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Mets Hall of Fame Stirs Debate



By Mike Silva ~ January 31st, 2012. Filed under: New York Mets.

CLICK HERE TO VOTE IN THE NYBD METS HALL OF FAME

Late last week, John Franco became the 26th member elected into the Mets Hall of Fame. I support the organization’s decision to honor Franco, who spent 14 years with the team. In discussing the selection with fans it does not appear they all agree. There is also a variety of thoughts about other players that should be considered in the coming years.

Steve Keane of the popular Mets Blog, Kranepool Society, joined me on my Sunday radio program to discuss the Mets decision to honor Franco. “He’s a good guy,” Keane said about Franco. “The guy who should have been inducted is Edgardo Alfonzo. I don’t know what they are waiting for to put him into this Hall of Fame. You’re talking about a guy who arguably is, maybe, the best all-around player the Mets ever developed. This guy is not in the Mets Hall of Fame and John Franco is.”

In addition to Alfonzo, Howard Megdal wrote at Capital New York that Mike PiazzaCarlos Beltran, and John Stearns deserve consideration. Stearns is a surprising name, as many wouldn’t think of him in that class. When Megdal peeled the onion, he saw a player that is 11th in team history in Wins Above Replacement, threw out 37% of base runners, made 4 All Star appearances, and even stole as many as 25 stolen bases in a season while still a full-time catcher.

Who else should be considered? I think there are quite a few names to discuss.

Sid FernandezRon Darling, and David Cone are among the top pitchers in team history. Darling actually has seen his Mets resume enhanced due to his work in the broadcast booth. Before David WrightHoward Johnson led all third baseman in most categories. Kevin McReynolds had an MVP-type season in 1988 and was a standout defensively during his tenure. Who can forget John Olerud‘s 1998 season? He might be the best pure hitter ever to put on the uniform. Even though Jon Matlack is only a game over .500 for his Mets career, he put up solid peripherals and was a victim of those lousy teams in the 70s. Lee Mazzilli was a star in the late 70s and returned as a key bench player for the ’86 championship team. I almost forgot Jesse Orosco, who was there everyday out of the bullpen in the ’86 postseason. He also had one of the best reliever years in team history in 1983 (13-7, 17 saves, 1.47 ERA). We always talk about Piazza and Alfonzo, but what about Bobby Valentine? He has the second most wins (536) in team history behind Davey Johnson, and did not nearly have the talent that Johnson enjoyed. I am sure, down the road, there will be discussion about Jose Reyes and David Wright, as well.

The one name that never gets mentioned, but had a better career than any Mets pitcher not named Seaver, Koosman or Gooden, is Al Leiter. There seems to be such a disdain for how he left the organization that no one wants to remember how much he produced on the field.

“A lot of the fans feel that they (Leiter and Franco) had too much to say as players,” Keane said. “The both of them kind of were clubhouse lawyers. They really had the ear of the owner, Jeff Wilpon.”

Leiter left the Mets on a bad note. He was blamed, along with Franco, for the departure of Scott Kazmir because they didn’t like the kid’s taste in music. Leiter claimed he felt “betrayed” when a contract offer after the 2004 season was rescinded, even though it was verbally agreed to a couple of days earlier. “The reason I am leaving is that Omar Minaya did not want me,” Leiter told Lee Jenkins of the NY Times.

Leiter went on to sign with the Florida Marlins, and was traded to the Yankees late in the season. He would retire with the team that originally drafted him in 2006. He now serves as an analyst for the YES Network.

Leiter won 95 games with the Mets and only Tom Seaver has a better ERA+ amongst starting pitchers in team history. He was a clutch performer, pitching one of the biggest games in team history when he shutout Cincinnati in the 1999 Wild Card play-in game. Although he didn’t win another postseason game, most of that was due to the bullpen blowing leads in his starts. No one can forget the gritty 142-pitch performance in Game 5 of the 2000 World Series when he was beat by a Luis Sojo seeing-eye single.

Although the late 90s didn’t result in a championship, there were fun moments. Leiter was the ace of the staff from 1998-2004 and a team leader. He left on bad terms mainly because of the Kazmir incident, although that is largely overblown. There were many reasons why Kazmir was traded; Al Leiter and John Franco were not the deciding factor.

***

Let’s have some fun. Enclosed is a Hall of Fame style ballot just of Mets players. Let’s see how many get 75% of the fans support. I will share the results on my next radio program after the Super Bowl.

I did not put Beltran, Valentine, Reyes, or Wright on the ballot since they are still active.

When you factor in service time and impact on the organization, I voted for Piazza, Alfonzo, Leiter, Cone, Orosco, Darling, and HoJo.

***

To hear Steve Keane and I discuss the Mets Hall of Fame download Sunday’s show here, and fast forward to the 30-minute mark.

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If you want to look back to my Top 50 Mets of All-Time you can do so by clicking here.

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In case you are wondering, here is the complete list of those inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame- including Franco.

Tommie Agee 2002

Gary Carter 2001

Frank Cashen 2010

John Franco 2012

Dwight Gooden 2010

Jerry Grote 1992

Bud Harrelson 1982

Keith Hernandez 1997

Gil Hodges 1982

Davey Johnson 2010

Cleon Jones 1991

Ralph Kiner 1984

Jerry Koosman 1989

Ed Kranepool 1990

Tug McGraw 1993

Bob Murphy 1984

Johnny Murphy 1983

Lindsey Nelson 1984

Joan Payson 1981

Tom Seaver 1988

Bill Shea 1983

Rusty Staub 1986

Casey Stengel 1981

Darryl Strawberry 2010

Mookie Wilson 1996

George Weiss 1982

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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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14 Responses to Mets Hall of Fame Stirs Debate

  1. Stu B

    As good as Alfonzo was, I don’t know how Keane argues that he’s the best all-around player the Mets have developed. No way he was better than Reyes and Strawberry.

    And no doubt about Leiter’s importance, but it should be remembered that the main reason he wasn’t re-signed after 2004 was that Mets brass thought he was through. His performance with the Marlins and Yankees in 2005 proved them right.

  2. Edgy DC

    Alfonzo has just now reached the five-year mark in retirement. (He wasn’t even, for some reason, put on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot.) I’m sure he’ll be selected, but we must allow a little time and the blessed perspective it offers.

    One name that isn’t mentioned above that I’d like to see seriously considered is Rube Walker. In general, I’d like to see them think outside the box a little bit, as noted in this great essay by Greg Prince from 2005: http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com/2005/08/02/dont-hide-your-fame/

  3. Chuck Johnson

    “He wasn’t even, for some reason, put on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot.”

    I think the reason is pretty obvious.

  4. Will in Central NJ

    @EdgyDC, I think Rube Walker, the shepherd of those terrific 1969 and 1973 mound staffs, is an excellent suggestion. Too bad he’s no longer with us to enjoy it, should he make the Mets HOF.

    Edgardo Alfonzo was still active in the independent minor leagues as recently as 2010. I’m gonna guess that still counts as ‘active’ in the eyes of the MLB HOF balloting process. He’ll get his day on the ballot if he doesn’t suit up again.

    I hope Al Leiter gets serious consideration. He did shine for us 1998-2004. His bete noire, Omar Minaya, is not only gone from Flushing, but is wholly discredited for the way things tumbled downhill during his tenure (SI cover jinx, anyone?). For what it’s worth, Leiter was also a big Met fan as a kid. If Franco can be forgiven for his transgressions (real or imagined) vs. Rick Reed and Kazmir, then so can Leiter for his, against Minaya and Kazmir.

    Mike—here’s a couple of behind-the-scenes guys that might merit Mets HOF consideration: longtime employees Bob Mandt and Jay Horwitz. Maybe 1969 RF Ron Swoboda, too.

  5. JB

    How about the recently retired Pete Flynn if we are looking “off the field”? (though in Flynn’s case, very much on it)

  6. Gaspo

    Flynn and Horowitz absolutely – nice call. As for the players, I got 10:
    Piazza
    Alfonzo – Loved him, he was tremendous, a great all-around player. A bit overrated by fans, though. I’m convinced he was much older then reported. Met him in person after Dave Sims’ old “Facetime” talk show on MSG; He was listed as 5-11 and born in 1973. He was at least an inch shorter and 2 years older than me, and I’m 5-10, 1969. Still awesome.
    Matlack – I think of all-time great Mets pitchers, he’s one of them.
    Stearns – Gotta respect the hard time he logged on bad teams. Had he had the chance to play with contenders like some of these others, he’d be a no-brainer. Best nickname: “Bad Dude.”
    Hojo – Historic numbers, power and speed. Wished he’d lasted longer. Awful in limited postseasons.
    Darling, Cone, Fernandez – For me, Cone’s Yankee years clouded what were great Mets seasons; that shouldn’t be. Darling’s booth work puts him over the top. Gotta put in El Sid, the numbers are similar to these 2, his 86 work was clutch, great nickname.
    Orosco – Stalwart from the pen, lasting image of the glove not coming down.

  7. Gaspo

    Whoops – forgot Leiter. Was on the fence initially but shouldn’t have been. A key player for a long time.

  8. Mikeyg12

    We’re forgetting Bill Buckner

  9. Stu B

    If you want to look off the field, how about Bing Devine and Whitey Herzog for their roles in developing the 1969 and ’73 championship teams?

  10. Mike.BTB

    Alfonzo and Orosco get my vote. And I too think John Stearns deserves at least a debate. Sunday morning I posted on my blog that if Franco gets in, then surely Orosco should be in. I had a little fun with this subject also.

  11. Will in Central NJ

    @Stu B: interesting and controversial, but very valid suggestions in Devine and especially Herzog. Herzog (for those who don’t know), was the 1967 3B coach, then deeply involved in NYM player drafts and development. The “White Rat” flew the Flushing coop when Yogi got the nod over him as manager after Gil Hodges passed. It’s all in Golenbock’s “Amazin” oral history book from 2002.

    I loved Stearns as a kid. But, if his name is in the mix, then so should that of Todd Hundley. At one time he was the most popular and marketable guy on the otherwise barren early-mid 1990s Mets. PEDs or not, he did club 41 HRs as a catcher for the Mets.

  12. qoqo

    @Stu B: i too think fonzie may have been a better all-around homegrown than jose…he was a more complete hitter, with much more power and, i believe, better clutch numbers…and were his OB #s even far off of reyes’? also, he played superlative defense (probably the most underrated of those classic infields) at TWO positions. jose is a damn good shortstop but not any better than alfonso was a 2b. and fonz helped get them to 2 postseason spots and played well in them. always a mature, cool clubhouse guy.

    the major knock of course is that he only put up the numbers for a short period of time, but i tend to think that if his back hadn’t failed him, he’d have gone down as an all-time great metsie.

  13. Stu B

    Herzog was Director of Player Development and was responsible for the Mets drafting Jon Matlack, Mike Jorgensen, Ken Singleton, and others, and he strenously objected to the Nolan Ryan trade.

  14. Anonymous

    Bernard gilkey and todd hundley

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