Last night, SNY broadcast the Mets All-time Team 1962-2012 from the 92nd Street Y. I love programs like this — the video clips, the debates on old ballplayers, et al. The voting panel of the Daily News‘ John Harper and Mike Lupica, the Post‘s Mike Vaccaro, MLB.com’s Marty Noble, and Mets broadcasters Gary Cohen and Howie Rose, are all more than fairly knowledgeable on Mets history, and the audience, filled with more old Mets fans than a Number 7 train on a summer night, wildly enthusiastic.
Here’s the team:
Catcher Mike Piazza
1st base Keith Hernandez
2nd base Edgardo Alfonso
SS Jose Reyes
3rd base David Wright
LF Cleon Jones
CF Carlos Beltran
RF Darryl Strawberry
RH Starter Tom Seaver
LH Starter Jerry Koosman
RF Reliever Roger McDowell
LH Reliever Tug McGraw
That’s pretty much the team I’d have chosen, though I think Gary Carter was a better all-around catcher than Piazza, and I would have taken him over Piazza, even though he had only 5 years in New York to Piazza’s 8.
Just to be perverse, though, I couldn’t help but compare the Mets’ all-time team to the Yankees’ over the same period. At catcher, it would have to be Jorge Posada over Thurmon Munson and even over Elston Howard, if only because Elston despite winning an MVP award in 1964, had just a couple of good years as a starting catcher from 1962 on.
Don Mattingly, of course, would be the Yankees’ greatest first baseman, probably Willie Randolph at 2nd (though there’s not doubt in my mind that Robinson Cano will wind up the Yankees’ all-time best at that position), Jeter at short, A-Rod at 3rd, Reggie Jackson in right, Bernie Williams in center (of course, Mickey Mantle won the MVP in 1962 but had only one good year after that). And who in left? Rickey Henderson if you go with sheer greatness, even though he was only with the team for 5 years, one of them in centerfield. Roger Clemens as RH pitcher, either Ron Guidry or C.C. Sabathia for Lefty, Mariano as RH reliever, and — I don’t know — maybe Sparky Lyle as southpaw reliever.
What struck me after studying the list is how well the Mets’ all-time team matches up against the Yankees’ best over the past half century.
Catcher: I think Piazza — or my own pick, Carter — is better than Posada.
1st base: Mattingly was a very good hitter and probably as good a fielder as Hernandez, but the difference is slight.
2nd base: I had forgotten how good Alfonso; he had a .284 career batting average, .292 with the Mets, both numbers well ahead of Willie Randolph, .276 and .275 respectively. He also hit more than twice as many home runs as Randolph.
SS: Jeter, of course, at shortstop, but at their respective peaks, not so much over Reyes as you might think.
3rd base: Ditto with A-Rod and Wright. It may well be that after a couple more seasons we’ll conclude that Wright was the better ballplayer, that is when we compare him with Rodriguez’s New York years.
LF: Henderson was considerably better than Cleon Jones, who wasn’t bad.
CF: Beltran was a better hitter and better all-around player than Bernie.
RF: If you consider only Reggie Jackson’s season with the Yankees, it’s a close pick
with Strawberry at his peak – too close for me to call without doing a comprehensive study. Off the top of my head, though, I’d take Darryl. So much of Mr. October’s postseason reputation centers on the ’77 Series when he hit 5 home runs and that one game when he hit 3. (Jackson had no particular reputation as a postseason hitter before then.)
Pitching: Tom Seaver was better than Clemens as a Yankee; the left-handed pitchers are pretty much a toss-up, and Mariano blows away anyone in the Mets’ bullpen.
I think a 7-game series between these two teams would be close and would certainly be decided by the rest of the rotation, bullpen and bench.
Anyway, I give the Mets’ all-time team an edge at 4 of the 8 regular positions.