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, #15, David Cone:
I’ve mentioned that this list is a pyramid before . . . if you want to imagine this Mets Pyramid of Greatness, then imagine David Cone is the final building block completing the base. He’s the last member of the 36 or so players that make up the foundation — no one in this first group is much better or worse than any other player. So the handful of players ranked below Cone on the list could just as easily rank in front of him. Just among pitchers, you could make a convincing case that any (or all three) of Johan Santana, Sid Fernandez, or Ron Darling was a better pitcher with the Mets than Cone. Just for the heck of it:
- David Cone – 81-51, 3.13 ERA, 112 ERA+, 19.0 WAR
- Johan Santana – 40-25, 2.85 ERA, 143 ERA+, 14.4 WAR
- Sid Fernandez – 98-78, 3.14 ERA, 113 ERA+, 26.9 WAR
- Ron Darling – 99-70, 3.50 ERA, 101 ERA+, 16.5 WAR
On an inning for inning basis, Santana comes out on top . . . but he’s also thrown the fewest of the bunch. Sid Fernandez, having been with the team for ten years, comes out far ahead in total value, but he wasn’t as good of a pitcher at his peak as Santana and Cone were. Darling seems to lag, but easily has the best “clutch” score of the four, and I think some of his value is lost in ERA.
I don’t have a strong opinion here, which is my point. These pitchers are all similar in career value, and who’s better depends on what you emphasize. If you think Sid Fernandez should rank ahead of the other three pitchers based on volume, I’m okay with that. If you’re Ron Darling — having just stumbled onto this post from the SNY.tv website — and you feel strongly that you should be here at #15, ahead of that YES crony David Cone . . . I’m okay with that too.
But no one at the top of the pyramid, those ranked #1-#14, could realistically be ranked behind these four pitchers. David Cone marks the division between the good players in franchise history and the very best. The rankings of players lower than Cone on the list are more or less unimportant; I sort of care and have something resembling opinions about where the next 14 players should rank on the Mets’ pantheon.
Weirdly, you can field a complete baseball team with the Mets’ top 14 players, and there’s almost no overlap — a starting lineup, one bench player, and five starting pitchers. I suspect that if you did a similar exercise with other teams, things wouldn’t work out so smoothly. The Yankees, for example, would have Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and to a lesser extent Bernie Williams fighting for center field. The Red Sox would have some great hitters blocked by Ted Williams in left. No such problems with the Mets.
Yeah, I am perhaps borderline berserk. But if you can get away with that anywhere, I think you can in New York. I think New York understands borderline berserk. I think New York respects borderline berserk.