The little brother in New York City among the two MLB teams, the New York Mets have had a history with the highest highs and the lowest lows. When they have won World Series, it was thanks to a “miracle” or an infamous error between the legs of Bill Buckner. On the other hand, the franchise’s first season had what is often regarded as one of the worst teams ever assembled, so it should come as no surprise to learn that they have had their share of busts over the years.
Anyone who follows the Mets knows the pain. Like any sports franchise, they have had their share of failed free agent signings, as well as hyped prospects who fizzled out, sometimes before they even made it to the MLB. Even players like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, who had the talent to become Hall of Famers, could be considered busts. However, you won’t see them on this list because when they were good they were playing some amazing baseball. There are plenty of other guys the Mets have employed that were much worse.
From big contracts handed out to free agents who offered them nothing, to trades where they thought they were getting a star, to first round picks who were supposed to become the next superstar ace, this team has seen all kinds of terrible over the years. The hype machine out of New York is as strong as any city in the world and certainly these players had a lot of weight on their shoulders. It’s still no excuse. Plenty of players have made it in New York. Unfortunately these 15 never did and you will never see anyone wearing a jersey of these guys at Citi Field.
15. Vince Coleman
Speedy outfielder Vince Coleman led the National League in steals in his first six seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1980s. Then, in the winter of 1990, he signed a deal with the New York Mets which at the time was rather large, paying him more than $3 million over the first two seasons. In his first season with the Mets, Coleman became injury prone and after three seasons was traded to the Kansas City Royals. Coleman never played in more than 92 games in a single year with the Mets and only stole 99 bases in the three seasons he was with the team. With the Cardinals, he stole more than 99 bags on three separate occassions. We'd bet most Mets fans forgot he was with the team.
14 Jorge Toca
Slugger Jorge Toca was supposed to become a star with the Mets. Well, it didn't turn out that way, as the amateur free agent signed out of Cuba only received 27 plate appearances in the big leagues. In those at bats, he had seven hits, zero home runs, and failed to draw a walk while striking out 11 times. Toca’s skills also diminished in the minor league level, where he’d play out the rest of his professional days while also making appearances in the Mexican League. Toca should have been the first Yoenis Cespedes. Instead, he’s someone a few baseball card collectors unwisely invested in a decade and a half ago.
13 Bernard Gilkey
In defense of Bernard Gilkey, he did have an amazing season for the Mets in 1996. He hit 30 home runs, had 117 RBIs, and slashed .317/.393/.562. It was a short-lived success, as he’d hit only .249 the following season before hitting .227 the year after. This led to the Mets moving him to the Arizona Diamondbacks at the deadline in 1998. Like gum on their shoes, the Mets were just trying to get rid of him. The start of his Mets career was promising, but it was more of a flash in the pan than anything else.
12 Billy Beane
Things worked out pretty well for Billy Beane. He made a career as the penny-pinching general manager for the Oakland Athletics and is the only guy on this list who had Brad Pitt play him in a movie. However, before he was in the front office, Beane was actually a first round pick by the Mets back in 1980, but only ended up playing 13 games for them while delivering just a .167 batting average. Overall in his career, Beane only played in 148 big league games with a .219/.246/.296 slash line. Looking at those statistics, we don’t think he’d even sign himself at a bargain rate.
11 Luis Castillo
Luis Castillo was an absolute pest during his days with the Florida Marlins in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was always on base and stole bases frequently. His slap-hitting abilities made it very difficult to get him out as he often punched a single through the infield. Sadly, while with the Mets, he was frequently injured and only playing over 90 games once in four years. Castillo’s numbers were not terrible in a Mets uniform, but he was getting paid over $6 million per season to miss half of the season every year. Castillo is remembered as a disappointment for the Mets instead of the great player he could have been for them.
10 Kazuo Matsui
The Mets tried to find their own Ichiro Suzuki when they signed Japanese infielder Kazuo Matsui in 2003. After a fine rookie year in 2004, Matsui offered them nothing more than light-hitting averageness at second base for the remainder of his time with the team. His career slash line with the Mets was only .256/.308/.363, leaving everyone very unimpressed. His time in New York ended in 2006 when the Mets traded him to the Colorado Rockies for Eli Marrero. Trying to correct the mistake, the Mets still had to pay him $5 million in 2004, $7 million in 2005, and $8 million in 2006.
9 Bobby Jones
A generic name with a career that was somehow even less interesting, Bobby Jones was a first round pick by the Mets in the early 1990s who spent most of his career with the team. While he did manage to reach double digits in wins with the Mets multiple times and was an All-Star in 1997, Jones didn’t live up to his first round draft pick status. As a member of the Mets, he was 74-56 with a 4.13 ERA. The San Diego Padres, the team he pitched for after he left the Mets, have even worse memories. Jones led the league in losses with 19 in 2001 while with San Diego and had a 5.26 ERA in two seasons with them. Somehow, the Mets should be a little more thankful for what they were able to get out of Jones, even if it fell well short of what everyone expected.
8 Bill Pulsipher
The first member of Generation-K on this list, Bill Pulsipher never lived up to the hype. An injury that took him out for the entire 1996 season had something to do with it, but it’s hard to blame it all on one injury. Pulsipher had more than enough time to recover and put together a respectable enough career, which he didn’t. Pulsipher was good in his 1995 rookie season going 5-7 with a 3.98 ERA. When he next returned to the big leagues in 1998 he was horrendous, tossing a 6.91 ERA almost exclusively out of the bullpen. The rest of his career was spent mostly as a relief pitcher, hopping from team to team. With the hype he had coming to the Mets, surely fans in Flushing know this name, but would rather forget it.
7 Lastings Milledge
Another first round pick who was a bust for the Mets, Lastings Milledge was a phenom whose personality dragged him down. He only played two seasons with the Mets, slashing .257/.326/.414 before they got smart and traded him to the Washington Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. Milledge didn’t put up terrible MLB numbers, but his poor reputation made it difficult to get into the everyday lineup. In 2011, he played his last MLB game with the Chicago White Sox at only 26-years-old. A bust for the Mets, at least they got some value for him in a trade...
6 Oliver Perez
It feels like forever ago that Oliver Perez signed his huge contract and pitched for the Mets during the franchise’s dark transition period at the end of the last decade. Still clinging to MLB life, Perez would probably like to avoid any post-game press conferences discussing his time in New York. Perez was with the Mets for parts of five seasons, going 29-29 with a 4.71 ERA in 101 games including 91 starts. The biggest reason he makes this list is because the Mets ended up paying him around $45 million to pitch batting practice to opposing hitters. Often uncorking wild pitches, he made Ba Ba Booey’s first pitch look like a strike.
5 Bobby Bonilla
The infamous Bobby Bonilla sends shivers down the spines of Mets’ fans and financial planners. Two stints with the team and solid production are not enough to make up for the legendarily bad contract the Mets gave him. Bonilla last played for the Mets in 1999 and has not played in an MLB game since 2001. Yet, in spite of this fact, he gets paid every year by the Mets in July. Since 2011, the Mets have sent Bonilla a paycheck for $1.1 million annually. This will continue through 2035, long after anybody even remembers Bonilla’s batting stance. So, Bonilla is a bust mostly because of bad management, but we doubt he cares about the label since he gets paid to do absolutely nothing.
4 Jason Bay
You don’t need to look back too far into your memory bank to remember Jason Bay. The star outfielder could absolutely crush the baseball during the prime of his career. From 2005-2009 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox, Bay had four seasons of 30+ home runs and 100+ RBIs. So, when the Mets signed him to a huge contract, it made a lot of sense. However, Bay was a complete failure for the Mets. He hit only 26 home runs for them in 288 games with just a .234 batting average. His early release also led to the Mets paying him over $20 million in 2013 and 2014 to not play for them. This also doesn’t include the over $30 million they paid him to play for them. I’m not sure which is worse.
3 Paul Wilson
The second member of Generation-K on this list is Paul Wilson. While you could make an argument that Wilson had a better career than Pulsipher, he was far worse for the Mets and was drafted higher. Wilson debuted in 1996 with a 5-12 record and 5.38 ERA. It would be the only year he’d ever pitch for them, as injuries set him back greatly. He was eventually traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and returned to the MLB in 2000. As the first overall pick in the 1994 draft, Wilson is more than just a bust for the Mets, he’s one of the worst first overall picks of all-time.
2 Mo Vaughn
There was a lot of excitement in New York when Mo Vaughn came to the Mets. It didn’t last long as he missed the entire 2001 season with an injury, setting this trade back immediately. He returned in 2002 with $17 million on his contract, delivering 26 home runs and a .259 batting average. Vaughn’s 2003 season was far worse though, as he only made 96 plate appearances and hit just .190. Vaughn’s career was over after 2003 and he walked away with over $45 million paid to him by the Mets for just 166 games and 29 home runs. Considering he finished his career with a 162 game average of 35 home runs and 114 RBIs, the Mets definitely drew the short straw on this one.
1 Steve Chilcott
The second player ever taken first overall in the MLB draft was catcher Steve Chilcott. Selected by the Mets out of high school when they had their pick of every amateur player in the world, they decided to take the first number one overall pick to never play in the MLB. In fact, Chilcott barely made it to Triple-A and was done with professional baseball by the time he was 23-years-old. Matt Bush has since joined him on the list of first overall picks to never crack the big leagues, but Chilcott will forever remain the first to do it and the Mets are the team who took him.
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