The premise of Staub's book is a list of the five greatest Mets at each of the eight everyday positions, RHP, LHP, RP's, and managers. The book was good, and I agreed with some of Stuab's points, but I felt he dealt too much with stats. I understand that stats are important, but being a Mets fan and watching them daily for 37 years, sometimes there is so much to a player's greatness than stats.
I enjoyed Staub's insight, and as I have said many times, he, along with Keith Hernandez and Edgardo Alfonzo, is one of the most intelligent ballplayers to ever don a Mets uniform.
Staub listed five players for each position. I will limit my selections to two or three. I will not reveal Staub's list due to respect that he is selling a book. I will say if whom I chose is on Staub's list. In this post, I will cover Catcher, First Base, and Second Base. In coming posts I will round out the rest of the Mets line-up of All Time Greats
Mike Piazza (1998 – 2005) - Greatest offensive catcher I've ever seen. Did more to rebuild the Mets than any other player other than Keith Hernandez. I will never forget the day the Mets acquired him: May 22, 1998 – my fifth wedding anniversary. He brought excitement to the Mets that hadn't been seen in years. Hit some monstrous HR's, and that HR on September 21, 2001 did more to help rebuild a city than could be imagined.
Jerry Grote (1966 – 1977) – Not only my favorite ballplayer ever, but the best defensive catcher I've ever seen. Better than: Pudge Rodriguez, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Jim Sundberg, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson, and all other's. Players couldn't run on him, and that says a lot with power pitchers on the young Mets teams as Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Jerry Koosman. Grote was the best. Not much of a hitter, but he wasn't a liability at the plate either. He got some key hits at important moments, and was usually in the top five most difficult men to strikeout.
Gary Carter (1985 – 1989) – Was the missing piece to the Mets championship puzzle. Was never a huge fan, but he was a quality ballplayer. Of the two I have rated higher, he was the best all around in regards to defense and offense. I was fortunate to be at opening day in 1985, Carter's first game with the Mets, when he hit the game winning HR against the Cardinals in the 10th inning. What many don't remember, in his first official AB with the Mets, Cardinal pitcher Juaquin Andujar hit him. If memory serves, he was hit again later in the game. It was bitterly cold that day; I'm sure it hurt getting plunked. A well deserved Hall Of Famer, even though his mugging for the camera tended to bother his teammates.
* All three are on Staub's list
Keith Hernandez (1983 – 1989) – The Best. Nothing more can be said. The greatest defensive first baseman of all time, and the greatest leader this team has ever had. Brought instant credibility when acquired from the Cardinals in exchange for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey on June 15, 1983. Was a manager on the field, and did a lot to help Darryl Strawberry, Jesse Orosco, and Ron Darling. If you were fortunate to see the special with Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Darryl Strawberry, at the 98th St. Y, you couldn't help but notice the respect his former teammates had for him.
John Olerud (1997 – 1999) – Wish he played longer with the Mets. Had the highest batting average in Mets history, .354 in 1998. His departure after the 1999 season set the Mets back, even though they participated in the 2000 World Series. Olerud was a fantastic hitter with runners on, getting key hits in key situations. He also was a tremendous first baseman, that probably should have won a Gold Glove in 1999.
Ed Kranepool (1962 – 1979) – Mr. Met. Was an original Met who played from 1962 – 1979. Was never a great defensive player, but was a good hitter, and later in his career became a real threat off the bench.
* All three are on Staub's list
Edgardo Alfonzo (1995 - 2002)– Although he was jerked around between second and third bases, I will use him as a second baseman for my All Time Greats. Alfonzo had surprising power, a very good glove, and hit for a respectable average. He along with Hernandez and Staub are the smartest ball players I have seen don a Mets uniform. Excluding the 2000 World Series against the Yankees, Alfonzo hit well in the post season. Fonzie was beloved by the Shea faithful, and when it was apparent he wasn't going to return to the Mets after the 2002 season, Alfonzo rented an ad on Taxi cabs in NY with a sign stating Fonzie loves NY. Edgardo thanks you!
Wally Backman (1980 - 1988) – The down and dirty Met. Would run through a brick wall to win. He, along with Lenny Dykstra/Mookie Wilson, were great table setters. Would always take the extra base with unwavering hustle and determination. Was a real solid second baseman with very good speed, and a burning desire to win. Would always find a way to get on base when the game was on line.
Felix Millan (1973 – 1977) – Most well noted for his batting stance where he choked up so high, that his hands were about six inches off the knob of the bat. Was a true contact hitter, and was usually in the top three most difficult men to strike out in the NL. He is also remembered for making an unexpected error in the 1973World Series by having a grounder go through his legs. In 1977 his career came to an end when he was body slammed at second base by Pirate catcher Ed Ott. Ott slide into second hard, and Millan took offense. Millan pushed off/hit Ott, and Ott, a college wrestler, picked up Millan and body slammed him. Millan didn't play again for the Mets.
* Alfonzo is not on Staub's list for Second Baseman.
In the coming days I will list my All Time Mets for the remaining positions. Who are your choices? Are they different? We urge viewers to leave their list of C, 1B, 2B in out comment section.