John Lepore | June 4th, 2020
The New York Mets franchise has had quite a history. They set the record for most losses at 120 in their inaugural season of 1962. They’ve also won two World Series in 1969 and 1986 and have been to three more in 1973, 2000, and 2015. There are some difficult choices for this one, but here are the four players on the New York Mets Mount Rushmore.
Be sure to check out all of our Mount Rushmore articles here.
This is the one choice that is an absolute no-brainer. “The Franchise” made his debut in 1967 and promptly won the NL ROY award with a 16-13 record and a 2.76 ERA. After another excellent season in 1968, the mounds were moved down for the 1969 season. Seaver didn’t care. He won the first of three Cy Young awards in 1969, leading the league with 25 wins and posting a 2.21 ERA. His moment for the history books came on April 22, 1970, when he struck out 19 San Diego Padres. That was a feat in itself but the record that still stands to this day is the 10 batters in a row that Seaver mowed down. Poor Al Ferrara was the guy who got K’d twice and ended the game with that 10th strikeout.
Tom Terrific would just continue to dominate from there. He led the league in ERA and strikeouts three of the next four years. He won his second CYA in 1973 and led the Mets to their second WS appearance. Despite only allowing seven ERs in 31.2 innings in the playoffs, Seaver was 1-2 and the Mets lost to the Oakland A’s in seven games. Seaver won his third CYA in 1975 leading the league in wins (22) and strikeouts (243). After starting the 1977 season well, the Mets traded Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for four players. He is the Mets all-time leader in Wins (198), ERA (2.57), IP (3,045.2), and Strikeouts (2,541). His number 41 was retired in 1988.
Doctor K made his debut in 1984 and took New York sports by storm. In one of the most impressive rookie seasons ever by a starter, Doc was 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA and a league-leading 276 strikeouts (a rookie record). He won the NL ROY award and finished second to Rick Sutcliffe for the CY award. In 1985, Gooden outdid himself and put up one of the best seasons ever by a pitcher. He was 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts, winning the pitching triple crown. His 1.53 ERA is the second-lowest in the majors since 1920 (Bob Gibson 1.12 in 1968). Gooden remains the youngest pitcher (20 years old) ever to have an ERA+ over 200 (229). He also set the record for quality start% at 94.3% (33 out of 35).
In 1986, Gooden put together another excellent season going 17-9 with a 2.84 ERA and 200 strikeouts. Over 50 starts from August 11, 1984, to May 6, 1986, Gooden went 37–5 with a 1.38 ERA. He had a 412/90 K/BB rate in 406 innings in that span. After pitching well in the NLCS, Doc didn’t pitch very well against the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, but the Mets won anyway.
The Troubles Begin
His legal issues began in December of 1986 when he was arrested in Tampa for fighting with police. He then tested positive for cocaine in spring training in 1987. He wouldn’t make his debut until June 5th but would still make 25 starts and pitch to a 3.21 ERA and win 15 games.
The injury bug finally bit Gooden in 1989 as a shoulder injury reduced him to 17 starts. He bounced back strong in 1990 and even though a minor injury in 1991 forced him to miss a few starts, he pitched well through 1993. In 1994, Doc tested positive again for cocaine and was suspended for 60 days. After testing positive again during his suspension, MLB suspended Gooden for the 1995 season, ending his time with the Mets.
Despite the issues, Doctor K was an icon in New York during his time there. He even had his own billboard in Times Square. As a young phenom, he gave Mets fans hope when he broke into the majors in 1984. In franchise history, he is fifth in ERA (3.10 min. 1,000 IP), second in Wins (157), WAR for pitchers (46.4), and Strikeouts (1,875). He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 2010.
Piazza came to the Mets on May 22, 1998, after spending a week with the Florida Marlins. Despite a stellar 1.024 OPS with 23 HRs and 76 RBI in 109 games for the Mets that season, they missed the playoffs. Piazza was just getting started in the Big Apple though. In 1999, he blasted 40 HRs and drove in 124 bringing the Mets to a playoff berth. The success did not carry over into the playoffs and the Atlanta Braves eliminated the Mets in six games in the NLCS.
The following year Piazza put up his best offensive season as a Met. He slashed .324/.398/.614 with 38 HRs and 113 RBI in just 136 games. He finished third in NL MVP voting. This time his success would carry into the playoffs. After a slow start in the NLDS, Piazza went 13-39 with five doubles, four HRs, and eight RBI in the next 10 games. Unfortunately, the Mets would lose to their crosstown rivals in the World Series but his beef with Roger Clemens made for an entertaining moment.
Piazza also gave New York and the baseball world one of the most iconic home runs in recent memory on September 21, 2001. In the first sporting event in New York following the 9/11 attacks, the Mets faced the Braves at Shea Stadium.
Piazza had a few more good seasons, but Father Time started catching up. At 37, he played his final game with the Mets on October 2, 2005. He is one of the greatest hitting catchers of all time and is one of only four right-handed hitters with a .300 batting average, 400+ HRs, and never struck out 100 times in a season (Hank Aaron, Vladimir Guerrero, and Albert Pujols*). The 1,390th player selected in the 1988 draft entered Cooperstown in 2016. He is a member of the Mets Hall of Fame and Piazza’s number 31 was retired by the organization in 2016.
* Pujols is still active and has a .2996 BA
Wright came up as a 21-year-old in 2004. He quickly endeared himself to the Met faithful. In 69 games that season, Wright hit .293 with 14 HRs and six stolen bases. He would become a force the following season accepting the torch from Piazza as the right-handed power and face of the franchise. In 2005, Wright began a stretch of four seasons where batted .300, had 40 doubles, 25 HRs, 100 RBI, and 95 Runs. In 2006 he led the Mets to their first playoff appearance since 2000. It would end in defeat in the NLCS thanks to the St. Louis Cardinals(and that damn Yadier Molina).
2007 would be Wright’s best season. He slashed .325/.416/.546, hit 30 HRs and stole 34 bags on his way to a fourth-place finish in the MVP voting. Wright also won the first of his two gold gloves. He battled injuries on and off starting in 2011 and missed the All-Star game for the first time in six seasons. Wright bounced back in 2012 playing in 156 games and blasting 21 HRs while hitting .306.
WBC and Beyond
To start 2013, Wright brought his ability to the national stage in the World Baseball Classic. After his game-winning hit in 2009 against Puerto Rico, Wright came to play for 2013. He delivered a grand slam against Italy and drove in five runs against familiar opponent Puerto Rico in the second-round opener. He went back to New York for a medical evaluation and sat out the rest of the tournament. Wright earned the name “Captain America” for his performances on the world stage and was subsequently named Mets captain that season. He would play well in 2013 but in limited time (112 games).
Unfortunately, Wright would never be the same and due to spinal stenosis, along with persistent neck and back issues, his career would effectively end in 2016 at 33 years old. He came back for three more plate appearances at the end of 2018 so Met fans could give him a proper send-off. He is the Mets all-time leader in Plate Appearances (6,872), Runs (949), Hits (1,777), and Total Bases (2,945). The Mets drafted “Captain America” out of High School in 2001, and he never played for another organization and is one of the greatest Mets of all-time.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images