New York Mets: Top 10 Relievers of All Time
In the final part in the series of the greatest Mets of all time by position, the relief pitchers are fittingly the ones that will wrap it up.
The Mets have always had some of the better closers in baseball during various eras in the past 50 years. Some have certainly been power pitchers, while others have relied more on control and finesse. But all of these relievers have made valuable contributions to Mets' history during their respective tenures.
Jason Isringhausen is the Mets current closer in his second stint with the team. Francisco Rodriguez had been the team's closer since 2009, but he got traded in July 2011 to the Brewers.
So, open the bullpen gate as the top 10 countdown of the greatest relievers in Mets' history begins.
Honorable Mention: Skip Lockwood
Although he did not make the list, Skip Lockwood should be recognized as one of the more dignified Mets relievers in the late 1970s. He was the Mets' closer between the Tug McGraw and Jesse Orosco/Roger McDowell eras. Unfortunately for him, he was also the Mets' closer during one of the darkest eras in franchise history.
Lockwood first came up with the Kansas City A's in 1965 but then did not make the major leagues again until 1969 with the Seattle Pilots. He stayed with the Pilots from 1970-1973, including when the team moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers.
After moving on to the Angels in 1974, Lockwood joined the Mets in 1975. That year, he went 1-3 with a 2.49 ERA and two saves. He did not became the Mets' full-time closer until 1976, when he went 10-7 with a 2.67 ERA and 19 saves.
In 1977, Lockwood went 4-8 with a 3.38 ERA and 20 saves. That year, he established a then-season record 63 appearances for a pitcher. In 1978, Lockwood went 7-13 with a 3.57 ERA and 15 saves. A year later, Lockwood was 2-5 with a 1.49 ERA and nine saves before a shoulder injury caused him to miss the rest of the 1979 season.
In 1980, Lockwood signed with the Red Sox and spent the year there. He then got released during the 1981 spring training and subsequently retired.
Two years later, Lockwood graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an S.M. This made him one of the very few M.I.T. graduates to have been in professional baseball.
Lockwood was a good closer during some bad Mets years, but he certainly was one of the brighter spots of those teams and a good closer who should not be forgotten.
10. Turk Wendell
While closers may get the most fame among relief pitchers, there is one middle reliever who stood out in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That would be Turk Wendell, who was one of the backbones of the Mets' bullpen during his time and probably the most superstitious player to ever wear a Mets uniform.
Wendell was initially drafted by the Braves in 1988 but got traded to the Cubs in 1991. He made his major league debut with the Cubs in 1993. However, he only made 13 combined appearances on the major league club between 1993 and 1994.
Wendell became a mainstay in the Cubs bullpen from 1995-1997 before getting traded to the Mets at the 1997 trade deadline, along with Brian McRae and Mel Rojas, for Lance Johnson, Mark Clark and Manny Alexander.
Steve Phillips, the brand new Mets General Manager at the time, completed the trade to acquire more bullpen depth and Rojas, a former Expos closer, was deemed the centerpiece. However, Rojas was the one who ended up being a completed bust, and Wendell became the steal of the trade.
After becoming a Met, Wendell went 0-0 with a 4.96 ERA and one save in 13 appearances in 1997. He finished the whole season with a 3-5 record and a 4.36 ERA.
In 1998, Wendell teamed up with left-handed specialist Dennis Cook to become one of the best right-left bullpen tandems in baseball. Wendell went 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA and four saves that year, as he became John Franco's set-up man.
In 1999, Wendell was even better and went 5-4 with a 3.05 ERA and three saves. He set a then-team record with 80 appearances. He also had 77 strikeouts in just 85.2 innings. In the 1999 postseason, Wendell did not give up a single run during the NLDS but gave up three runs in 5.2 combined innings during the NLCS.
In 2000, Wendell won eight games out of the bullpen and had a 3.59 ERA, one save and 73 strikeouts in 82.2 innings. In the 2000 postseason, Wendell did not give up any runs in both the NLDS and the NLCS.
However, during the World Series, Wendell was the losing pitcher in Game 1 after giving up a walk-off single to former Met Jose Vizcaino. He then pitched two-thirds of an inning in Game 3 but did not give up any hits or runs.
In 2001, Wendell was 4-3 with a 3.51 ERA and one save before getting traded with Cook to the Phillies for Bruce Chen and Adam Walker. He left behind a 22-14 record, a 3.34 ERA and 259 strikeouts in just 285 appearances as a Met.
Wendell spent the rest of 2001 with the Phillies, missed the 2002 season due to an elbow injury and returned to the Phillies in 2003 before signing a minor league contract with the Rockies.
Wendell's 2004 season was injury-plagued, and he shuffled back and forth between the Rockies and the minor leagues. He then signed a minor league contract with the Astros in 2005, but once he found out he was not going to make the team out of spring training, he decided to retire.
As a Met, Wendell was not just a fan favorite because of his dominant pitching but also because of the personality he brought with him. Wendell was very energetic at all times on the field, and his many superstitions became known to all Mets fans.
Wendell would always draw three crosses on the mound, chew black licorice on the mound and throw down the rosin bag as hard as he could. At the end of an inning he pitched, he would always leap over the foul line, spit out the licorice and brush his teeth each and every time. He also insisted that the figures in his contract ended with the number 99 in honor of his jersey number.
In addition, Wendell usually wore a necklace that contained the teeth of various animals he hunted down. Whenever Wendell pitched particularly bad, he would throw his glove into the stands in frustration. All of these aspects in his personality definitely helped him become such a big fan favorite.
Wendell even protested with the MLB to let him play his last season for free. Unfortunately for him, the Player's Association did not allow this to happen.
Over the years, Wendell was always very outspoken about certain issues, one of them being the steroid discussion.
Throughout his career, including his time with the Mets, Wendell was always involved in charity work, particularly working with children in various organizations. He did not enjoy the media covering his efforts but won the "Good Guy Award" in 2000.
After retiring, Wendell continued his passion for hunting and owns a ranch in Colorado.
While he may not have been an actual closer, Turk Wendell was one of the best middle relievers in Mets history and also had one of the most exciting personalities Mets fans have ever seen.
9. Neil Allen
Another closer the Mets had in a dark period in team history was Neil Allen, who ended up becoming more notable for being traded than he did as a pitcher.
Allen was drafted by the Mets in 1976 and made his professional debut as a starting pitcher in 1979. He went 0-5 as a starter, though, and missed a month with a strained rib cage before returning as a reliever. He then won four consecutive decisions out of the bullpen and finished his rookie season with a 6-10 record, a 3.55 ERA and eight saves.
In 1980, Allen went 7-10 with a 3.70 ERA and 22 saves. He followed that up by going 7-6 with a 2.97 ERA and 18 saves in 1981 and 3-7 with a 3.06 ERA and 19 saves in 1982.
In 1983, Allen was converted back into a starter and was 2-7 with a 4.50 ERA and two saves before getting traded with Rick Ownbey on June 15 to the Cardinals for former MVP first baseman and future team captain Keith Hernandez. While Allen was stunned at the fact that the Cardinals would give up someone like Hernandez for him, the Cardinals were clearly the losers in this deal.
Allen stayed with the Cardinals from 1983-1985 and did not pitch particularly well. He got sold to the Yankees in July of 1985 before moving onto the White Sox in 1986. Allen spent the year in Chicago but got released after an 0-7 start in 1987. He then had a second stint with the Yankees through 1988 before signing a minor league contract with the Indians in 1989. He made three major league appearances that year. After pitching in the Reds' minor league system, Allen announced his retirement in 1990.
Since retiring, Allen has been a pitching coach in various minor league capacities.
Allen was a good closer during bad years in Mets' history, but he will be most remembered as the player the Mets traded to acquire Hernandez.
8. Ron Taylor
One of the first late-inning relievers the Mets had was Ron Taylor, who partially set the standard for Mets relievers.
Taylor first came up to the major leagues with the Indians in 1962 before moving on to the Cardinals from 1963-1965. He won his first World Series championship with the Cardinals in 1964. He then spent part of 1965-1966 with the Astros before getting sold to the Mets prior to the 1967 season.
Along with Tug McGraw, who he helped develop, Taylor became one of the backbones for the Mets bullpen. He went 4-6 with a 2.34 ERA in 1967 and 1-5 with a 2.70 ERA in 1968 before he really emerged as a dominant reliever.
In 1969, Taylor won nine games in relief and finished with a 2.72 ERA and 13 saves as the Mets went to the postseason for the first time ever. Taylor went 1-0 in two appearances in the NLCS and did not give up a single run. He also got credited with the first save in NLCS history, as that stat became official that year. He then picked up the first-ever World Series save and did not give up a run in 2.1 innings as the Mets won the series in five games.
In 1970, Taylor continued to pitch well and went 5-4 with a 3.93 ERA and 13 saves. However, by 1971, McGraw was given the job as the closer, and Taylor became a set-up man. He went 2-2 with a 3.65 ERA and two saves before getting sold to the Expos in the offseason.
Taylor ended up spending the 1972 season with the Padres but then retired after that season in order to start a second career as a doctor. He became the Blue Jays physician in 1979 and still holds that position today.
Taylor may not have been one of the most well-remembered pitchers for the Mets in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but his contributions—particularly those in 1969—should not be forgotten.
7. Randy Myers
The Mets have always been known to have some of the best left-handed relievers in baseball history. Randy Myers was one of them, as he became the Mets' closer in the late 1980s and one of the better left-handed relievers during his career.
Myers was drafted by the Mets in 1982 and made his major league debut at the very end of the 1985 season. He pitched two scoreless innings in his only appearance of the season.
In 1986, Myers made just 10 appearances with the Mets while spending more time in the minor leagues. He had a 0-0 record and a 4.22 ERA in the 10 major league appearances. Although the Mets won the 1986 World Series, Myers was left off the postseason roster.
In 1987, Myers stayed with the Mets for good as a left-handed specialist. He went 3-6 with a 3.96 ERA and six saves. After Jesse Orosco left the Mets to join the Dodgers in 1988, Myers took his place as the Mets' primary left-handed reliever. Myers had a great season in his first as a closer by going 7-3 with an excellent 1.72 ERA and 26 saves.
In the 1988 NLCS, Myers pitched very well. He appeared in three of the seven games, pitching 4.2 innings and only gave up one hit and two walks. He was also the winning pitcher in Games 1 and 3.
In 1989, Myers continued his success and went 7-4 with a 2.35 ERA and 24 saves. Despite the higher ERA, Myers was very effective and struck out 88 batters in 84.1 innings pitched. However, the Mets decided to trade him and Kip Gross to the Reds prior to the 1990 season for fellow left-handed closer John Franco and Don Brown.
While Franco certainly had a good, long career with the Mets following the trade, Myers would go on to make four All-Star game appearances. He became the Reds new closer in 1990 and helped them win the World Series that year. The Reds then decided to experiment with Myers as a starter in 1991, which did not end up working.
Myers then moved on to the Padres in 1992 and the Cubs from 1993-1995. In 1993, he had his best season by racking up a then-National League record 53 saves. He played for the Orioles from 1996-1997 and the Blue Jays for most of 1998 before getting claimed on waivers by the Padres during their postseason run. Myers was also under contract with the Padres in 1999 and 2000 but did not appear in a game in either year due to injuries.
Myers retired with a 3.19 career ERA and 347 saves, which places him ninth in baseball history and third among left-handed pitchers.
Although Myers' stay with the Mets was not particularly long, he was a very effective closer in both 1988 and 1989 and is certainly one of the better relievers to have worn a Mets uniform.
6. Billy Wagner
Another great left-handed closer once employed by the Mets was the fire-balling Billy Wagner.
Wagner originally threw right-handed, but after suffering two right arm injuries, he taught himself how to throw left-handed.
Wagner originally started his career with the Astros, whom he played with from 1995-2003. He established himself as one of baseball's best and most dependable closers. He then got traded to the Phillies, whom he pitched for from 2004-2005 before signing a four-year contract with the Mets prior to the 2006 season.
In his first year as a Met in 2006, Wagner went 3-2 with a 2.24 ERA and racked up 40 saves. He also struck out 94 batters in just 72.1 innings pitched. On July 3, Wagner picked up his 300th career save. Wagner pitched well in the NLDS that year by giving up just one run and collecting two saves in three appearances. However, Wagner did not pitch as well in the NLCS, and his ERA in that series was 16.88.
In 2007, Wagner had another great season by going 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA and 34 saves. He struck out 80 batters in 68.1 innings pitched. He had a great first half, which helped him make the All-Star team, but fell apart near the end of the season as the Mets suffered the worst regular season collapse in baseball history.
In 2008, Wagner went 0-1 with a 2.30 ERA and 27 saves. He went on a profanity-laced tirade towards his teammates following a 1-0 loss in May, which did not help the team's clubhouse chemistry at all. Nonetheless, he pitched well in the first half of the season and made another trip to the All-Star game.
Wagner did not struggle down the stretch this team, compared to 2007, but this was because he ended up tearing a ligament in his elbow that would require major surgery. As a result, Wagner was forced to miss the rest of the 2008 season, plus most of the 2009 season as well. In his absence, the Mets were simply unable to find someone else to successfully close games, and it was one of the biggest reasons as to why they missed the postseason for the second consecutive year.
While Wagner recovered from elbow surgery in 2009, the Mets went out and signed Francisco Rodriguez to become the new closer and also traded for J.J. Putz to be the set-up man. Those moves effectively ended Wagner's time with the Mets.
Wagner ended up making two appearances for the Mets in August before getting traded to the Red Sox for Chris Carter and Eddie Lora. He pitched a scoreless inning in each appearance and did not give up a single hit.
After the 2009 postseason, Wagner declined salary arbitration from the Red Sox and signed a one-year deal with the Braves. In April of 2010, Wagner announced he would retire at the end of the season. He got his 400th career save on June 25.
While Wagner is not playing baseball this season, he still has yet to file retirement papers. The Braves, though, released him right before the start of the 2011 season.
Assuming he will not appear in another major league game, Wagner finished his career with a career ERA of 2.31 and 422 saves, which place him fifth all time and second among left-handed pitchers.
Wagner's time with the Mets was not that long, but he was the dominant closer for the Mets during their postseason run in 2006 and another one of the greatest closers to have been a Met.
5. Armando Benitez
Like Wagner, Armando Benitez was a fire-balling reliever the Mets once had. He was a critical member of the Mets bullpen in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Benitez originally came up with the Orioles, a team he was with from 1994-1998. He gave up the infamous home run Jeffrey Maier caught in the 1996 ALCS. But Benitez improved and became a solid set-up man in 1997 and then the Orioles' closer in 1998.
After the 1998 season, Benitez was traded to the Mets for Charles Johnson. In 1999, Benitez started off as John Franco's set-up man, but after Franco got hurt that year, Benitez became the new closer and remained at that post when Franco returned. He finished the year with a 4-3 record, a 1.85 ERA and 22 saves. He pitched very well in the 1999 postseason and only gave up one run in both series combined.
In 2000, Benitez had another great season by going 4-4 with a 2.61 ERA and a then-Mets record 41 saves. In the NLDS, he gave up a game-tying home run to J.T. Snow in Game 2, but he then pitched well during the NLCS and did not give up an earned run in that series. In the World Series, Benitez failed to pick up the save in his first opportunity but got a save in the only game the Mets won.
In 2001, Benitez kept improving overall but started to hear some boos late in the season after giving up a few too many big home runs. Nonetheless, he went 6-4 with a 3.77 ERA and a new Mets record 43 saves, which still stands today.
In 2002, Benitez went 1-0, lowered his ERA to 2.27 and racked up 33 saves. However, by 2003, fans got more fed up with the late-inning meltdowns, and Benitez got traded right after the All-Star break to the Yankees. Ironically, he was the only Met that year to make the All-Star team. He was 3-3 with a 3.10 ERA and 21 saves before the trade.
Benitez was with the Yankees for nine games before getting traded again to the Mariners, a team he stayed with for the rest of the year. He then played with the Marlins in 2004 before signing a three-year contract with the Giants from 2005-2007. He did not pitch well there and got traded back to the Marlins midway through 2007.
After the 2007 season, Benitez signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays but only made a handful of major league apperances before getting released. Since then, he has spent time with the Long Island Ducks and Newark Bears, as well as minor league stints in the Astros and Marlins organizations.
He is currently a free agent but has not announced his retirement yet.
Benitez may have been more known for the big home runs he gave up than all the saves he collected within a four-and-a-half year span, but he still holds the Mets' single season saves record and should be considered one of better closers the Mets have had in recent years.
4. Roger McDowell
He may not have been a closer, per se, but Roger McDowell was certainly one of the most effective (and good humored) relief pitchers the Mets have ever had.
McDowell got drafted by the Mets in 1982 as a starting pitcher, but he converted to a reliever in 1984 after an elbow injury. He also started to really develop a sinker that would become his signature pitch.
McDowell made it to the Mets in 1985 as both a middle reliever and closer alongside Jesse Orosco. While Orosco was left-handed and good at striking out the opposition, McDowell was right-handed and became a ground-ball machine with his sinker. As a result, they turned into a lethal late-inning tandem.
McDowell went 6-5 with a 2.83 ERA and 17 saves in his rookie season. He averaged over two innings per appearance and even made the only two starts of his career that year.
In 1986, McDowell was even better, as his team went all the way to the World Series. He had an amazing 14-9 record out of the bullpen, along with a 3.02 ERA and 22 saves. He also appeared in a then-Mets record 75 games. He even got five points in the 1986 MVP voting for the season he had.
In the 1986 NLCS, McDowell was unstoppable. He gave up just one hit in seven innings and pitched five of those scoreless innings during the decisive Game 6 in which the Mets clinched the pennant. In the World Series, McDowell was not as impressive altogether, but he redeemed himself in Game 7 and became the winning pitcher after pitching a scoreless seventh inning before the Mets offense tied the game.
In 1987, McDowell went 7-5 with a career high 25 saves, but his ERA rose over a run, to 4.16. In September, McDowell allowed a crucial game-tying home run to Terry Pendleton of the Cardinals, who won the game an inning later. The two teams had been in a close division race, and many believe that the difference why the Cardinals won instead of the Mets was because of that game and McDowell's performance.
In 1988, Orosco was traded to the Dodgers, and McDowell's new closing partner was Randy Myers. McDowell pitched better and went 5-5 with 16 saves, and lowered his ERA down to 2.63. In the 1988 NLCS, McDowell was inconsistent and gave up a game-winning home run to Kirk Gibson in the 12th inning of Game 4. The Mets would end up losing the series in seven games, and McDowell never went to the postseason after that.
In 1989, McDowell was 1-5 with a 3.31 ERA and four saves before he and Lenny Dykstra got traded to the Phillies for Juan Samuel. If a straight swap between Dykstra and Samuel looked bad enough, throwing McDowell into the trade made it even worse for the Mets.
This became one of the worst trades in Mets history as Samuel was a complete bust. Dykstra became a fan favorite with the Phillies, just like he was in New York, and McDowell pitched very well that year after the trade.
During the final game of the 1989 season after McDowell got former teammate Gregg Jefferies to ground out, the two got into an on-field fight at the end of the game. What was ironic about this was that many Mets players and fans were supposedly cheering on McDowell, who was no longer on the Mets, over the hotheaded Jefferies.
McDowell spent 1990 and part of 1991 with the Phillies before getting traded to the Dodgers, whom he stayed with through 1994. He then spent 1995 with the Rangers and 1996 with the Orioles. He injured his shoulder in August 1996. After signing with the White Sox in 1997, he suffered two more shoulder surgeries that forced him to miss the entire 1997 season. McDowell went to the White Sox spring training in 1998 but retired before the season began at just 37 years old.
Throughout his time with the Mets, McDowell was notorious for being a prankster. His best trick was the "Hot Foot," where he would wrap gum around a cigarette and then place it on the heels of one of his teammate's cleats.
In 1992, McDowell made a famous cameo appearance on Seinfeld as the "second spitter."
Since retiring, McDowell became a pitching coach under various capacities and is currently the Braves pitching coach, a position he has held since 2006.
McDowell may be more remembered for his pranks than his pitching, but he was a key member of the Mets' middle and late 1980s bullpen and pitched very well under pressure. As a result, he should be considered one of the best right-handed relievers in Mets history.
3. Jesse Orosco
When the Mets traded Jerry Koosman after the 1978 season, Mets fans were probably all upset with the decision. Looking back, it turned out to be a pretty good move.
In that deal, the Mets got a left-handed reliever named Jesse Orosco, who turned out to be a very important piece of the Mets bullpen for years to come. In his first full season in 1982, Orosco finished 4-10 with a 2.72 ERA while being Neil Allen's set-up man.
After Allen got traded in the Keith Hernandez deal, Orosco became the closer and had a career year as he won 13 game in relief, saved 17 and finished with a minuscule 1.47 ERA. He made his first of two consecutive trips to the All-Star game that year as well.
Orosco had another strong season in 1984 as he won 10 games in relief and saved a career-high 31 games as the Mets began to start contending for the playoffs. The saves total became a Mets record, until John Franco came around.
However, this was Orosco's last year as the Mets' sole closer.
Starting in 1985, the Mets teamed up the young Roger McDowell with Orosco to form a lethal right-left closing duo. As a result, Orosco and McDowell shared closing duties depending on the respective matchups. Orosco saved 17 games in 1985 but had a good 2.73 ERA as well.
In 1986, Orosco racked up 21 saves and was very clutch throughout the playoffs that year. "Messy Jesse" won three games in the NLCS against the Astros, including the final out in Game 7.
He then saved two more crucial games in the World Series and the sight of him flinging his glove in the air when the Mets were champions is an image that anyone who saw it will never forget. Those moments will be by far the biggest memories in Orosco's legacy.
Orosco stumbled a bit in 1987 and went just 3-9 with an ERA close to 4.50. He saved 16 games that year but ended up getting traded to the Dodgers after that season. He then went on to become a journeyman, making stops with the Indians, Brewers, Orioles, Cardinals, Dodgers again, Twins, Yankees and Padres before finally retiring after 2003.
He even made a very brief reappearance with the Mets for the 2000 spring training but got traded to the Cardinals before the season began.
Orosco is baseball's all-time leader in games pitched with 1,252 and fifth in that category in Mets history. He's also third in team history in saves with 107. The Mets may not have had as much success in the 1980s if Orosco had not been a part of it.
Due to his critical contributions in the 1986 postseason, Orosco is definitely one of the best closers the Mets have had and also one of the best in the league during the middle 1980s.
2. Tug McGraw
If there's one reliever who really set a standard for the Mets, it would be Tug McGraw, one of the best closers in Mets history and one of the best in the league during his career.
McGraw signed with the Mets in 1964 as an amateur free agent after graduating from college. After just one solid season in the minor leagues, McGraw made the major league club in 1965 without ever going through Double-A or Triple-A. In his rookie season, McGraw went 2-7 with a 3.32 ERA. He was mostly in the starting rotation that year.
After the 1965 season, McGraw was briefly enlisted in the Marine Core reserves.
In 1966, McGraw went 2-9 with a 5.34 ERA. He then made just four starts in 1967 but struggled with an 0-3 record and a 7.79 ERA. As a result, McGraw spent most of 1967 and all of 1968 in the minor leagues.
When McGraw came back up to the Mets in 1969, he was mostly a reliever but filled in briefly when Jerry Koosman got hurt. McGraw's improvement was noticeable, as he went 9-3 with a 2.24 ERA and 12 saves while sharing closing duties with Ron Taylor.
In his only postseason appearance in the 1969 playoffs, McGraw pitched three scoreless innings and picked up the save in Game 2 as the Mets won 11-6. He did not pitch in the World Series.
In 1970, McGraw went 4-6 with a 3.28 ERA and 10 saves. He then went 11-4 with a 1.70 ERA and eight saves in 1971. The wins and ERA both became career highs.
By 1972, McGraw asserted himself as one of baseball's best closers by having a career season. He went 8-6, tied his career high with a 1.70 ERA and set another career high with 27 saves. He made his first trip to the All-Star game that year as well.
McGraw then went 5-6 with a 3.87 ERA and 25 saves in 1973. However, those numbers don't reflect the impact he had on the Mets that year as a clubhouse leader.
The Mets had been struggling through the summer but after board chairman M. Donald Grant delivered a speech to the team, McGraw told his teammates, ya gotta believe". This became the rally cry for the Mets as they surged through September and ended up winning the division in surprising fashion. McGraw certainly did his part by going 3-0 with an 0.57 ERA and ten saves down the stretch.
In the 1973 postseason, McGraw continued his late-season dominance and did not allow a run in five combined innings during the NLCS. In the World Series, he blew the save in Game 2 but then pitched three scoreless innings for the win. He finished the World Series with a 2.63 ERA in 13.2 innings pitched.
In 1974, McGraw went 6-11 with a 4.16 ERA and three saves. He missed a month with a strained muscle in his back and eventually developed a shoulder injury, which turned out to be just a cyst.
Nonetheless, the Mets' front office got worried about McGraw's future and decided to trade him to the Phillies with Don Hahn and Dave Schneck for John Stearns, Mac Scarce and Del Unser. McGraw himself later referred to the trade as a "Jack Daniels trade."
In other words, the trade may have been conducted on impulse without really thinking it through.
Although Stearns developed into a solid catcher, the Mets would certainly regret trading away McGraw. He made his second and final trip to the All-Star game in 1975. In 1980, he helped the Phillies win their first ever World Series. He remained with the Phillies until he retired after the 1984 season.
McGraw finished his career with a 96-92 record, a 3.14 ERA and 180 saves. As a Met, he was 47-55 with a 3.17 ERA and 85 saves through nine seasons.
In 1993, McGraw was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.
During his Mets career in 1966, McGraw had a brief relationship with a woman named Betty D'Agostino, who would give birth to McGraw's only son, country singer Tim McGraw. McGraw and D'Agostino broke off contact soon after they met. McGraw did not tell his son he was his father until Tim was 17 years old, but they later developed a close relationship.
In 2003, McGraw became hospitalized with a brain tumor and was told he had three weeks to live. He ended up surviving nine more months after the diagnosis and made a final appearance at Shea Stadium that year during the Mets' 1973 team's 30th Anniversary celebration. McGraw unfortunately passed away on January 5, 2004.
During the Mets' 2004 season, every player and coach wore a "Ya Gotta Believe" patch on the left shoulder.
McGraw was the first great homegrown reliever in Mets history and played critical roles for the team, particularly in 1973 with his "Ya Gotta Believe" rally cry and the dominance he had late in that season. At the time of his retirement, he was arguably the best closer in Mets history, but right now, another left-handed closer who happened to idolize McGraw while growing up should be considered more deserving of the top spot.
1. John Franco
While some of the aforementioned closers have helped the Mets win championships, none have been around and done as much for the team within a 15-year span like John Franco did. Thus, he should be considered the greatest relief pitcher the Mets have ever had.
Coming to New York from the Reds in a trade for Randy Myers before the 1990 season, Franco was already an established closer and picked up where Myers left off.
Arguably the best overall Met throughout the 1990s, Franco began turning in one successful season after another and racked up many saves, averaging 26.8 saves per year through the decade.
Franco's first great year was 1990, when he made his only All-Star appearance and saved 33 games, setting a new Mets record while posting a 5-3 record and a 2.53 ERA.
In 1991, Franco went 5-9 with a 2.93 ERA and 30 saves. He then went 6-2 with a 1.64 ERA and 15 saves in 1992 and 4-3 with a 5.20 ERA and 10 saves in 1993, but missed a good chunk of each of those seasons due to elbow injuries.
In 1994, Franco started to enter his prime and went 1-4 with a 2.70 ERA and 30 saves. He followed this up with a 5-3 record, 2.44 ERA and 29 saves in 1995.
In 1996, Franco was 4-3 with a 1.83 ERA and 28 saves. He got his 300th career save in late April of that year and a few weeks later, on "John Franco Day," Franco himself got ejected after participating in a bench-clearing brawl, along with eight other players.
In perhaps his best season as a Met, 1997, Franco went 5-3 with a 2.55 ERA and 36 saves, which broke his own Mets record.
In 1998, Franco was 0-8 with a 3.62 ERA and 38 saves, which broke his own team and personal record.
Throughout the 1990s, Franco was dominant against the National League. However, compared to other premier closers at the time, Franco was rather underrated, and his overall numbers usually went unnoticed. As a result, he was snubbed from the All-Star game more than he should have been.
Franco was always a popular player during his time with the Mets. He was also very active with the MLB Players' Union, and he spent some time as the Mets representative. In 1998, after Mike Piazza was acquired, Franco voluntarily gave up his No. 31 and switched to 45 in honor of Tug McGraw so Piazza could have his usual number.
After the arrival of Armando Benitez, Franco converted to a set-up man (and eventually, team captain) for the rest of his Mets years. In 1999, Franco was 0-2 with a 2.88 ERA and 19 saves. He missed part of the season due to injuries, which led to Benitez becoming the new closer. He finally made it to the postseason that year and had a 1.69 ERA in the playoffs.
In 2000, Franco was 5-4 with a 3.40 ERA and four saves. He pitched well in the NLDS that year but struggled in the NLCS, as illustrated by his 6.75 ERA in that series. In the World Series, he was the winning pitcher in the only game the Mets won.
In 2001, Franco went 6-2 with a 4.05 ERA and two saves. The 9/11 attacks hit the Brooklyn native hard, and he was very active in the relief efforts.
After missing all of 2002 with injuries, Franco came back in 2003 and went 0-3 with a 2.62 ERA and the last two saves of his Mets career.
In his last season in New York in 2004, Franco was 2-7 with a 5.28 ERA. By then, the Mets organization was chaotic and the late 1990s to early 2000s core slowly got broken up.
Franco spent a year in Houston in 2005 before subsequently retiring and becoming the team ambassador he is today.
Many non-Mets fans would probably not know Franco is fourth all time in saves and first among left-handed pitchers. Only Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith have more saves at the moment.
Franco may not have had the noticeable dominance that other closers of his time had nor the postseason experiences that defined other Mets closers like McGraw and Orosco, but Franco nonetheless is one of baseball's greatest closers and his 424 career saves speaks for itself.
Franco was on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2011 but because he received less than 5 percent of the vote, he will unfortunately never appear on a regular Hall of Fame ballot ever again—unless the Veterans Committee decides to give Franco a second chance down the road.
Franco may not have won a championship with the Mets, but his contributions to the franchise have been very significant, and he should be considered the greatest closer the Mets have ever had.
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