5/9/18

Reese Kaplan -- Remembering the Classiest Mets

5 comments


With the trade for Devin Mesoraco the Matt Harvey era is officially over and his fall from grace from a would-be post-season contender to arguably the worst team in baseball closes that chapter for good.  Ill health is terrible way for a career to go off the rails, but Harvey did himself no favors with his me-first attitude.

That got me to thinking of the polar opposite – players who were classy and represented the team well during their tenure.  I had set some arbitrary minimums in my mind of the number of games played at a given position – 400 – and the number of games for relievers or IP for starters.  To wit, I came up with the following list of players who made you proud they were a part of the Mets:

First Base

You had three obvious and one less obvious candidate here.  By sheer longevity the nod should go to Ed Kranepool who was there for a cup of coffee when the franchise was born, through the Miracle Mets year of 1969 and spent his entire career in a Mets uniform, finally hanging it up in 1979.  Many would shout Keith Hernandez, but he came to the club under a cloud of abuse suspicion and his chain smoking in the dugout wasn’t exactly setting him up to be a role model.  John Olerud wasn’t here nearly long enough but he was stellar for his three years as a Met, averaging .315/22/99.  The other one who was sometimes vilified for not being a more complete hitter was Lucas Duda who quietly went about his job and never raised a single negative headline. 

Second Base

While an argument could be made for Atlanta Braves import Felix Millan who actually was second in games at 2B, the crowd favorite Edgardo Alfonzo gets my vote.  He was a good Mets citizen who participated in many public functions on behalf of the ballclub.  He even took out a full page ad in the newspaper when his Mets career ended to thank the club for all they had done for him.  The all time leader in games at 2B is Wally Backman who was also a fan favorite, but his, umm, colorful managerial career and arrest for DUI put him a distant third.

Shortstop

There is really only once choice – Bud Harrelson.  Some would have advocated Jose Reyes before his rocket launch out of here when the Marlins showed him the money (and that was long before his arrest). 

Third Base

The obvious answer is the Captain, David Wright, though the last few years he’s been as rare a sighting as Punxsutawney Phil.  In 2018 like the Bill Murray movie about Phil, David likely wants to keep repeating 2007. 

Catcher

On the basis of longevity you would have to think Jerry Grote, but even before his cattle rustling days put a bit of a black mark on his legacy, he was all business on the field but not very vocal or demonstrative of the Mets brand at public functions.  Hall of Famer Mike Piazza is another seemingly obvious choice.  He was marketed heavily but you could see he never seemed a comfortable in front of a microphone as he did with a bat in his hand.  No, I would have to select Gary Carter as the guy most representative of the team in terms of how he represented them in public and with the media. 

Left Field

Well, considering the Mets all-time leading left fielder in terms of games played was also arrested for indecent exposure in St. Petersburg when found naked and asleep in a station wagon with a woman who was not his wife who was also in possession of marijuana, let’s leave Cleon Jones out of the equation.  Next on the list is the seemingly reviled-by-fans Kevin McReynolds.  Then there was the underperformer extraordinaire, George Foster (later replaced by Jason Bay in fans’ memories as the biggest disappointment).  No, the man I would nominate was the oft-injured by every classy Cliff Floyd who spent 443 games in left field for the team.

Center Field

You actually have three strong contenders here in team leader Mookie Wilson, free agent success story Carlos Beltran and late ‘60s addition Tommie Agee.  Considering back in the 1960s you didn’t see clubs as active in marketing ballplayers as they do now, I’d leave Agee out.  Then you’re flipping a coin between Wilson and Beltran.  Given that there is a small contingent who felt that Beltran underachieved during his Mets tenure and the larger number who never forgave him for looking at strike three when it counted most, the ever smiling Mookie Wilson is class act here about whom no one has ever had a bad word to say. 

Right Field

Here’s another coin flip in terms of good sportsmanship, good ambassadors to the community and people you were proud played for the Mets.  There are many who would argue that Curtis Granderson’s professionalism, articulate interviews and good works in the community would make him the number one choice, but a great deal of what Granderson did benefitted his hometown of Chicago.  Therefore my vote goes to the late, great Rusty Staub whose stints with the Mets were memorable, whose career after baseball was as much about the Mets as it was about being an adopted New Yorker.  He founded the New York Police and Fire Widows and Children’s Benefit Fund, and was always a gracious presence in interviews and at his restaurant.

Starting Pitchers

While you could go around and around on this one, I came up with a rotation that may not be the absolute best the team has seen but certainly comported themselves to make the fans and the organization always happy to have them around.  In no particular order I would include Jacob deGrom, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack, R.A. Dickey and Tom Seaver.  Now the last one would seem to fans to be an obvious one but he left in controversy because he dared to ask to be paid what he was worth.  I don’t think there’s a Mets fan alive, had Kickstarter existed back then, who wouldn’t have contributed to a fund to keep him a Met for life.  Noah Syndergaard doesn’t make the cut yet both because he hasn’t logged enough innings and he had a since forgotten regrettable tweet while in the minors. 

Relief Pitchers

Again, you have to consider the premise – about who were the class acts, not necessarily who were the best at what they did.  In that regard you would have to include Tug McGraw, Jesse Orosco and John Franco.  After that it gets a bit murkier but Billy Wagner, when healthy, was spectacular for the club and never hit the Page Six headlines. 

So who do you think were the classiest players?  (Oh, and not just because he’s Mack’s favorite, the manager nod goes without hesitation to Gil Hodges). 

5 comments:

Thomas Brennan said...

Not Terry Collins?

Not Matt Harvey?

Very nice picks...can't argue with any.

Mack Ade said...

Reese -

Morning.

I remember sadly when Alfonzo literally begged the Mets to give him one more tryout at spring training to work himself back on the team (2008?, 2009?). The Mets totally ignored him.

Hobie said...

Excellent choice. I cn't improve on that roster, but I'd give honorable mention to Al Jackson & Roy MacMillan.

Thomas Brennan said...

What about Dave Kingman? In a "class" all his own.

Reese Kaplan said...

I think you misspelled that. There's no Cl in front of what he is.

Mack's Mets © 2012