Now in the 58th season of Mets baseball, there’s a lot of history to look back on. After some early struggles in the 1960s, the franchise has seen nine postseason appearances, five trips to the World Series, and two championships. Led by All-Stars, Cy Youngs, MVPs, and even some Hall of Famers, these great teams have a lot of contenders for the “Mount Rushmore” of Mets baseball. After considering the numbers and longevity of some franchise greats, we can put together a shortlist, with three shoo-ins and a few candidates for the fourth spot.
1. Tom Seaver
Number one on this list has to be Tom Seaver, a twelve-time all-star, three-time Cy Young Award winner, and one of the greatest pitchers ever. “Tom Terrific” is one of just 24 pitchers to reach 300 career wins, and his 3640 strikeouts are good for sixth place all-time. More than forty years after his final start in a Mets uniform, Seaver still holds all-time team records in innings pitched (3045.2), wins (189), ERA (2.57), strikeouts (2541), bWAR (65.2), and many more. In most of these categories, nobody else even comes close to the marks he set. More than anything, he was a workhorse; in ten full years with the Mets, he finished almost half the games he started and still holds the team records for complete games (171) and shutouts (44).
From his breakout Rookie of the Year campaign in 1967 to his 8.1 perfect innings on July 9th, 1969, Seaver has no shortage of memorable moments in New York. For most fans, though, his legacy is probably defined by his dominance in October. Seaver started seven playoff games for the Mets, pitching to a 2.85 ERA in 53.2 innings. Most importantly, he helped lead the “Miracle Mets” to their first World Series championship in 1969. That year, after getting roughed up in his first two playoff starts, Seaver delivered an incredible 10-inning, one-run performance in Game 4 of the World Series, which still stands as one of the best pitching performances in postseason history.
Fun fact: A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Seaver earned 98.8% of votes in 1992. This mark stood as the highest vote percentage ever for almost 25 years before it was broken by Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016, who earned 99.3%.
2. Mike Piazza
Piazza is regarded by many as the greatest hitting catcher of all-time. His best years came with the Dodgers, but he wears a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. Piazza arrived in New York via trade in May 1998 and immediately started off his Mets career with a bang, batting almost .400 in his first 20 games with the team. Throughout his time with the Mets, he remained one of the league’s most notorious sluggers, hitting 220 homers and batting .296/.373/.542 over 972 games. By the time he left in 2005, Piazza had made six All-Star appearances, won four Silver Slugger awards, and solidified his case for Cooperstown.
Perhaps the most unforgettable moment of Piazza’s career came September 21, 2001, in baseball’s return to New York City after 9/11. Down 2-1 in the eighth inning, Piazza hit a two-run, go-ahead homer that would lead to a Mets win. It was a moment that meant much more than just the game, especially for healing New York fans:
Fun Fact: Piazza is head and shoulders the best offensive catcher in history. His .922 career OPS ranks first among all players who played the majority of their games at catcher, a full 25 points above Mickey Cochrane (.897).
3. David Wright
The only player on this list to have played his entire career with the Mets, David Wright was the face of the franchise for over a decade. Wright broke out in 2004 as a 21-year-old midseason call-up and immediately claimed the starting job. In 69 games that season, Wright batted .293/.332/.525 and never looked back: Wright had an OPS over .900 in each of the following four years. By the end of his career, Wright had compiled seven All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, and four top-10 MVP finishes. In 2013, at 30 years old, he was named the fourth captain in franchise history.
After a fantastic 2012 campaign, Wright never again saw a full season of baseball. Over the next six years, he was plagued by a series of injuries, holding him to just 77 total games from 2015 through 2018. Wright’s lack of longevity will ultimately be what keeps him out of the Hall of Fame, but there’s no doubt that the first decade of his career put him on track for Cooperstown. A career .296/.376/.491 hitter, he is the Mets’ all-time leader in at-bats (5998), hits (1777), extra-base hits (658), runs scored (949), RBI (970), and bWAR (50.4), among many others. In September 2018, debilitated by lingering injuries to his shoulder and back, he finally made it back in front of New York fans for his final game:
Fun Fact: Following a monster 2007 season (.325/.416/.546, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 151 wRC+), Wright came fourth in MVP voting despite leading the entire National League in fWAR. With 8.4 fWAR, Wright was significantly more valuable than the three players who finished ahead of him: Jimmy Rollins (6.5), Matt Holliday (6.9), and Prince Fielder (4.7).
Candidates for the last spot:
Drafted by the Mets with the fifth overall pick out of high school, Dwight “Doc” Gooden blew through the minor leagues and broke onto the scene at 19 years old. Without having thrown a single pitch above single-A, Doc was the 1984 Rookie of the Year and Cy Young runner-up, pitching to a 2.60 ERA and striking out 276 batters in 218 innings. Gooden spent the next 11 years of his career with the Mets, including an incredible 1985 Cy Young campaign (1.53 ERA, 276.2 IP, 268 K). Gooden comes second behind Seaver in many Mets all-time pitching categories, and definitely deserves some consideration for the fourth spot on the Mets Mount Rushmore.
Some young Mets fans might only know him from his contributions in the broadcast booth, but Hernandez had a very successful MLB career. Among accolades such as an MVP award and 11 Gold Gloves, he was the first captain in Mets franchise history, serving from 1987-89. In parts of seven seasons in New York, Hernandez batted .297/.387/.429. In 1984, he was a Silver Slugger and MVP runner-up. At first base, Hernandez won five consecutive Gold Gloves from 1984 to 1988. A true all-around player, Hernandez put up 60.4 career WAR and was a reliable cog in the lineup on some of the best Mets teams the franchise has ever seen.
Another member of the great Mets teams of the 1980’s, Strawberry was the Mets’ first overall pick in 1983. The lefty outfielder’s arrival in New York was the most highly anticipated debut of any prospect in franchise history, and he delivered almost immediately with a 26-homer, 131 wRC+ Rookie of the Year campaign. In eight seasons with the Mets, Strawberry was a perennial 30-30 threat, averaging 32 homers and 24 stolen bases per year. An All-Star in seven of those eight seasons, he was a force in the middle of some powerful lineups that helped bring home the team’s second championship.
Featured Photo: Keith Allison, Flickr