New York Mets: 13 Players Who Have Had Better Careers on Other Teams
Perhaps it's just coincidence and happenstance, but it seems like the New York Mets have had the worst luck and/or timing when it comes to collecting talent on their roster.
Whenever they would obtain a perennial All-Star-type player or former MVP, that player would prove to be a huge bust and completely tank with the Mets.
On the flip side, the Mets seem to always trade away or let go of players who would go on to lead All-Star, MVP and even Hall of Fame careers.
The talent that has come and gone through the Mets is quite extraordinary. So, let's take a look at some of the top players, past and present, the Mets either gave up on too soon, or brought in too late in their respective careers.
2B: Jeff Kent
I grew up with the likes of Jeff Kent on the Mets. Those were the days (in the early-to-mid 90s) when the Mets were bad...real bad. But no one really cared, because they were the Mets—all soft and cuddly.
Kent was drafted in 1989 by the Toronto Blue Jays. Three years later, he was dealt to the Mets for future Cy Young award winner David Cone. And during his tenure in Queens, Kent was a fan favorite, and he put up some decent numbers.
Spanning parts of five seasons with the Mets, Kent had just over 2,000 at-bats. He collected 67 HR and 252 RBI.
But in July of 1996, the Mets traded him to the Cleveland Indians. I can recall being at the game, when the stadium crew posted on the scoreboard that the Mets had traded Kent and fellow fan favorite Jose Vizcaino to the Indians for Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza.
Kent was a rental player for the Tribe, who were making a mid-season playoff push. They traded Kent during that offseason to the San Francisco Giants, where his career really took off. He earned his first All-Star nomination in 1999, and in 2000 he was named the league's MVP. That year, he cracked 33 HR and drove in 125 runs for the Giants.
Kent would go on to play for the Astros and Dodgers, finishing his career in Los Angeles in 2008. For his career, Kent collected 377 home runs, 1,518 RBI and was a five-time All-Star. And the majority of this offensive production came while playing the second base position.
He is still a couple of years away from Hall of Fame eligibility, but his name could be called into Cooperstown before all is said and done. Just another former Met to go on to have a dynamite career.
SP: Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan...heard of him? You might recognize him as the man who has thrown seven career no-hitters. He's a Hall of Fame legend, and now the owner of the Texas Rangers.
But the Ryan Express got his start as a member of the New York Mets, appearing in two games in 1966, after being drafted in the 12th round a year prior. His debut season was a cup of coffee with the team, and he spent the entire following season in the minor leagues.
But in 1968, Ryan would be in the Major Leagues for good. That season, he went 6-9 with a 3.09 ERA for the Mets. A year later, he helped the Mets win the 1969 World Series, pitching part-time out of the bullpen.
Ryan would spend two more seasons in Queens. His numbers in the blue and orange were anything but spectacular. Over the four seasons (plus two games), he amassed a 29-38 record with 493 strikeouts—or about 8.5 percent of his career strikeout totals.
In December of 1971, the Mets pulled off the infamous Jim Fergosi deal with the California Angels. Ryan would go on to play in 23 more seasons, was an eight-time All-Star and is the all-time leader in strikeouts with 5,714. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1999. And of the seven no-hitters he threw in his career, none of them came as a member of the Mets.
Fergosi played in a season and change for the Mets, collecting five home runs in 146 games.
LF: Vince Coleman
It can be said that Vince Coleman was bit of a base stealer in his day. The speedy switch-hitter made his Major League debut in 1985 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, at just 23 years of age. He would go on to steal more than 100 bases in each of his first three seasons.
In 1990, the Mets signed Coleman to a four-year, $12 million contract. But his tenure in a Mets uniform did not exactly go as planned. After averaging 146 games played and 92 bases stolen in his six seasons as a Red Bird, Coleman played in a total of 235 games for the Mets, while swiping 99 bases over three seasons.
After several off-field issues, the Mets dealt Coleman to the Kansas City Royals for Kevin McReynolds. Coleman would go on to play parts of four more seasons after leaving Queens, and was never quite the same player he was in St. Louis. As it turns out, him signing with the Mets was the worst move of his professional career.
He still ranks sixth all-time in stolen bases, with 752 over his 13-year career.
CF: Willie Mays
Willie Mays might be the greatest player to step foot on a baseball field. The accolades and awards are never-ending. Over 3,200 hits, 660 HR, NL Rookie of the Year, two-time NL MVP, a 20-time All-Star and 12-time Gold Glove winner.
The Say Hey Kid spent the majority of his 22-year career with the Giants (New York and San Francisco). But he spent the final two years playing in Queens. In May of 1972, the Mets sent Charlie Williams to the Giants in exchange for the future Hall of Famer, in what was primarily a glitz and glamor acquisition.
By the time Mays came to the Mets, he was already 41 years old. There was little left for Mays to accomplish. But he played in a little over 130 games during his time with the Mets, collecting 14 HR and 44 RBI. The Mays that played for the Mets was not the same Mays that played for the Giants.
2B: Carlos Baerga
The Mets acquired infielder Carlos Baerga from the Cleveland Indians, when they traded another member of this list—Jeff Kent. And as if it were scripted, Kent would go on to have an MVP-type career.
However, Baerga would be anything but spectacular for the Mets. In the 26 games he would play for them in 1996 (the season in which they obtained him), he batted .193 with two home runs and 11 RBI. And overall, in parts of three seasons (just over 300 games) with the Mets, Baerga only managed to hit 18 home runs—fewer than he hit in his final season and a half in Cleveland.
Baerga was an All-Star three times with the Indians. But once he was jettisoned to the Mets, he was never able to recapture that offensive prowess. From the time he came to the Mets until the end of his career (in 2005), he hit only 29 home runs.
SS: Marco Scutaro
The Mets never really gave Marco Scutaro a chance to prove his value. He came up with the Mets in 2002 and appeared in just 27 games. He played 48 more games for the Mets in 2003, and never really got going with the club.
But from 2004-2010, Scutaro became a nice little player for the A's, Blue Jays and Red Sox. He eclipsed 100 hits four times, and his 88 hits in 2007 was the furthest he's been from 100 since leaving the Mets.
He's not an All-Star; he's not an MVP; he hasn't won a World Series. But he's a hard-nosed player who can play multiple infield positions and get the job done. The Mets may have given up on the 35-year-old a bit too prematurely.
LF: Moises Alou
It was a bit of a head-scratcher when the Mets signed then 40-year-old Moises Alou to a one-year, $8.5 million contract before the 2007 season. He was in the midst of an apparent career decline, as the number of games he appeared in decreased from 155 in 2004, down to 98 in '06.
In his first year as a Met, Alou appeared in 87 games—his lowest total since his 1990 rookie campaign. He hit 13 HR that year and the signing appeared to be a complete bust.
But it must not have been so apparent to the Mets front office. The contract Alou signed in November of 2006 included a $7.5 million option—an option the Mets picked up before the '08 season. In return for their efforts, Alou would provide the Mets with a new career-low 15 games played, with no home runs and nine runs driven in. In June of '08, his season, and career were over.
Alou was a six-time All-Star prior to joining the Mets. He helped the Florida Marlins win their first-ever World Series championship in 1997. And he averaged 24 home runs a season from 1993-2006. Production the Mets would never see for themselves.
1B: Mo Vaughn
After spending eight seasons (and hitting 230 home runs) in Beantown, Vaughn was headed to the City of Angels. In December of 1998, he signed six-year, $80 million contract with the Angels, which was the highest contract in the game at that time.
He would play in two seasons for the Angels, before undergoing surgery on his left bicep, ending his 2001 campaign before it began. He maintained his monstrous offense in Anaheim, belting 69 HR in the two seasons.
Then, in what became an oft-ridiculed move by then-GM Steve Phillips, the New York Mets acquired Vaughn for pitcher Kevin Appier prior to the 2002 season. The mighty Vaughn managed to muscle up 26 HR in '02, but was not nearly as fearsome of a hitter as he was in Boston.
He played in just 27 games in 2003 before a knee injury ended his season, and his career. The Vaughn trade was just one of many bust trades performed by the Mets front office over the years. Vaughn does have the distinction of being the last position player to wear the No. 42 on his jersey.
He was the 1995 AL MVP and a three-time All-Star. But with the Mets, he was nothing more than a hazard at first base and yet another publicity nightmare for the Mets.
3B: Ty Wigginton
Ty Wigginton was drafted by the Mets in 1998. He came up with them in 2002. And before long, he endeared himself to Mets fans with his hard play and adoring smile.
And he put up some decent numbers in his two-and-a-half seasons as a Met. He had 71 RBI in 2003, his first full season in the big leagues. He collected a total of 29 HR during his time in blue and orange.
But just before the 2004 non-waiver trade deadline, the Mets dealt Wiggy and Jose Bautista (who could just as easily made this list) to the Pirates for Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger (who also could be on this list).
Benson would go on to be a complete disaster for the Mets, with his wife Anna becoming an off-field distraction.
But Wigginton has gone on to have himself a pretty good career. He's played with a lot of ball clubs during his 10-plus years as a big-leaguer. He was an All-Star for the first time in 2010. He's hit at least 20 home runs in a season four times during his career. And he's been able to find ample playing time, playing multiple games at five different positions.
There's no doubt that the Mets, and their fans, would love to have him back in the fold and miss his presence in the clubhouse.
LF: George Foster
Before George Foster came to the Mets in 1982, he had already claimed an NL MVP award (1977), a World Series ring (1976) and five All-Star appearances (1976-79 and 1981). A key cog in the Big Red Machine during the 1970s, Foster was a hitting machine.
But just before the 1982 season, Foster was traded by the Reds to the Mets. The Reds must have foreseen that Foster's career was taking a nosedive, something the Mets probably should have noticed. His 1981 offensive production was the worse since his output in 1975. And that trend continued once he arrived at Shea.
As a member of the Mets in his mid-30s, Foster wound up with a .252 batting average and just 99 home runs in four seasons. His numbers weren't terrible with the Mets, but they certainly were not what they were with the Reds.
P: Jason Isringhausen
Jason Isringhausen was supposed to be an ace. Drafted in the 44th round in 1991, the expectations for "Izzy" were extremely high, especially for a 19-year-old out of Brighton, IL.
He had a remarkable debut season in 1995, finishing with a 2.81 ERA in 14 games. But that was pretty much the beginning of the end for Isringhausen and the Mets. Due to a rash of injuries, the wheels quickly fell off.
The following year, Izzy lost 14 games for the Mets while suffering through bone spurs and a torn rib cage muscle. He began the 1997 season in the minors and, in an act of rage, punched a trash can.
The trash can won, and he wound up with a broken wrist, which caused him to miss the majority of the that season. And in January 1998, he underwent reconstructive surgery on his right elbow and missed that entire season.
Now, after about 12 years of success away from the team that originally drafted him (he recorded almost 300 saves between Oakland and St. Louis), Isringhausen is in the bullpen for the Mets in 2011. At 38 years old, he's clearly not the same pitcher he was in 1995. And after three Tommy John surgeries, it remains unclear just what dividends the Mets will receive from their former top prospect.
2B: Roberto Alomar
When the Mets acquired Roberto Alomar from the Cleveland Indians prior to the 2002 season, there was a mixed reaction among fans. Indeed, they would have the chance to see a future Hall of Famer play at Shea Stadium. Alomar was coming off a 2001 season that saw him hit .336 with 20 HR and 100 RBI, earning his fourth consecutive Gold Glove in the process.
But there was a sense of trepidation in the air as well. Alomar was 34 when he began his Mets career, and to obtain his services, the Mets had to part ways with a young, up-and-coming outfielder named Alex Escobar. Escobar was billed as the next big prospect in the Mets' system.
As it turns out, the naysayers proved to be half right in this case. Escobar never really blossomed into the highlight player he was expected to be. But Alomar absolutely tanked as a member of the Mets. Over the season and a half he played in Queens, Alomar recorded 13 HR and a .265 batting average. No All-Star appearances, no Gold Gloves, no glory.
Alomar will be inducted into Cooperstown in July. He's a 12-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner and one of the greatest second basemen to play the game. But his time as a Met may not even make mention in his Hall of Fame induction speech.
RF: Shawn Green
Green was a two-time All-Star with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. He slugged 49 home runs for the Dodgers in '01 and has a career .283 batting average.
But the Mets really didn't receive the bang from Green they were expecting. Though he was somewhat productive in the postseason in '06, his numbers were less than stunning as a Met. In a season and change, he collected 14 HR, and 61 RBI—hardly worth making a buzz about.
Green finished his career with the Mets in 2007 at the age of just 34.