith Hernandez, Number 17, 1st base, 1983-89. Team Captain? Gold Glove-winning 1st baseman? .300 hitter? 1986 World Champion? Broadcaster? Ladies man? Seinfeld guest star? Who does this guy think he is? "I'm Keith Hernandez!"

And yet, he's not in the Hall of Fame. What are they holding against him? Is it the ego? Is it the drugs? I don't know.

2. Gary Carter, Number 8, catcher, 1985-89. I said a bit about him a few days ago when he died, but I'll say this again: Even more so than Mex, Straw or Doc, he was the man who made them winners.

1. Tom Seaver, Number 41, pitcher, 1967-77, with a return in 1983. He was the living symbol of the Mets in that generation, so it's no surprise that he was known as "The Franchise." When he won his 300th game, for the Chicago White Sox over the Yankees at the old Yankee Stadium in August 4, 1985, with me sitting in the right-field boxes in Section 35, I wasn't happy about losing, but I couldn't help myself from standing up and tipping my cap to an old master.

I'll let the symbol of the Yankees in that generation, Reggie Jackson, have the last word about Tom Seaver -- Mr. October talking about Tom Terrific:

"Blind people come to the park, just to listen to him pitch."

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