All-Time Team For All-Time

It feels like we’ve been down this road before, and that’s cause we have, but last June, the Mets announced, in recognition of the team’s 50th Anniversary, their All-Time Team. Twelve players and a manager were named to this all-time grouping, and the roster looked a lot like the roster that was named in 2002 as the club’s All-Amazin’ Team in honor of their 40th Anniversary.

But there were interesting differences, arguably in deference to time. A decade of play on the field will do that. There’s also the likelihood that when the team names an all-time roster for their 75th Anniversary a quarter of a century from now, many of the same names might also find their way onto that team as well.

Let the debates/arguing begin!

Where the All-Amazin’ Team was named based on fan voting, this year’s All-Timers were named from a six-man panel appointed by the club. The judges included: broadcasters Gary Cohen and Howie Rose, NY Daily News sportswriters Mike Lupica, and John Harper (and you’ll recall that it was Harper who co-wrote that “epic” about the Jeff Torborg era Mets – “The Worst Team Money Can Buy”), plus NY Post columnist Mike Vaccaro, and longtime Mets beat writer Marty Noble.

And they compiled the following team:

MANAGER: In 2002, the fans selected Gil Hodges as their all-time manager. The new panel went for Davey Johnson.

Hard to argue either way. Both won Championships. Both led their clubs for a significant amount of time. Both had a hard time repeating, but Davey did get his teams to a second NLCS, so maybe that tipped the scale.

In a Post column announcing the team, Vaccaro admitted his vote went to Hodges. “All due respect to Davey, but Hodges took a team that had never finished higher than ninth. The ’86 Mets were fun. The ’69 Mets were forever.”

FIRST BASE: Same then as now. In both instances, Keith Hernandez was the overwhelming choice. No argument here. Vaccaro: “The ’86 Mets never happen if the 1983 trade for Hernandez doesn’t happen.”

And unless Ike Davis proves to be an all-timer, banging out hundreds of homers, and leading this or some other future Mets club to a ring, the 75th Anniversary team likely will name Mex once more.

SECOND BASE: Another repeat. Welcome back to the all-timers, Edgardo Alfonzo. Again, hard to argue, although former second-sackers such as Al Weis, Wally Backman, and Tim Teufel were the right guys at the right time for their squads.

And names such as Carlos Baerga and Roberto Alomar will never find their way onto a Mets all-time anything positive, even if Sandy’s kid does own that shiny plaque from Cooperstown.

THIRD BASE: Here’s where the sands of time felt the earth move. David Wright, who has evolved to be at or near the top of nearly every offensive category in Mets history, was properly named to his hot corner, supplanting Howard Johnson.

And Joe Foy wasn’t even considered!

SHORTSTOP: Here’s where sentiment could have played a role. Jose Reyes was named ahead of longtime Mets stalwart Bud Harrelson, who was properly named in ‘02. Both produced dramatically for their franchise. And you can make the case that Buddy owns a ring, and Jose-Jose-Jose does not, but Reyes was the catalyst for this team through last year, and even though he has gone on to greener money pastures, he certainly was a game-changer, when healthy, here in New York.

But no one will give a second thought if you’d prefer to keep No. 3 in the six hole.

LEFT FIELD: History prevailed as Cleon Jones was named to the new all-time list, but surprise, he wasn’t part of the All-Amazin’ Team. Two centerfielders and a rightfielder – Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, and Darryl Strawberry were the outfielders a decade ago, but this year’s crowning only retained Straw.

You could also make a case for original leftfielder Frank Thomas, who led the ’62 club with 34 home runs, or Dave Kingman, who was one-dimensional – but what a dimension! – or maybe Kevin McReynolds, who came close to being named MVP in 1988, but in truth, Jones is a great choice (he led the club with a .340 mark in ’69), and a major factor in the first Championship run.

And what’s Al Luplow been up to lately?

CENTERFIELD: Here you could debate Mookie or Lenny to get the nod again, but the 2012 panel went for Carlos Beltran. His 2011 castoff trade aside, Beltran also was a major force for the team when healthy. He still shares the franchise record for home runs in a season with Mike Piazza (41 in ’06), shares the team mark for extra-base hits in a season (80 in ’06), is the leader in runs scored (127 in ’06), owns the sixth highest RBI total for a season, and finds his name on other Top Ten lists.

Yes, he couldn’t lift his bat off his shoulder against his current teammate, Adam Wainright, and seems to have discovered the fountain of youth in St. Louis, but Beltran gets the call here.

Another way to look at it. Tommie Agee, Lenny and Mookie have rings. Carlos does not.

RIGHTFIELD: Ah, the strawberry patch again was harvested with that tall skinny – and powerful – right fielder, Darryl Strawberry. It’ll take a lot of production, and likely a ring or two, to uproot the Straw man from this honor, now, as ten years ago, and likely 25 years from now.

In fairness, Rusty Staub, Ron Swoboda, and Art Shamsky deserve honorable mentions for their contributions to Met lore, but the team’s all-time leader in home runs (252) – Straw Man – still takes ‘em deep.

CATCHER: Now here’s where the debates can get sticky. Piazza was named again, as he was ten years ago, and with valid credentials. But longtime fans still have a fondness for Jerry Grote, about whom it was said that if he and Hall of Famer Johnny Bench were on the same team, Grote would catch, and Bench would play third!

And the guy who said that was Bench’s Hall of Fame manager, Sparky Anderson!

And then there’s Hall of Famer Gary Carter, who we lost early in 2012 to brain cancer. Without Carter, ’86 doesn’t happen either, as well as hundreds of other great Mets moments.

This is a tough one, kids. We love Piazza, but we love Kid Carter and Grote as well. Go with your instinct on this one.

PITCHERS:

RIGHTHANDED: Do we even have to say it? Of course, Tom Seaver. Then, now, and maybe forever. He’ll always be the Franchise, Tom Terrific, and some future righthander is going to have to best Seaver’s 198 wins as a Met, his contributions to a Championship and another World Series run, and maybe then, he still won’t even be considered.

LEFTHANDED: Again, it’s Jerry Koosman then and now. Koos is third in wins (140, behind Seaver and Dwight Gooden), second in innings pitched (2,545), fifth in ERA (3.09), third in strikeouts (1,799), second in shutouts (26…guess who’s first? No. 41, of course), second to Seaver again in quality starts, and first in pickoffs (45).

Koos also is first in losses (137), second in hits allowed (2,281…yup, to Seaver in the first slot), second to 41 in walks allowed(847-820), and second to you-know-who in home runs allowed (212-187), but shhhh…..we won’t belabor these numbers.

RIGHTHANDED RELIEVER: Here, Roger McDowell got the pick, then and now (cause Doug Sisk wasn’t around for the voting, no doubt). McDowell was the right half of Davey Johnson’s two-headed closer in the mid-80s, along with Jesse Orosco, and between the two of them, teams couldn’t beat both. And Roger Mac is one of the funniest humans in the baseball universe.

LEFTHANDED RELIEVER: Here’s where it gets touchy again. Tug McGraw got the consensus vote, and deservedly so, but in 2002, it was Go-Johnny-Go Johnny Franco who received the vote of the people, and deservedly so. What to do, what to do?

Franco likely will own the team saves mark for quite some time (276), but McGraw got us to ’69. And what about Jesse? (see Righthanded reliever).

Again, ignore the numbers, go with your heart. The All-Time Team is yours for all-time, until the next time they name a new team…for all-time!

Posted under 40th Anniversary, 75th Anniversary, Amazin Team, Columnist Mike, Davey Johnson, Gary Cohen, Gil Hodges, Jeff Torborg, John Harper, Marty Noble, Mike Lupica, Mike Vaccaro, New York Mets, Overwhelming Choice, Team Money, Time Manager, Time Roster, Top Story

Mets Open Hall of Fame To New Members

Flushing, NY – In a belated attempt to address criticism from fans that the New York Mets have ignored the team’s history since moving into Citi Field in 2009, the Mets inducted four new members on Sunday, August 1.  Frank Cashen,  Dwight Gooden, Davey Johnson and Darryl Strawberry, into its Hall of Fame. The four all represent the resurgence of the team in the 1980′s and the club’s world championship in 1986.

This season marks the 30th anniversary of the Mets Hall of Fame. During the thirty years, the Mets have only inducted 25, including this week’s foursome, into the Hall. The most recent ceremony took place in 2002, when outfielder Tommy Agee was added. The group of four inducted on Sunday was the largest contingent added in an individual season.

A plaque of each of the newest members was added to the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, located in the Rotunda area of Citi Field. The plaques were unveiled during the ceremony, and fans were able to view them during the regularly scheduled game that afternoon. The Mets museum was opened this April in another action designed to recognize the history of the organization and salute its past heroes.

The ceremony was ably emceed by the radio voice of the Mets, Howie Rose. He began his introductions by stating, “We honor four truly iconic figures in the history of the New York Mets, men who played pivotal roles in the Mets second world championship in 1986.”

Rose introduced each who came onto the field from the outfield to receive his plaque from a previous member of the Mets HOF. A short film of the highlight of each recipient’s experiences with the Mets was shown, and then each responded with a short acceptance speech.

Although his name may be the least familiar to current Mets fans, Frank Cashen is the most responsible of the four honored guests for the success of the Mets in the 1980′s. Cashen was hired as general manager in 1980 by the team’s new owner, Nelson Doubleday.

Cashen brought success to the Mets as he previously did as an executive of the Baltimore Orioles from 1965-1975. The other three inductees were brought to the Mets through Cashen’s efforts. Godden and Strawberry were drafted by the club and Johnson was hired as manager in 1984. Cashen also obtained catcher Gary Carter, first baseman Keith Hernandez, third baseman Ray Knight and pitcher Ron Darling, all instrumental in the Mets achieving a World Series championship.

The Mets next won a division title in 1988, were competitive for several seasons, but did not become a dynasty. Cashen summarized the success of the team during his decade as general manager in a press conference at Citi Field on Saturday, “We drew three million people before anybody on the East Coast did it, did it twice. We had a great run. I appreciate it, and I appreciate going into the Mets Hall of Fame with all these distinguished gentlemen.”

After receiving his plaque from Rusty Staub, Cashen thanked all who helped him with emphasis on his wife, “The real Hall of Famer is my wife, Jean. She was the Most Valuable Player in my house.”  The 88 year-old and his wife are the parents of seven children and nine grandchildren.

Distinguished was not a word often, if ever, used to describe the 1986 Mets. The team was ranked 13th in a poll published by SI.com on Saturday of the most hated individual teams. The unpopularity reflected on many factors including the club’s success and arrogance on the field.

Davey Johnson, who Cashen knew as an outstanding second baseman in Baltimore was hired as manager in 1984. Johnson, who remained as Mets skipper throughout the decade, compiled the most wins, 595, as a manager of the team. Of 1986, he said, “I thought we really had a perfect team. We had big egos, big personalities on this ballclub, but they all loved to play baseball.” One of the 1986 Mets, Gary Carter, presented his plaque to him.

The two players enshrined, Gooden and Strawberry, have always been linked. Both began their careers in the majors with the Mets in the early 1980′s after being drafted by the organization; each earned the Rookie of the Year award in his first season in the bigs with the Mets; both showed outstanding talent on the field, and appeared to be sure bets to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame when their playing careers ended; both played with the Yankees successfully later in their careers; both were embroiled in controversies involving substance abuse and marital difficulties. Finally, both entered the Mets Hall of Fame together on Sunday.

Each of the two Mets stars spoke glowingly of entering the Mets HOF on Sunday. Strawberry dismissed the disappointment of many fans of his for  never having lived up to his initial expectations as a player and not being elected into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, “We’re going into the Mets Hall of Fame, and that’s what’s important. That’s all I really care about.”

Gooden, who later played on four other teams, admitted, “When I played on other clubs, I always called the Mets first and tried to come back here.” Gooden expressed his gratitude to the fans, “It wouldn’t have been possible without all of you [fans].”

The first Hall of Fame Achievement Award was presented to Bob Mandt. The recipient has worked for the Mets since 1962 in a variety of positions.

On a day the four men were honored for their contributions to the Mats 1985 championship, the 2010 Mets players showed how much improvement would be needed to reach that pinnacle. In describing the 14-1 drubbing by the Arizona Diamondbacks, manager Jerry Manuel remarked, “We didn’t pitch; we didn’t hit; we didn’t catch the ball.” That has been the story during too many games during the 2010 season.

Posted under Acceptance Speech, Ceremony Took Place, Darryl Strawberry, Davey Johnson, Dwight Gooden, Foursome, Frank Cashen, Hall Of Fame, Mets Fans, Nelson Doubleday, New York Mets, Outfield, Outfielder, Pivotal Roles, Radio Voice, Resurgence, Rotunda, Short Film, Th Anniversary, Tommy Agee, Top Story

This post was written by Howard Goldin on August 2, 2010