New York Mets: Top 10 Shortstops in Team History
In part six of the greatest Mets in team history by position, we look at the shortstops.
Throughout franchise history, the Mets have almost always had a dependable shortstop with good defensive skills to anchor the infield. Not all of them have been great with the bat, but they certainly held their own each and every game.
Jose Reyes is currently the Mets shortstop, which he has been doing since 2003. He is having a great season so far with a .354 average, three home runs, 32 RBI, 22 doubles, 15 triples, 65 runs scored, 124 hits, 30 stolen bases, a .398 OBP and a .529 slugging percentage. He is in reach of several Mets team records at the pace he is going.
Hopefully Reyes will be able to return to the Mets after this season, being that his contract is done after 2011. There have been plenty of rumors that the Mets will trade Reyes or won't have the money to re-sign him, but hopefully, the Mets and Reyes will be able to work something out.
With this being said, here are the 10 best shortstops in Mets history.
10. Roy McMillan
Starting off the list is Roy McMillan, who spent the last three seasons of his career with the Mets.
McMillan was never a great hitter. He batted just .211 with one home run and 25 RBI in 1964, .242 with one home run and 42 RBI in 1965, and .214 with one home run and 12 RBI in 1966. However, he was a two-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner during his time with the Reds. As a result, he made up for his lack of hitting with his solid defense.
During his time with the Mets, McMillan was also helping to mentor another great Mets shortstop in Bud Harrelson. After retiring, McMillan later became a coach for the Mets in 1973. He held the position until midway through 1975 when he replaced Yogi Berra as the Mets' interim manager that year. After the 1975 season, Joe Frazier was hired and McMillan returned to once again being a coach.
Roy McMillan was not around that long with the Mets, but his solid defensive contributions and his mentoring of Bud Harrelson helped him get the No. 10 spot.
9. Frank Taveras
Another light-hitting shortstop that spent part of his career with the Mets was Frank Taveras.
Taveras had been with the Pirates throughout the 1970s until the Mets had worked out a deal to acquire him in exchange for Tim Foli and Greg Field in April of 1979.
This turned out to be a good move because Taveras had a solid season in what turned out to be a disastrous season for the Mets in 1979. Taveras that year batted .263 with 26 doubles, one home run and 33 RBI. That home run turned out to be the only one he hit over the fence in his entire career. He had nine triples that year, which set a team record at the time. He also set another team record with 42 stolen bases as well.
Taveras had 167 hits that year, but he was not the most patient at the plate, as illustrated by his .301 OBP and 33 walks for the season.
Taveras followed up with another good season in 1980. He raised his average to .279 and had 27 doubles, 25 RBI and 32 stolen bases. However, in 1981, Taveras only appeared in 84 games thanks to the midseason player's strike. His average fell to just .230, and his doubles, RBI and stolen bases totals also fell to 11, 11 and 16, respectively.
After the 1981 season, the Mets traded Taveras to the Expos for minor leaguer Steve Ratzer. Taveras played sparingly that year and was released in August after batting .161 in 48 games.
Frank Taveras was not a superstar, but had a couple solid seasons during his brief time with the Mets.
8. Al Weis
Although he was more or less a utility infielder and spent most of his time at second base, Al Weis is still one of the better shortstops the Mets have had and played a key role in the 1969 championship.
Weis had spent the first six years of his career with the White Sox from 1962-1967 before he and Tommie Agee were traded to the Mets for Tommy Davis, Jack Fisher, Billy Wynne and Buddy Booker prior to the 1968 season.
An original switch-hitter, Weis had a poor offensive season off the bench in 1968. He batted only .172 with one home run and 14 RBI in 274 at-bats. As a result, Weis decided to become just a right-handed hitter for good.
In 1969, Weis played part-time at both second base and shortstop. He raised his average to .215, hit two home runs and drove in 23 RBI. Those numbers are not great by any means, but Weis was certainly clutch in dramatic form.
In Game 2 of the 1969 World Series, Weis hit the game-winning single to bring home Ed Charles. The Mets won that game 2-1. But his biggest career moment occurred in the decisive Game 5. With only six career home runs under his belt, Weis hit a home run off Dave McNally in the 7th inning to tie the game at 3-3. The Mets would score two more runs in the eighth inning and then win their first-ever championship in franchise history.
Weis' career though would not be the same after the 1969 World Series. He batted .207 with one home run and 11 RBI in 1970. In 121 at-bats that year, he only drew seven walks. In 1971, Weis was released in early July. He did not collect a single hit that year in the 11 at-bats he had.
Al Weis may have just been another utility infielder, but his World Series contributions have been some of the most significant moments in Mets history and he deserves to be recognized for this.
7. Kevin Elster
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Continuing the Mets' trend of light-hitting shortstops is Kevin Elster.
Elster was originally called up to the Mets in September of 1986. He batted just .167 in 30 at-bats. He also played briefly in 1987 with four hits in only 10 at-bats.
Elster did not get a regular role with the Mets until Rafael Santana was traded away. Elster then became the Mets' regular shortstop. He batted .214 in his rookie season with nine home runs and 37 RBI.
However, he did not play every inning at shortstop in the postseason so that manager Davey Johnson could use his best hitters all in the lineup. This was why Howard Johnson played shortstop sometimes, so that Gregg Jefferies and Dave Magadan could both play as well. Elster was the weaker hitter and that was why he was left out.
While the Mets did not significantly improve as a team in 1989, Elster had perhaps his best season as a Met. He raised his average to .231 and had 10 home runs and 55 RBI. He also added 25 doubles.
Elster, though, regressed a bit in 1990. His average fell to .207 and his home run and RBI totals were lowered to nine and 45, respectively. However, he also missed the last two months of the season with shoulder tendinitis.
During the 1988 and 1989 seasons, Elster set a new errorless streak for shortstops with 88 consecutive errorless games. Cal Ripken would then surpass him in 1990.
Elster's last full season as a Met was in 1991. He raised his average to .241 and had six home runs and 36 RBI. After playing in just six games in the beginning of 1992, Elster was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury and never played again as a Met.
Elster then became a journeyman infielder and played with the Yankees (1994-1995), Phillies (1995), Rangers (1996, 1998), Pirates (1997) and Dodgers (2000) before retiring. His shoulder injuries definitely played a major role as to why his career did not turn out as good as it could have been.
Kevin Elster was yet another light-hitting Mets shortstop whose career could have been better had it not been for his recurring shoulder injuries. Nonetheless, he was regular in the late 1980s during the Mets' best winning stretch in team history.
6. Rafael Santana
The man that Kevin Elster replaced at shortstop was Rafael Santana, a member of the 1986 championship team.
Santana made his MLB debut with the Cardinals in 1983, but signed with the Mets prior to the 1984 season. He batted a career-high .276 that year with one home run and 12 RBI while backing up Jose Oquendo at shortstop.
After Oquendo was traded away, Santana became the everyday shortstop, mostly thanks to his solid defensive skills. He batted .257 in 1985 with one home run and 29 RBI. He also had a .965 fielding percentage that year.
During the championship season of 1986, Santana batted just .218 with one home run and 28 RBI. Being the eighth hitter in the lineup, though, he also had 12 intentional walks. Santana did not hit particularly well in the postseason, but set new NLCS records for most putouts (13), assists (18) and accepted changes (31) for a shortstop in a six-game series.
Santana then had his most productive offensive season as a Met in 1987. Although he batted .255, he set career highs with five home runs and 44 RBI. However, after the season, Santana was traded to the Yankees with Victor Garcia for Phil Lombardi, Darren Reed and Steve Frey.
Santana batted .240 with four home runs and 38 RBI for the Yankees in 1988 before missing the entire 1989 season with an elbow injury. He played in seven games for the Indians in 1990 before getting released and retiring at just 32 years old.
After retiring, Santana has stayed active as a minor league coach for various organizations over the years. He's also part of the Mets Alumni Association and has made occasional appearances at Mets games.
Although he will mostly be remembered as the shortstop of the Mets in 1986, Santana was definitely one of the better all-around shortstops the Mets have had.
5. Jose Vizcaino
One of the better offensive shortstops in team history believe it or not was Jose Vizcaino. The switch-hitting and goggle-wearing shortstop certainly made the most of a brief three-year tenure with the Mets.
Vizcaino played with the Dodgers from 1989-1990 and the Cubs from 1991-1993 before getting traded to the Mets for Anthony Young. Vizcanio immediately became the starting shortstop in 1994. He batted .256 with three home runs and 33 RBI for the year before the player's strike wiped out the rest of the season.
In 1995, Vizcaino was even better with a .287 average, three home runs, 56 RBI and 21 doubles. He became a dependable table-setter for fellow infielders Rico Brogna and Jeff Kent.
In 1996, Vizcaino was moved to second base upon the arrival of Rey Ordonez. He played in 96 games for the Mets that year and batted .303 with one home run, 32 RBI and a .356 OBP before getting traded with Kent to the Indians for Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza in a deal the Mets would later regret.
Vizcaino played with the Indians for the rest of 1996 before getting traded again to the Giants prior to the 1997 season. He then became a journeyman infielder and spent time with the Dodgers (1998-2000), Yankees (2000), Astros (2001-2005), Giants (2006) and Cardinals (2006). Mets fans, though, remember him mostly for hitting the game-winning single for the Yankees in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series.
Jose Vizcaino was not around particularly long with the Mets, but had some better offensive numbers than some of his predecessors.
4. Howard Johnson
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Howard Johnson is more well known as a third baseman, but he also played a good number of games at shortstop with the Mets. He is ranked at fourth in part because he was a great hitter, but also in part because shortstop was a secondary position for him.
Johnson originally came to the Mets in exchange for Walt Terrell prior to the 1985 season. He batted .242 that year with 11 home runs and 46 RBI while platooning with Ray Knight at third base. In 1986, Knight got more playing time because Johnson had struggled at the plate for most of the season. Johnson finished the 1986 season with a .245 average, 10 home runs and 39 RBI. He did not play much in the postseason as Ray Knight became the World Series MVP.
However, Knight was not re-signed by the Mets and Johnson became the starting third baseman. He broke out in 1987 and batted .265 with 36 home runs and 99 RBI. He also added 32 stolen bases as he and Darryl Strawberry became the first Mets to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season. As a result, Johnson even received 42 points in the MVP voting. His home run total also broke a 53-year-old record that Ripper Collins had among switch-hitting National League shortstops.
Johnson did not find the same success in 1988, but he still hit 24 home runs, despite driving in only 68 RBI and batting .230. Johnson, though, struggled late in the season and found himself playing shortstop sometimes to let the young Gregg Jefferies get some time at third base. He only had one hit in the NLCS that year.
Johnson then continued his trend of hitting very well in odd-numbered years. In 1989, Johnson had one of his two best seasons and made his first All-Star team and even started the game at third base. His numbers that year were better than his 1987 numbers as he became the third player in MLB history to have multiple 30 home run and 30 stolen base seasons. He finished the year with a .287 average, 41 doubles, 36 home runs and 101 RBI. He also had a career-high 41 stolen bases, 104 runs scored and a .559 slugging percentage. As a result, Johnson won his first Silver Slugger award.
Johnson then had a decent season in 1990. He batted .244 with 23 home runs and 90 RBI. He also had 37 doubles and 34 stolen bases. He played more shortstop that year and only batted .208 from the right side, which did not help his numbers.
1991, though, would become Johnson's other career season. He led the National League in both home runs and RBI with 38 and 117, respectively. The RBI total set a new Mets record that Bernard Gilkey would tie in 1996, but Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura both broke that record in 1999. He made his second All-Star team and won his second Silver Slugger award. He also added 34 doubles, 30 stolen bases and a .535 slugging percentage.
Johnson would have gotten more MVP consideration, but the Mets as a team were so bad that year that Johnson was simply a one-man show. The one downside to this season was that Johnson also had 31 errors at third base, which led to him becoming an outfielder.
As the Mets' new center fielder in 1992, Johnson struggled at the plate and with injuries. He finished with just a .223 average, seven home runs and 43 RBI. His season ended in August after a fractured wrist. 1993 was not much better for Johnson or the Mets. Johnson finished that year with a .238 average, seven home runs and 26 RBI as the Mets lost over 100 games. After the 1993 season, Johnson's time was up with the Mets.
He played with the Rockies in 1994 and the Cubs in 1995, but struggled in both years as a bench player. He did not make a major league roster in 1996 and decided to retire as a Met in spring training of 1997.
Since retiring, Johnson has been a coach, mostly within the Mets organization. He was most notably the Mets' first base coach and later hitting coach starting in 2007 and he remained with the Mets through 2010.
Howard Johnson was one of the greatest third basemen to play for the Mets and also played a good amount of shortstop. However, because he did not play as much shortstop, he is not ranked higher in this list as he would have been among third basemen.
3. Rey Ordonez
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One of the best defensive shortstops in Mets history has to be Rey Ordonez, a staple for the Mets in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Ordonez was not a good hitter, but was often spectacular in the field.
Ordonez was brought up to the Mets in 1996 and thanks to his defense, Jose Vizcaino moved to second base and Jeff Kent went to third base. As a rookie, Ordonez batted .257 with one home run and 30 RBI. However, Ordonez was a known free-swinger and walked just 22 times (10 unintentional) in 151 games. Somehow, Ordonez finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Ordonez improved in 1997 despite only batting .216. He hit one home run, drove in 33 RBI and stole a career-high 11 bases. He also increased his unintentional walk total by 15 and won his first of three consecutive Gold Glove awards. Ordonez missed a month of the season with a broken bone in his glove hand, and as a result, Manny Alexander got more playing time at shortstop.
After Alexander got traded away, Luis Lopez also saw some playing time at the position. In September, after hitting his only home run of the season, he went on an 0-37 slump, which set a new team record.
After the 1997 season, Ordonez decided to change his number from 0 to 10. This was a smart idea as the new Ordonez became certainly better than the old. Ordonez batted .246 in 1998 with 20 doubles, one home run and 42 RBI. He continued his familiar trend of hitting his only home run of each year in September.
Ordonez improved a lot in 1999 as he had his career season. He batted a career-high .258 and also had a career-best 60 RBI and 24 doubles. As a result, this landed him a four-year contract that the Mets would wish they never gave.
Ordonez had another similar season in 2000 before breaking his arm in late May and missing the rest of the season. As a result, the Mets were forced to trade for Mike Bordick in July, who did not do too well as a rental player.
Ordonez was not the same after his injury in 2000. He had lost his defensive range, which was pretty much his only strength as a player. He hit a career-high three home runs in 2001, but his average fell to .247 and his RBI total fell to 44. He did tie his career high with 24 doubles though.
Ordonez's last year with the Mets was in 2002. By then, his defense was even worse and his .254 average, one home run and 42 RBI was still not good enough. He then called Mets fans "stupid," and as a result, he was traded to the Devil Rays after the season.
Rey Ordonez was certainly more flashy than most of his predecessors, in regards to both defense and personality. His three Gold Gloves certainly helped him get at high as he is on this ranking.
2. Bud Harrelson
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The original Mets standard at shortstop for many years has been Derrel McKinley Harrelson, who is simply known as Bud. A defensively oriented shortstop with a lot of heart, Harrelson played from 1965-1977 and is by far the longest-tenured shortstop in team history.
Harrelson first came up in 1965, but only batted .108 in 19 games. He then appeared in 33 games in 1966 as Roy McMillan's backup. He batted .222 that year.
Harrelson did not get a regular starting job until 1967. He batted .254 for the year with one home run and 28 RBI. He anchored the Mets defense for the first of 13 consecutive seasons.
In 1968, Harrelson batted .219 with no home runs and 14 RBI. He followed this up with a .248 average, no home runs and 24 RBI during the Mets' championship run in 1969. That year, the switch-hitting Harrelson was one of the few regulars to start every day and not be in a platoon.
Harrelson only collected two hits in the 1969 NLCS, but both were extra-base hits and he had three RBI in the series. He had three hits during the World Series.
In 1970, Harrelson made his first All-Star team, batted .243, hit one home run and collected a career-high 42 RBI.
In 1971, Harrelson had arguably his most complete season. He batted .252 with no home runs and 32 RBI. He made his second All-Star team and won his only career Gold Glove award that year.
In 1972, Harrelson's average fell to .215. He also had one home run and 24 RBI. He followed this up with a career-high .258 average, along with no home runs and 20 RBI in 1973.
Perhaps Harrelson's most memorable moment occurred during the 1973 NLCS against the Reds. After Jon Matlack's complete game victory in Game 2, Harrelson commented that Matlack made the Big Red Machine look like him at the plate. Prior to Game 3, Reds second baseman Joe Morgan told Harrelson that Pete Rose was not happy with the comment.
In the fifth inning, with Rose on first, Morgan grounded into a double play. Rose slid hard into second base, which resulted in a bench-clearing brawl between Harrelson and Rose. Fans in left field started throwing objects onto the field and manager Yogi Berra and a few of his players were summoned to calm the fans. The Mets would end up winning their series against the Reds, but lost in the World Series to the Oakland A's.
Harrelson's average fell in 1974 to just .227. He added one home run and just 13 RBI. He missed most of the 1975 season thanks to knee surgery and only appeared in 34 games that year.
In 1976, Harrelson batted .234 with one home run and 26 RBI. By that time, most of his 1969 and 1973 teammates had retired or gone elsewhere and Harrelson's time was coming to an end as well.
Harrelson's last season with the Mets was during the infamous 1977 season. He batted just .178 with one home run and 12 RBI before getting traded to the Phillies in the offseason.
Harrelson spent 1978 and 1979 with the Phillies and 1980 with the Rangers before retiring. He soon became a Mets minor league coach, and in 1985, after Bobby Valentine accepted the Rangers' managerial position, Harrelson became Davey Johnson's third base coach. He would get his second championship with the Mets as a coach in 1986. As a result, he is the only person to be a member of both the 1969 and 1986 championship teams. He was also inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1986.
In 1990, after Johnson was fired, Harrelson replaced him as the new manager. He led the Mets that year to a second-place finish and earned another season as manager. 1991 however was certainly not as good for Harrelson and the Mets. The veteran team underachieved mightily and collapsed in the second half before Harrelson himself was fired with a week left in the season.
Since then, Harrelson has stayed active as part of the Mets Alumni Association. He makes occasional appearances at Citi Field and was there in 2009 for the 40th anniversary of the 1969 team.
The original standard of a Met shortstop, Bud Harrelson had been the greatest Met to play the position. However, the top spot on the list no longer belongs to him.
1. Jose Reyes
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Many of the Mets shortstops in this list could certainly hold their own in the field. But none of them were able to hit as well as Jose Reyes has so far.
Reyes was originally signed by the Mets in 1999 and made his MLB debut in June of 2003. The original plan was to have Rey Sanchez, who replaced Rey Ordonez after 2002, be the Mets shortstop that year and let Reyes develop a little more in the minors. However, Sanchez was a bust and Reyes was brought up just in time.
Reyes went 2-4 in his first MLB game and hit a grand slam for his first career home run. Unfortunately after just 69 games, Reyes' season was cut short due to an ankle sprain. He batted .307 for the year with five home runs and 32 RBI. He also added 13 stolen bases.
In 2004, Reyes was unwisely moved to second base in order to accommodate the arrival of Kaz Matsui. This was not a fun season for Reyes, who looked awkward at second base and missed most of the season with hamstring and fibula injuries. He only appeared in 53 games that year and batted .255 with two home runs, 14 RBI and 19 stolen bases.
In 2005, Reyes was moved back to shortstop, while Matsui, who struggled in 2004 was shifted to second base. During his first full season, Reyes had a breakout year. He batted .273 with seven home runs, 58 RBI, 24 doubles, 13 triples and 60 stolen bases. The triples and stolen bases he had both led the league.
He did not show a lot of patience at the plate as he only drew 27 walks in a Mets' record 733 plate appearances. In fact, Reyes appeared in all but one game that year.
Reyes had his best overall season to date in 2006. He batted .300 with a career-high 19 home runs and 81 RBI out of the leadoff spot. He also added 122 runs scored, 194 hits, 30 doubles, 17 triples, 64 stolen bases and a .354 OBP. He once again led the league in triples and stolen bases. Reyes won his only Silver Slugger award and made his first All-Star team, but missed the game due to an injury. He even had a three-home run game that year, and is the most recent Met to do so.
Reyes had another solid season in 2007. His average, home runs and RBI slipped to .280, 12 and 57, respectively. But he also had 119 runs scored, 191 hits, 36 doubles, 12 triples and a career-high 78 stolen bases, which again led the league and became a new Mets record. He made his second All-Star team that year as well. Unfortunately, Reyes struggled mightily in September and was widely criticized during the Mets' infamous collapse that year.
In 2008, Reyes had yet another great season. He batted .297 with 16 home runs, 68 RBI, 113 runs scored, a career and league-high 204 hits, a career high 37 doubles and 19 triples, and 56 stolen bases. His triples total also led the league. That year, Reyes broke Mookie Wilson's career triples and stolen bases records, which he still holds today.
With the Mets moving to Citi Field in 2009, Reyes' expectations were even higher. However, 2009 was a year to forget for Reyes. In early May, he was placed on the disabled list with a calf injury. He was expected to return after a few weeks, but re-injured himself while rehabbing. He, along with a good number of other Mets, missed the rest of the season. He finished the year with a .279 average, two home runs, 15 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 36 games.
2010 did not get off to a good start for Reyes, in regards to his health. He was told to not participate in spring training due to a hyperactive thyroid gland. He missed the first few weeks while on the disabled list and later missed some time in July due to another leg injury. At one point, he batted exclusively right-handed, which did not end up working well.
However, Reyes later got healthy and showed signs of the player he had been from 2005-2008. He ended the season with a .282 average, 11 home runs, 54 RBI, 29 doubles, 10 triples and 30 stolen bases. He made his third All-Star team but did not play due to an injury.
Reyes' 2011 season began with a lot of talk about his future, being that his option was picked up and he is in the last year of his current contract. There was also talk about his history with injuries. Despite going through a current hamstring injury that will probably sideline him for a couple of weeks, Reyes has had an amazing comeback season so far.
At the All-Star break, he has a league-leading .354 average, three home runs, 32 RBI, 124 hits, 22 doubles, 15 triples, 30 stolen bases, a .398 OBP and a surprisingly good .529 slugging percentage. He was elected to start this year's All-Star Game, but once again, he will not be able to participate due to an injury.
Hopefully Reyes can continue his staggering dominance and set some records, whether it be within the Mets or throughout the league. Thanks to his success, the Mets may also be more open to contract discussions, so hopefully that can work out as well!
Jose Reyes is by far the best all-around shorstop the Mets have ever had, and hopefully, his time here is far from being over.