Mike Pelfrey No.1: Power Ranking All New York Mets Opening Day Starting Pitchers

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IMarch 30, 2011

Mike Pelfrey No.1: Power Ranking All New York Mets Opening Day Starting Pitchers

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    Mike Pelfrey will become the 21st different Opening Day starter for the New York Mets when he takes the mound against the Florida Marlins on April 1.

    While he's not the true ace of the team, he'll have to assume the lead role in Johan Santana's absence.

    The Mets have sent All-Stars, Cy Young winners and Hall of Famers out on Opening Day in the past.

    Pitchers such as Doc Gooden, David Cone and Pedro Martinez have all had Opening Day duties in the past. Where does right-hander Mike Pelfrey rank?

    Click to find out.

21. Randy Jones, 1982

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    Randy Jones was the Mets' fifth different Opening Day starter in six seasons when he squared off against Steve Carlton and the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Jones came to the Mets from the San Diego Padres in the offseason prior to the 1981 campaign, but his best days as a mid-20-year-old were long gone.

    The Jones who suited up at Shea Stadium in the early '80s was so far removed from the Cy Young winner just half a decade earlier, literally a shell of his former self.

    He made just 32 starts in his two years with the Mets, before calling it a day after the 1982 season.

    Jones falls into the category of a once-great ace who had a relatively short career and was past his peak by the time he got to New York.

20. Al Jackson, 1964-65

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    Al Jackson turned out to be one of the better players the Mets received in the expansion draft in 1961. A 22nd-round selection, Jackson was more valuable to the team in its formative years than many of those taken above him.

    He made two Opening Day starts, in a 5-3 loss at Philadelphia in 1964 and a 6-1 defeat at home to the Dodgers the following year.

    Jackson was inexperienced when he came to the Mets and had only made 11 Major League starts (and recorded one win) before his debut with New York.

    Jackson was a decent pitcher on a bad team.

19. Roger Craig, 1962-63

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    Roger Craig was the Mets' first-ever Opening Day starter when he took the mound on April 11, 1962, in St. Louis.

    Craig was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent ahead of the 1950 season, and he came to the Mets as the sixth pick in the 1961 expansion draft.

    The right-hander was never a great pitcher, but he did have a couple good seasons, most notably his 1959 campaign when he won 11 games and posted a 2.06 ERA with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    The Mets were awful in their first years and Craig, who also started the season in '63, went a combined 15-46 in his two years at Shea.

18. Jack Fisher, 1966

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    Wes Westrum became the Mets' second-ever manager when he replaced Casey Stengel in 1966. His first duty was to hand the ball to Jack Fisher for the season opener against the Braves.

    Fat Jack spent four years with the Mets, but received the nod just this once on Opening Day after being the team's MVP the previous year.

    He came to New York after five years split between Baltimore and San Francisco, where he was 36-49. He was as much of an ace as the Mets had in their fifth season.

17. Don Cardwell, 1967

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    For the first time in their young history, the Mets entered the 1967 season as something other than the worst team in the league.

    They won 66 games the previous year and sent Don Cardwell to the mound for the first game of the year against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea.

    Cardwell, who died three years ago at the age of 72, was the first Mets' Opening Day starter not acquired in the expansion draft.

    He came to the team in a trade from the Pirates in the offseason, and he was the first real veteran hurler to toe the rubber for the team.

    1967 was Cardwell's 11th season, and the Mets were his fourth team. He wasn't the greatest, but he was serviceable. He was also a member of the '69 team, but he doesn't get enough credit for his contributions.

16. Craig Swan, 1979-80

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    Craig Swan, a third-round pick in 1972, became a full-time starter with the Mets in 1976 at a time when Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman were peaking, or had peaked.

    By 1979, both Seaver and Koosman had left town and the Mets were at the bottom of the National League heap under Joe Torre.

    Swan had showed promise in the '78 season. He led the NL with a 2.43 ERA and was rewarded with leading the pitching staff the following year.

    Swan recorded a career-high 14 victories and tossed 10 complete games...unfortunately, nobody else in the rest of the rotation won more than six games. Pete Falcone? Really?

15. Mike Torrez, 1984

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    After seven years of utter mediocrity, Davey Johnson came to the Mets in 1984 and began turning things around.

    One person who cannot really claim any of the success is Mike Torrez, a 37-year-old veteran who came to the Mets a season earlier from the Boston Red Sox as the player-to-be-named-later in the Mike Davis deal.

    Although Torrez got the Opening Day start in 1984, the season was a disaster. He went 1-5 with a 5.02 ERA in nine appearances before getting released in June of that year.

    He came into the '84 season with a career record of 184-155, but his 18th year proved to be one too many.

    It is so strange in hindsight to see him get the nod ahead of Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling and Walt Terrell.

    Then you realise that Gooden was in his rookie year, Darling had only five Major League starts under his belt and Terrell was a 33rd-round draft pick starting his second full season.

    This was another start out of necessity, because the other options were not ready.

14. Pat Zachry, 1981

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    Pat Zachry went into Wrigley Field on April 9, 1981, as the eighth different Opening Day starter in 20 years.

    The Texas native was one of four Cincinnati players sent to New York in exchange for Tom Seaver.

    Zachry won the Rookie of the Year award in 1976 and he built his modest reputation off of that. He never lived up to any of those expectations.

    1981 was Zachry's sixth season in the Majors and the final nail in Joe Torre's coffin.

    He entered the year having posted double-digit wins three times in his first five seasons. Unfortunately, the third, and last, came in 1978, and he went 35-41 in the next seven seasons combined.

13. Jerry Koosman, 1978

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    After 11 years in the shadows of Tom Seaver, the 35-year-old Koosman finally got his Opening Day gig after Seaver's mid-season trade to the Reds in '77.

    Koosman lost a league-high 20 games in that 1977 season (just 12 months after winning 21), and 1978 wasn't much better.

    Koosman won 137 games between 1967-77, and he was next in line to become the ace when Seaver left.

    Craig Swan and Pat Zachry had raw talent but only had two full years under their belt, and there was no way the likes of Nino Espinosa was even close to consideration.

    Koosman would have been a feared ace in the early '70s. He was an ace out of necessity in 1978.

12. Mike Pelfrey, 2011

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    Mike Pelfrey is being paid less than $4 million this season, but he will be expected to fulfill the role of someone being paid five times that much.

    Considering that Johan Santana ($22.5 million), Carlos Beltran ($20 million) and Jason Bay ($18.1 million) could all miss substantial time, Big Pelf could be one of the biggest pieces of the Mets season.

    Pelfrey made more starts than any other Mets pitcher in 2010, leading the team in wins (15) and innings pitched (204), both career bests.

    The 6'7" Pelfrey is still only 27 years old, and he will be the least experienced Mets Opening Day starter since Bobby Jones 16 years ago.

    The Mets are huge outside shots to even win the NL wildcard, but the team needs him to replicate his 2010 form and then improve on it.

    He has massive shoes to fill, but New York needs him to raise the bar if the 2011 season is not going to be a complete disaster.

11. Pete Harnisch, 1997

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    Bobby Jones won 12 games in '96, and after opening the previous two seasons, he was the most obvious candidate for the 1997 start in San Diego.

    Bobby Valentine took a different approach, handing the ball to former first-rounder Pete Harnisch, a pitcher who came to the Mets in a trade from the Houston Astros in December 1994 and who re-signed with the club as a free agent in '95.

    Harnisch was 71-75 entering the 1997 season, and after going 8-12 with a 4.21 ERA the previous year, he appeared a strange choice for Opening Day. Bobby Jones should have had this assignment.

    Harnisch made just eight starts for the Mets that year, struggling to a 7.03 ERA before being traded to the Brewers.

10. Bob Ojeda, 1987

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    Ojeda won a career-high 18 games in 1986 as a 28-year-old.

    He had a great regular season, leading the league with a .783 winning percentage, and he was instrumental in several of the Mets' postseason games leading to the team's second and most recent World Championship.

    But don't be mistaken in thinking he was the ace of the staff.

    The reason, and the only reason, Ojeda started Opening Day at home to the Pirates in 1987, was because Doc Gooden was in drug rehab to avoid a MLB suspension.

    Still, after that successful '86 season, it looked like Ojeda (obtained in a trade with the Red Sox) would quickly turn a profit.

    If it wasn't for missing most of the '87 season with May surgery, he may have.

    Ojeda ranks somewhere in the middle of Mets Opening Day starters.

9. Bobby Jones, 1995-96, 1998

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    Bobby Jones made three Opening Days starts for the Mets in the mid-to-late '90s.

    Jones was never a stud, but he won double-digit games in each of his first four full seasons, and he only had one losing season with the team.

    There weren't too many star pitchers on these squad, like Matt Clark and an aging Bret Saberhagen, so Jones was the de facto go-to guy.

    Things were better in '98 with Rick Reed and Al Leiter on board.

8. Al Leiter, 1999, 2001-02

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    Al Leiter came to the Mets in 1998 following a trade that sent A.J. Burnett to the Florida Marlins.

    Leiter had finally broken through into a full-time gig with the Toronto Blue Jays as a 28-year-old in 1993, and he arrived in New York having won 38 games over the previous three seasons.

    What really gave him the edge going into 1999 was his phenomenal 1998 season, when he went 17-6 with a 2.47 ERA in 28 starts.

    Leiter went 95-67 in his seven years with New York, never finishing any season with a losing record.

    He was 2-1 in his Opening Day starts, and even though he was just an average pitcher who appeared to have peaked late when he first came to the club, he turned into one of the fan favourites and club anchors.

7. Mike Hampton, 2000

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    In a lot of other years, Mike Hampton's 1999 season would have earned him a Cy Young award. Unfortunately he ran into Randy Johnson, his 12 complete games and 2.48 ERA.

    Regardless, the Mets thought they had a long-term ace on their hands. They gave up Roger Cedeno and Octavio Dotel to lure him from the Astros, and they paid him almost $5.8 million, behind only Mike Piazza, Robin Ventura and Al Leiter.

    The Mets' newest All-Star went 15-10 and guided the team to its fourth World Series.

    Despite this, the club refused to essentially double his pay for 2001, and Hampton walked. He earned around $20 million with the Rockies in 2001-02, followed by around $60 million with the Braves over the next four years after being dealt from the Marlins.

6. Pedro Martinez, 2005

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    When the Mets signed Pedro Martinez as a free agent prior to the 2005 season, it gave the club one of the best veteran one-two punches in all of baseball.

    Glavine had already won two Cy Young awards, and Pedro added three more, although in fairness it could have been five or six.

    Pedro didn't come cheap, but at 34 years old, he no longer commanded the type of money the Red Sox had given him at the start of the decade.

    He came to the club with 11 double-digit winning seasons in 12 years and a reputation as a fierce competitor with the ability to strike out any hitter in the game.

    Willie Randolph made him his Opening Day starter in Cincinnati.

5. Johan Santana, 2008-10

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    The Mets gave up Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and a pair of minor-leaguers to acquire Santana from the Minnesota Twins in early 2008, signing him to a six-year, $137 million deal.

    As good as Santana is, he is not anywhere near the caliber of, say, a Tom Seaver.

    What he is, however, is a worthy ace. He could anchor any rotation in the Majors, and that is exactly what he did for the Mets between 2008 and 2010. Had he been healthy, there's no doubt that he would make his fourth Opening Day start this season, too.

    Santana collected two Cy Young awards in Minnesota, where he won 93 games in his eight-year spell with the team.

    He hasn't been as good in New York, but he's still the best they have, and the team will benefit from his presence back in the lineup when he returns after the All-Star break.

4. David Cone, 1992

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    David Cone got his first and only Opening Day start with the Mets in St. Louis on April 6, 1992.

    A former third-round draft pick, Cone came to the Mets in 1987 in a trade with the Kansas City Royals.

    He went 20-3 as a 25-year-old in his second full season in the majors (his first as an everyday starter), and he won 14 games in each of the next three years.

    Cone was great again for the Mets in the '92 season, but they sent him to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson.

    Cone went on to win 114 more games, five rings and a Cy Young award. Jeff Kent stuck around New York four years before bolting town and winning an MVP in San Francisco.

    A winner of 194 career games, Cone's right up with the best of them.

3. Tom Glavine, 2003-04, 2006-07

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    The Mets did not want to pay Mike Hampton the big money he wanted, but they did not hesitate to pull the trigger on obtaining Tom Glavine.

    Despite being 37 years old entering Opening Day in 2003, Glavine had an unbelievable pedigree. He had 242 career wins under his belt, and he was a two-time Cy Young winner and eight-time All-Star.

    The Mets had little hesitation in handing the aging Glavine his most lucrative deal ever.

    Art Howe gave the future Hall of Famer the ball against the Cubs at Shea on March 31, 2003, shuffling Leiter down to the No. 2 spot.

    Glavine went 61-56 with the Mets, winning his 300th career game with the club in 2007.

2. Dwight Gooden, 1985-86, 1988-91, 1993-94

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    Doc Gooden was the Mets' Opening Day starter eight times in 10 seasons, starting in 1985.

    He blazed to the RoY crown in '84 (when he was actually the team's No. 4 starter at the beginning of the year), and his dominance became known very quickly.

    He won the Cy Young as a sophomore, leading the NL in wins (24), ERA (1.53), complete games (16), innings pitched (276.2) and strikeouts (268) and never looked back.

    Other than his rookie year, Gooden did not start the first game of the year for the Mets on only two other occasions...in 1987 and 1992.

    In '87, Gooden did not pitch until the team's 100th game of the year (in June) because he was in drug rehab. In '92, he started the fifth game of the year.

    Gooden is still great, but just imagine what could have been.

1. Tom Seaver, 1968-77, 1983

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    The best thing that ever happened to the Mets came on April 3, 1966, when the team signed Tom Terrific.

    He made his debut as a 22-year-old in 1967 and ran away with the Rookie of the Year award, posting 16 wins and a 2.76 ERA.

    The Mets knew right then that they had something special, but I don't think they could have ever imagined that they had a three-time Cy Young winner and Hall of Famer on their hands.

    Seaver handled the Opening Day duties for the next decade. The Mets were 0-6 before Seaver was given the ball, and 7-3 on the first day of the season over the next 10 years.

    Three Presidents, more than 1,600 games and a World Series later, the Mets finally needed a new ace. That was, until 1983 when Seaver turned back the clock and dominated the Phillies.

    Seaver's the greatest Met ever by a long, long way.