Opening Day 2011 will be the 50th Opening Day in Mets history. To honor that, around here we’ll be counting down the top 50 Mets in team history, one every weekday from now until we’ve done ‘em all. Today, #36, Bob Ojeda:
Bob Ojeda, Bret Saberhagen, and Frank Viola all fall on the same level of the Mets’ Pyramid of Greatness, so the differences between the three are small. They have all had Cy Young type seasons with the Mets — Ojeda in 1986, Saberhagen in 1994, Viola in 1990 — but also lesser years in the gaps. I have Ojeda ahead of the other two solely on the strength of his playoff performance: he made four October starts in 1986, the Mets won all of them, and Ojeda finished with a 2.33 postseason ERA. For their part, Saberhagen and Viola never pitched in the postseason with the Mets. Maybe they would have been better and maybe they would have been worse, but with nothing to compare, I dropped them below Bobby O on the list.
If you were going to make the third best team in Mets history — that is, take the third best player at every position, the third best possible rotation, and the third best closer — here’s what that team might look like:
- C – Gary Carter
- 1B – Dave Magadan
- 2B – Ron Hunt
- SS – Kevin Elster
- 3B – Wayne Garrett
- LF – Bernard Gilkey
- CF – Lenny Dykstra
- RF – Joel Youngblood
- P – Craig Swan
- P – Bob Ojeda
- P – Bret Saberhagen
- P – Frank Viola
- P – Tom Glavine
- CP – John Franco
Yup, Kevin Elster. It’s either him, Rey Rey, or Luis Viscaino perhaps. You can really pick any shortstop in Mets’ history and wind up with the same performance for the third team, because once you move past the top two guys, the drop is steep.
All of the players on the All-Met third team can be divided into three groups. The first group is those with volatile performances, who had great years for the Mets, but are dragged down ranking-wise by a few bad ones. These guys are usually overrated. The second group is made up of the consistently good-to-mediocre, and these guys are underrated. The third group is really just Lenny Dykstra, who was a good player, rated appropriately, and only falls this low because the Mets have historical depth at center field.
If this team were to actually take the field, via a miracle performed by Doc Brown or Doctor House, the offense would look something like this:
- Carter – 18 HR, 70 RBI, 104 OPS+
- Magadan – 4 HR, 45 RBI, 122 OPS+
- Hunt – 5 HR, 32 RBI, 107 OPS+
- Elster – 8 HR, 42 RBI, 81 OPS+
- Garrett – 7 HR, 38 RBI, 95 OPS+
- Gilkey – 24 HR, 98 RBI, 117 OPS+
- Dykstra – 7 HR, 35 RBI, 113 OPS+
- Youngblood – 9 HR, 46 RBI, 108 OPS+
That’s each player’s average number of home runs and RBIs per season, along with their OPS+, for the Mets. The left side of the infield is an offensive black hole, but that’s compensated for by a solid outfield and the Hall of Famer behind the plate. You could probably assemble a slightly better offense by shifting Magadan to third base, dumping Garrett and then putting Carlos Delgado at first, but it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. It’s a slightly above average offense, so how this team fares would probably come down to the strength of the pitching, which is as follows:
- Craig Swan – 143 IP, 96 ERA+
- Bobby Ojeda – 153 IP, 111 ERA+
- Bret Saberhagen – 138 IP, 127 ERA+
- Frank Viola – 240 IP, 110 ERA+
- Tom Glavine – 201 IP, 107 ERA+
Every pitcher here had very good years with the Mets, but some duds as well. Swan had a 4.23 ERA in 1977; he won the ERA title the next season. Ojeda won 18 games with a 2.57 ERA in 1986, but made just seven starts the next season. Saberhagen was great when he took the mound, but only managed to break the 20 start plateau once. Viola posted an ERA+ of 141 in 1990, then an ERA+ of 92 in 1991. Glavine had three seasons of above average performance, and two of below average. That said, had any of these pitchers been more consistent with their performance, they wouldn’t be on the third team anyway — they’d be on the second or first team. That’s the problem with building a third best team. There’s a knock against everyone.
If enough things broke right for this all third team — if they catch Carter before his rapid decline, get 1996 Gilkey, and all the pitchers have good years — they could run away with a division. On the other hand, if enough things went wrong, they’d find themselves closer to 80 wins than anywhere else. It comes down to the pitching. I mean, after all, Dave Magadan is basically their best offensive player. Maybe this group would win the World Series one time in ten or twelve chances, something like that. They’d probably be a good team, but maybe not a dominant one.
We’ll look at the second best and first best possible teams in Mets history at another point in this list.