Friday, February 21, 2014

All-Time Teams #18: New York Mets

This is part of an ongoing series where I'm naming an all-time team for each of the current 30 MLB franchises, and using this as a vehicle to discuss their greatest eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame.

The long overdue return of this all-time teams series brings us an installment away from the most difficult one of all.

Franchise History
New York Mets (1962- )

An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer.

C - Mike Piazza* (1998-2005)
1B - Keith Hernandez (1983-1989)
2B - Edgardo Alfonzo (1995-2002)
SS - Jose Reyes (2003-2011)
3B - David Wright (2004- )
LF - Cleon Jones (1963, 1965-1975)
CF - Carlos Beltran (2005-2011)
RF - Darryl Strawberry (1983-1990)

Alfonzo played more games at third for the Mets, but his two best seasons were as the team's starting second baseman, making it easy to justify this position switch.

Tom Seaver* (1967-1977, 1983)
Dwight Gooden (1984-1994)
Jerry Koosman (1967-1978)
Sid Fernandez (1984-1993)
Jon Matlack (1971-1977)

John Franco (1990-2001, 2003-2004)

C - Gary Carter* (1985-1989)
1B - John Olerud (1997-1999)
2B - Wally Backman (1980-1988)
SS - Bud Harrelson (1965-1977)
3B/SS/OF - Howard Johnson (1985-1993)
OF - Mookie Wilson (1980-1989)
OF - Lenny Dykstra (1985-1989)

The toughest omissions here were Ed Kranepool and John Stearns.

Kranepool is the franchise's all-time leader in games played, at bats and plate appearances, and is in the top five in hits, total bases and RBI, but Olerud had two of the franchise's 25 best seasons by a position player, and racked up more WAR in 1998 than Kranepool did in his entire career. 

Stearns accumulated more value in his 10 years with the Mets than Carter did in his five, the last two of which were the beginning of the end for the Kid. That made this a much tougher decision, but Carter had an MVP-type season in 1985 and was one of the leaders of one of the team's two World Series winners, so that edges him past his fellow four-time all-star.

In the pre-David Wright days, A Mets fan argued with me in favor of Ray Knight over Howard Johnson as the team's all-time third baseman. World Series MVP notwithstanding, that guy was out of his freaking mind. Knight didn't even sniff consideration for a reserve spot on this team.

Jesse Orosco (1979, 1981-1987)
Tug McGraw (1965-1967, 1969-1974)
Al Leiter (1998-2004)
David Cone (1987-1992, 2003)

The most accomplished Mets pitcher to not make it here is probably Ron Darling. I suppose an argument could be made for Billy Wagner, but his time with the Mets was a little too short to justify taking him over Orosco or McGraw, and I had to find a place for rotation runners-up Leiter and Cone.

Davey Johnson (1984-1990)

Greatest Eligible non-Hall of Famer

There are three players on this team who are in my personal Hall, but not the real thing. 

Mike Piazza played longer with the Mets, but most of his truly great seasons were with the Dodgers. 

Keith Hernandez, despite his status as one of the key members of the '86 Mets, is probably thought of as a Cardinal first. 

David Cone might be considered a Met, or he might be considered a Yankee, for the purpose of the cap depicted on his hypothetical Hall of Fame plaque. 

DwightGoodenSF 2
Image via Wikimedia Commons
So, my choice for the distinction of the greatest eligible player unquestionably identified as a Met, who's not in the Hall of Fame, is Dwight Gooden.

Gooden is a little short of Hall-worthy in my book, but an argument can be made for him based on peak. 

In fact, take a look at this short list of 20th-century pitching WAR leaders through age 23. Four out of six are Hall of Famers, while Gooden (100 ERA+, 18.9 WAR in 1628 IP from age 24 on) joins Frank Tanana as players whose careers could have been so much more.