>Since the 00’s are now officially closed, let’s take a look back at the decade, and while we’re at it, every Mets’ decade. Here are the top 5 – or sometimes just 4 – Mets third basemen from this decade and from all five decades of the Mets’ existence, sorted by historical Wins Above Replacement (WAR), from baseballprojection.com. I left the WAR numbers out because I find staring at a list of WARs to be a bit dry. I don’t feel it tells the story as effectively as putting the player’s other numbers. So instead I list each player’s slash line and their HR and RBI totals, even though I have a bit of distaste for batting average and RBI. Here are the top 3B from each decade:
1. Ed Charles (1967-69, 963 PA) – .249/.309/.368, 21 HR, 102 RBI
2. Ken Boyer (1966-67, 728 PA) – .258/.312/.400, 17 HR, 74 RBI
3. Charley Smith (1964-64, 1002 PA) – .242/.274/.397, 36 HR, 120 RBI
4. Charlie Neal (1962-63, 861 PA) – .248/.321/.364, 14 HR, 76 RBI
5. Felix Mantilla (1962, 518 PA) – .275/.330/.399, 11 HR, 59 RBI
Top Selling Album from the 1960’s: “The Beatles (White Album)” – The Beatles
Third base was a revolving door for the Mets for the 1960’s – Ed Charles is tops here, but not by much.
Ed Charles was both the jovial elder and poet laureate of the 1969 Mets – but it wasn’t an easy journey to get there. Charles was drafted by the Boston Braves in 1952 as a 19-year-old kid from Florida. He got in just a season-and-a-half in the minor leagues before his career was delayed – he was sent off to fight in Korea, missing half of the 1953 season and all of 1954. A now 22-year-old Charles returned to play for the Corpus Christi Clippers in 1955, the B level affiliate of the Milwaukee Braves, batting .333 in 141 games, which is not too bad for someone who was in Korea the year before. Charles played two years at the single A level before finally making it full time to the AAA level as a 25-year-old. He batted .284 in 1958, .270 the next, struggled to a .252 average in 1960 only to rebound by hitting .305 in 1961 – but of course that’s four full seasons at the AAA level, and he was 28 for the last season. Charles was never going to make it to the Majors with Milwaukee where another Ed, Eddie Mathews, was manning third base, and time was running out. Since being drafted in 1952, Charles had played in 1143 minor league games for teams in Quebec, Texas, Kansas, Kentucky, and Vancouver and spent a year-and-a-half with the armed forces in Korea, but he still wasn’t much closer to reaching the Braves then when he started in 1952.
Ed was only finally able break into the majors in 1962 after being traded in the offseason to the Kansas City Athletics. He would turn 29 during his first month in the major leagues, roughly ten years after his professional debut.
Charles played well in his five-and-a-half seasons in Kansas City, putting up a 105 OPS+, but there were still hardships – 1964 his wife gave birth to a son afflicted with cerebral palsy. A struggling Charles was shipped off to New York in May of 1967, traded for OF Larry Elliot and $50,000 in what was tantamount to a salary dump – Elliot never played a game in the majors for the Athletics. Charles finished out the ’67 season with the Mets, who invited him back in 1968 but without a guaranteed roster spot – and keep in mind that this was with a Mets team that had lost 101 games in 1967. After 16 years in professional baseball, Charles still was again trying to break in with the major league squad. He made the team, posted a 128 OPS+ and led the Mets in home runs at age 35 – 9 years older than the Mets’ team’s average age. Charles struggled in the summer of ’69, hitting just .207/.286/.320 for the year, and saw his playing time reduced – Jerry Koosman remarked to the always smiling Charles the day before a double header, “Hey Glider, get your rest. Tomorrow you’ll have to watch two games.”
Charles didn’t play a single inning in the 1969 NLCS, but the veteran started and batted sixth in four of five World Series games. His single and go-ahead ninth inning run in Game 2 of the World Series propelled the Mets to a 2-1 victory, and he was manning third base when Cleon Jones genuflected to end the Series – the last time Ed Charles would be on the field as a player. He was released after the World Series, but 18 years after being drafted, nine minor league seasons, three organizations, and having to fight for a spot on the ’68 team, Charles exited baseball on top as the most miraculous of the Miracle Mets. A post-Series New York Times article detailing Charles’ upcoming USO trip to Vietnam – that makes him a soldier, championship baseball player, humanitarian, loving father, and poet, for those of you keeping score at home. Not too shabby of a resume – anyway, the article quotes the 3B/poet, and Charles’ words sums his story up best: “Background is not the primary concern, but backbone is. To quit is cowardice.”
1. Wayne Garrett (1970-76, 3361 PA) – .237/.348/.343, 55 HR, 295 RBI
2. Len Randle (1977-78, 1093 PA) – .272/.358/.365, 7 HR, 62 RBI
3. Richie Hebner (1979, 549 PA) – .268/.354/.393, 10 HR, 79 RBI
4. Joe Foy (1970, 399 PA) – .236/.373/.329, 6 HR, 37 RBI
5. Jim Fregosi (1972-73, 526 PA) – .233/.319/.328, 5 HR, 43 RBI
Top Selling Album from the 1970’s: “Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975” – The Eagles
If you believe in clutch hitters, Wayne Garrett’s got the resume – a 109 tOPS+ in high leverage situations for his career (tOPS+ measures a players performance relative to his career performance, higher than 100 is better than normal performance, lower than 100 is worse). Even more impressive, Garrett has a 130 tOPS+ with 2 outs and runners in scoring position for career.
Of his 61 career home runs, 36 were go-ahead or game tying home runs, including 2 walk-offs. For someone with a career .341 slugging percentage, Garrett knew how to pick his spots.
1. Howard Johnson (1985-89, 2575 PA) – .257/.348/.475, 117 HR, 353 RBI
2. Hubie Brooks (1980-84, 2213 PA) – .272/.317/.365, 28 HR, 219 RBI
3. Ray Knight (1984-86, 932 PA) – .271/.319/.386, 18 HR, 118 RBI
4. Elliot Maddux (1980, 478 PA) – .246/.336/.319, 4 HR, 34 RBI
Top Selling Album from the 1980’s: “Thriller” – Michael Jackson
Howard Johnson started at least 52 games at each positions in the batting order.
Johnson, a switch hitter, had a sizable platoon split – .811 as a lefty hitter and .726 as a righty. Again, switch hitting is useless.
Lasty, Howard Johnson’s top home run from 1986, by WPA, came on July 22 during a game in Cincinnati maybe more famous for Ray Knight and Kevin Mitchell getting ejected in a brawl than for the action on the field – actually, I guess that took place on the field too. With the Mets down 3-1 in the top of the ninth, Howard Johnson struck out as a pinch hitter, reached first on a dropped third strike, only to be quickly eliminated when Mookie Wilson grounded into a double-play. Dykstra kept the game alive when he drew a two-out walk, Tim Teufel doubled, and the Reds brought in a lefty screwball pitcher, John Franco, to face Keith Hernandez. Franco got Keith Hernandez to fly out to left – only Dave Parker dropped the ball, and the Mets tied the game. The big brawl took place in the bottom of the tenth, Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell took turns playing right field and pitching, and Howard Johnson finally broke the tie in the 14th inning with a three run home run, in his fourth at-bat for a game he entered in the ninth inning. McDowell set the Reds down 1-
2-3 in the bottom of the inning on three ground balls.
1. Edgardo Alfonzo (1995-98, 1992 PA) – .285/.346/.403, 35 HR, 231 RBI
2. Howard Johnson (1990-93, 2016 PA) – .244/.333/.440, 75 HR, 276 RBI
3. Robin Ventura (1999, 671 PA) – .301/.379/.529, 32 HR, 120 RBI
4. Bobby Bonilla (1994, 460 PA) – .290/.374/.504, 20 HR, 67 RBI
Top Selling Album from the 1990’s: “Double Live” – Garth Brooks
For more on Fonzi, take a look at my second base rundown, here. He’s the top second basemen of all time for the Mets, and the third-best third basemen.
When you calculate the Mets 2011 payroll, don’t forget that the Mets will start paying Bobby Bonilla $1.2 million dollars that year and every year until 2035, in an agreement arranged in 2000 when the Mets released Bonilla – so Omar Minaya’s replacement will have to deal with that too.
1. David Wright (2004-09, 3665 PA) – .309/.389/.518, 140 HR, 561 RBI
2. Edgardo Alfonzo (2002, 562 PA) – .308/.391/.459, 16 HR, 56 RBI
3. Robin Ventura (2000-01, 1100 PA) – .235/.348/.429, 45 HR, 145 RBI
4. Ty Wiggington (2002-04, 1099 PA) – .270/.327/.440, 29 HR, 131 RBI
Top Selling Album from the 2000’s: “SpeakerBoxxx/The Love Below” – Outkast
David Wright passed HoJo as the Mets career leader in WAR at third base in 2008. The top five list now looks like this:
1. David Wright – 27.1
2. Howard Johnson – 24.7
3. Edgardo Alfonzo – 15.7
4. Wayne Garrett – 11.5
5. Robin Ventura – 10.7
Up Next: Shortstops