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
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
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
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
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
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