Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

What is wrong with this front office?

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Before the season started, Joeadig and I had a point/counterpoint on the Mets front office, specifically Omar Minaya.  I probably came off as more of an Omar Minaya fan than I truly am, more because I felt that Joeadig was leveling some unfair accusations towards Omar.  Signing Carlos Beltran and trading for Johan Santana were both two absolutely huge moves made by Omar, for which he deserves praise, and I felt that Joe was overlooking them while making a larger point that I do agree with, that Omar Minaya has done a pretty terrible job at building a championship baseball team given the great core that the Mets possess, two of which were players directly acquired by Omar himself.

Now we are almost three months into the season, and it’s become clear that for a third straight season, this team is woefully ill-equipped to make the postseason, despite once again having a terrific core of players to build this team around.  What’s more, the disease isn’t limited to the front office.  The field manager and his staff have done a terrible job running the day to day operations of the team.  The medical and training staff appear to be showing a blatant disregard for the players for which they are so handsomely paid to attend.  Nothing appears to be running the way a smart baseball team operates.

The most recent, and perhaps the best example, revolves Carlos Beltran.  Beltran is having another wonderful season; there is no player, perhaps no two players who could replace his combination of excellent defense and superb offense.  With Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and JJ Putz all on the disabled list, and all players that this team could ill afford to lose to begin with, Beltran ranks as a precious commodity.  Without Beltran, this team is royally screwed, even if all of those guys came back tomorrow.

Yet Beltran is hurting.  Read this quote from yesterday:

“I don’t feel I can play a lot of games the way it felt today.  I’m a little bit worried, to be honest.”

Yet Beltran was allowed to take the field yesterday.  Does that sound like a guy who should be allowed to play?  I mean, this could be Luis Castillo and I’d still say that is a pretty reckless thing to do.  But this is Carlos Beltran; we need Beltran to remain healthy if this team is going to do anything this season.  Yet the field manager somehow thought that one game against the Tampa Bay Rays was worth risking the team’s first or second best everyday player, on advice of a training staff that has already proven itself woefully inept at what they do, and nobody from the front office bothered to say “Whoa, wait a minute – this guy is scheduled for an MRI on Monday, maybe we should have him sit this one out.”

The handling of Beltran was just another misstep by this franchise this season.  JJ Putz was clearly not his best; Dave Cameron from Fangraphs speculated this back in late-April based on looking at his average fastball and strikeout rates.  Yet the team didn’t think then to investigate if Putz was truly injured, kept running him out there for a month, during which he gave the Mets several ineffective innings of relief, and only shut him down a few weeks ago for him to have surgery.  Dave Cameron is a baseball writer for a pretty good stats website; he is not a member of the Mets front office, and does not follow the team on a daily basis.  If he was able to figure out in late-April that something is wrong with JJ Putz, why did it take the team a full month for them to figure this out?

Then there are the other issues, such as the length of time it took the team to put Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes on the disabled list, during a West Coast road trip, leaving the bench way too thin.  There was the DFA of Darren O’Day, who has since taken his power sinker to Texas, where he has a 1.23 ERA and 0.91 WHIP for the Rangers, while the Mets continue to stretch their bullpen arms too thin.  The bench actually looked good until Reyes and Delgado got hurt, where it was exposed that Triple-A Buffalo is secretly a barren wasteland of suck.  The team is currently getting below league average production at catcher, first base, second base, and right field on a daily basis, and Alex Cora really isn’t any great shakes at shortstop either.

It has become apparent that the Wilpons made a mistake similar to the one that Omar Minaya seems to make all the time; they gave him about one too many years on his latest contract extension.  I agreed that he had probably done enough to deserve an extension, but not a four year extension; they probably should have only extended him 2-3 years.  Now they are stuck with Omar for at least another season, probably two, and while they might be willing to eat Jerry’s last year after the season (should they even see fit to fire him, and I’m not convinced that they will be), they will not be willing to eat 3 years of Omar Minaya’s contract as well as one year of Jerry’s.

As we get further and further from 2006, it becomes apparent that Omar Minaya really just got lucky that year with some of his smaller moves, rather than acquiring guys like Chad Bradford, Darren Oliver, and Endy Chavez through a smart process.  Minaya just is not capable of building a great baseball team, even given a tremendous core with which to work in the Wright/Reyes/Beltran/Santana nucleus. 

What I’d like to see out of the Wilpons after the season is just a wholesale cleansing of this team, from the front office to the training staff to the field management staff.  Other than Howard Johnson, I don’t think I can name a single member of those groups whom I would like to see keep their job after this disaster.  Let a new front office come in, figure out how to ship Luis Castillo out of town no matter what they have to do to get it done, figure out that Ryan Church is not more than a good platoon player despite a strong arm in right field, figure out what exactly is the best use of Daniel Murphy, and figure out how to build a good championship support group around the core. 

They need to figure out that between Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine, they really have 3 #4 starters, and that the team needs a stronger pitcher behind Johan Santana.  They need figure out that sending Livan Hernandez out to pitch every fifth day is not very smart, even if he has gotten insanely lucky so far.  They need to figure out that using Bobby Parnell and Pedro Feliciano every day is not a good way to keep them fresh through the end of the season, let alone the end of June.  This is a team that has so much to figure out, and the people making those decisions right now are woefully ill-equipped to make figure these decisions out.

A few ideas

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Writing what I did on Tuesday was quite cathartic.  It helped sum up what has so far been yet another Mets season, put some things in perspective, and forced me to actually think about this team some more for the first time in ages.  It’s been ugly so far, but there’s still a bunch of season remaining.  Here are some ideas for the rest of the season moving forward, how I think this team could best be served.

  • Don’t trade Fernando Martinez.

Fernando Martinez is going to be a big part of this team, and perhaps sooner than people think.  He’s not playing well in the majors right now, but he’s also 20 years old and probably up a bit earlier than he should be.  The promising signs are that he’s showing nice power and he’s showing above average plate discipline, especially for a player so young.  His big problem right now is making consistent contact, but there is going to be an adjustment period for a 20 year old getting his first glimpse of major league pitching.  He’s not there quite yet, but perhaps by 2010, he will be ready to make a real impact in the major leagues.  This is the last series where the Mets will require a DH, so I’d like to see him sent back to Buffalo after this week, and not to return unless Church or Sheffield are hurt and the Mets require an everyday corner outfielder.  It does him no favors for him to sit at this stage of his development.

  • Don’t trade any other young player for a mid-season rental or a bad contract.

Don’t believe what you read; the Mets minor league system is showing signs of life.  Besides Martinez, Josh Thole is tearing up Binghamton, Jenrry Mejia has pitched very well in Double A at 19 years old, Brad Holt became the Mets’ first 2008 draftee to reach Double A, “Nasty” Nick Evans seems to be refinding his stroke in Binghamton, and Ike Davis is starting to pound the ball in St. Lucie.  It’s not all coming up roses; Wilmer Flores is struggling a bit in Savannah (although his bat is starting to show some signs of life, and remember he’s only 17), his fellow 17 year old Jefry Marte is also struggling some, and Reese Havens’ bat went a bit cold before he went on the disabled list.

The point is, without counting Murphy, Martinez, or Evans, who have reached the majors, the Mets have real prospects in the minor leagues who could become contributors between 2010 and 2015.  I’m not naive enough to think they are going to keep them all, or that all of them will definitely pan out, but the players available for trade right now don’t strike me as being good enough to give up potential building blocks for either a half-season rental or a good player who is grossly overpaid.  The bad contracts worry me, particularly the Carlos Lee rumors; he’s not worth that type of money right now, he’s under contract for another 3 and a half seasons, he should probably be a DH now, and by the time that contract runs out, he’s going to be a white elephant for somebody.  I wouldn’t trade one of the players I listed above for Lee, let alone a package of them.

  • Send Daniel Murphy to Buffalo.

I alluded to this on Tuesday, but I think it would help the team long-term if Daniel Murphy was sent to Buffalo.  It would have to be explained that this isn’t a long-term assignment, but they have to figure out what Daniel Murphy is going to be for this team.  If they think he’s a platoon first baseman, and that’s it, then what they are doing is just fine.  If they want him to become an every day player, or even if they want him to become a super sub who can fill in at first, second, third, and the outfield corners, then he needs to go to Buffalo.  Personally, I think his ceiling is a little big higher than platoon first baseman, so why use him like this?

If they send him to Buffalo, they can let him learn left field without having each of his miscued blown up on the back page of the local papers.  He showed more promise than people think in left, showing off decent range.  His problems are mechanical, which is what you have the minor leagues for in the first place.  He was just sort of thrust into left field without warning last summer, and after 2 months, a spring training, and a month and a half in the majors, the team just abandoned ship on the idea.  He has potential there, he just needs reps, and moving him out of the outfield doesn’t get him those reps.  Same with second base.  At worst, Murphy could become a four corners + second base reserve option, particularly if he can start hitting line drives again and if he can get away from a crazy manager who insists on having him bunt all the time.  At best, he can become an above average regular in LF, particularly if the range he showed is real.  It’s safe to say, though, that platoon first baseman is not what he’s going to be, and it’s a waste treating him as such.

  • Hire Manny Acta the moment he becomes available and figure out something to do with him until October.

While it might be a stretch to say this team isn’t going to make the playoffs again, especially with so much baseball left to play, it won’t hurt to have a backup plan ready for 2010.  Jerry Manuel has proven himself to be a dreadful manager.  While it’s great that he knows how to talk to the rest of his team, unlike Willie Randolph, his game strategies have been a definite negative.  He bunts far too often with the position players, which keeps the team from tacking on multiple runs in the later innings, his lineup orders border on ridiculous, and other than “use K-Rod against lefties and Sean Green against righties,” his bullpen management borders on laughable.

Manny Acta is about to get fired by the Nationals for reasons beyond his control; namely, his team stinks.  The hitting has actually been kind of good, but the pitching staff has been utter dreck from their ace to their longman, and while a few of their young pitchers figure to become decent, they have nobody who is capable of being a good major league pitcher now other than maybe John Lannan.  Acta has shown he can be a smart, thoughtful manager, but even a good manager needs the horses.  Jerry Manuel has proven even a bad, borderline criminally insane manager can win a lot of games if he has the horses, so imagine what might happen if you take a good manager like Acta and give him a good core (even if that’s all the Mets have).

There are two problems, of course; what if the Mets actually make the playoffs with Manuel, and what if having Acta in the system causes Manuel to overmanage to an even greater degree than he is now?  Those are worthwhile concerns, but nothing that the Mets should be too concerned with, if they do believe in Acta.  If the Mets should somehow stumble into the playoffs this year, then they can probably still keep Acta around as a third base coach or minor league manager, since it’s doubtful that even as smart as Acta was, that he’s going to have a neverending line of suitors looking to snatch him up after the season.  Likewise, if Manuel does somehow overmanage because of Acta’s presense, then that should show the front office that he was probably ill-equipped to manage this team to begin with.  Either way, the pluses outweigh the negatives.

House of Cards

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

You want to know why being a baseball fan sucks?  Because even if you follow a good team, they’re going to break your heart at least 60 times a year.

Of course, the Mets have broken their fans’ hearts more than 60 times a year.  They seem to break their fans’ hearts just enough to REALLY break their hearts, having fallen but a game short of postseason play in each of the past two seasons.  This season, through 61 games, things don’t appear to be much different, although they’re only four games out of the lead in the NL East and only a game out of the wild card.*  Last week featured three fairly brutal losses, two at the hands of their most hated rivals, and a particularly nasty loss at the hands of their cross-town rivals.  I mean…there’s just no way around it, the past two weeks have featured those three ugly losses and an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The highlight of the month of June so far?  Taking two out of three from the Washington Nationals.  Not exactly something to hang your hat on if you have dreams of postseason play.

It does seem a bit premature to be talking about the wild card in June, right?  It’s just a hypothetical really.  Yet it has to be in the back of every Mets fan’s mind, who would gladly take the wild card after how the past two years have finished.  And yes, I am blatantly ripping off Joe Posnanski now.

And I haven’t even gotten into the negative side of things yet!  Jose Reyes injured his calf, then his hamstring, and there seems to be no real timetable as to when the Mets can expect their leadoff hitter and 25% of their vaunted “core” back in the lineup.  Carlos Delgado underwent hip surgery, isn’t expected back until late July.  Oliver Perez and John Maine, two guys expected to fill about 350 or so solid innings of starting pitching in 2009, are both on the disabled list.  JJ Putz, the Mets’ big trade acquisition this offseason, pitched ineffectively for two months, then underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow and is now expected out until late August/early September.  Gary Sheffield is now experiencing knee problems, but the Mets’ crack medical staff has encouraged him that everything is fine and that he doesn’t need to have an MRI.  I don’t know what medical basis forms this opinion, but at this point, if the Mets medical staff insisted that I wouldn’t need an MRI, I’d immediately demand one just in case.

That doesn’t even get into the areas where the Mets have been relatively healthy, but just not very good.  Luis Castillo has been good at getting on base with a solid .377 OBP, yet still posts an OPS+ of 91 thanks to an abysmal .335 slugging percentage, having contributed just eight extra base hits in 218 plate appearances (Carlos Delgado, by comparison, has 12 extra base hits in 112 plate appearances) and his range at second base is practically non-existant (and that’s before we talk about the events of 6/12/09).  Ryan Church continues to hit like the platoon outfielder he is, although at least the Mets found an effective right-handed platoon partner for him in Gary Sheffield – at least, until the Delgado injury “forced” Mets manager Jerry Manuel into inserting Sheffield’s “presence” into the lineup on a more regular basis, forcing Churchy to face left handed pitching on a more regular basis (and he’s OPSing .472 against LHP this season).

Sheffield is playing left field more often than he should because the Mets have deemed the Daniel Murphy experiment in left field a failure because of a few defensive miscues, despite Murphy showing promising range as an left fielder.  Murphy is now platooning with Fernando Tatis at first base, despite Murphy having a weird reverse platoon split against lefties (.229/.327/.336 against RHP, .292/..308/.458 against LHP in 27 PA) and Tatis having a weird reverse platoon split against righties (.250/.368/.333 against LHP, .265/.316/.412 against RHP).  Granted, small sample sizes in both, and they are both slugging dependant, but it’s still strange. 

At any rate, against lefties or righties, Murphy is not hitting well enough to play first base regularly (neither is Tatis, for that matter) so no matter how much better his defense might appear to be at first, they still should have left Murphy in left field all season, since the range looked promising that he could eventually grow into being a decent defender in left, and his bat would play a little better in the outfield than it does at first base.  To be a first baseman in baseball today, if you can’t hit more than 20 home runs, you basically need to be Keith Hernandez, circa 1985; .400 OBP and excellent defense.  Daniel Murphy probably isn’t that good.  Yet he’s probably too good to be a platoon first baseman right now.  What do you do with him?  I don’t know, but I do think that what they are doing with him right now is wrong.

And then there’s the catching situation.  The Mets front office and Jerry Manuel fell in love with Omir Santos after a decent spring training and a flukey 80 or so plate appearances in the majors.  He’s a bad hitting catcher who has gotten lucky on a few bad pitches (including one by Jonathan Papelbon that ultimately doomed Ramon Castro to the Chicago White Sox) and is slugging at a rate that far exceeds anything he’s ever done in the minor leagues.  Eventually, he’s going to start seeing fewer bad pitches, and what is left is a catcher who doesn’t get on base, who isn’t slugging .450, and who frankly isn’t very good.  While I’m glad the Mets are finally platooning Schneider with a power hitting right handed alternative, the guy I wanted them to platoon him with is currently playing in Chicago’s South Side.  They made a horrible judgment call on Santos, and will eventually regret keeping him around.

The infrastructure of this team is all wrong.  This is a team that, even more than in 2008, is being propelled on the power of their superstars.  David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, and now Francisco Rodriguez are absolutely carrying this team.  It cannot be emphasized enough.  While the rest of the bullpen has been pretty good, and the Mets have gotten unexpected results out of Livan Hernandez (whom they should absolutely not be expecting to remain this good for an entire season), the foundation around them is just flat-out bad.  You can’t even call this a foundation.  Other than Murphy and Fernando Martinez, which of these players supporting Wright, Reyes, and Beltran appear to have anything resembling a future in the major leagues beyond this season?  What players currently in Triple A can step up and make an immediate impact in the major leagues?  Even going into Double A…who other than Josh Thole or Nick Evans might be part of the next good Mets team?

The pitching situation does appear to be a little bit better…if you believe in John Maine and Oliver Perez as legit rotation fillers.  John Maine has been a below average starting pitcher since 2007, which has to date been his only good season in the majors.  He has spent parts of the past two seasons on the disabled list.  If he’s going to step up and become solid rotation filler, he needs to do so now, or forever hold his peace.  Oliver Perez is signed to an absolute joke of a contract, and may or may not be suffering from a knee injury.  The last time he was seen in early May, he showed no ability to get major league hitters out.  Mike Pelfrey is still young enough, but after a promising 2008, you can’t help but look at him this year and think of 2009 as a step backwards.  I’m more optimistic about him than I am Maine or Perez, but that’s not saying much.

So that’s where we stand.  After Friday’s absolutely gut wrenching loss, I’ve been thinking about how flawed this team truly is.  Sure, they came back behind an outstanding performance from Fernando Nieve that can’t possibly be hoped to be duplicated, but then Johan got absolutely shelled on Sunday against the Yankees.  One step forward, two steps back.  That’s been the direction of this franchise since 2006.  Where is it going?  What are they doing?  Are they going to trade some of their wealth of minor league options to acquire a hitter before the deadline?  A pitcher?  How far away is Jose Reyes from returning?  Carlos Delgado?  JJ Putz?  Billy Wagner?  Is Jerry Manuel in trouble?  Is Omar Minaya in trouble?  Why should anybody keep watching this team?

I thought about the last question a lot this weekend, which was spent not watching the Mets (I like to take a day off or two after bad losses, to try to keep a rational eye on this team) and thought about why I should continue to watch this team, and the answers are David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Johan Santana (and when he returns, Jose Reyes).  They are so good at what they do (pretend Sunday didn’t happen for a minute) that it is a pleasure watching them play the game of baseball.  Even with the rest of the team around them being so absolutely terrible, they are joys to watch day in, and day out.  I wish they could be rewarded with a championship baseball team surrounding them, good players in the corner outfield spots, at second base, at catcher, and in the starting rotation. 

I wish they could have a manager who understood what type of baseball team he has, that taking the extra base with average to below average baserunners will cost the team runs, and that bunting with position players, even below average hitters, is really stupid.  I wish they had a general manager who understood marginal value, how to pick up a few extra wins without spending a fortune, who didn’t overvalue the closer’s position by trading useful pieces and spending precious dollars in order to “fix” the bullpen.  I wish they had a fanbase that understood how great they are, who didn’t start booing them at the slightest hint of a slump for no reason, despite having absolutely carried this team as far as they could the past two seasons without making the playoffs because of abysmal supporting casts around them.

Basically, I just wish the Mets were good.  Because they have some elite players on this team, and there should be no reason why this team fails to make the playoffs as often as they do.  I wish a team that had so many great players wasn’t so hard to watch some days, because this team since 2006 has been a house of cards.  And do you know what a house of cards will eventually do?  Collapse.  This year, the collapse is happening earlier than September, but the heartbreak is just the same.  That they are still in the playoff race is only because the rest of the National League is so terrible, but unless Reyes can come back soon, and at full strength, and unless the Mets can find an unexpected contribution from players I’ve written off above, this team will not be playing meaningful games in October.

Point/Counterpoint: Doc Gooden

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

We did one of these a few months ago, and since Joeadig sent this to me this morning and I wanted to write something about Doc Gooden this week anyway, I am combining this into a Point/Counterpoint.  Joe is taking the anti-Doc stance, and I will take the…well, the not-anti-Doc stance.

(more…)

The Hate List

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Every fan of every baseball team knows what hate is.  Hate is when you have a team or teams who you absolutely can’t stand.  Whether it be because that team has done your team harm, or because their fanbase is completely obnoxious, the mere sight of players from this other squad sends you into a homicidal rage.  Reasonable people become frothing, slobbering madmen once a player’s name is even mentioned.  Frankly, it can be frightening.

We all have our own hate lists.  A Mets fan’s hate list, for example, will look very different than a Yankee fan’s hate list.  However, fans of the same team can also have different hate lists, depending on how they weigh a number of issues.  No two hate lists will look the same.  A Mets fan who hated George Brett as a youngster may hate the Royals far more than I do.  My hate list looks different from Joeadigs, which looks different from TJV101’s, which looks different from MikeGrim’s.  That’s just the way it is.

Here now is my hate list as of today, April 8th.  Hate lists can change yearly, monthly, even daily, but here is where my list stands as of now:

30) New York Mets

As much as they break my heart, as much as they drive me crazy, as much as they leave me feeling hopeless and empty inside…I can’t hate the Mets.

29) Toronto Blue Jays

As much as any team can be my “American League team,” I guess that would be the Blue Jays.  I don’t really root for them as much as I used to, but I did enjoy their 1993 World Series victory over the Phillies, and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Canada, so there you go.

28) Washington Nationals

It’s hard to hate a team that stinks.  Plus, I would say that Lastings Milledge and Adam Dunn are my two favorite non-Mets, and they are both on the Nats.  This ranking has the potential to get a lot higher if the Nats ever got good, but for right now, they are quite low.

27) Kansas City Royals
26) Texas Rangers
25) Seattle Mariners
24) Minnesota Twins
23) Chicago White Sox
22) Detroit Tigers
21) Cleveland Indians
20) Baltimore Orioles

These AL teams are mediocre to bad, and I have no reason to hate any of them.  I mean, the odds of the Mets facing any of these teams in a World Series is pretty slim.  I listed the Orioles ahead of everybody else since the Mets did once face them in the World Series, but it was a World Series that the Mets won, and it happened ten years before I was born, so how much residual bad blood can I have?  Of these teams, the Indians and Tigers have the most potential to rise into the next tier in the next year or so.  But it’s hard to hate AL teams that the Mets only play once every three years, and aren’t very good to begin with.

19) Tampa Bay Rays
18) Oakland Athletics
17) Los Angeles Angels

These are all good AL teams that could make a World Series sometime in the next five years, so they are ranked higher than the other AL teams, since should the Mets make the World Series, these teams could face them (the other two AL teams are ranked higher).  I like the way the Rays and A’s are run, which is why I won’t rank them higher.  It’s hard to hate smart-run baseball franchises, right?  The A’s get slightly more hate than the Rays because the Mets lost to them in a World Series, although it was played before I was born.  I think I hate the Angels a little bit more than the rest of these teams because I hate “Angels baseball,” which is basically “run into outs on the basepaths non-stop” and “start shortstops who hit worse than most pitchers” and other baseball things I hate.

16) Colorado Rockies
15) San Diego Padres
14) San Francisco Giants
13) Cincinnati Reds
12) Houston Astros
11) Pittsburgh Pirates

Now we’re getting into the lousy NL teams.  These teams will play the Mets 6-9 times, and the Mets may lose some games, or even a majority of them, but the teams are so bad, who cares?  How can I work up hatred for lousy teams?  None of these teams should directly affect the Mets’ playoff chances this year; should any of these teams actually be somewhat good, they will shoot up the list.  I rank the Rockies lowest because they recently beat the Phillies in a playoff series, and that made me happy.  The Pirates are listed highest, since they are the only one of these teams who were ever an NL East rival of the Mets.  Even though the Astros stink, they’re ranked 12th because of residual bitterness over Mike Scott and his ball scuffing antics.

10) Chicago Cubs
9) Arizona Diamondbacks
8) Los Angeles Dodgers

The Cubs would be ranked higher, but the Mets and Cubs never really had much of a rivalry in the NL East (since one or both teams were usually bad; the only seasons the two teams finished first and second were 1969 and 1984).  Plus, as a baseball fan, you do want to see the Cubs end years of losing and win a World championship at some point, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of the Mets.  The Dodgers and Diamondbacks are a little different; I really don’t want to see either team win the World Series at the expense of the Mets.  If the Cubs were to win, hey, good for them.  The Dodgers and Diamondbacks?  That might sting a little.  That said, these three teams stand as three of the Mets’ biggest National League rivals towards winning a championship in 2009, so I can’t really rate them below the bad teams.

7) Boston Red Sox
6) New York Yankees

I might get some heat for keeping the Red Sox and Yankees out of the top five, but I have my reasons.  I don’t really hate the Red Sox that much either; again, they are an extremely well-run team that are usually very good at every aspect of the game.  As a baseball fan, how can you not respect that, and the way they play the game?  Even their fans aren’t all bad, just the bandwagon jerks.  The bandwagon jerks do make this team easier to hate, but as a baseball fan, I respect this franchise so much, because they do everything so well.

Joeadig is going to kill me for leaving the Yankees out of the top 5, but while I hate Yankee fans, and I think Derek Jeter is severely overrated, I don’t really hate the majority of their players.  The only reason I want to see the Yankees fail is because of their fanbase; the team itself and its players generally don’t bother me.  I root for them to lose more because their fans are more prevalent, more numerous versions of the bandwagon Red Sox fans described above.  But how much hatred can I possibly muster for a team that the Mets face six times a year, and a team that probably won’t affect the Mets’ playoff chances in any significant way?  I have always felt that the Mets/Yankees rivalry was a fabricated, media-driven thing anyway.

5) Milwaukee Brewers

The only top 5 team that figures to move down a peg or two this year, this is more residual bitterness from 2008.  Plus, when I found out that the Brewers were already celebrating winning the Wild Card before the Mets had officially lost to the Marlins, that kind of ticked me off a little bit.  And now, Willie Randolph is their bench coach, and any reader of BlueAndOrange knows how much I dislike Willie.  I’d like to see the Mets beat them up a little bit this year, and I hope they don’t even sniff the playoffs.

4) St. Louis Cardinals

This is mostly residual bitterness from 2006, but there is also some added bitterness from 1985 and 1987 as well.  The Mets and Cards battled tooth and nail in the mid to late 80’s, with the Cards winning three divsion titles (and a World Series) to the Mets’ two (and a World Series).  Add in the way the 2006 World Series ended, and this figures to be a top five team for a while, unless the Nationals come out of nowhere to become a superpower. 

3) Atlanta Braves

They have had periods in the top spot, and could one day soon reclaim that spot.  For right now, they are #3 based on reputation, but of late, the Mets have had the edge both in the season series with the Braves and in the standings, so it’s hard to rank them higher.  That said, most of their players strike me as pretty unlikable, particularly a gentleman by the name of Lawrence Jones, and I think this is a team that is capable of being good again soon, so I suspect they won’t remain this low for too long.

2) Florida Marlins

This is an easier team to hate than you think.  First, obviously, there’s the whole situation with the Mets having lost on the last day of the season to this lousy ass team two years in a row.  Then, there’s Dan Uggla hitting the last home run at Shea Stadium, a place I loved and adored.  A Marlin holds our last record.  That’s all of the personal stuff.  But as a franchise?  They are an affront to baseball, an expansion team that has two World Series championships and spent most of their other years of existance crapping all over their non-existant fanbase.  They have the worst ownership in baseball, a group that seemingly exists solely to build a new baseball stadium with public money, without any care for whatever fanbase that doesn’t mind getting kicked in the face.  Screw them.

(For more on why the Marlins are an affront to professional sports, read Baseball Prospectus).

1) Philadelphia Phillies

Was there ever any doubt?  Their fan base is full of jerks, most of whom didn’t even know they played baseball in Philadelphia before October 2008.  The same fanbase that couldn’t stop mentioning the Mets during their victory celebration (though I guess they were taking their cues from their favorite asshole players, who also couldn’t resist taking shots at a team that hadn’t played a game in a month).  This same fanbase now includes my sister, who wasn’t even a baseball fan before 2007, but now feels free to stick it to me about how much better the Phillies are despite never having sat through even a single lousy season in team history.  The same fanbase that has hijacked Johan Santana’s Baseball Reference page, to where now I can’t go and read about my favorite pitcher without being reminded about how much I hate the Phillies.

But wait, there’s more!  Jimmy Rollins stole an MVP from David Wright two years ago (and Ryan Howard nearly stole one from Albert Pujols last year).  I’d like to see somebody punch Shane Victorino in the face (admittedly, I would probably love him if he were a Met, but he isn’t, so f him).  Jayson Werth has that shitty goatee that reminds me of every member of the 2006 Cardinals, another team on my all-time hate list.  Ryan Howard is the most overrated player in baseball.  The Phillies bullpen was extremely lucky last year, while the Mets’ bullpen was was extremely unlucky (that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it).  Even guys like Eric Bruntlett fill me with rage.  Their winning the World Series made me physically ill, and made me hate baseball for at least a good month.

Basically, these guys make me completely and utterly irrational, and I am an otherwise rational man.  What better way to define hate than that?

The Top Ten Offensive Seasons in Mets History – Left Fielders 6-10

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

For the catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, and the shortstops, click on the links.

After a prolonged holiday break, we are back to the list with left fielders.  Left field has usually been a place where teams will stick their poorest defensive players, so this will be a position with stronger hitting credentials than the shortstops we profiled a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately, the Mets have also tended to start part-time players in left field a lot, so there are few truly eye-popping seasons here, but some darned good half-seasons, so let’s take a look at the list.

Honorable Mention: Steve Henderson (1977, 1979), Kevin McReynolds (1989), Cliff Floyd (2003), Fernando Tatis (2008)

Steve Henderson was a good, not great, journeyman outfielder who gave the Mets two good years, albeit in part-time work. Kevin McReynolds is not a man held in high regard by Mets fans, particularly after the man he was traded for, Kevin Mitchell, won an MVP in 1989, but it is important to remember that he was a consistent power threat that was a good bet to hit 50 or more extra base hits a year while he was on the team. Cliff Floyd would have made the list if he had played more than 108 games, but as is the story of his Mets career, he didn’t stay on the field enough.  Fernando Tatis will likely be the most unlikely player to make any of these lists, and again would have made the list with a full season, but he was an unexpected bright spot for the 2008 Mets.

#10: Moises Alou, 2007

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
51 112 19 1 13 49 27 .341 .392 .524 .916 3

But this right here probably ranks as the best part-time season by a Mets player in history.  Mets fans ultimately won’t remember Moises Alou fondly, I suspect.  If he had made it onto the field even a little bit more in 2008, the story might be different.  Then again, we may not have seen Fernando Tatis’ excellent season, either – or at the very least, there would have been a logjam when Ryan Church came back.  Anyway, in a little more than half a season, Alou hit over 30 extra base hits, hit for a high average (which propped up his OBP) and gave the Mets their longest hitting streak in team history to close the season and, along with David Wright and Carlos Beltran, helped keep the Mets from being finished off before the last day of the season and gave them hope.  You can’t blame the collapse on Alou, because he was at his absolute best during that period.

#9: Tommy Davis, 1967

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
72 174 32 0 16 73 31 .302 .342 .440 .782 9

I don’t know much about Tommy Davis.  He only spent one season with the Mets, after which he was traded to the White Sox for Tommie Agee.  Can’t really complain about that one, as we’ll be seeing Tommie Agee on lists to come.  But I do know that 48 extra base hits during the dead ball era is really good, particularly playing half his games at Shea.  He didn’t walk much, wasn’t much of a base-stealer, but he gave the Mets solid power, leading the 61-win Mets in both home runs and doubles.  Since he played on a terrible Mets team over 40 years ago, and only played one season at that, he is a prime candidate to get forgotten by most Mets fans, which is why I’m happy to shine a bit of a light on a player who kept that year’s Mets team from being significantly worse.

#8: Rickey Henderson, 1999

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
89 138 30 0 12 42 82 .315 .423 .466 .889 37

With apologies to Jose Reyes, this stands as the best season by a Mets leadoff hitter in history.  Eighty-two walks!  A .423 on base percentage!  If Jose Reyes did that today, people wouldn’t give him crap over his celebrations because he’d be the MVP of the league.  But Rickey wasn’t particularly loved for his time in New York (which seems to be a recurring theme here).  Maybe it has to do with his playing cards with Bobby Bonilla as the Mets were playing the Braves in a do or die NLCS game against the Atlanta Braves?  But Rickey’s year was pretty great, although he was another player who didn’t stay on the field enough (then again, he was 42).  You’ll hear more great stories about Rickey next week, after he is inducted into the Hall of Fame, but Mets fans should remember him for the season where he played cards with Bobby Bonilla in the clubhouse, and simultaneously was the best leadoff hitter the Mets would ever know.

#7: John Milner, 1976

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
56 120 25 4 15 78 65 .271 .362 .447 .809 0

Milner always seemed like a sad case to me.  He was a pretty solid hitter who had good patience and decent power for the time.  Surely, he was a better hitter than Ed Kranepool.  Yet the Mets never really gave him a shot.  Whenever Kranepool would go down, or one of their corner outfielders would go down, Milner would step in, hit double digit homers and doubles, walk once every 8-10 plate appearances, and then go right back to the bench.  Alas, Milner came up in the 70’s, where things like walking were not as appreciated, and the things Milner didn’t do (like hit .300 or avoid strikeouts) were held against him.  If Milner had come up today, he’d be seen as a good starter; instead, he was seen as a good fill-in, but nothing more.  Still, this season represents his peak as a Met, and it was a good one; 44 extra base hits in 511 plate appearances is nothing to sneeze at.

#6: Cliff Floyd, 2005

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
85 150 22 2 34 98 63 .273 .358 .505 .863 17

Cliff Floyd, when he was healthy, was a dangerous hitter.  This 2005 proves it; I mean, he even stole 17 bases!  You forget that Floyd was not a one-dimensional slugger.  This was the one year that Floyd managed to stay on the field enough to play a full season, and he delivered in spades, with 34 homers, 22 doubles, a .505 slugging percentage, the aforementioned steals, and 63 walks.  This was Floyd’s last truly good season, as injuries would keep him off the field in 2006 (fortunately, the Mets didn’t miss him too much) and he became a part-time player the past two seasons.  It’s a shame that he was a guy who could never stay healthy; the 2006 Mets might have vanquished the Cardinals if Floyd had more than three at-bats (when he could barely move, no less).

Next: Left Fielders 1-5

The Top Ten Offensive Seasons in Mets History – Shortstops 1-5

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

For the catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, and shortstops 6-10, click on the links.

The list of shortstops doesn’t start to pick up until #3.  Seriously…until a certain exuberant Dominican came of age in the majors, the Mets’ shortstops unequiviocably could not hit.  But we have two more shortstops to get out of the way before we get to him, so without further ado…

#5: Bud Harrelson, 1976

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
34 84 12 4 1 26 63 .234 .351 .298 .649 9

This season stood as the gold standard for Mets shortstops for almost thirty years.  Take a look at that beauty.  The only thing Buddy did this year was walk; those 63 walks were good to pump that OBP up to .351.  Of course, 17 extra base hits are nothing to write home about, which is the only reason this season won’t be ranked higher.  He also played a good defensive shortstop, so I don’t mean to hate…but when from 1962 to 2004, this season ranks as the #1 best season ever by a shortstop in franchise history…well, that doesn’t speak to well for the franchise’s shortstops.

#4: Kaz Matsui, 2004

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
65 125 32 2 7 44 40 .272 .331 .396 .727 14

Here is your #1 proof that the New York Mets have failed to employ even passable hitting shortstops for the franchise’s entire history between 1962 and 2004; Kaz Matsui had the best offensive season in Mets history in 2004.  Matsui was positively HATED his entire time in New York, yet compared to other Mets he was positively terrific, thanks mostly to those 32 doubles and going 14 of 17 on stolen base attempts.  Of course, Matsui also wasn’t nearly as good as these other guys defensively, making his bad hitting stick out…but you can’t win ‘em all.

I always thought Matsui got kind of a bad rap in New York.  Was he a great player?  No, he was not.  Was he overpaid?  Of course he was.  But when he managed to stay healthy in Colorado, he played a decent defensive second base, he had the ability to hit a lot of doubles, and he could steal bases at a high percentage.  He’s far from a perfect player, but I think after a season and a half of Luis Castillo, Mets fans may be ready to welcome KazMat back to New York with open arms.

#3: Jose Reyes, 2007

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
119 191 36 12 12 57 77 .280 .354 .421 .775 78

Jose Reyes is, by far, the best hitting shortstop in Mets history.  In 2007, when it was all said and done anybody could talk about was what was wrong with Reyes.  The guy just had the second-best season by a Mets shortstop in team history, and the story was what was wrong with him?  If there was something wrong with Reyes in 2007, then there must have been something seriously wrong with Mets shortstops for the first 35 years of the team’s existence, because none of those seasons could hold a candle to Reyes in 2007, other than Reyes in 2006.

Take a look…60 extra base hits, 78 stolen bases in 100 attempts, continued improvement in drawing walks (making him more valuable as a leadoff hitter)…just an excellent season all along.  The problem was, Reyes went frigid in September, or else this season would look even better.  The first five months of 2007 showed the kind of potential Reyes has if he can ever do that over a full season.  It’s scary to think, but we haven’t even seen the best of Jose Reyes yet.

#2: Jose Reyes, 2008

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
113 204 37 19 16 68 66 .297 .358 .475 .833 56

This past season was a nice bounceback for Reyes, and another glimpse of what he is capable of accomplishing.  His first 200 hit season, another high percentage steals season (though Manuel attempted stolen bases less than Willie), and nice power numbers (72 extra base hits).  Another subpar September kept these numbers from being even better, which seems to point to me not so much that Reyes folds down the stretch, but perhaps that he would benefit from a few more days off; he is rarely out of the Mets’ lineup.  It would behoove the Mets to find a decent utility man who can perhaps nudge Castillo out at second and spell Reyes at short once a month before going to spring training.

#1: Jose Reyes, 2006

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
122 194 30 17 19 81 53 .300 .354 .487 .841 64

Now, one might see Reyes’ 2006 season ranking ahead of his 2007 and 2008 seasons, and think he has somehow regressed.  It’s not exactly true; these seasons are very close in value.  In fact, Reyes had more extra base hits in 2008, albeit in more games, though he had  more stolen bases in 2006.  Realistically, you could probably switch these two seasons around and not have a quarrel.  I just think his 2006 was a little bit better.

There should be three things you take away from this list.  One, the Mets have employed some really lousy hitting shortstops for most of their existence.  Two, Jose Reyes has already established himself as the best hitting shortstop in franchise history.  And three, he has done so before turning even 26 years old.  This season might currently rank as the best season by a Mets shortstop in team history, but it won’t be first for long.  Jose Reyes will surpass this season sometime in the next 3 years.  He may surpass it three times in that time span.  Please cherish what we have from Jose Reyes, because for all his faults and all of his immaturity, he is a supremely talented ballplayer, and the best is yet to come.
Next: The Left Fielders

The Top Ten Offensive Seasons in Mets History – Shortstops 6-10

Monday, December 15th, 2008

For the catchers, first basemen, second basemen, and third basemen, click on the links.

The Mets do not have a history of great hitting shortstops.

This is an understatement.  Quite frankly, until the last few years, most Mets shortstops have been absolutely dreadful hitters.  Think of the World Series teams; their shortstops were Buddy Harrelson (1969, 1973), Rafael Santana (1986), and Rey Ordonez/Mike Bordick (2000).  For years, the Mets eschewed offense at shortstop for great defense, and sometimes it worked.  Most of the time, as evidenced by the Mets’ lack of success, it didn’t.

So who’s the best of this sorry lot?  Let’s take a look.

Honorable Mention: Jose Reyes (2003)

Reyes’ 2003 season would have made the list at #4 on the list had he played 12 more games in 2003.  Since he didn’t play half of the Mets’ games at shortstop in 2003, he can’t make the top ten.  But this was the first legitimately good season by a Mets shortstop in team history.  More on him later.

#10: Kevin Elster, 1989

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
52 106 25 2 10 55 34 .231 .283 .360 .643 4

Kevin Elster was generally not a good hitter.  He didn’t draw walks.  He didn’t hit for power.  He didn’t hit for average.  This season really isn’t good at all by any objective measure.  I have nothing good to say about Kevin Elster in 1989, no fond remembrances, nothing notable at all, other than the ten homers he hit here were only the second time in team history where a Mets shortstop hit ten or more home runs.  Actually amend that statement – it was only the second time in team history where a Mets shortstop hit ten home runs, because neither hit more than ten.  It would remain the second time in team history where a Mets shortstop hit ten home runs for another 17 years.

So why did he make the list?  Because the other Mets seasons that didn’t make the list were really, REALLY bad.

#9: Bud Harrelson, 1973

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
35 92 12 3 0 20 48 .258 .348 .309 .657 5

The only thing notable about Bud Harrelson in 1973 was that he got to play in the World Series despite being a dreadful hitter.  At least Harrelson was good at drawing walks and getting on base; if he ever had made enough contact to hit .300, he could have almost been a good hitter.  He never did that.  But hey…he did get into this nifty fight with Pete Rose in the 1973 NLCS.  So he has that going for him.

#8: Eddie Bressoud, 1966

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
48 91 15 5 10 49 47 .225 .304 .360 .664 2

You know what makes Eddie Bressoud’s 1966 season notable?  He hit ten home runs this season, the first time in Mets history a shortstop hit ten home runs.  Elster would become the second man 23 years later.  Jose Reyes would become the third man 17 years after that (and he actually hit MORE than ten homers!).   He also drew a decent number of walks.  Other than that, I can’t think of a single thing to say about Eddie Bressoud and his 1966 season.

#7: Kevin Elster, 1991

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
33 84 16 2 6 36 40 .241 .318 .351 .669 2

Kevin Elster makes the list twice!  Just think of all the greats that didn’t make the list if not one, but TWO Kevin Elster seasons made the cut.  And this is before Kevin Elster suddenly and inexplicably developed power in his early to mid 30’s, to boot.  Do you see why I waited a week to post the shortstops list now?  I’d almost rather talk about Mets rumors that surely will never come to pass than talk about this awful list of shortstops.  Seriously, two Kevin Elster seasons!  How did that happen?

#6: Jose Vizcaino, 1995

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
66 146 21 5 3 56 35 .287 .332 .365 .697 8

You want to know how utterly unnotable Jose Vizcaino’s stay with the Mets was?  As you can tell, I have tried to include images with each of these columns, ways to remember the greats that have played with the Mets.  When I tried a Google Image Search for “Jose Vizcaino, Mets,” this was the only image that came up with Jose Vizcaino in Mets gear.  This was it!  Vizcaino hit a fluky .287, which helped cover for his lousy walk rate somewhat, and added an impressive 21 doubles.  Other than that, awful season.  #6 in Mets history.

Up Next: The Top Five, including some actual good seasons!

The Top Ten Offensive Seasons in Mets History – Third Basemen 1-5

Friday, December 5th, 2008

For the catchers, first basemen, second basemen, and third basemen 6-10, click on the links.

From here on out, it’s the David Wright/Howard Johnson show, so without further ado…

#5: Howard Johnson, 1991

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
108 146 34 4 38 117 78 .259 .342 .535 .877 30

Howard Johnson, like Bret Saberhagen, had a weird even year/odd year thing going.  Every other year, he would have a great season, followed by a down season.  It continued in 1991, following a disappointing 1990 season, HoJo bounced back with a huge 38 homer/34 double/30 steal season.  Call it the 30/30/30 club, the second time he pulled off such a feat.  Throw in a career-high 117 RBIs, and you’re left with a damned fine season on a team that went nowhere.

This season was the end of HoJo’s prime; he would spend another two more disappointing seasons in New York, not bouncing back in the odd year 1993 from a poor even year in 1992.  He never played every day again and was out of the big leagues for good by age 35.  In that way, he’s pretty similar to Edgardo Alfonzo, another Mets star who peaked early and was out of the majors only a few seasons removed from one of his best seasons.  It is a shame that HoJo’s last great season wasn’t spent on a team that did anything, but blame management for tearing down the 80’s Mets dynasty brick by brick.

#4: David Wright, 2005

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
99 176 42 1 27 102 72 .306 .388 .523 .911 17

David Wright’s first full season in the big leagues…and it’s the 4th best offensive season at third base in Mets history.  I’d say that’s pretty good.  In fact, in 2005 this season would have ranked second in Mets history.  You could start to see the traits that would make David Wright great develop in this first season.  High number of walks, 40+ doubles, 27 homers, 100+ RBIs…there is a lot to love here.

Still, I want to use this season to (once again) point out Willie Randolph’s shortcomings as manager.  Here is David Wright, having a phenomenal year; in 2005, he was unquestionably the best hitter on the team.  Yet, for almost half the season, Willie had Wright batting 6th and 7th, behind a decomposing Mike Piazza, a light hitting Doug Mientkiewicz, and the atrocious Miguel Cairo.  Wright batted third four times all season, all in games that Carlos Beltran sat out after crashing face-first into Mike Cameron, which brought Gerald “Ice” Williams into the lineup to play center field.  Best hitter on the team, buried in the batting order.  Willie Randolph, ladies and gentlemen.

#3: David Wright, 2008

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
115 189 42 2 33 124 94 .302 .390 .534 .924 15

No longer a rookie, David Wright put together another phenomonal year in 2008.  He went over 40 doubles for the fourth straight season, batted .300 or better for the fourth straight season, and 100 RBIs for the fourth straight season.  He was over 30 homers for the second straight season and over 90 walks for the second straight season.  Basically, 2008 was another continuation of everything he had done since being brought up from the minor leagues, and that’s awesome hitting.

That is why, when you hear talk radio or newspaper writers talk about how there’s a David Wright on every team, laugh in their faces.  David Wright is good for a consistent 25+ homers a season, 40+ doubles, 100+ RBIs, .300 or better batting average, .380 or better OBP, he will steal bases at a high percentage, and will draw 70 or more walks.  That is the minimum of what he will do each and every season, and often he will surpass that.  There are not 29 other players like David Wright playing major league baseball; there probably aren’t more than 5.

#2: David Wright, 2007

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
113 196 42 1 30 107 94 .325 .416 .546 .962 34

Here is where I suspect a lot of folks will be surprised.  I argued vehemently that David Wright should have been the MVP in 2007.  I still believe that.  And I do believe that this season was truly excellent season.  It was Wright’s first 30/30/30 season, another high RBI season…I hate ranking this season second.  I truly do.  But being that I’ve already written so much about David Wright’s 2007 season, I think it’s time I talked a little about…

#1: Howard Johnson, 1989

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
104 164 41 3 36 101 77 .287 .369 .559 .928 41

Howard Johnson set a Mets record in 1989; most extra base hits in a season.  How can a season where a man hits 80 extra base hits not rank #1?  Throw in 41 steals, and you have a hell of a season.  Howard Johnson was really underrated, mostly because he played on teams that had Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, and other big hitters, and by the time HoJo became a regular, the Mets had already peaked and were settled into a series of second place finishes.

Still, you can’t blame those seasons on HoJo, he did what he could to keep the Mets in contention.  He was second in the NL in homers, third in doubles, and fourth in stolen bases.  Yet he finished fifth in the MVP race, behind former teammate Kevin Mitchell.  I will happily concede that Mitch had a much better season than HoJo.  I will not say the same about Ryne Sandberg and Pedro Guerrero.  But what HoJo did that year, hit so many extra base hits in a league that favored pitching, is perhaps unique in Mets history.  His 1989 season was special, and yet it feels like it is rarely talked about.

Next: Shortstops

The Top Ten Offensive Seasons in Mets History – Second Basemen 1-5

Friday, November 28th, 2008

For the catchers, first basemen, and second basemen 6-10, click on the links.

Of the five seasons remaining, two are by the same player, one is by a guy who never lived up to his massive hype in New York, one is by a guy hated by most Mets fans, and one is a guy most Mets fans under the age of 40 have never heard of.  Good times.  Here’s the rest of the list.

#5: Gregg Jefferies, 1990

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
96 171 40 3 15 68 46 .283 .337 .434 .771 11

A lot was written about Gregg Jefferies in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  With the way the Mets farm system had pumped out homegrown star players like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, Jefferies was supposed to be the next star player in the system.  A second baseman with 20 homer potential, if the New York hype machine was any indication, Jefferies was to dominate this very list you are reading for years and years to come.

Alas, it never happened.  Jefferies was good, but not great.  His power potential peaked at 16, and he didn’t stick at second either, moving from second to third to first and finally to the outfield.  Of course, he did most of that moving on other teams, as Jefferies was the centerpiece of a trade with the Kansas City Royals that brought Bret Saberhagen to New York.  Jefferies had a fine career, and when he looks back at what happened, he has nothing to be ashamed about, but there is still a sense that he never lived up to what he should have become.  His is a cautionary tale, of what can happen when the New York hype machine pushes into overdrive on a prospect.  I’m not saying give up on Fernando Martinez or anything like that, but be wary of New York writers overhyping Mets prospects.

That said, this was a pretty decent year by young Mr. Jefferies.  Look at that doubles number – 40 doubles by a young hitter in 1990 is pretty good.  Throw in 3 triples and 15 homers, and from a power perspective, there was a lot to like about him, particularly if he could draw more walks and get that OBP into the .350-.370 range.  Alas, while he did develop more patience in 1991, his power totals dropped and with it his value.  His high water mark came as a St. Louis Cardinal in 1993 as a first baseman.  Jefferies is a great “what if” question, because the Mets never won anything with Saberhagen.  Would he have devloped into a good first baseman here?  Would he have had that breakout season?  Who knows.

#4: Jeff Kent, 1994

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
53 121 24 5 14 68 23 .292 .341 .475 .816 1

I have to admit – I’m not thrilled that Jeff Kent made the list twice.  The biggest reason for that is because the Mets traded a guy who is going to the Hall of Fame, probably first ballot, for a guy who was essentially finished as an everyday player at the age of 27, only the Mets were forced to trot him out every day for the next 2 and a half years regardless.  Part of it is that he seems like kind of a jerk.  While I try not to rush to judgment on players, the fact is Kent has feuded publicly with teammates in every city in which he has played.  I can infer from this that if he is willing to publicly air his grievances with his teammates instead of handling them like men in the locker room, that he is probably a jerk.

That said, he was a jerk who could play.  At the time of the strike in 1994, Kent was on pace for another 20 homer season, with improved plate discipline and a high number of doubles to boot.  In a season and a half following the David Cone trade, Kent was starting to round into a pretty good hitter.  His defense was never going to be great, and I suspect that is what worried Mets management when they traded for Baerga, not anticipating that Baerga would gain weight, losing his range in the process.  But there were signs that Kent was going to be a good, maybe not great but good, hitter, and the Mets gave up on him just a little too soon.

#3: Ron Hunt, 1964

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
59 144 19 6 6 42 29 .303 .357 .406 .763 6

The first player from the 60’s makes one of these lists!  If you look at Ron Hunt’s numbers, they don’t necessarily scream “great hitter,” but remember that the 1960’s were a different era.  This was fresh in the middle of the “dead ball” era, where power numbers had taken a giant dive downward.  So yes, a player with only 31 extra base hits is #3 on the list, because power numbers across the board were depressed.  Hunt is also the first player on this list to hit .300 over a full season, which also helps give him that OBP over .350, also a first on this list.  Hunt’s numbers were even good enough to get him some MVP votes – he finished 25th in 1964, the first Met to ever receive an MVP vote.

Alas, this was Ron Hunt’s high water mark with the Mets – he missed time in 1965 with injury, and his meager power numbers declined even further in 1966.  He was traded after the ‘66 season for Tommy Davis and Derrell Griffith, who spent a combined one season on the Mets roster and the only claim to fame between the two of them was that Griffith was later traded for current Mets coach Sandy Alomar, Sr.  Ron Hunt now runs his own instructional baseball camps and clinics, which you can read about at http://www.ronhuntbaseball.com.

#2: Edgardo Alfonzo, 1999

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
123 191 41 1 27 108 85 .304 .385 .502 .887 9

Edgardo Alfonzo is pretty objectively the best Mets hitting second baseman in history.  Even though he spent most of his Mets career (and indeed, his baseball career) at third base, it was two of his seasons at second base that truly stand out as great seasons.  This was the first of those seasons; Alfonzo set high water marks for doubles, home runs, and RBIs this year.  This was the first year in what would be his prime as a Met, and he couldn’t have picked two better years to do it; two years in which the Mets made the playoffs.

#1: Edgardo Alfonzo, 2000

R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS SB
109 176 40 2 25 94 95 .324 .425 .542 .967 3

And here is the second year.  Alfonzo played in 8 fewer games in 2000 than he had in 1999, or else it seems reasonable he would have surpassed both the doubles and homer totals, with more walks and hits on the balance.  What a great year by Alfonzo; this was the year he really put everything together.  That OBP ranks third in Mets history, behind only John Olerud’s awesome seasons in 1998 and 1999.  The 25 homers rank second in Mets history for a second baseman, behind only his 1999 totals.  Same with those 40 doubles.  From a hitting perspective, it is hard to argue that Alfonzo is the best second baseman the Mets ever had. 

That’s why it was nice when Alfonzo got such a nice hand at the last game at Shea Stadium – it was nice that they recognized his achievements.  While I think Alfonzo was popular enough (I owned an Alfonzo jersey-t in 1999), I really don’t think he fully gets his due for what he gave to those two great Mets teams.  He was overshadowed by Piazza and the starting pitching, but Alfonzo gave the Mets something that they had lacked during most of their existance; elite production at a weaker offensive position.  They also got this sort of production at catcher, which helped cover for the fact that the Mets started an offensive black hole at shortstop, and other less productive players in the outfield.

That’s all for this installment.  Go read Joeadig’s reasons to be thankful for being a Mets fan, and we’ll pick this up with the start of the third basemen list on Monday.