Since their inauguration 1962 season, the New York Mets organization has been known as the second best team in New York. The Yankees have out shined the Mets by winning 25 more World Series titles throughout their history, but the Mets have had their moments.
When they won it all in 1969, people called them the miracle Mets, because up to that point, they were known as a group of losers who weren’t expected to make it to the playoffs – let alone defeat the powerful Baltimore Orioles for the title. And then in 1986, they saw more miracles when they made an incredible comeback in extra innings of Game 6 against the Red Sox to prevent losing the World Series. Then they would go on to take Game 7 for their second title in franchise history.
The Mets haven’t had any miraculous moments since, but they have been to the World Series twice (2000 and 2015). Their 2000s teams can be characterized as either a losing team, or a winning team whose season ended in disappointment. That disappointment came in the form of playoff eliminations (2000, 20006, 2015, 2016) and September collapses that ended their seasons a game out of playoff contention (2007, 2008).
As the next season approaches, the franchise is looking to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season, something that has never been done in their history. They are expected to be one of the better teams in the league with their pitching rotation and home run hitting offense. The re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes certainly helps their chances of bringing a third championship home, but they will also need some luck in the health department. 2016 was a season filled with injuries that nearly hurt their chances of even making the playoffs.
Before we get to 2017, we decided to countdown the 8 best and 7 worst Mets since 2000. Ranking the best players was easy, but ranking the worst was a bit more challenging. We had to decide between players who were given a lot of money and underperformed, and players who weren’t paid so highly but were still statistically worse than the overpaid guys. We ending up ranking more guys who got overpaid by the team, but we did reserve a few spots for the cheap guys who had some truly awful seasons.
15. Best: Carlos Beltran
Many fans remember all the bad things about Carlos Beltran and his time with the Mets. Injuries towards the end of his career left bad memories in people’s mind, along with the team missing the playoffs by one game in 2007 and 2008. His strikeout to end the 2006 NLCS will always be a haunting memory that hurts his love with the fans. Putting all that aside, Beltran was probably the greatest Mets center fielder of all time.
Beltran compiled an overall 31.3 WAR during his time in Flushing. The next highest WAR by a position player in Mets history is 20.7 by Mookie Wilson, who played in 277 more games than Beltran. Center fielders who can hit home runs are rare to find, and for three consecutive seasons, Beltran was mashing. From 2006-08, Beltran belted out 41, 33, and 27 home runs while also winning a Gold Glove in all of those years.
14. Worst: Oliver Perez
Many acquisitions made during the Omar Minaya era proved to be failed ones, and signing Perez to a three-year, $36 million contract after a subpar 2008 season was one of those failures. While Perez did have a successful 2007 season, where he went 15-10 with an ERA of 3.56, he would never go on to have that type of success as a starter in the big leagues again. In 2009, he suffered multiple injuries and refused to take minor league stints. He finished the season with an ERA close to 7.00 in 14 starts.
2010 was even worse, as Perez went 0-5, starting just seven games while making 10 appearances out of the bullpen. Again, he refused to be sent down to the minor leagues and suffered setbacks due to injury. The Mets released Perez prior to the 2011 season, but were forced to pay the remaining $12 million on his contract. Perez now makes his living as a mediocre lefty out of the bullpen.
13. Best: Matt Harvey
Injuries have slowed down the incredible start to Matt Harvey’s career, but we still shouldn’t forget about his tremendous 2013 and 2015 seasons with the Mets, as well as his postseason performance in 2015. Back in 2013, the Mets were a lowly bunch, and there wasn’t much for the fans to root for with a team that ultimately would finish the year at 74-88. Harvey was one of the few bright spots on the team, and initiated the change in culture. He went 9-5 and posted a 2.27 ERA. He finished fourth in the Cy Young voting.
2014 was a lost year due to Tommy John surgery, but his return to success in 2015 was somewhat unexpected. Both fans and experts didn’t expect Harvey to pitch nearly as effectively as he did in 2013, but he did just that, pitching to the tune of a 2.71 ERA and a 4.3 WAR total. He proved that he was able to pitch under the brightest lights as well, throwing eight shutout innings before controversially being sent out for the ninth and giving up two runs in the World Series.
12. Worst: Shaun Marcum
Shaun Marcum only started 12 games for the Mets in 2013 due to undergoing season ending surgery, but that’s probably all Mets fans wanted to see of Marcum. His record was 1-10, which is the second worst win-loss percentage in all of Mets history. His struggles were attributed to thoracic outlet syndrome, which was affecting his ability to grip the baseball.
The syndrome led him to his worst season in the big leagues, where he had a 5.29 ERA in just 78.1 innings pitched. He gave up 46 earned runs in total, which is crazy since he gave up 51 the year before in almost double the amount of innings he pitched. Surprisingly, he didn’t have to lowest WAR among starting pitchers on that 2013 team. That belonged to Jeremy Hefner, who might make his own appearance on this list.
11. Best: Jacob deGrom
Similar to how Harvey burst onto the scene in 2013, Jacob deGrom followed that up with an impressive 2014 where he won the Rookie of the Year Award. However, deGrom’s best season came in his sophomore year, where he pitched 191 innings to a 2.54 ERA, which was fourth lowest in the NL. He had a gritty postseason where he didn’t pitch as effectively as he did in the regular season due to a career high in innings pitched, but he was able to keep the Mets close in games.
He took somewhat of a step backwards in 2016 due to injuries, but was still able to put up good numbers. Those injuries ended up limiting him to only pitching 148 innings. Going back to 2014, only two pitchers (Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta) have a lower ERA than deGrom.
For as good a pitcher he is, it’s surprising that deGrom was originally a shortstop in college. He made the transition to pitching in his junior year, before the Mets would draft him in the ninth round of the 2010 draft. The position change has payed off well and has turned him into one of the better hitting and fielding pitchers as well, thanks to his experience at short.
10. Worst: Lastings Milledge
Lastings Milledge was supposed to be one of the best prospects in the 2003 draft, when the Mets selected him 12th overall. As we now know, he ended up being one of the biggest busts in Mets history and hasn’t played in the MLB since 2011. His poor play on the field, along with the locker room antics that leaked to the media, quickly made him disliked by the fans.
Some fans believe Milledge was rushed up too quickly by the Mets, as he was just 21 years old at the time of his debut. He was called up so quickly because of how well he was hitting in the minors, but his performance at the major league level indicated he wasn’t ready. The Mets would eventually send him to the division rival Nats to acquire Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. This move could have seriously backfired on the Mets, because if things clicked for Milledge on the Nets, he would only be 31 today, and it would probably look like one of the worst trades in Mets history at this point given that both Church and Schneider are long gone from the team and did little to help them when they were playing.
Of course, the trade didn’t backfire on the Mets as Milledge bounced around from the Nats to the Pirates, Cubs, and White Sox before finding some success in Japan with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
9. Best: Noah Syndergaard
While the 24-year-old hasn’t pitched in the big leagues as much as Harvey or deGrom, the potential he holds in his right arm is greater than that of his two teammates. He put up a strong rookie campaign and followed that up with an even better sophomore season. He finished having started 30 games and even made an appearance out of the bullpen. His WAR of 5.3 was better than that of deGrom’s best season (4.7 in 2015) and Harvey (5.2 in 2013).
He’s only pitched in two seasons, but fans all around baseball have taken notice of Syndergaard and his ability to consistently throw a fastball over 100 MPH. His average fastball velocity in 2016 was 98. He combined that with a wicked slider to keep batters guessing.
While 2016 was his best season of the two, it was what he said in the 2015 World Series that endeared him to Met fans. After reporters informed Syndergaard that the Kansas City Royals took exception to a fastball up and in, the rookie responded by saying “If they have a problem with me throwing inside then they can meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away, I’ve got no problem with that.”
8. Worst: Luis Castillo
The Mets are notorious for acquiring players who have passed their prime, and Luis Castillo is another one of those players you can add to the list. The Mets were familiar with the second baseman since he spent nearly 10 years with the division rival Marlins. When General Manager Omar Minaya traded with the Twins for Castillo, he was hoping to acquire the Gold Glove winning second baseman who could hit at the top of the lineup. Instead, what he got was an often injured and older version of that player, where the only consistent aspect of his game that transferred over to the Mets was his inability to hit for power.
Castillo actually had a good start to his Mets career, and was one of the bright spots on the team that missed the playoffs by a game. 2008 was plagued with injuries and bench stints, but he did bounce back in 2009. His OBP was a surprisingly high .387 in 142 games, but unfortunately, that was the season where he dropped a routine pop fly to lose a game to the cross town rival Yankees. It is unfortunately the moment he is most remembered for as a Met. The Mets decided to cut him after a poor first half to the 2010 season.
7. Best: R.A. Dickey
No one in the history of the Mets organization has ever won the MVP award, but the team does have three different Cy Young award winners between Tom Seaver, Dwight Golden, and R.A. Dickey. The knuckleballer is the most unorthodox of the three, as his success came very late in his pro career.
Dickey never had a successful season since he entered the big leagues in 2001 at the age of 26. When he reached the Mets, he was 35 and never started more than 15 games a season. But this was a reinvented pitcher, as the knuckleball sparked one of the most remarkable career turnarounds. In 2012, when the Mets were one of the worst teams in baseball, Dickey somehow managed to win 20 games. He was able to pitch deep into games since the knuckleball didn’t put as much stress on his arm like other pitches typically do, so he didn’t have to hand the ball to the bullpen as early as most pitchers did.
He ended the year with 233.2 innings pitched and a 2.73 ERA. He had more strikeouts and complete games than any other NL pitcher that season. The Mets were smart to trade him following his award winning performance, as Dickey has never been able to replicate that success and it led to the Mets acquiring another player on this list in Syndergaard.
6. Worst: Jason Bay
After having an All-Star season in which he finished seventh in MVP voting, Jason Bay hit the free agent market at the age of 30. The Mets were thrilled to acquire him at the time for four-years, $66 million – but injuries and an inability to hit for power would make this contract one of the worst in team history.
Over the course of the deal, Bay would hit 26 home runs with a batting average of .234. He hit more home runs for Boston in one season compared to his three seasons with the Mets that followed. In his first year as a Met, he suffered a concussion that limited him to 95 games. In year two, he played in 123 games due to a rib injury. In his third year, he played just 70 games due to breaking a rib. Both Bay and the Mets agreed to terminate the contract before he could play a fourth year with the team.
5. Best: Yoenis Cespedes
Before Yoenis Cespedes came over to the Mets, he was primarily a left fielder. The Mets, having too many corner outfielders and no true center fielder, plugged Cespedes into center. He played the position well, while also making some truly incredible throws to gun down baserunners. He wasn’t perfect at the position, as many will point to Game 1 of the 2015 World Series, where Cespedes misplayed a ball that led to an inside to park home run. Regardless of that play, Cespedes was able to handle the position change better than anticipated, while also carrying the offense to clinch the Mets first division title since 2006.
2016 didn’t go as well as the previous year, but it wasn’t a bad season by any means. He still hit 31 home runs while slashing .280/.354/.530. Injuries prevented him from playing center field for the full course of the season, so Terry Collins switched him back into left. The Mets were somehow able to make the playoffs for a second straight year, despite numerous players getting hurt. Cespedes was one of the biggest reasons as to why the Mets were able to overcome to odds and make it as a wildcard team.
4. Worst: Joe McEwing
Joe McEwing served a great purpose for the four years he played with the Mets. He was the guy who could play any position when needed. In his time with the club, he played left field, center, right, third base, second base, shortstop, first base, and even catcher. The only position he didn’t play was pitcher. But just because you can throw a guy anywhere on the field, doesn’t mean you should.
Of all the Met players who have played in at least 500 games since the year 2000, McEwing has the lowest WAR at 0.6. The next best is Ruben Tejada at 4.1. It’s a shock that the team thought it was a good idea to keep playing McEwing, despite his inability to hit or get on base. He had a batting average of .243 and an OBP of .296 overall as a Met. In 2002, he went hitless in 33 consecutive at bats and finished the season with a .199 batting average. The only player in Mets history to have a longer hitless streak is Rey Ordonez, who went hitless in 35 at bats – but at least he won a few Gold Glove awards.
3. Best: Mike Piazza
In 1998, about 17 years prior to the Mets making the trade to land Yoenis Cespedes, they made a trade to get another great slugger of his time. And similar to Cespedes, Mike Piazza was a crucial and necessary piece in order for the Mets to reach the World Series in 2000. He was THE guy in the middle of the lineup that pitchers feared, which is something that every aspiring championship winning team needs.
Piazza’s best season came in 2000, when he slashed .324/.398/.614 to go with his 38 home runs. While his offensive numbers began to steadily decline after that season, he was still named to the All-Star team in 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005.
As for his defense, many experts scrutinized Piazza at the time, due to the fact that he was terrible at throwing out baserunners. In fact, he was one of the worst of all time. However, recent research tells us that pitch framing and blocking are more important to a catchers skill set, and Piazza was above average in both of those categories.
2. Worst: Mo Vaughn
The Mets acquired Mo Vaughn in a trade with the Angels prior to the 2002 season. Vaughn was brought in to hit home runs in the center of the Mets lineup and give Piazza some protection. Unfortunately, Vaughn was not the same player he was with Boston and Anaheim.
2002 was Vaughn’s best season as a Met. He had an OBP of .349 with 26 home runs and a WAR of 0.3 according to Fangraphs. It wasn’t a great start, but it was a lot better than what was to come. In 2003, Vaughn played in just 27 games due to a knee injury that would lead him into retirement.
The worst part about Vaughn was the money the Mets agreed to take on when they traded for him. From 2002-’04, the Mets paid Vaughn around $47 million. In ’03 and ’04, despite only playing in 27 games, Vaughn was owed $34 million to do what most people can do – not play.
1. Best: David Wright
While it is unfortunate that back injuries have put a halt to what had the potential to be a Hall of Fame career, David Wright still finds himself at the top of this list. That’s because, since being called up to the Mets way back in 2004, Wright has the highest overall WAR of any Mets position player of all time, and has also broken numerous team records. He holds the Mets record for most hits, total bases, doubles, RBI, walks, and runs created just to name a few.
In his hay day, Wright was named to the All-Star team for five straight seasons. His best year came in 2007 at the age of 24. He had an on-base percentage of .416 as well as a batting average of .325 to go with 30 home runs. He finished fourth in MVP voting that year and also recorded the highest single season WAR in franchise history among position players (8.3).
At this moment in time, it’s unclear if Wright will be healthy enough to play out the rest of his contract, which ends after the 2020 season. Regardless, his contributions to the organization have set the bar high for future Mets players to come.
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