- Last Updated: 4:17 PM, June 18, 2012
- Posted: 2:18 AM, June 18, 2012
You could win some games with this team. You could do some damage with this team.
A few months ago, the good folks at SNY asked me to help them put together an all-time Mets team, and it was a privilege to do it. It’s good to see the roster the panel has put together, one that could stand awfully well on its own, against anyone else’s all-time roster, even if we sometimes have a hard time thinking about the Mets in those terms.
The team was revealed last night at a fine ceremony at the 92nd Street Y, and though most of the selections were consensus no-brainers, there are a few conversation starters. I welcome the conversation to begin at once:
First base: Keith Hernandez.
My pick: Hernandez.
The 1986 Mets never happen if the 1983 trade for Hernandez doesn’t happen, and he was the heart and soul of a champion. Maybe if John Olerud had stayed a Met as long as Ed Kranepool did, you could combine the two — John-Ed Olepool? — and give Hernandez a run for his money. Otherwise, a no-brainer.
Second base: Edgardo Alfonzo.
My pick: Felix Millan.
There are probably some who would throw Wally Backman’s name here, too, but this is a two-man race. And while it’s true that Alfonzo’s best years were some of the best years any Mets infielder ever had, I would counter that Millan was a bedrock on a pennant winner and inspired millions of New York-area Wiffle ballers to choke up on their bats out of homage in the ’70s.
Shortstop: Jose Reyes.
My pick: Reyes.
Reyes’ years were so electric, his talent so sublime, that it’s easy to forget this should have been a harder vote than it was, because Buddy Harrelson was an awfully good shortstop for his day, which meant he was a slick-fielding, offensively-challenged gem. Still, Reyes was something to behold.
Third base: David Wright.
My pick: Wright.
Wright has made it almost impossible to remember when third base used to be the Mets’ eternal carousel, even though the position provided no fewer than three postseason heroes (Wayne Garrett, whose homer sparked the ’69 pennant clincher; Ray Knight, who put the Mets ahead for good in Game 7 of the ’86 Series; and Robin Ventura, he of 1999’s grand-slam single). If things break properly, though, Wright will wind up as the greatest Met ever to play his entire career in New York. And even if he doesn’t, he belongs here.
Catcher: Mike Piazza.
My pick: Piazza.
If you prefer Gary Carter, it’s impossible to argue. But Piazza’s acquisition had the same impact Hernandez’s had 15 years before: It announced the Mets were professional again. Carter was the missing piece to a title puzzle. Again, you’re not wrong if you go with the Kid.
Left field: Cleon Jones.
My pick: Jones.
Cleon not only hit .340 in 1969, he had a bucket of big hits that postseason and was a monster four years later when the Mets pulled off their second miracle-worthy pennant push. George Foster and Jason Bay aren’t likely to be remembered quite as fondly.
Center field: Carlos Beltran.
My pick: Beltran.
Oh, this is surely where we’ll hear some backlash from backers of Mookie Wilson, Lenny Dykstra and Tommie Agee, but Beltran was the most complete everyday player the Mets ever had, his seven-year stats dwarf Dykstra’s and Mookie’s, and though Agee should be remembered fondly as a core member of the ’69 Miracle boys, he had just three average to above-average seasons with the Mets.
Right field: Darryl Strawberry.
My pick: Strawberry.
Yes, it’s easy to lament what could have been. But isn’t it more fun simply to recall what was?
RHP/LHP Starters: Tom Seaver/Jerry Koosman.
My picks: Seaver/Koosman.
No knock on any other from the litany of quality pitchers who served time as a Met. Seaver is a Hall of Famer. And from 1968-76, Koosman was, in essence, a left-handed Seaver.
RHP/LHP Relievers: Roger McDowell/Tug McGraw. My picks: McDowell/McGraw.
Jesse Orosco got the last outs in the ’86 postseason series, but McDowell got most of the important ones. When McGraw and his screwball were on, he was as unhittable as Seaver and Koosman.
Manager: Davey Johnson.
My pick: Gil Hodges.
All due respect to Davey, but Hodges took a team that had never finished higher than ninth to the World Series. The ’86 Mets were fun; the ’69 Mets were forever.