MLB 9s: New York Mets—Darryl Strawberry, Jose Reyes: The Past and Present

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IDecember 9, 2009

1988 Outfielder Darryl Strawberry of the New York Mets in action during a game at Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York.
Getty Images/Getty Images

Were Carlos Delgado and John Olerud more valuable with the bat than Keith Hernandez—a star with the glove two decades earlier?

Is David Wright's combination of speed and power enough to see off Howard Johnson—the All-Star who took the current face of the franchise under his wing this winter to iron out his swing?

Is power more important than speed? Is the past worth more the present?

It all points to one question with hundreds of possibilities: Which New York Met had the greatest offensive season at his position?

Major League Baseball has been asking fans this same question in an effort to choose each team's best-ever collection of stars.

They are calling it MLB 9s.

In the 48-year history of the franchise, the Mets have been to the playoffs seven times and have won the World Series twice.

Do the achievements of Darryl Strawberry and Cleon Jones—who won world championship rings with the Mets in 1986 and 1969 respectively—overshadow the likes of Carlos Beltran, who has yet to play in a World Series game?

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Here I have separated the contenders from the pretenders in an effort to pick my dream Mets lineup, based on their one career year.

My other MLB 9s you might want to check out are:

Diamondbacks , Braves , Orioles , Red Sox , Cubs , White Sox , Reds , Indians , Rockies , Tigers , Marlins , Royals , Angels , Dodgers , and Twins .

Catcher: Mike Piazza (2000)

Even though Piazza's best statistical years arguably came during his time as a Dodger, Mets fans have a special place in their heart for him.

In 2000, Piazza hit 38 home runs, drove in 113 runs, and batted .324 on his way to third place in the MVP voting.

The greatest hitting catcher of all time was selected to the All-Star game for the eighth consecutive season, while winning his eighth Silver Slugger award.

Piazza's batting average ranked 10th in the National League, and his .614 slugging percentage was ninth best.

Only Todd Hundley has hit more home runs as a Mets backstop, while his 113 runs batted in rank 10th all-time within the franchise for a season.

Highlight Game: April 14, 2000 @ Pittsburgh. Piazza broke a seventh-inning 2-2 tie with a solo home run off Jason Schmidt and followed it up with a two-run bomb in the 12th to help the Mets see off the Pirates 8-5 at Three Rivers Stadium.

Piazza finished the game 5-for-6 with a double, four runs batted in, and a walk, raising his early-season batting average from .265 to .350 after the first fortnight of the year.

Competition: Hundley's 41 home runs and 112 runs batted in came with a .259 batting average, and Paul Lo Duca's .318 clip in 2006 only yielded five homers.

Gary Carter's 1985 season is somewhere in between, good enough for second place. He went deep 32 times, batted .281, drove in 100 batters, and scored 83 runs. He is only one of three Mets catchers in history to have a 100-RBI season.

First Base: John Olerud (1998)

Olerud shone during his second season in New York, batting .354 with 22 home runs and a .447 on-base percentage.

Olerud scored 91 runs, drove in 93 men, and walked 96 times in the best offensive season he put together since 1993 in Toronto.

The first baseman finished second to Colorado's Larry Walker for the batting title, fourth in the National League in walks, and eighth in hits (197).

Olerud's 22 home runs are eighth best by a Mets first baseman, while his batting average and OBP are both franchise highs by any Met ever.

Highlight Game: July 11, 1998 vs. Montreal. Olerud connected on his only multi-homer game of the season with a 4-for-4 performance against the Expos.

Olerud hit a pair of solo home runs, scored three runs, and drove in three in an 8-4 victory.

Competition: Carlos Delgado hit 38 home runs—the most by any Mets first baseman—in 2008, driving in 115 runs and scoring 96, while batting .271.

Keith Hernandez hit .310 in 1986 with 13 homers and 94 runs, finishing fourth in the MVP vote and going to his second All-Star game as a Met.

He led the NL with 94 walks and proved he was just as valuable with the bat as he was with his glove.

His 1984 season is also worthy of consideration.

Second Base: Edgardo Alfonzo (1999)

Alfonzo holds the single-season record for home runs (27), RBI (108), and runs scored (123) by any Mets second baseman.

He set the highs during the 1999 season, when he also hit 41 doubles, drew 85 walks, batted .304, and slugged .502.

Alfonzo won his first and only Silver Slugger award and finished eighth in the MVP voting.

Highlight Game: Aug. 30, 1999 @ Houston. Alfonzo hit a career-high three home runs in a 17-1 beatdown of the Astros.

Alfonzo went a perfect 6-for-6 with six runs, five RBI, and a double. He hit a solo shot in the first inning off Shane Reynolds, a two-run bomb off Brian Williams in the fourth, and a solo home run off Sean Bergman in the sixth.

Competition: Alfonzo stands head and shoulders above all other Mets second basemen when you consider the greatest single offensive season.

Jeff Kent hit 21 home runs and batted .270 for the Mets in 1993, and Gregg Jefferies hit 15 with a .283 clip in 1990.

No other second baseman has recorded triple-digit RBI totals or topped 100 runs scored in a single year.

Third Base: David Wright (2007)

Wright gets the nod over Howard Johnson for his 2007 season when he hit 30 home runs and finished the year with a .325 batting average.

He scored 113 times, knocked in 107 runs, and swiped 34 bases in one of the most well-rounded offensive seasons in recent memory.

No Mets third baseman has scored more runs in a single season (other than the 115 Wright himself had in 2008), and only Robin Ventura has recorded more RBI in one year.

His 34 steals ranks second all-time for Mets at the hot corner, while his 30 home runs is good enough for sixth on the list.

Highlight Game: May 19, 2007 vs. New York Yankees. Wright hit a pair of two-run home runs off Mike Myers, as the Mets edged the Yanks 10-7 at Shea Stadium.

After being burned twice in Wright's first two at-bats, the Yankees intentionally walked him in the fourth, sixth, and eighth innings with four more runners on base.

Wright stole second base and came around to score an insurance run in the eighth inning, which eventually put the game beyond reach.

Competition: HoJo had a memorable 1989 season with 36 home runs, 101 RBI, and 41 steals. Only his .287 batting average held him back, although for Johnson that marked a career high for the lifetime .249 hitter.

HoJo was arguably just as good in 1991 when he led the NL with 38 homers and 117 RBI.

Ventura launched 32 home runs in 1999 and drove in 120 runs—the most by a Mets third baseman.

Shortstop: Jose Reyes (2006)

The Mets have never had a more offensively-charged shortstop than Jose Reyes. Looking at single-season production, Reyes is simply miles ahead of the field.

In 2006 Reyes scored 122 runs, knocked in 81 men, lashed 19 home runs, and batted .300—all records for a Mets shortstop.

In addition, Reyes stole a league-leading 64 bases, which is second all-time by any Mets infielder and third in the franchise history. His 17 triples—which led the National League in 2006—was the most by any Mets shortstop until he hit 19 two years later.

Highlight Game: June 21, 2006 vs. Cincinnati. Reyes hit for the cycle against the Reds, going 4-for-5 with two runs and an RBI.

Reyes led off the game with a solo home run to right-center field off Joe Mays, doubled in the third, tripled in the fifth, and singled up the middle in the eighth.

The home run was one of six leadoff homers for Reyes in the 2006 campaign.

Competition: There are very few shortstops on any team who have come close to accomplishing what Reyes did in 2006.

Specifically with the Mets, Kaz Matsui stole 14 bases, hit seven home runs, and scored 65 runs in 2004, and Frank Taveras swiped 42 bags and scored 89 runs in 1979.

Reyes is so far ahead, I am somewhat mystified by how he has only received 96.6 percent of the votes. Taveras' family must have voted a lot!

Outfield: Darryl Strawberry (1987)

One year removed from a World Series championship, the Mets failed to make the playoffs in 1987 despite a career year from Strawberry.

Strawberry—the second youngest starter in the Mets lineup—led the team with 39 home runs, 104 RBI, 36 stolen bases, and 97 walks.

The right fielder batted .284, scored 108 runs, and finished sixth in the MVP race to Andre Dawson, Ozzie Smith, Jack Clark, Tim Wallach, and Will Clark.

Only Carlos Beltran has hit more home runs as an outfielder in a single season than Strawberry. His RBI tally and stolen base total ranks seventh overall.

Highlight Game: Aug. 16, 1987 @ Chicago Cubs. Strawberry went 4-for-5 with a home run, triple, and two doubles in a 23-10 run-fest against the Cubbies.

Strawberry scored five runs, and he also drew a walk and stole a base in what was his only four-hit game of the year.

Carlos Beltran (2006)

Beltran hit 41 home runs and scored 127 runs in the '06 season—both all-time records for a Mets outfielder.

He also recorded 116 RBI—second most by a Mets outfielder—and 18 stolen bases.

After a rocky first season in the Big Apple, Beltran settled into his groove in 2006. He set career highs in home runs, runs, RBI, and walks. He won his first Silver Slugger award, went to his second All-Star game, and finished fourth in the NL MVP race.

Highlight Game: May 23, 2006 vs. Philadelphia. Beltran had four multi-home run games in the 2006 season, but I am highlighting the first of two walk-off home runs.

Against the Mets' NL East rival Phillies, Beltran ended a five-hour 22-minute showdown with a solo bomb off Ryan Madson in the bottom of the 16th inning.

The Mets won the game 9-8, and Beltran finished the game with three hits, two RBI, a walk, and a steal.

Bernard Gilkey (1996)

Gilkey only played 380 games with the Mets, but I am ranking his first season with the team the third best offensive year by an outfielder in the history of the club.

The left fielder hit 30 home runs, batted in 117 men, and stole 17 bases in 153 games of the 1996 season.

His 117 RBI is the all-time record by a Mets outfielder.

Gilkey batted .317 with 44 doubles—fourth in the National League—and 108 runs. His 155 OPS+ statistic (a measure of on-base and slugging percentage which takes into account league averages) is the third highest among all Mets outfielders.

Highlight Game: July 24, 1996 @ Colorado. Gilkey hit two home runs in a 7-6 loss to the Rockies.

He went 3-for-5 with three runs batted in, including a solo bomb in the first inning and a game-tying two-run shot in the top of the eighth.

Competition: Cleon Jones received a spattering of votes with the fans after batting .340 with a dozen home runs and 16 steals in the championship year of 1969.

Dave Kingman hit 37 home runs but only batted .238 in 1976, Cliff Floyd, Bobby Bonilla, and Frank Thomas hit 34 homers in 2005, 1993, and 1962 respectively, and Roger Cedeno swiped 66 bags in 1999.

Pitcher: Dwight Gooden (1992)

This is practically a coin flip because no Mets pitcher has ever had a good season with the bat.

Gooden wins the battle with nine RBI, eight runs, and a .264 average, although it could just as easily have gone to any one of five or six other hurlers.

Competition: A lot of names to choose from, but no one standout candidate. Jason Isringhausen hit a pair of home runs and drove in nine runs in 1996, Mike Hampton batted .274 with eight RBI and seven runs in 2000, and George Stone batted .271 in 1973.

Each is as miserable as the other, with no real deserving winner. Fortunately for the Mets, the club has had its fair share of hitters over the years.

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