I figure it's now or never, and three months after joining, it's finally time to write my first piece for Bleacher Report.
This week's "Open Mic" topic, Your All-Time Lineup, got me thinking about the New York Mets that stick out most in my mind. I was born in 1987, a year after the Mets' last World Championship, but just in time for their dreadful run in the early 90's (I suppose those dark days made me immune to the collapse of 2007).
I've been to Shea Stadium some 80+ times in my short life and seen cycles, walkoffs, farewells, brawls, new records, web gems and tape-measure shots. I have seen some of the franchise's all-time best (and worst), and I've learned a great deal about the team's history and those title-winning teams.
With all those experiences and accumulated knowledge, I’ve compiled my New York Mets All-Time Roster. All of these players have played a significant role in my experience as a Mets fan. Some of my picks are based on numbers, some on affinity. I was lucky enough to see many of them play, but a few are before my time. Without further ado...
1) SS - Jose Reyes. My all-time favorite Mets player. Not only is he one of the more talented Mets I've ever witnessed, but he plays with a contagious energy and enthusiasm. He has the ability to take over a game with his speed, whether it's taking an extra base or cutting off a ball in the hole. I was lucky enough to see my favorite Met hit for the cycle back in June of 06, one of my best Shea memories.
2) CF – Carlos Beltran. Maybe he hasn’t been totally worth the $100 mil+ contract, but he has always carried himself well, unlike some Mets CF’s of the past (see Coleman, Vince). He can do it all on the field: switch-hitting, stealing bases, power to all fields, not to mention his gold-glove defense. Having never seen Tommy Agee but in films, I have to give the nod to Beltran.
3) 3B – David Wright. It’s tough to pick against a franchise player like Wright, even with Ho-Jo and Dave Magadan competing for the hot corner. In his short career, Wright has put up tremendous numbers that already rank among the Mets’ all-time leaders.
4) C – Mike Piazza. I have to confess that I was never really a huge Piazza fan. For every big home run he hit, he grounded into many more 2-on, 1-out double plays than I can recall. Despite his knack for blowing it, he’s still the best hitting catcher of all time. Hopefully he’s enshrined in Cooperstown wearing a Mets cap.
5) RF – Darryl Strawberry. Straw’s heyday as a Met was very early in my life, so I hardly have any connection to him. I know him more as a Dodger, Yankee, and inmate. But he leads the club in career homers, that’s good enough for me.
6) 1B – Keith Hernandez. #17 is a legendary figure in Mets history from his playing days on the great 80’s teams. Add to that his classic appearances on Seinfeld and his current work in the SNY booth, and he’s a shoe-in for the Mets All-Time team. So long as there aren’t women in the dugout.
7) 2B – Edgardo Alfonzo. Mets fans fondly remember “Fonzy” and all he did for the Late 90’s-Early 00’s teams. I’ll never forget his 6-for-6, 3 home run game against the Astros in 1999. He’s not a jerk like Jeff Kent, an alky like Wally Backman, a joke like Kaz Matsui, or a has-been like Roberto Alomar or Carlos Baerga, so he wins by default.
8) LF – Carl Everett. True, his best seasons were long after he left Queens. True, he’s a hothead who is best known for taking liberties with the batter’s box and with Ron Kulpa’s personal space. But I saw his all-star potential when he was just a fill-in player, and I choose to ignore his steroid-aided peak. He’ll always be a Met to me.
9) P – John “The Bulldog” Maine. If there’s one thing the Mets have had plenty of in their history, it’s starting pitching. John Maine doesn’t exactly top the list of Mets greats, but he’s been one of my favorites since freeing us from the Anna/Kris Benson days. He is fun to root for, because you feel like your cheering and support actually help him on the field. THE BULLDOG.
IF - Lenny Harris. He holds the record for career pinch hits (212), and was integral to the Mets World Series run in 2000.
C - Todd Hundley. Switch-hitting catcher who was about the only thing the Mets had in 1996. Still shares the club record for home runs in a season (41).
3B – Robin Ventura. “Ace” makes the team for his shining defense, and ofcourse, the “Grand Single” off of Kevin McGlinchy in the 1999 NLCS.
OF – Endy Chavez. There were many options for the pinch-runner/outfield position (Lance Johnson, Vince Coleman, Roger Cedeno, Mookie Wilson), but after “The Catch” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JceN826TfQ) the choice was easy.
Util – Joe McEwing. Utility man extraordinaire, “Super” Joe McEwing is one of my all-time favorite Mets because if you compared my game to any major leaguer, it’s him.
SP – Dwight Gooden. His first two seasons alone put him in the All-time Mets rotation. Combined 1984-85: 41-13, 2.00 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 494.2 innings, 23 complete games, 11 shutouts, 544 K’s, Rookie of the Year in 84, Cy Young in 85.
SP – Tom Seaver. A living legend in Mets lore. Three-time Cy Young award winner, 300+ wins and 3600+ K’s. A no-brainer.
SP – Johan Santana. If it weren’t for the Mets’ bullpen, he’d be posting a season worthy of his hefty paycheck. He’s on the All-time Mets roster for the numbers he’s due to put up in the future.
SP – Scott Kazmir. What if?
For as long as I can remember, the Mets bullpen has been beyond awful. An All-Time Mets bullpen wouldn’t look right if it contained only all-stars and fireballers. My All-Time Mets relievers are those who come to my mind for their good, bad, and ugly performances.
RP – Anthony Young. He holds the dubious record for most consecutive losing decisions (27) during his 2-14 and 1-16 seasons.
RP – Turk Wendell. Anyone who wears a chain made of shark teeth and animal bones is worthy of an all-time roster spot.
RP – Pat Mahomes. My homes Mahomes.
RP – Dae-Sung Koo. Funny name, and he made a fool out of Randy Johnson, which anyone can appreciate.
RP – Jae Wong Seo. Because Dae-Sung Koo could get lonely. And because he was actually kinda good.
RP – Chad Bradford. The guy who throws funny and got so many big outs in 2006.
RP – Roger McDowell. “The 2nd Spitter.”
RP – Aaron Heilman. The all-time worst.
CL – Jesse Orosco. The only Mets closer that I can watch without wanting to kill myself or someone else.
Manager – Bobby Valentine. He’d be required to wear the disguise.
First Base Coach – Willie Randolph. I was always a fan of Willie’s. And if hiring him means free toasted subs for all, he’s in.
Third Base Coach – Manny Acta. I’m not sure if managing the Nationals is a step up from his previous gig.
Pitching Coach – Mel Stottlemyre. The guy has a handful of rings for a reason.
Hitting Coach – Keith Hernandez. Not only is he the starting first baseman, but he’d also act as color commentator and full-time hitting coach. After all, he’s Keith Hernandez.