New York Mets: The Top 50 Greatest Players of All-Time, Part 3 (No. 30-21)
The countdown of the 50 greatest players in New York Mets history continues with this Part Three portion in which the 21st to 30th greatest players will be named.
When determining who really were the best Mets ever, the criteria for this should include the players' overall numbers as a Met, the impact they had on the franchise, how much of a fan favorite they each were, the personalities they had and the overall success of the teams they played on.
Ranking all these great players was not an easy task by any means. However, a reasonable list has been determined, and this is the third segment of a five-part series. Here are the 21st to 30th greatest players of all-time in Mets history.
30. Roger McDowell
Career Numbers as a Met
Innings Pitched: 468.1
Best Individual Season: 1986 (14-9, 3.02 ERA, 22 saves, 128 innings pitched, 75 appearances, 65 strikeouts)
He may not have been a closer, per se, but Roger McDowell was certainly one of the most effective (and good humored) relief pitchers the Mets have ever had.
McDowell got drafted by the Mets in 1982 as a starting pitcher, but he converted to a reliever in 1984 after an elbow injury. He also started to really develop a sinker that would become his signature pitch.
McDowell made it to the Mets in 1985 as both a middle reliever and closer alongside Jesse Orosco. While Orosco was left-handed and good at striking out the opposition, McDowell was right-handed and became a ground-ball machine with his sinker. As a result, they turned into a lethal late-inning tandem.
McDowell went 6-5 with a 2.83 ERA and 17 saves in his rookie season. He averaged over two innings per appearance and even made the only two starts of his career that year.
In 1986, McDowell was even better, as his team went all the way to the World Series. He had an amazing 14-9 record out of the bullpen, along with a 3.02 ERA and 22 saves. He also appeared in a then-Mets record 75 games. He even got five points in the 1986 MVP voting for the season he had.
In the 1986 NLCS, McDowell was unstoppable. He gave up just one hit in seven innings and pitched five of those scoreless innings during the decisive Game 6 in which the Mets clinched the pennant. In the World Series, McDowell was not as impressive altogether, but he redeemed himself in Game 7 and became the winning pitcher after pitching a scoreless seventh inning before the Mets offense tied the game.
In 1987, McDowell went 7-5 with a career high 25 saves, but his ERA rose over a run, to 4.16. In September, McDowell allowed a crucial game-tying home run to Terry Pendleton of the Cardinals, who won the game an inning later. The two teams had been in a close division race, and many believe that the difference why the Cardinals won instead of the Mets was because of that game and McDowell's performance.
In 1988, Orosco was traded to the Dodgers, and McDowell's new closing partner was Randy Myers. McDowell pitched better and went 5-5 with 16 saves, and lowered his ERA down to 2.63. In the 1988 NLCS, McDowell was inconsistent and gave up a game-winning home run to Kirk Gibson in the 12th inning of Game 4. The Mets would end up losing the series in seven games, and McDowell never went to the postseason again after that.
In 1989, McDowell was 1-5 with a 3.31 ERA and four saves before he and Lenny Dykstra got traded to the Phillies for Juan Samuel. If a straight swap between Dykstra and Samuel looked bad enough, throwing McDowell into the trade made it even worse for the Mets.
This became one of the worst trades in Mets history as Samuel was a complete bust. Dykstra became a fan favorite with the Phillies, just like he was in New York, and McDowell pitched very well that year after the trade.
During the final game of the 1989 season after McDowell got former teammate Gregg Jefferies to ground out, the two got into an on-field fight at the end of the game. What was ironic about this was that many Mets players and fans were supposedly cheering on McDowell, who was no longer on the Mets, over the hotheaded Jefferies.
McDowell spent 1990 and part of 1991 with the Phillies before getting traded to the Dodgers, whom he stayed with through 1994. He then spent 1995 with the Rangers and 1996 with the Orioles. He injured his shoulder in August 1996. After signing with the White Sox in 1997, he suffered two more shoulder surgeries that forced him to miss the entire 1997 season. McDowell went to the White Sox spring training in 1998 but retired before the season began at just 37 years old.
Since retiring, McDowell became a pitching coach under various capacities and is currently the Braves pitching coach, a position he has held since 2006.
Throughout his time with the Mets, McDowell was notorious for being a prankster. His best trick was the "Hot Foot," where he would wrap gum around a cigarette and then place it on the heels of one of his teammate's cleats.
In 1992, McDowell made a famous cameo appearance on "Seinfeld" as the "second spitter."
McDowell may be more remembered for his pranks than his pitching, but he was a key member of the Mets' middle and late 1980s bullpen and pitched very well under pressure. As a result, he should be considered one of the best right-handed relievers in Mets history.
29. Jesse Orosco
Career Numbers as a Met
Innings Pitched: 595.2
Best Individual Season: 1983 (13-7, 1.47 ERA, 17 saves, 110 innings pitched, 62 appearances, 84 strikeouts)
When the Mets traded Jerry Koosman after the 1978 season, Mets fans were probably all upset with the decision. Looking back, it turned out to be a pretty good move.
In that deal, the Mets got a left-handed reliever named Jesse Orosco, who turned out to be a very important piece of the Mets bullpen for years to come. In his first full season in 1982, Orosco finished 4-10 with a 2.72 ERA while being Neil Allen's set-up man.
After Allen got traded in the Keith Hernandez deal, Orosco became the closer and had a career year as he won 13 game in relief, saved 17 and finished with a minuscule 1.47 ERA. He made his first of two consecutive trips to the All-Star game that year as well.
Orosco had another strong season in 1984 as he won 10 games in relief and saved a career-high 31 games as the Mets began to start contending for the playoffs. The saves total became a Mets record, until John Franco came around.
However, this was Orosco's last year as the Mets' sole closer.
Starting in 1985, the Mets teamed up the young Roger McDowell with Orosco to form a formidable right-left closing duo. As a result, Orosco and McDowell shared closing duties depending on the respective matchups. Orosco saved 17 games in 1985 but had a good 2.73 ERA as well.
In 1986, Orosco racked up 21 saves and was very clutch throughout the playoffs that year. "Messy Jesse" won three games in the NLCS against the Astros, including the final out in Game 7.
He then saved two more crucial games in the World Series, and the sight of him flinging his glove in the air when the Mets were champions is an image that anyone who saw it will never forget. Those moments will be by far the biggest memories in Orosco's legacy.
Orosco stumbled a bit in 1987 and went just 3-9 with an ERA close to 4.50. He saved 16 games that year, but ended up getting traded to the Dodgers after that season. He then went on to become a journeyman, making stops with the Indians, Brewers, Orioles, Cardinals, Dodgers again, Twins, Yankees and Padres before finally retiring after 2003.
He even made a very brief reappearance with the Mets for the 2000 spring training but got traded to the Cardinals before the season began.
Orosco is baseball's all-time leader in games pitched with 1,252 and fifth in that category in Mets history. He's also third in team history in saves with 107. The Mets may not have had as much success in the 1980s if Orosco had not been a part of it.
Due to his critical contributions in the 1986 postseason, Orosco is definitely one of the best closers the Mets have had and also one of the best in the league during the middle 1980s.
28. Lenny Dysktra
Career Numbers as a Met
Batting Average: .278
Home Runs: 30
Runs Scored: 287
Stolen Bases: 116
Slugging Percentage: .413
Best Individual Season: 1987 (.285 average, 10 home runs, 43 RBI, 86 runs scored, 37 doubles, 27 stolen bases, .352 OBP, .455 slugging percentage)
One key cog in the Mets' success in the 1980s was Lenny Dykstra. He became the leadoff hitting sparkplug the team needed to win. Dykstra did not play much in 1985, and finished the year with a .254 average, one home run and 19 RBI.
In his first full season in 1986, Dykstra started at center field and hit .295 with eight home runs, 45 RBI, a team-leading 31 stolen bases and a .377 OBP.
Known as "Nails," his role was to get on base, so that the big hitters like Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry could drive him in. Dykstra played a solid center field and played a huge role in the 1986 World Series by hitting two very clutch home runs.
He followed up the championship season by hitting .285 with 10 home runs, 43 RBI, 37 doubles, 27 stolen bases and a .352 OBP in 1987. In 1988, he hit .270 with eight home runs, 33 RBI, 30 steals and a .321 OBP.
At this point, Dykstra was platooning in center field with Mookie Wilson with the slugging Kevin McReynolds being a fixture in left field. With this conundrum of playing time, the Mets apparently felt that one of Dykstra or Wilson had to go.
As it turns out, both got traded in 1989. Dykstra, along with Roger McDowell was sent to the Phillies for Juan Samuel in one of the worst trades in franchise history. Dykstra was batting .270 with three home runs and 13 RBI before the trade.
Dykstra spent the rest of his career with the Phillies by leading them to the 1993 World Series and becoming a fan favorite there, while Samuel was gone after the 1989 season and did close to nothing in his short stint with the Mets.
Since retiring, Dykstra had a long history of legal and bankruptcy issues and recently got a three-year prison sentence for grand theft auto.
Dykstra was definitely one of better outfielders the Mets have had, and until Jose Reyes came along, he was most likely the best leadoff hitter in team history.
27. Wally Backman
Career Numbers as a Met
Batting Average: .283
Home Runs: 7
Runs Scored: 359
Stolen Bases: 106
Slugging Percentage: .344
Best Individual Season: 1986 (.320 average, 1 home run, 27 RBI, 18 doubles, 13 stolen bases, .376 OBP, .385 slugging percentage)
One of the best second basemen to wear a Mets uniform, Wally Backman was one of the critical pieces to the Mets' success in the 1980s. Backman was not a big guy, but was as aggressive and gritty as any player in his time.
The Mets drafted Backman in 1977 after he hit .548 in high school. He made his professional debut in 1980 and batted .323 in 93 at-bats while filling in for an injured Doug Flynn.
In 1981, Backman only had 36 at-bats before getting sent to the minor leagues. He then claimed he would retire and did not get called back up during the post-strike portion of the season. He batted .278 for the season.
Backman split time at second base with Bob Bailor until he suffered a broken collarbone from a bicycle accident, which ended his season. In 96 games, Backman batted .272 with three home runs (the most he ever hit as a Met in one season) and 22 RBI.
In 1983, Backman grew frustrated at backing up the weaker-hitting Brian Giles and got shipped back and forth between the Mets and Triple-A Tidewater. As a result, he publicly demanded a trade. As it turned out, going to Triple-A was what Backman needed as he got to know Triple-A manager Davey Johnson.
In 1984, Backman finally got the big break his career needed when Johnson got promoted as the new Mets manager. He put Backman in as his regular second baseman, although Backman usually platooned with a right-handed hitting second baseman.
Despite being a switch-hitter, Backman was much better from the left side (.306 average across nine seasons) than the right side (.164 average across nine seasons) where he consistently struggled. Backman batted .280 in 1984 with one home run, 26 RBI and 32 stolen bases.
In 1985, Backman was even better. He batted .273 with one home run, 38 RBI, 24 doubles and 30 stolen bases. With Lenny Dykstra called up as the new leadoff hitter, he and Backman intimidated pitchers with their patience and good batting eyes, as they got on base to set up the bigger bats in the lineup.
Backman had his best season during the Mets' championship run in 1986. He raised his average to .320 and had one home run, 27 RBI, 13 stolen bases and a .376 on-base percentage. By then, Tim Teufel had been acquired to play second base against left-handed starters. Backman batted .333 in 18 at-bats during the World Series.
In 1987, Backman's average fell to just .250. He once again had just one home run and 23 RBI. One factor that played into this season was that Backman missed a few weeks with a hamstring injury, which definitely could have been bothering him for even longer.
Backman bounced back to his normal form in 1988 by batting .303 with a .388 on-base percentage. He did not hit a single home run and finished with just 17 RBI. At this point, his platoon with Teufel was even more strict and Backman failed to appear in 100 games for the second consecutive season. He batted .273 in the NLCS against the Dodgers in what would be the final games of his Mets career.
Due to the emergence of Gregg Jefferies, the Mets decided to trade Backman to the Twins prior to the 1989 season. Across nine seasons with the Mets, he batted .283 and had a .353 on-base percentage. He spent just that season there before signing with the Pirates in 1990. As a Pirate, he mostly backed up Jeff King at third base.
Backman then spent 1991 and 1992 with the Phillies. He signed with the Braves prior to 1993, but got cut in spring training. He then signed with the Mariners, but got released after batting just .138 in 38 games.
After retiring, Backman spent some time as a minor league manager before being hired as the Diamondbacks' manager for the 2005 season. However, he ended up getting fired just four days later as a result of some previous legal issues, which include a DUI and declaring bankruptcy to avoid paying creditors. The Diamondbacks were not happy that Backman lied, which was a big reason why they fired him.
To repair his reputation, Backman then managed various independent league teams before returning to the Mets. He managed the Brooklyn Cyclones in 2010 before becoming a managerial candidate for the Mets prior to the 2011 season. The position was ultimately given to Terry Collins and Backman was given the job to manage the Double-A Binghamton Mets. In 2012, Backman got promoted to the manager of the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. Backman is also more likely than ever before to succeed Collins as the Mets' next manager.
Thanks to his patient batting eye, hustle and overall aggressiveness, Backman is without a doubt one of the best second basemen the Mets have ever had.
26. David Cone
Career Numbers as a Met
Innings Pitched: 1,209.1
Games Started: 169
Complete Games: 34
Best Individual Season: 1988 (20-3, 2.22 ERA, 231.1 innings pitched, eight complete games, four shutouts, 213 strikeouts)
Although some of his more memorable contributions may have occurred as a member of another New York team, David Cone made his mark as a Met and was a great addition to the Mets' rotation in the late 1980s.
A Kansas City native, Cone was drafted by his hometown team and made a few appearances for them in 1986 before he was traded to the Mets along with Chris Jelic for Ed Hearn, Rick Anderson and Mauro Gozzo.
In Cone's first season in 1987, he shuffled back and forth between the rotation and bullpen and finished with a 5-6 record and a 3.71 ERA.
Cone began the 1988 season in the bullpen, but was back in the rotation by May. This was largely due to the 9-2 start he had in the first half of the season. He made his first trip to the All-Star Game that year and ended up going 20-3 with a 2.22 ERA and 213 strikeouts. He finished third in votes for that year's Cy Young award.
In the 1988 postseason, Cone struggled in his first start during Game 2 of the NLCS. He gave up five runs in just two innings of work, but bounced back to pitch a complete game victory in Game 6. He also pitched an inning in Game 3. Unfortunately, the Mets lost the series in seven games and all hopes of a Mets dynasty were gone just like that.
Cone had another strong season in 1989 by going 14-8 with a 3.52 ERA and 190 strikeouts. He followed this up in 1990 with a 14-10 record, 3.23 ERA and 233 strikeouts.
In 1991, Cone went 14-14 with a 3.29 ERA and 241 strikeouts. On the last game of the season, Cone tied the National League record at the time by striking out 19 batters in a three-hit shutout victory against the Phillies. He switched his original No. 44 to 17 that year in honor of former teammate Keith Hernandez.
In 1992, Cone got off to a great start and made his second trip to the All-Star Game and was the Mets' lone representative that year. He was 13-7 with a 2.88 ERA before the Mets traded him to the Blue Jays in August for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson. Cone at the time was seeking a long-term deal, but Al Harazin, the Mets General Manager at the time was not willing to give Cone a five-year contract. This trade was certainly one the Mets would regret.
While the Mets did not particularly get much out of this deal, Cone went to the Blue Jays and helped them win their first World Series. In 1993, he went back home to the Royals, where he spent two years. In 1994, he ended up winning his first and only AL Cy Young Award during the strike-shortened season. He made his third All-Star Game appearance that year as well.
In 1995, right after the strike ended, Cone was traded back to the Blue Jays and then traded again to the Yankees at the trade deadline. He would then spend the rest of 1995-2000 with the Yankees. During those years, he won four more World Series championships, made two more trips to the All-Star Game in 1997 and 1999 and also pitched a perfect game in 1999.
Cone then pitched for the Red Sox in 2001 and sat out the 2002 season before making a brief comeback with the Mets in 2003. In four starts and five total appearances that year, he went 1-3 with a 6.50 ERA before retiring for good.
Since retiring, Cone has been an announcer for the Yankees on the YES Network.
David Cone may not been remembered mostly as a Met, but his contributions were significant in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and this should not go unnoticed.
25. Al Leiter
Career Numbers as a Met
Innings Pitched: 1,360
Games Started: 213
Complete Games: 10
Best Individual Season: 1998 (17-6, 2.47 ERA, 193 innings pitched, four complete games, two shutouts, 174 strikeouts)
If one were to think of Mets pitching in the late 1990s and early 2000s, one name definitely stands out, and that would be left-hander Al Leiter, who became the Mets' ace throughout his tenure.
A year after helping the Florida Marlins win their first championship in 1997, Leiter was traded to Mets during a typical Marlins fire-sale, where the Marlins would unload all of their high-priced players.
One of those players the Mets happened to trade was a young AJ Burnett. Leiter became the Mets' ace instantly and had one of his best seasons in 1998, going 17-6 with a 2.47 ERA. Those 17 wins were a career high for Leiter as he led the Mets to within one game of a playoff berth.
Leiter did not do as well in 1999, with a 13-12 record and his ERA went up to 4.23, but he turned in the best game of his career when the Mets needed it.
He pitched in the National League Wild-Card clinching game—an extra game added to the regular season because the Mets and Cincinnati Reds finished in a tie. That day, Leiter threw a two-hit complete game shutout, and the Mets won 5-0 to advance to the postseason for the first time in 11 years.
Leiter had a much better season in 2000, making his second All-Star team and his first as a Met. He went 16-8, with a 3.20 ERA as he and Mike Hampton teamed up to lead the Mets to the World Series. He pitched well in Game 1 and Game 5 of the Fall Classic, but the Mets lost both games and eventually the series 4-1.
The Mets' offense did not give Leiter as much support in 2001 as he finished 11-11 despite a 3.31 ERA. Similarly, in 2002, Leiter finished 13-13 with a 3.48 ERA. However, in that year, Leiter became the first pitcher in baseball history to defeat all 30 current MLB teams.
Leiter had a bounceback year in 2003, going 15-9 with an ERA just under 4.00. However, despite his strong season, the Mets played poorly and lost 95 games. His last season with the Mets was in 2004, and he was 10-8 that year with a 3.21 ERA on another underachieving team.
After 2004, Leiter's option was declined, and he spent 2005 with the Marlins and Yankees before retiring after the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Leiter has since become a broadcaster for the YES Network—much to the displeasure of Mets fans—and eventually the MLB Network. He was even booed for his YES Network affiliation when he was introduced after Shea Stadium's final game in 2008.
Leiter is arguably the best left-handed starting pitcher the Mets have had since the days of Bob Ojeda and Sid Fernandez. He was a workhouse and made significant contributions towards the Mets' success in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
24. Jerry Grote
Career Numbers as a Met
Batting Average: .256
Home Runs: 35
Runs Scored: 314
Slugging Percentage: .329
Best Individual Season: 1969 (.252 average, 6 home runs, 40 RBI, .313 OBP, .351 slugging percentage)
The first of many great catchers in Mets history, Jerry Grote anchored both one of the best defensive teams in his era and one of the best pitching staffs in baseball history. He was also one of the best defensive catchers and had one of the best arms behind the plate throughout the league. A two-time All-Star and Mets fan favorite, Grote was the originator of what has become one of the team's most productive positions throughout its history.
After spending his first two professional seasons in 1963 and 1964 with the Astros, Grote spent all of 1965 in the minor leagues, and was traded to the Mets at the end of the season. This turned out to be one of the best trades in Mets history.
Grote was never a strong hitter, but then-manager Wes Westrum always liked his defensive skills, which immediately paid dividends as the Mets' pitching staff ultimately became one of the strongest in the league.
At the plate, though, Grote batted .237 in 1966 with just three home runs and 31 RBI. His 1967 numbers included a low .195 average, four home runs and 23 RBI. The Mets struggled those two seasons, but the team, along with Grote's hitting got better with time.
Grote made his first All-Star team in 1968, mostly thanks to him anchoring a staff that included Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Ron Taylor and Tug McGraw. He also raised his average to .282, with three home runs and 31 RBI.
1969 was an even better season for Grote, and not just because the Mets won their first World Series that fall. Despite his batting average falling 30 points to .252, Grote set career highs with six home runs and 40 RBI. Compared to other catchers on this list, these numbers weren't necessarily much, but Grote's defense and leadership certainly made up for the lack of offense. He caught every inning of the postseason.
In 1970, Grote again anchored a strong pitching staff, but despite batting .255, he finished with just two home runs and 34 RBI. Grote's 1971 season was quite similar with a .270 average, two home runs and 35 RBI.
Grote did not play much in 1972 due to injuries that eventually required bone chips to be removed from his elbow. However, in just 64 games, Grote did hit three home runs and 21 RBI, despite a .210 average.
Grote's injuries continued in 1973 when he was forced to miss two months due to a broken arm he suffered after getting hit by a pitch. When Grote returned, the Mets had started winning and eventually went to the playoffs, despite a record barely above .500.
Grote's offense that year was not particularly good ,as he batted .256 with only one home run and 12 RBI. However, he once again caught every inning of the postseason, even though the Mets this time failed to win the World Series.
Grote made his second and final All-Star appearance in 1974, thanks to a good first half. However, in the second half, he was banged up and split time with backup Duffy Dyer. He finished the year with a .257 average, five home runs and 36 RBI.
Grote had a strong bounceback year in 1975. He batted a career high .295, but finished with just two home runs and 39 RBI. He also led National League catchers with a .995 fielding percentage.
Grote's last full season with the Mets was in 1976. His numbers weren't bad, as he batted .272 with four home runs and 28 RBI. However, thanks to the infamous Tug McGraw trade, the Mets had a young catcher named John Stearns on the bench, and the Mets wanted him to get more playing time. Grote at that point was starting to age and his injuries were certainly taking a toll.
Back injuries in 1977 plagued Grote's Mets career and he appeared in just 42 games with 115 at-bats before getting traded to the Dodgers at the end of August for two minor leaguers that never appeared in a major league game with the Mets. By then, Stearns had been starting for most of the season and Grote became expendable.
Grote spent the last month of 1977, as well as 1978 with the Dodgers as a veteran backup before retiring. However, in 1981, the Royals were able to lure him out of retirement due to a shortage of catchers. He spent most of the season in Kansas City, and the remainder in his second stint with the Dodgers before retiring for good.
As a Met, Grote's offensive numbers were not particularly strong. Over 12 seasons, he batted .256 and finished with just 35 home runs and 357 RBI. However, he has caught more games as a Met than anyone else, and by a long shot.
Had it not been for the popularity of Johnny Bench, Grote probably would have won at least a few National League Gold Gloves. Bench, who won the award 10 consecutive years from 1968-1977 later admitted that Grote's defense was so good that if both were on the same team, Bench would have to play third base, which goes to show how good, yet underrated Grote's defense was.
Grote was later inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame in 1992, becoming the first Mets catcher to receive the honor. More recently, he makes occasional appearances at Citi Field and remains a fan favorite even today.
Jerry Grote may not have had the overall reputation that Johnny Bench, for example had as a catcher. However, Mets fans will always think highly of Grote's career and how the position has been a strength for the Mets ever since his playing days.
23. Rusty Staub
Career Numbers as a Met
Batting Average: .276
Home Runs: 75
Runs Scored: 296
Slugging Percentage: .419
Best Individual Season: 1975 (.282 average, 19 home runs, 105 RBI, 30 doubles, .371 OBP, .448 slugging percentage)
Known as "Le Grande Orange," Rusty Staub became one of the Mets' best players in the middle 1970s. He then had a successful second stint with the team as a reliable pinch-hitter.
After spending 1963-1968 with the Astros and 1969-1971 with the Expos, Staub was traded to the Mets on April 6, 1972 for Tim Foli, Mike Jorgenson and Ken Singleton. This move certainly upgraded the Mets' outfield.
Staub batted .293 with nine home runs and 38 RBI in 1972. He missed almost two months though with a fractured right hand.
In 1973, Staub batted .279 with 15 home runs, 76 RBI and 36 doubles. However, he was clutch in the 1973 NLCS against the Reds. He hit three home runs and drove in five RBI in the series as the Mets won the pennant that year. In the World Series, Staub batted .423 with one home run and six RBI in 23 at-bats.
In 1974, Staub's average fell to .258, but he hit 19 home runs and drove in 78 RBI. He followed this up with a .282 average, 19 home runs and a new Mets record 105 RBI, which broke Frank Thomas' single season record of 94. Staub also had a .371 OBP that year.
Unfortunately, the Mets made a regrettable move by trading Staub after the season to the Tigers for Mickey Lolich. Lolich was a disappointment in 1976 in his only season as a Met, while Staub kept hitting with the Tigers, Expos and Rangers.
After the 1980 season, Staub made Mets fans everywhere very happy by signing with the team as a pinch-hitter. As a part-time utility player and pinch-hitting specialist, Staub batted .317 with five home runs and 21 RBI.
In 1982, Staub batted just .242, but finished with three home runs and 27 RBI. Staub bounced back in 1983 with a .296 average, three home runs and 28 RBI.
Staub batted .264 with one home run and 18 RBI in 1984 and .267 with one home run and eight RBI in 1985 before retiring after the 1985 season.
Staub was inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame a year later in 1986 and became a club ambassador. He has been very actively within various charities for years and makes occasional appearances at Citi Field.
Rusty Staub's tenure may have been a little too short, but he certainly made the most of his years as a Met.
22. Lee Mazzilli
Career Numbers as a Met
Batting Average: .264
Home Runs: 68
Runs Scored: 404
Stolen Bases: 152
Slugging Percentage: .396
Best Individual Season: 1979 (.303 average, 15 home runs, 79 RBI, 34 doubles, 34 stolen bases, .395 OBP, .449 slugging percentage)
One of the best Mets outfielders and hitters in the 1970s was Lee Mazzilli. The Brooklyn-born fan favorite had two solid stints with the Mets and was one of the most popular players during his time.
Mazzilli first came up in 1976 as a September call-up. He only batted .195 with two home runs and seven RBI for the month. In his first full season in 1977, Mazzilli batted .250 with six home runs and 46 RBI.
He had his breakout season in 1978 with a .273 average, 16 home runs and 61 RBI. However, his best season was a year later in 1979 when he batted a career high .303 with 15 home runs and a career high 79 RBI. He also had 181 hits, 34 doubles, 34 stolen bases and a .395 OBP. He made his only All-Star team that year.
In 1980, Mazzilli was shifted to first base, but continued to hit. He batted .280 with 16 home runs, 76 RBI, 31 doubles and a career-high 41 stolen bases.
That would be Mazzilli's last great year in his first Mets stint. In 1981, Mazzilli only appeared in 95 games due to back and elbow injuries. He only batted .228 for the year with six home runs and 34 RBI.
Right before the beginning of the 1982 season, Mazzilli was traded to the Rangers for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell, which was a trade that immediately benefited the Mets. Mazzilli played part of the season with the Rangers before getting traded to the Yankees for the rest of the year.
After the season, Mazzilli was traded once again to the Pirates. He stayed in Pittsburgh until he was released in August of 1986. That was when the Mets wisely picked him up to add more bench depth.
After returning to the Mets, Mazzilli batted .276 with two home runs and seven RBI. He batted .400 during the World Series.
In 1987, as a part-time player, Mazzilli batted .306 with three home runs and 24 RBI. In 1988, his average fell to just .147 and he had no home runs and 12 RBI.
Mazzilli's final season with the Mets was in 1989. He was only batting .183 with two home runs and seven RBI before getting claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays. He retired after the season.
Since retiring, Mazzilli was a first base coach with the Yankees under former manager Joe Torre from 2000-2003. He then managed the Orioles from 2004-2005. After spending 2006 as the Yankees bench coach, Mazzilli became the SNY studio analyst for Mets games. Former teammate Bob Ojeda replaced him in 2009.
Mazzilli was one of the Mets' best hitters in the late 1970s and later became one of the Mets' more reliable pinch-hitters in the late 1980s.
21. Tommie Agee
Career Numbers as a Met
Batting Average: .262
Home Runs: 82
Runs Scored: 344
Stolen Bases: 92
Slugging Percentage: .419
Best Individual Season: 1970 (.286 average, 24 home runs, 75 RBI, 30 doubles, 31 stolen bases, .344 OBP, .469 slugging percentage)
One of the greatest center fielders the Mets have had was Tommie Agee.
After spending 1962-1964 with the Indians and 1965-1967 with the White Sox, the Mets traded for Agee and Al Weis after the 1967 season.
Agee did not have a particularly great year in 1968 with just a .217 average, five home runs and 17 RBI. However, he truly arrived in 1969 when he batted .271 with 26 home runs and 76 RBI. He was a dependable lead-off hitter with power and was known for making the most spectacular catches. He hit well and made two amazing catches in the 1969 World Series that prevented a combined five runs from scoring.
Another amazing moment for Agee that year was when he hit a monstrous home run into Shea Stadium's Upper Deck. It was the first home run to reach the level and a sign was soon painted to commemorate Agee's blast.
In 1970, Agee batted .286 with 24 home runs and 75 RBI. He also had a 20-game hitting streak in April and May. He followed this up with a .285 average, 14 home runs and 50 RBI in 1971. However, he missed some time due to knee injuries. Those same injuries affected Agee in 1972 as well. For that year, his average dropped significantly to .227 and he finished with 13 home runs and 47 RBI. He then got traded to the Astros after the 1972 season for Rich Chiles and Buddy Harris.
Agee spent 1973 with the Astros and Cardinals before retiring at just 31 years old.
Agee unfortunately passed away in 2001 due to a heart attack. He was inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame a year later.
Agee was the first great center fielder the Mets ever had and set the Mets' standard for that position.
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