New York Mets: 15 Most Deadly Base-Stealers in Franchise History

Frank GrayCorrespondent IFebruary 16, 2012

New York Mets: 15 Most Deadly Base-Stealers in Franchise History

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    When a baseball fan looks at MLB teams that are known for stolen bases, they may not immediately think of the New York Mets. There are teams much more legendary than the Mets in this category.

    The Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s and the St Louis Cardinals of the 1980s come to mind. Names like Willie McGee, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose and Ozzie Smith are all synonymous with speed and hard baserunning. However, the Mets have had several burners of their own.

    Several Hall of Fame candidates, members and other standouts in MLB history have donned the blue and orange at one point in their careers.

    Names like Brett Butler, Roberto Alomar and Rickey Henderson are all former Mets who never made their mark on the basepaths in Queens as expected.

    While they may not have caught fire swiping bags, there are plenty of others who did. The following is a list comprised of the greatest threats to steal a base in team history, not just based on numbers.

    There are exceptions, however. Some of these are that the player must have at least 45 stolen bases as a Met and have been considered a legitimate base-stealer in their era.

    In addition, players that have had extended careers with the club but minimal season averages in this category will not be considered.

    Some of these players may be high on the list statistically, but due to their long careers, were not truly considered "deadly base-stealers".

    That means players like Cleon Jones, who has 91 stolen bases in 12 seasons, may be ruled out despite ranking 14th overall in team history.

    Other players, like the aforementioned Rickey Henderson will not even be considered for this list as a result.

    His 42 Mets stolen bases in 152 games across two seasons do not meet the criteria despite the fact that he is the greatest base-stealer of all time.

    In other words, just because they were great somewhere else, don't necessarily expect them to be on this list.

    With all of this explained, let's belly flop right in.

No. 15: Luis Castillo

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    All-time Stolen Base rank w/Mets: 21

    Number of seasons w/Mets: 4

    Stolen Bases w/Mets: 55

    Caught Stealing w/Mets: 13

     

    The first name on the list is an infamous one. It's Luis Castillo. In his four seasons, he has many bad moments. The one that defined his tenure and vilified him among Mets fans was his fatal error in the Subway Series against the Yankees in June of 2009.

    Though it defined his stay in Queens, it wasn't the truth. He was a solid hitter at the plate for the most part, posting a .274 AVG with the team.

    In the field, he wasn't so bad either. He made 21 errors in his time with the team. To put that in perspective, Jose Reyes made 18 last season alone.

    As a base-stealer, he was respected. When combined with good hitters in the middle of the lineup, he was able to swipe a base 55 times as a Met and 370 times overall.

    When he was on base, pitchers had to take notice. That allowed for other hitters to get better pitches and make the most of their opportunities.

    That's all a base-stealer can try to do.

No. 14: Len Randle

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    All-time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 23

    Number of seasons w/Mets: 2

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 47

    Caught stealing w/Mets: 32

     

    After two good seasons with the Texas Rangers, Len Randle signed on to join the Mets. He played only two seasons with the Mets in 1977 and 1978, but he was a solid baserunner for them in that time.

    His 1977 season was one for the books. He ranked 11th in batting AVG with a .304 mark, 10th in OBP with .383 and 11th in stolen bases with 33.

    He hit a extra inning, walk-off home run on July 9, 1977, to defeat the Montreal Expos in 17 innings. A few days later, it was Randle at the plate when the power went out during the massive New York City blackout of 1977.

    After a lackluster 1978, the Mets released him, and he never found his form again. He played his final MLB game in 1982 but managed to become the first American to play professional baseball in Italy.

    He tried to mount a comeback in 1995 but to no avail.

No. 13: Lance Johnson

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    All-Time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 19 

    Total seasons w/Mets: 1.5

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 65

    Total Caught Stealing w/Mets: 22

     

    Lance Johnson signed with the Mets in December of 1995 for the upcoming '96 season. He had his greatest career season as a result. He was received his only All-Star selection. He bat .333 with 227 hits.

    Among those hits were 31 doubles and 21 triples. He stole 50 bases that year. Johnson had eight seasons with 20 or more stolen bases throughout his career. His highest total came with the Mets in that 1996 season. 

    The Mets rode the wave of his success, and the rise of his trade value by trading him to the Cubs in a package deal the next season for Turk Wendell, Mel Rojas and Brian McCrae.

    In that 1996 season, he became the first player to ever lead both leagues in hits. He was never quite the same after that fine year. 

    He finished his career with 327 stolen bases. He played his final game in 2000 with the Yankees. Ironically, the Yankees gave him a World Series ring when they defeated the Mets.

No. 12: Angel Pagan

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    All-Time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 17

    Total seasons played w/Mets: 4

    Stolen Bases w/Mets: 87

    Caught stealing w/Mets: 23

     

    The Mets originally drafted Angel Pagan in the 2000 but sent him to the Cubs in 2006. The Mets traded for him in 2008, and he elevated his game into a starting role.

    While with the Mets, he had back-to-back 30-plus stolen-base seasons. He had a breakout 2010 season. In 151 games, he hit a .290 AVG and drove in 69 RBI while stealing 37 bases and collecting 168 hits.

    After this strong season, the expectations were much higher for 2011. He fell short of them by posting a .262 AVG, 56 RBI and 32 stolen bases.

    The team saw their chance to get some value back for him and traded him this past offseason. While with the Mets, he totaled 87 stolen bases and became a crowd favorite for some time. 

No. 11: Frank Taveras

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    All-time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 16

    Total seasons w/Mets: 2.5+

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 90

    Caught stealing w/Mets: 41

     

    The Mets acquired Frank Taveras early in the 1979 season from the Pirates where he was a stolen-base threat for Pittsburgh for eight seasons and reached a career high of 70 swipes in 1977.

    He, then, became a stolen-base threat for a couple of bad teams in Queens. He finished his first year with the Mets stealing 42 stolen bases. He followed it up with 32 the next year.

    For his more than two-and-a-half seasons with the Mets, he was an effective force on the bases and in the lineup. He totaled 90 stolen bases in 131 attempts. 

    After being traded to Montreal in December of 1981, the Expos released him later that season. His final full year was with the Mets. 

No. 10: David Wright

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    All-time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 6

    Total seasons w/Mets: 8

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 151

    Caught Stealing w/Mets: 44

     

    The Mets' failed attempt at cashing in their farm system for a pitching ace in December 1999, led to an extra draft pick when the Colorado Rockies signed free-agent Mike Hampton the following year.

    That draft pick was used to choose David Wright. He made his debut just a few years later in July of 2004. Since then, he has emerged, statistically speaking, as one of the top five offensive players.

    In 1,106 games, he has amassed some impressive numbers: a .300 AVG, 183 home runs, 725 RBI and 151 stolen bases. When people think of David Wright, they don't think of his ability to steal, but he can.

    In fact, in five of his eight MLB seasons, he has had at least 17 stolen bases. His single-season high was 34 in 2007. With Wright gearing up for another season in Queens, he will be looking to add to those numbers as well. 

No. 9: Lee Mazzilli

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    All-time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 5

    Total seasons played w/Mets: 10

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 152

    Caught steals w/Mets: 71

     

    The New York Mets drafted fan-favorite Lee Mazzilli in 1973. He made his debut as a September call up in 1976. He was immensely popular due to his looks and local roots.

    After 61 home runs and 139 stolen bases in his first stint with the Mets, the team traded him to the Rangers for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell in April of 1982.

    The team needed his popularity and flair back and jumped at the chance to re-sign him in August of 1986. His second stint lasted until 1989.

    After 10 years and a World Series title, Mazzilli accumulated 68 home runs, 353 RBI and 152 stolen bases.

    When he was on the bases, opposing pitchers had to respect his speed enough to be aware of him and that may have led to a mistake pitch or two or a dozen  to one of the several big hitters the Mets had during his tenure.

    To this day, Mazzilli is still revered in New York, especially in Queens.

No. 8: Vince Coleman

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    All-time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 12

    Total seasons played w/Mets: 3

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 99

    Caught stealing w/Mets: 36

     

    The St Louis Cardinals of the 1980s had blazing speed. They were led by Vince Coleman leading off. In his first three seasons from 1985 to 1987, he had 110, 107 and 109 stolen bases respectively. He was quick to build a reputation for being a base-stealing threat.

    After the 1990 season, he sought greener pastures, greener as in more money, with the Cardinals biggest rival at the time, the Mets. In his first season in New York, he had 37 stolen bases, but his batting AVG dipped to 255.

    During his tenure, he never had a season of more than 92 games or 339 at-bats. With that said, his 99 swipes in 235 games of a Mets career is still impressive.

    With sub-par seasons and several off-field issues, the Mets grew tired of the drama and acted. In January of 1994, he was traded to the Royals for Kevin McReynolds.

    Coleman finished his career in 1997 with 752 stolen bases which still ranks sixth all time in MLB history. Almost 100 of them are with the Mets.

No. 7: Roger Cedeno

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    All-time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 10

    Total seasons played w/Mets: 3

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 105

    Caught Stealing w/Mets: 30

     

    As the Mets were trying to unload Todd Hundley in December of 1998, they stumbled across Roger Cedeno.

    Hundley and a minor league player were sent to the Dodgers for Charles Johnson and Cedeno.

    In his first tenure in 1999, he totaled 66 stolen bases and hit for a .313 AVG. The following offseason, he and Octavio Dotel were key pieces in the trade that brought Mike Hampton to Queens. 

    Cedeno re-signed with them prior to the 2002 season. It started off well enough. He had 25 stolen bases the first year, but he only hit for a .260 AVG. The following season was even worse. He only had 14 swipes while hitting for a .267 AVG.  

    He accumulated 39 stolen bases in 2002 and 2003 during his second stint. In the beginning of the 2004 campaign, he was traded to the Cardinals for Wilson Delgado. He was released the following year.

    He ended the Mets portion of his career with a .279 AVG, 105 stolen bases and only 30 unsuccessful tries. That's an average of only one-third of his overall attempts.

    In the end, Cedeno will be remembered for being a burner, if for just one brief, great season.

No. 6: Carlos Beltran

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    All-time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 11

    Total seasons played w/Mets: 7

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 100

    Caught stealing w/Mets: 16

     

    The New York Mets signed Carlos Beltran as their offseason trophy in January of 2005. He was a quiet star in Kansas City for several years but was thrust into the spotlight based on his postseason with the Houston Astros the season before the Mets signed him.

    He emerged as one of the greatest hitters the Mets ever had. While he struggled in the first year, he picked it up after that. His 2006-2008 were fantastic. He hit 41, 33 and 27 home runs respectively in those seasons. Also, he drove in 116, 112 and 112 in those years.

    This article isn't about power, though. It's about speed, and Beltran showed that too. In his first five seasons with the Mets, he had double digits in steals.

    For a career that lasted roughly six-and-half years in New York, he had 100 stolen bases and only was caught 16 times. That rate is extremely impressive.

    It caused pitchers to notice him when he got on board. They were careful not to walk him too often. This word spread throughout the league, and he was a player with a reputation for speed. He had to be respected for it. 

No. 5: Lenny Dykstra

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    All-time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 7

    Total season played w/Mets: 4.5

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 116

    Caught stealing w/Mets: 25

     

    Lenny Dykstra was drafted by the Mets in 1981. From the minute he debuted in May of 1985, he was a smash hit in the organization. That first year, he had 60 hits in 83 games, including nine doubles and 15 stolen bases.

    He immediately showed he could be a spark to the team. He showed a knack for getting on base and making teams pay for it with steals. The following season, he had big hit after big hit en route to helping the Mets win the World Series in 1986. He had 31 stolen bases, 27 doubles and a .295 AVG in that magical season.

    He continued to be a spark for the team after that title as well. He had 27 and 30 stolen bases in 1987 and 1988 respectively. In 1989, he had 13 before the fateful day in June when the Mets made one of their worst trades in franchise history by dealing him and Roger McDowell to the Phillies for Juan Samuel.

    Samuel was one of the worst Mets in history, and Dykstra was embraced by the blue-collar community of Philadelphia as a hero and a leader.

    In all, his time with the Mets was more brief than most fans would have wanted it to be. He lasted about four-and-a-half years. He posted a career .278 batting AVG, 469 hits and 116 stolen bases in 544 games in Queens.

    To this day, fans of both franchises look back on his career with warm memories.

No. 4: Darryl Strawberry

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    All-time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 4

    Total seasons played w/Mets: 8

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 191

    Caught stealing w/Mets: 75

     

    The New York Mets had the overall No. 1 draft pick in 1980. They decided to go after the best available player on the board. A five-tool outfielder named Darryl Strawberry.

    He debuted in in May of 1983 and won Rookie of the Year honors for his inaugural season. He belted 26 home runs as a rookie while stealing 19 bases.

    That started a stretch of five seasons with 26 or more stolen bases consecutively. Strawberry was a huge part of that 1986 championship team,

    He reached career highs in 1987 in home runs (39), RBI (104) and stolen bases (36). With all that, he still only finished sixth in MVP voting that year.  

    The next few years started to see a decline in production on the basepaths but not at the plate. He belted 39, 29 and 37 home runs in 1988, 1989 and 1990 respectively. He signed with the Dodgers and the end of an era was over just like that.

    While with the Mets, he stayed long enough to make his presence known in the all-time stats board. He still ranks No. 1 in player home runs and RBI.

    His 191 stolen bases puts him at No. 4 overall. The opposition didn't think of him as a base-running threat until he was aboard, and it was too late. 

No. 3: Howard Johnson

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    All-time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 3

    Total seasons played w/Mets: 9

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 202

    Caught stealing w/Mets: 63

     

    While Howard Johnson was known for being a switch-hitting power hitter, he is seldom thought of as the man that has the third-most stolen bases in team history. But it's true. He was acquired by the Mets in December of 1984 in a trade with the Detroit Tigers for Walt Terrell.

    He was the starting third baseman the first season but relegated to a bench player on the roster for the next few seasons. In 1987, he took over the third-base job again but was able to stick this time. His bat had a lot to do with it.

    From 1987 to 1991, Johnson hit 36, 24, 36, 23 and 38 home runs respectively. He was more than a power hitter, though. In that same time span, he stole 32, 23, 41, 34 and 30 bases respectively. That is 150 or more in just five years.

    To give some perspective on it, that is more than the previously mentioned Angel Pagan AND Lance Johnson combined. Pitchers feared his bat at the plate, but they feared his legs when he got on base.

    After he left to sign with Colorado in the 1993 season, his stats were frozen in the top three of many categories on the team all-time stats.

    He was second in runs scored (627) until David Wright and Jose Reyes surpassed him. He was third in RBI (629) until Mike Piazza passed by him. He still ranks third in home runs (192) and the stolen bases (202).

    The man they called HoJo for short was anything but a one-nighter.  

No. 2: Mookie Wilson

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    All-time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 2

    Total seasons played w/Mets: 10

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 281

    Caught stealing w/Mets: 90

     

    Until a few seasons ago, there was only one name Mets fans would think of when they considered stolen-base leaders in the Mets organization. That man is Mookie Wilson. For good reason too.

    From his debut in May of 1980 to his final Mets game as a player in 1989, he never stopped running the bases at will. Between 1981 and 1987, he had seven consecutive seasons of 21 or more stolen bases.

    He reached his high in 1982 with 58 stolen bases. Only 20 Mets players had more in their Mets career than he did in that one season. He followed it up with 54 swipes in 1983. That's a total of 112 stolen bases in two years. Only eight players can say they had more than that in their Mets careers.

    He didn't get on by drawing walks, though. He hit his way on. Ironically, the man who was known for a patient at-bat in the 1986 World Series was not the most patient hitter. He averaged 130 hits a season in his Mets tenure while only averaging around 28 walks.

    He was a gritty slap-hitter that found a way to get the ball passed the infield. When he did get on, it usually turned into runs. In his prime, he averaged 90 runs scored when he appeared in 150 or more games. Even by today's standards that is good.

    When he was traded at the July trade deadline in 1989, it was a sad day. He finished his Mets tenure with 592 runs scored (ranks sixth), 62 triples (ranks second) and 281 stolen bases, which stood as the most in team history for one player until one man broke that mark a few years ago. More on him in a minute.

    Mookie Wilson will always be remembered and revered as the man who hit the ball that got by Bill Buckner to win Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. However, to recall him as simple that would be doing his career a great injustice.

    He was a deadly force on the bases.  

No. 1: Jose Reyes

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    All-time Stolen Base Rank w/Mets: 1

    Total seasons played w/Mets: 9

    Total Stolen Bases w/Mets: 370

    Caught stealing w/Mets: 92

     

    And then there was one. Jose Reyes.

    Every fan has an opinion on him these days after he signed with the division rival Miami Marlins over the winter. The truth is, however, that leaving the Mets still does not diminish the impact he left on the teams' stat board.

    Reyes was signed as an undrafted free agent in 1999. He made his highly anticipated debut in June of 2003. He ignited an immediate spark on the team. In his rookie year, he scored 47 runs in 69 games, a .307 batting AVG and added 13 stolen bases to boot.

    He followed that up with another shortened season that showed promise. His first full year in 2005 was his breakout campaign. In that season, he played the entire season and hit .273 with 60 stolen bases, 17 triples and 99 runs scored. The next few seasons were healthy ones too.

    They were perhaps his most enjoyable as well. In 2007 and 2008, he stole 64 and 78 bases respectively and had a .300 AVG and a .280 AVG in those years. Counting the year before, Reyes scored 122, 119 and 113 runs between 2006 and 2008.

    He was electric in this stretch. The team came within one pitch of going to the World Series in 2006. They never got that close again, despite Reyes carrying the team when healthy. He missed the majority of the 2009 season but rebounded with 83 runs scored and 30 stolen bases in 2010.

    In 2011, his final season, he saved the best for last. Reyes stole 37 bases, scored 101 runs, had 16 triples and posted a .337 batting AVG. That batting AVG won him the hitting crown—the first Mets player to ever accomplish that feat.

    With him now leaving for South Beach, his stats have time to sink in to our collective minds. He ranks first in stolen bases with 370. That doesn't look like it will be broken anytime soon. He also ranks first in runs scored with 735. David Wright can break that this season, however, if he scores 37 runs.

    His 99 triples record stands alone in team history. That also doesn't look like it's going to be broken anytime soon. As time moves on and the emotions of the Mets fans settle down, there will a mass revolution toward change of direction in the perception of Jose Reyes.

    He was the greatest baserunner Mets fans have ever seen. He was the greatest offensive weapon the Mets have ever had from a setting the table standpoint. He was the greatest base-stealer in Mets history.

    All of this adds up to Jose Reyes being the deadliest base-stealer/offensive force the Mets or their fans have ever or may ever know.