Multiple cities across America boast two professional baseball teams. New York is one of those. A city with as many sports teams as some cities, restaurants. Their famous, most pressing is easily the Yankees. A team that's captured more World Series rings than any organization in the league. And is without question, the most storied, with a deep unyielding array of past legends.
But this article is about New York's "other team," the New York Mets. A team that has their own share of history. According to my buddy who lives in New York, the Mets represent a more blue collar side of town. A committed fan base, equally fun and boisterous with a love for their team.
Over the team's lengthy history, they've seen their fair share of success. That success has come in the form of two historic World Series teams. But like any franchise, there are multiple eras. These eras sometimes represent a down time. Other times, they represent a glory period. In each period, a player or a couple players, become the face of that era.
Below are 15 past Met players, who've represented these eras. Some of them hated being a Met and others loved it. Enjoy the throwback venture and the sub-stories. They're all worth pouring into.
15 Gary Carter: Loved
Gary Carter’s numbers aren’t eye popping. But for the middle part of his hall of fame career, Carter anchored the Mets defensively as the team’s starting catcher, and middle order bat.
The year the Mets won their 1986 World Series, Carter was an All-Star. He hit .254 with 24 home runs and 105 runs batted in. That year he finished third in MVP voting, the highest finish of any catcher over a ten-year span.
It’s impossible to imagine the Mets of 86’ winning the World Series without him. Carter was the steady, veteran leader and sure footed voice. The guy who kept party animals like Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry enough in line, to perform at a high level.
Over 19-years, Carter hit 324 home runs, attended 11 All-Star games and won 4 Gold Glove Awards. He was inducted into Cooperstown in 2003. Sadly, he passed away in 2012.
14 Carlos Beltran: Hated
Carlos Beltran is a sure-fire hall of famer. Over his 20-year career split between seven teams, he’s hit 424 home runs, made 9 All-Star teams and once finished top 5 in MVP voting. But to this day, I’m certain he’s never been as good as people make it him out to be.
If you remember, the year before signing with the Mets to a gargantuan contract, Beltran was just a notch above average. He hit 38 home runs, but struggled at the plate, hitting .264. His strikeout rate was one of his highest ever. That postseason with the Astros, he went bananas. Literally earning him his contract with the Mets. A 7-year, $121-million deal, that would haunt them for the entirety of it.
The moment Beltran arrived in a Mets uniform, things didn’t feel natural. He was a 3- bat expected to be the franchise face, and what followed were multiple down years for a franchise with the one of the highest payrolls in baseball. Only twice in six and a half years, Beltran ascended 30 home runs. The last 3 years of the deal, he missed 191 games. His numbers slid next to irrelevant, and the Mets tanked.
13 David Wright: Loved
For the past 13-years, David Wright has been THE face of Mets baseball. Not Carlos Beltran. Not Jose Reyes. David Wright.
He’s been blessed with a quiet, old gamer demeanor. A guy who steps on the bag at third, night in, night out, and delivers clutch, key hits, when they matter.
The only issue one could put too over Wright’s long, single-franchised career, is the injury problems. Those injuries might be what keeps him out of Cooperstown, as his numbers just aren’t up to par to be included. But hall of fame or not, Wright is a player most fans respect. And, has, for most his career, been one of the better third basemen in the game.
Over 13-years, he’s delivered 242 home runs. He’s hit .296, gone to 7 All-Star games and four times finished top 10 in MVP voting.
12 Howard Johnson: Hated
Randomly, Howard Johnson is one of the Mets I remember most. I had this weird relationship with him in the 80s, where I’d draw his card nearly every Topps pack of baseball cards, my dad bought me at the local Liquor store. But my fondness for him is literally only because of that story. As Howard was by all measurements a bust.
When Johnson arrived to the Mets in 1985, the team thought they had the perfect co-captain for Darryl Strawberry in the outfield. Up to that point, he’d floundered as a pro, despite lofty expectations. Wasting 3 years in a Tigers uniform.
Johnson put up some good years with the Mets. Including an incredible top 5 MVP voting finish in 1991, when he .259 with 38 home runs and 117 runs batted in. His other notable years were 1987 and 1989, when he hit 36 home runs each season.
But the knock-on Johnson was his inconsistency. He missed 74 games during the team’s World Series run in 1986. Followed that up with 36 home runs in 1987. He was literally on again, off again, ruining any chance at being a franchise guy.
Johnson had franchise player capabilities, but could never quite put it all together.
11 Keith Hernandez: Loved
Keith Hernandez is the man who started the rebuilding process for the Mets. When the Mets picked him up in 1983, he was arguably the best first baseman in baseball, had won an MVP with the St. Louis Cardinals and already attended 3 All-Star games.
Not only was Hernandez a high average, low strikeout hitter, but a sure glove at first. He won a whopping 11 Gold Gloves. He was the quintessential star to build around: quiet, all about business, efficient and consistent.
The Mets needed players like Hernandez and Carter during their run in the 80s. They acted as key cogs and were the glue who held an otherwise outrageously party crazed team, together.
It’s a travesty Hernandez has not made it into Cooperstown yet. No, he wasn’t a power bat by any means. He hit just 162 home runs over 17 years. But he finished his 17-year career with 2,182 hits and a lifetime .296 average. A shame.
10 Mo Vaughn: Hated
Mo Vaughn was the Big Papi before Papi. From 1993 to 2000, he anchored some of the most exciting Red Sox teams, and the Angels. During that span, the man crushed 272 home runs. He won one MVP award, hit .308 and made 3 All-Star teams. Mo was the man.
And then it was like he literally forgot to hit. Either that, or he backed off some steroid use, to wash his hands of a league beginning to crack down on it. Who knows, but the bottom fell out on Vaughn after his couple years with the Angels. Vaughn signed a $100-Million deal with the Halos the Winter of 1998. His numbers were still All-Star level, but not the same. The guy crushed 69 home runs over those couple years. But his batting average fell 51 points, and his strikeout rate ballooned to a career high and league high 181 strikeouts in 2000. Because of this, the Angels looked to dump his contract on someone else. Aaaaand…the Mets took him.
Things weren’t good with the Mets. After Vaughn missed all of 2001 with an injury, he reported to camp in 2002 overweight. He never could regain his traction. Over two years with the Mets, the man making nearly $ 20-Million per year, hit just .249 with 29 home runs.
9 Bobby Bonilla: Loved
The Mets maybe don’t love Bobby Bonilla, but Bobby Bonilla loves the Mets. The reason for the discontent is simple. In 2000, the Mets looked to buy out Bonilla’s remaining salary for $5.9 Million. Bonilla agreed. Kind of. He opted for a historic deferred payout. One that would pay him out $1.19 Million for 25-years, every July 1st. You’re asking yourself, “Why in the hell did the Mets do this?” Well, it’s simple. At the time, they thought they could use most his salary to make some serious headwind with Bernie Madoff. That headwind was never as strong as anticipated. So, likely, it’s fair to say Bonilla is the big winner of the outlandish deal.
With that said, Bonilla was very good as a Met. Over 5 years he hit .270 and anchored the club in the outfield. No, they weren’t the numbers he put up with Pittsburgh early in his career. But they were All-Star level, as he made 2, with the Mets.
8 Jose Reyes: Hated
This is one of those crystal paradigms in the light. Turn it one way and it shines a brilliant blue. Turn it another way and a violent blood orange, erupts.
Jose Reyes is arguably the best shortstop in New York Mets history. The numbers are there. Over 11-years, he’s hit a lifetime .289, stolen 379 bases and has always been a sure hit with his glove. He also won a battle title in 2011, when he hit a ridiculous .337, and has led the league in stolen bases 3 times, including 78 in 2007!
But…Reyes also represents a time in Mets history, when the team overpaid for bust athletes and though “loaded” – grossly underachieved. Over his 11 years with the club, the team has made the postseason just twice.
Also…there are a couple blights with Reyes’s game. He boasts a low OBP for a lead off guy, at .349. This is because he rarely walks. Something a lead off should do, to score more runs. The result is more pressure on the middle order just to get on base, for someone to knock them in. Suddenly Reyes finds himself in RBI situations, when it should be the other way around. While Reyes might not have hated being a Met, he certainly hated his situation.
7 Sid Fernandez: Loved
Sid Fernandez isn’t a hall of famer by any means. He had a short-lived peak, otherwise average the other parts of his career. But he came up big when it mattered most, something any sport fan and organization appreciates.
Over ten years with the Mets, Fernandez won 98 games. He made 2 All-Star teams and twice was top five in wins in the National League. Here’s why he’s the man. His best year came the year the team won the 1986 World Series. He sat second in the rotation behind Doc Gooden, winning 16 games and finishing with a 3.52 earned run average. That year he attended an All-Star game and finished top 10 in Cy Young voting. That year began his peak as he’d compile a record of 54-29 over a 4-year span.
Fernandez would go on to play 16 -years in the league, split between 4 teams. He won 114 career games.
6 Lenny Dykstra: Hated
If Lenny Dykstra could have found a way to stay healthy, the guy would be a hall of fame outfielder. He was that good. Had the crazy good glove, a high, hit for average, a swagger, and came up big in key moments.
No surprise, two of his best years came in 1986 with the Mets and 1993 with the Phillies – both years his team making the World Series. Despite injury problems, Dykstra found a way to compile 3 All-Star appearances. He finished 2nd in MVP voting in 1993.
Dykstra was good with the Mets. Over 5-years he hit .278 with 116 stolen bases. The year the team won the World Series, he hit close to .300. But one big thing haunted him. He liked to have a little too much fun.
The stories of the 1986 team swirl around Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. But Dykstra liked his party too. In fact, the biggest reason the team traded him the summer of 1989, was because they believed he was a bad influence on Doc Gooden, who was in and out of rehab constantly.
That’s bound to sour Dykstra’s opinion of the Mets.
5 Edgardo Alfonzo: Loved
There would be no 2000 World Series appearance without Edgardo Alfonzo, the swift footed second baseman, with the compact swing and stunningly brilliant numbers.
Over 8 years with the team, Alfonzo quietly hit .292. The year the team went to the World Series, where they’d eventually fall to the New York Yankees, was Alfonzo’s best. That year he hit .324 with 25 home runs, attended an All-Star game and won his 2nd Silver Slugger award.
Alfonzo would go on to play 12-years in the league with three different teams. Up until the end, he played at a high level.
4 Jason Bay: Hated
I never got the whole craze over Jason Bay. Sure, he was serviceable. He had power if in the right kind of lineup, hit a steady average. But he never wowed me like he did for others.
Bay is known as the greatest baseball player in Canadian history. For the first nine years of his career, he was good. Made three All-Star teams, won Rookie of the Year, hit over 30 home runs on four occasions. His best year coming in 2009 with the Red Sox, when he hit a career best 36 home runs, drove in 119 runs; earning a Silver Slugger award, and top ten in MVP voting. Like any smart business man, he cashed in.
That Winter, he signed with the New York Mets, to the tune of 16.5 million a year for four years. The Mets expected the Bay with the tremendous power and high OBP, but got, as I expected, a player with many vulnerabilities at the plate. Without the protection, he had in Boston, Bay struggled. In three years with the club, he missed 202 games. When at the plate, he looked lost. Over three years, he hit .234 with a combined 26 home runs.
3 Darryl Strawberry: Loved
Say what you want about Strawberry. Call him an addict. Call him overrated. I’ve heard it all. But throughout the 80s, was there really any player more, cool?
Not a chance.
From 1983, the year he won Rookie of the Year, to 1990, the man took the Mets by storm. Leading them in home runs, runs batted in and slugging percentage. He literally went to 8 straight All-Star games from 1984 to 1991. That’s unheard of.
Over his rocky, often tumultuous career, he hit 335 home runs. 252 came in a Mets uniform. The place where Strawberry experienced his best years, despite, yes, the crazy cocaine binges with teammate Doc Gooden.
What taints him memory for all of us, is what happened after the Mets. When Strawberry signed with the Dodgers the Winter of 1990, a deal that set the league by storm, and was seen, at the time, as a real power shift in the National League, his life went South. Real South.
From that point forward, he’d never attend another All-Star game. In and out of rehab, run ins with the law. Whatever it was, Strawberry couldn’t stay straight and narrow. And quickly became a shell of his once brilliant self.
But that doesn’t ruin it for him, or the Mets. The team brought the infamous 1986 World Series to the organization. And the win put Strawberry officially into the league’s elite class.
2 George Foster: Hated
George Foster is a weird story. Mainly because he’s a one hit wonder. He’s an MVP, I am surprised to learn about. A name that isn’t commonly dropped in talk around past stars.
He essentially put up 3 beastly years from 1976 to 1978 with the Reds, where he won 2 World Series. Those 3 years the man hit .299 with 120 home runs. Other than that, he was always average.
When the Mets traded for him in 1982, they had hoped they’d be getting a revived Foster. After his MVP season, the Reds saw a significant drop. Enough so, they started platooning him in left field, instead of starting him every night. This upset Foster, leading to the trade.
When he came to the Mets though, he was past his prime. Clearly. As he hit just .252 with 99 home runs combined over 5 years. This caused manager Davey Johnson, to begin using him as more of a bench, pinch hit guy, which angered Foster.
The result wasn’t good. Foster accused Johnson of not starting him because of his race. Considering it was the 1986 season, one that saw the Mets get out to a crazy fast start, the team decided to deal Foster at the All-Star break, citing he was bad for chemistry.
1 Doc Gooden: Loved
Doc Gooden was filthy. Had that 5- pitch arsenal that made a fan and baseball critic’s mouth water. Was it not for cocaine (Sound familiar anyone? Josh Hamilton?), we’d be talking about a hall of famer and one of the greatest pitchers of the last forty years.
Yes, he was that good. From 1984 to 1991, Gooden composed a record of 132-48, with an earned run average of 2.58. He won a Cy Young in 1985. That year finishing 24-4 with a 1.51 earned run average. The dude was unhittable.
It’s so much more amazing, to consider he did all that while battling severe drug addiction. All that while finding himself in and out of rehab. Imagine those numbers without drugs. Though Gooden has said numerous times, he felt like the drugs gave him an edge.
I believe Gooden is the best pitcher in Mets history. His career 194 wins are enough in my opinion to put him in Cooperstown. Time to start a petition.
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