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Ranking the Best Mets Teams of All Time



By Mike Silva ~ December 26th, 2010. Filed under: New York Mets, NY Baseball Memories.

Throughout the next few weeks, I will be doing some fun “look back’s” at various points of New York history. One of the first things I wanted to do is rank the best Mets teams of all time. I threw out where they finished, but rather the strength of the squad using both statistical, as well as some intangible factors.

1. 1988 - Cream of the crop in Mets history. Best pitching staff in team history as only the 1968 team gave up less runs in a 162 games season, and that was the year of the pitcher. David Cone won 20 games, Ron Darling had his best season, and how many teams could say Sid Fernandez was their fifth starter? Doc Gooden was beginning to decline, but still won 18 games. Unlike the ’86 title team they had a dominant closer as Randy Myers had 26 saves and a 1.72 ERA. Offensively they had two MVP candidates (Strawberry/McReynolds), and their bench was so deep that injuries to Keith Hernandez, and the steep decline by Gary Carter was offset by Dave Magadan, and the occasional Mackey Sasser start. Gregg Jefferies infused some life into the offense late that year (.321, 6, 17 in 118 PA).  If this team performed offensively as they did in ’87 it would be the ’88 Mets, not ’98 Yankees, that won the most games in baseball history. They still won 100 games despite going 44-39 throughout the summer. How they lost to the Dodgers should be part of an A&E mystery series.

2. 1986- Do I need to wax poetic about this team? 108 wins, four starters with 15+ victories, and a lineup that scored over 700 runs for the first time in team history. This was Lenny Dykstra‘s best “non steroid” season (.822 OPS, more walks than strikeouts), Ray Knight had a bounce back year, and there was the ultimate super sub, Kevin Mitchell, off the bench. The 1989 National League MVP couldn’t crack this starting lineup. It wasn’t the best of seasons for Darryl Strawberry, but it didn’t matter. The reason why I put this team a notch below ’88 is because their overall staff wasn’t as strong. The difference between the ’88 team, and the next best, was a wide margin. Houston was the equal of the ’86 Mets, and the NLCS proved as much.  If the ’88 team won a championship, especially over Oakland, this wouldn’t even be a debate.

3. 1987- If the pitching staff stayed healthy this might have been the best Mets team of all time. 823 runs scored was a team record held until 1999. Strawberry and Howard Johnson were 30/30 members, while Kevin McReynolds (29 homers, 95 RBI) wasn’t’ too shabby on both sides of the ball. This was the year of the juiced ball (precursor of the steroid era), as they hit 192 homers. Tim Teufel was an underrated member of this squad posting a .944 OPS with 14 homers and 61 RBI in just 350 plate appearances. The downfall was that every starting pitcher was injured at some point. Both Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco struggled out of the bullpen as well. If not for journeyman Terry Leach winning 7 games in the rotation they may not have sniffed a pennant race with the Cardinals. Still, this is a very strong edition in team history. In my opinion, a baseball version of a Greek Tragedy.

4. 1969- I was tempted to drop this team down behind the ’99 club (a personal favorite), but the pitching is too good. Hall of Fame ace in Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman‘s career year (17-9, 2.28), and a bullpen that included Ron Taylor, Tug McGraw, and Nolan Ryan. The issue is the offense, which averaged less than four runs a game. Cleon Jones was the only player to have a standout season, although midseason acquisition Donn Clendenon certainly did his part (11 homers, 37 RBI). This team won on its pitching staff, and the managing of Gil Hodges, who used the platoon masterfully.

5. 1999- One of my favorite all time teams. I will never forget what a fun summer it was as they went on a 55-27 run from June 4th to September 4th. Sure, the late September losing streak was painful, but it made that last weekend against the Pirates, and the one game playoff with Cincinnati, a worthwhile experience.  Everyone remembers “the best infield ever,” but offensively this team was loaded with players that got on base. John Olerud and Rickey Henderson both had OBP over 42%, Mike Piazza hit 40 homers, Robin Ventura had a MVP season (32 homers, 117 RBI), and Edgardo Alfonzo hit 27 homers with 108 RBI. The key was the supporting cast as Roger Cedeno hit .313 with 66 stolen bases, Darryl Hamilton hit .339 after a July 31st trade from Colorado, Benny Agbayani had an .888 OPS, and Rey Ordonez drove in 60 runs from the eight hole. The pitching was spotty, but Al Leiter and Rick Reed were big game pitchers, and Kenny Rogers won five big games down the stretch. It was the work of the bullpen, anchored by Armando Benitez, who had arguably his best season in New York (14.8 strikeouts per nine innings) with 22 saves after John Franco went down with an injury.  They were a hair away from forcing Game 7 against Atlanta, and would have had a better shot of beating the Yankees than the 2000 edition.

6. 2006- This team holds a special place in the hearts of Mets fans as I have never seen a fan/team love affair like 2006. Offensively right there with the ’99 team as David Wright/Jose Reyes had their coming out party, while Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran produced at a high level. Even complementary players like Paul Lo Duca, Jose Valentin, and Endy Chavez had incredible offensive seasons. The real key was solid up the middle defense, and a bullpen that was “lights out” from the sixth inning on. How else could you explain winning 97 games, and coming one win away from the World Series, with a rotation headed by two 40 year olds in El Duque and Tom Glavine? The real MVP’s of this team were Wagner, Heilman, Feliciano, Bradford, Sanchez, and yes, Guillermo Mota. That is, until the NLCS against St. Louis.

7. 2000: Amazing how the last pennant winning Mets team is towards the bottom of this list. This team was just a year removed from the offensive minded ’99 team, but this group was more centered on pitching. The starting rotation had two aces (Hampton/Leiter), and solid seasons from Rick Reed, Bobby Jones, and surprise fifth starter Glendon Rusch. Losing John Olerud hurt, but Piazza and Alfonzo led the team offensively, and they got just enough from the rest of the supporting cast. Like the ’06 team the bullpen featured four top notch relievers in Wendell, Cook, Franco, and Benitez. This is the prototypical team where the sum is greater than its parts. Most everyone agrees this was one of the grittiest teams in Mets history. Put this team’s grit with the ’06 versions talent and you have a World Champion.

8. 1990- A forgotten team because it came at the tail end of the eighties run. It featured two Cy Young Award winners (Gooden Viola), David Cone as a three starter, and so much starting pitching that neither Bob Ojeda or Ron Darling, big parts of other teams rotations in the coming years, couldn’t get consistent starts. The offense was good, but inconsistent, as Strawberry turned a difficult start into a solid campaign (37 homers, 108 RBI). A key was when Bud Harrelson inserted Dave Magadan into the lineup that June. He started hitting, and never stopped, nearly winning the NL batting title. I also think Davey Johnson got a raw deal as he was fired 42 games into the season. The team would go on a huge winning streak that June, something that I believe was inevitable due to their talent. Their Pythagorean Record was 98-64, which would have given them the NL East title. Could make a point they are better than the 2000 team, but had to knock them down because they underachieved.

9. 1985: I believe this team was the Mets version of the eighties Chicago Bulls before Pippen and Grant came into their own. Doc Gooden played Jordan (24-4, 1.52), while Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and Gary Carter provided enough offense to win 98 games. Offensively there were holes at second, short, third, and when Strawberry was injured, the outfield. Davey Johnson started to incorporate the young pitchers like Aguilera and Fernandez into the rotation, and Ron Darling had a decent year. The bullpen was a disaster as Jesse Orosco and Doug Sisk had lousy seasons, although Roger McDowell picked up the slack when he was called up from Tidewater. Good team, but their offense is one of the weakest of the group.

10. 2008: How many teams get elite offensive seasons from four of their starting eight? This team did as Reyes, Wright, Beltran, and Delgado keyed an offense that scored more runs than the ’86 championship team. The starting rotation was decent, with Johan Santana playing a modern day ‘85 Gooden in the second half. Its Achilles heel was the bullpen, as well as managers (Randolph/Manuel) that didn’t understand the importance of lefty/righty matchups, or bullpen roles. Once Billy Wagner was lost in August the 2008 season went down in flames. Give me almost any other bullpen in team history, and this group probably wins 95 games and makes the playoffs.

Honorable Mention- 2007, 1989, 1976, 1997

Most Overrated in History: 1984 – a very young team that was outscored by its opponents. A 78 win team according to the run differential that overachieved under Davey Johnson.

Most Underrated in History: 1976 – Seaver, Matlack, and Koosman made an awesome “big three,” solid bullpen led by Skip Lockwood, and Dave Kingman had a great year. I didn’t watch this club play, but I think their 86 wins gets overlooked because the Phillies were just too good that year.



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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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19 Responses to Ranking the Best Mets Teams of All Time

  1. Tom

    Nice job, 1988 team was indeed more talented than ’86. I’d quibble with 1985 club being a bit low, but overall a great analysis. Especially 1976 mention – always an underrated Mets team.

  2. kranepool society

    I’d have gone with the 86 or 69 team for the reason that they won World Series Championship so it’s hard to say any other Mets team is better. I like that you gave a nod to the 76 team after that season the franchise crumbled. It started before the 76 season when Tug McGraw and Rusty Staub were traded and then of course the next season was the Midnight Massacre and from there Joe Torre took over as player manager. The death of Mrs. Payson in’75 started the avalanche of fail as her daughter and M.Donald Grant nearly put the team out of business.

    Also is there a more underrated player in Mets history than Kevin McReynolds?

  3. Phil Curtolo

    The best teams don’t always win the World Series. A team can be great but not win it all. Look at this past season with San Francisco. The other ’80s teams and the ’07 and ’08 teams should’ve won but didn’t for various reasons.

    And yes, K-Mac is a highly underrated Met. Carlos Beltran is the new version. When Beltran is gone, we’ll all miss him terribly.

  4. Mike

    The only really bad Mets team since 2005 was the 2009 team under Manuel.

  5. harris

    The 1986 Mets are not the best Mets team of all time? You’re lost man. Just ridiculous.

  6. Ben

    …..and what of 1973? I know their record, but a 7 game World Series against a celebrated A’s team? Honorable mention?

  7. Rob

    The ’98 Yankees didn’t win the most games in history. The Mariners won 116 in (I think) 2001. And the Cubs did the same way back in the early 1900s. The Yankees way too much attention and credit to begin with – lets not give them false mention on a Mets website!

  8. Mike Silva

    Rob

    Thanks for stopping by. Correct, Seattle won 116 regular season games, but the ’98 Yanks won 125 when you include playoffs, which is a record.

    Also, this site is a New York Baseball site, so we talk both Mets and Yankees.

  9. Stu B

    @kranepool society: You have the events of 1977 out of order. To be precise, Torre took over as player-manager on May 31, the Midnight Massacre was June 15, and Torre was released as a player on June 18.

  10. aw

    Dude – as you like like 19 years old? …. Saying the 1986 team isn’t the best ever, is asinine. The reasons you state are silly. You say the Astros played the Mets tough in the NLCS, so that proves the Mets weren’t that much better — but then in ’88, the Mets *LOST* to the Dodgers – so that should “prove” the same thing. … The ’86 team had a lot going for it beyond the numbers. Also, the ’87 team may have had a lot of runs – but as you point out, it was a juiced ball year – so that negates the point.

  11. Mike Silva

    Actually I am 33 and saw a majority of these teams play

    88 team was far superior in the pitching department and their offense was slightly worse than 86, but not so much so.

    They were beaten by one pitcher in 88 – the 86 Astros were a formidable foe and were very unlucky in that NLCS

  12. Stu B

    And had it not been for the late-season injury to Bob Ojeda, the ’88 team might well have gone to the World Series.

  13. Mike Silva

    I heard an unconfirmed rumor that Ojeda actually cut his finger on a glass at a bar, and the hedge trimmer story was BS.

    Guess we will never know. Although I find it odd Bobby O was doing his own gardening.

  14. Tom

    Actually ’88 Mets weren’t beaten by one pitcher. Dodgers lost 2 of Hershiser’s 3 starts. They were beaten by a Mike Scocsia homer that was responsible for tying the series in game 4, when the Mets were on the cusp of a 3-1 lead. As far as results, ’86 was the best Mets team ever, though the ’88 club was more talented.

  15. Mike Silva

    Tom

    Good point, but Hershiser coming out of the Pen in that Scioscia game, and his Game 7 performance, where he didn’t give up a run were the difference. The bullpen lost Game 3, not Hershiser, to be fair.

  16. Stu B

    I had the misfortune to be at that Scioscia game on 10/9/88. Here’s my post about it on ultimatemets.com…

    “I was sitting in mezzanine reserved, wondering why Randy Myers wasn’t warming up in the top of the ninth…Gooden walked John T-Bone Shelby, and up came Mike F. Scioscia, when a guy behind me comments, “If this guy hits a homer, it’s tied up!”

    Of course, I respond, “Yeah, but he doesn’t have much power; he only hit about 4 homers all year!”

    Me and my big mouth! Scioscia promptly launches his dinger into the Mets bullpen…DOH!”

  17. Mike Silva

    Stu

    Now I know who to blame. I remember where I was sitting when that homer was hit (parents living room), that loss, and the 93 Eastern Conf Finals Game 5 with the Bulls and Charles Smith missed layup and the two most difficult losses as a sports fan.

    I asked Gary Carter about that scenario, and he smiled and said “I wasn’t the manager making the decisions” which tells me he would have had Myers in as well.

    If that game was played today it would have been a moot point – Myers would have started the ninth.

  18. Stu B

    Mike, it’s amazing to think how recently it was that managers still had the mindset of letting the starter go all the way whenever possible…looking at this page, http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/CG_leagues.shtml 1988 was very close to the time when the menatlity began to change to the current state of always having the closer start the 9th – though I think it was in flux at that time. Orel Hershiser and Danny Jackson led the NL with 15 CGs and Roger Clemens and Dave Stewart led the AL with 14. Only twice since – Jack McDowell in 1991 and Curt Schilling in 1998 – has a league leader completed as many as 15 games, and since Randy Johnson’s 12 in 1999, nobody – not even Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, or CC Sabathia, has been in double figures.

  19. Stu B

    And BTW, I was also at Game 5 of the 2000 Series at Shea, and that loss to the Yankees was at least as tough as the Scioscia game, especially knowing that it was the first time the Mets had ever lost an elimination game at home. Also, perhaps because I was only 13, I cried after they lost Game 7 at Oakland in 1973, although I was only watching on TV.

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