Mike Piazza and the New York Mets' Next 4 Team Hall of Fame Inductees
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Although he did not get enough votes to be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown this summer, the Mets' brass felt former catcher Mike Piazza was at least deserving of being inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame.
Piazza will be inducted during the Mets' final game of the season against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept. 29. It is a long-deserving achievement in Piazza's storied career, and one that was going to occur in a matter of time.
He will become the 27th member of the Mets' Hall of Fame, following former teammate John Franco's induction in 2012. It is unknown whether his No. 31 jersey will be retired the same day as well.
Piazza could be considered one of the best hitters in Mets history. During his time with the Mets from 1998-05, Piazza batted .296 with 220 home runs, 655 RBI, a .373 OBP and a .542 slugging percentage.
Piazza gave the Mets an identity when they acquired him in 1998, and he led New York to consecutive postseason appearances in 1999 and 2000, plus a trip to the World Series in 2000.
But with Piazza now getting inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame later this season, the next question is who will be next? In no particular order, here are the four most likely former Mets to be inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame after Piazza.
Former Mets that are not currently playing in the 2013 season were the only players considered here. The careers of current baseball players that are former Mets, such as Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, could be far from over.
Thus, the proper eventual Mets' Hall of Fame inductions for them may not happen for a good number of years by default.
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It seems as if the Mets have moved past the 1980s and early 1990s players who could have been considered for induction into the Mets' Hall of Fame.
This would mean players like Ron Darling, Howard Johnson, Jesse Orosco, Roger McDowell, Lenny Dykstra and Wally Backman will all most likely never get into the Mets' Hall of Fame.
It would be unfortunate to not see at least some of those players included, but that seems to be the direction the Mets are going in.
With that being said, it looks like the Mets of the late 1990s and early 2000s will be next for consideration. One of those players that has to be included is former second baseman and third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, who was with the Mets from 1995-02.
Alfonzo may not have had the limelight of Mike Piazza, Robin Ventura or John Franco, but the Mets' success in the late 1990s and early 2000s would not have been the same without him.
Alfonzo was originally a third baseman who played shortstop and second base occasionally but eventually became the Mets' greatest second baseman, which says a lot about their history at that position, before moving back to third in 2002.
Alfonzo broke into the majors in 1995 as a utility infielder and became the starting third baseman in 1997 shortly after the start of the season. Alfonzo hit .315 that year, which led the team, and followed that up by hitting 17 home runs with 78 RBI in 1998 while successfully manning the hot corner.
In 1999, Alfonzo shifted to second base when Ventura arrived and went on to have his best season. He set career highs with 27 home runs and 108 RBI and won his first and only Silver Slugger Award.
He also had many clutch hits and set a Mets record by going 6-for-6 with three home runs and scoring six runs in a game against the Houston Astros. He even appeared on a Sports Illustrated cover as part of the "Best Infield Ever."
In 2000, Alfonzo set a career high with a .324 average to go along with 25 home runs and 94 RBI. He made his only All-Star team that year and was clutch once again in the postseason.
Among all players with over 1,000 career at-bats with the Mets in their careers, Alfonzo is seventh in average (.292), seventh in OBP (.367) and 16th in slugging percentage (.445).
He is also ninth in games played (1,086), fifth in runs scored (614), fifth in hits (1,136), fifth in doubles (212), ninth in home runs (120), seventh in RBI (538), seventh in walks (458) and seventh in total bases (1,736).
All in all, Alfonzo is in the top 10 in just about every significant offensive category, aside from triples and stolen bases.
Alfonzo is arguably the best second baseman the Mets have ever had and one of the best overall infielders as well.
His 1999 and 2000 seasons were by far his best, but his consistent rate of getting on base also made the jobs of teammates like Piazza, Ventura and Todd Hundley easier.
It's only a matter of time until Alfonzo gets properly honored.
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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 from 1998-04.
A year after helping the Florida Marlins win their first championship in 1997, Leiter was traded to the Mets during a typical Marlins' fire-sale, in which the Marlins would unload all of their high-priced players.
One of those players the Mets happened to trade was a young A.J. 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 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 bounce-back 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 went 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.
Leiter was the one staple in the Mets rotation during their late 1990s and early 2000s success, and he should definitely get into the Mets' Hall of Fame in the next few years.
Leiter is seventh in team history in innings pitched, sixth in wins and seventh in strikeouts, all of which are solid rankings for arguably the Mets' best left-handed starter since the duo of Bob Ojeda and Sid Fernandez in the 1980s.
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The Mets' most significant players of the late 1990s and early 2000s have now been accounted for, but it would not be complete without the Mets' former manager Bobby Valentine, who is certainly deserving of an induction himself.
Arguably the Mets' third-most successful manager, behind Davey Johnson and Gil Hodges, Valentine took over an underachieving team at the end of 1996 and transformed them into contenders a year later.
His first full season in 1997 saw him lead the Mets into surprising contenders that only fell short a few games of making the Wild Card. Valentine deserves a lot of credit for believing in and bringing the most out of certain players that year, including Edgardo Alfonzo, Butch Huskey, Carl Everett, Rick Reed and Armando Reynoso.
1998 saw the Mets come within one game of a playoff berth, but the Mets made big steps forward with the acquisition of Mike Piazza spearheading their success into the future.
1999 was a better year for Valentine and the Mets, as they made the playoffs for the first time since 1988. In one fascinating game that year, Valentine was ejected and reappeared infamously in the dugout wearing a fake mustache.
In 2000, Valentine took the Mets to the World Series and silenced the critics by doing so. By then, his long-time feud with general manager Steve Phillips became known to all, and it only got worse.
2001 showed Valentine leading the Mets past the events of 9/11, and he was right in the middle of it all with his many efforts to help victims.
Valentine's last year as a Met was in 2002 when the Mets stumbled and finished in last place. In the end, Valentine was fired and replaced by Art Howe, who only made the Mets worse during his two-year stint.
Valentine is second amongst Mets managers in games managed, second in wins, the leader in losses and third in winning percentage. He is also tied with Johnson for being the longest tenured manager (seven seasons).
With this being said, it's only a matter of time until Valentine is enshrined at a future induction. If inducted, he would become the fourth manager to be inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame after Casey Stengel, Hodges and Johnson.
Bud Harrelson is another former Mets manager in the Mets' Hall of Fame, but Harrelson was honored before his brief managerial stint from 1990-91.
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If the Mets' players and manager of the late 1990s and early 2000s are inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame, it would only be fitting that the architect behind that era be recognized as well.
Former general manager Steve Phillips did not have the smoothest run with the Mets by any means from 1997-03, but he made some remarkable moves at the beginning of his time and helped build the team that made the postseason in 1999 and got to the World Series a year later.
Phillips' first big trade was acquiring reliever Turk Wendell from the Cubs in August 1997. He also acquired center fielder Brian McRae and fellow reliever Mel Rojas in the same trade, but Wendell became the big steal, with a 3.34 ERA as a Met from 1997-01.
Phillips then acquired Al Leiter from the Marlins in the following offseason before his career-defining trade.
With incumbent catcher Todd Hundley recovering from elbow surgery, Phillips and the Mets felt like they needed to do something to create more stability at the position and give the team an offensive boost.
Then, superstar All-Star catcher Mike Piazza had become available. Phillips capitalized on this opportunity by sending three prospects to the Marlins for Piazza. Piazza soon became the face of the Mets' franchise and helped lead the team to the World Series in 2000.
Phillips then put together a solid 1999 team that included new veteran presences in third baseman Robin Ventura, left fielder Ricky Henderson and pitcher Orel Hershiser.
In 2000, Phillips replaced the departing John Olerud at first base with Todd Zeile and pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Astros that led to Mike Hampton and Derek Bell becoming Mets.
Many of Phillips' trades after 2001 did not end up being particularly good, but one thing he did that may still have gone unnoticed was that by not re-signing Hampton after 2000, he was able to use the compensatory draft pick to draft David Wright in 2001.
So, Phillips definitely deserves all the credit for Wright being a Met in the first place.
Although Phillips' time with the Mets came to an end in 2003, he is still one of the most successful general managers in Mets history.
If he gets inducted in the future into the Mets' Hall of Fame, Phillips would become the fourth Mets general manager to be honored. George Weiss, Johnny Murphy and Frank Cashen are the three former general managers in the Mets' Hall of Fame.