Among the oddities associated with the Mets as they celebrate their 50th anniversary is that any Top 50 list can reasonably exclude nine Hall of Fame players. This is not a commentary on the franchise’s overall depth of talent so much as the desire of previous executives to stock the roster with stars whose glow was fading (Duke Snider, Richie Ashburn, Warren Spahn, Yogi Berra and Willie Mays), their inability to gauge players’ passion for representing New York (Roberto Alomar, Rickey Henderson and Eddie Murray) and, in the case of Nolan Ryan, their impatience in developing great potential.
None of that Cooperstown Nine made a sufficient contribution to the Mets to earn a place on one man’s all-time team. Another group that achieved some degree of distinction — George Foster, Bobby Bonilla, Bret Saberhagen and Vince Coleman — was considered ineligible for this exercise because of a combination of ineffectiveness and indifference for their surroundings.
Others among the more than 900 players who wore the uniform provided New York fans with four World Series appearances and hundreds of thrills in the Mets’ first half-century. They scored improbable upsets, staged stunning rallies and sustained remarkable pennant drives, writing the most colorful history of any major-league franchise conceived after 1960.
The following list is based on more than mere statistics or natural ability. It takes into consideration intangibles, length of service and dedication to the team at the Polo Grounds, Shea Stadium and, more recently, Citi Field. These were the most important Mets at any given time in their history.
50. BILLY WAGNER (2006-09)
The overpowering and outspoken lefthanded reliever saved 101 games in three full seasons before suffering a serious elbow injury.
49) RAY KNIGHT (1984-86)
Unlikely MVP of the 1986 World Series scored the winning run in Game 6 and homered to break the tie in Game 7 versus the Red Sox after which he left the Mets in a contract squabble.
48) JEURYS FAMILIA (2012-2015)
The righthander was thrust into the closer's role in 2015 after Jenrry Mejia's suspension and was a sure thing in the ninth inning -- and sometimes the eighth. His 43 saves tied Armando Benitez's club record and he's added five more in the playoffs.
47) CARLOS DELGADO (2006-09)
Delgado, a powerful cleanup hitter, blasted 101 homers for the Mets before his career was derailed by a hip injury.
46) ROBIN VENTURA (1999-2001)
Venutra made the most of his time in New York, earning a Gold Glove at third base in 1999 when he slammed 32 homers, drove in 120 runs and hit the famous "grand slam single" in Game 5 of the Division Series.
45) JOHAN SANTANA (2008-12)
Even though he waited until the 51st season to pitch the Mets' first no-hitter, he earned spot by leading the league in ERA and innings pitched in 2008, culminating with critical a three-hit shutout on three days' rest on the next-to-last day of the season despite a damaged knee.
44) R.A. DICKEY (2010-12)
Journeyman R.A. Dickey had played for three teams with little success before he signed a minor-league contract with the Mets in January 2010. He mastered the knuckleball at age 35 and won 39 games in three seasons, including going 20-6 and winning the Cy Young Award in 2012. Dickey was traded that winter at the height of his value to the Blue Jays for Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud.
43) MATT HARVEY (2012-present)
"The Dark Knight" took New York by storm in his first full season, earning the 2013 All-Star Game start at Citi Field. That season came to an end early when he underwent Tommy John surgery and he was sidelined for the entire 2014 season. He didn't miss a beat in a 13-win 2015 season that included an innings-limit controversy.
42) JACOB DEGROM (2014-present)
The hair apparent as the king of the Mets' hard-throwing rotation, deGrom followed up a Rookie of the Year performance in 2014 with a 14-8 season. He's been even better in the playoffs, going 3-0 against the Dodgers and Cubs.
41) LEE MAZZILLI (1976-81, 1986-89)
Briefly the face of the franchise in the bleak years of the Kiddie Corps, the speedy outfielder from Brooklyn batted .303 in his best season as a regular and became a dependable pinch hitter for a championship team in his second tour.
40) JOHN OLERUD (1997-99)
Before he left the Mets for his hometown Seattle Mariners, Olerud was a professional first baseman who batted .315 in three seasons for Mets and completed the best defensive infield in baseball.
39) BOBBY JONES (1993-2000)
The Opening Day starter on three occasions, Jones qualified for the All-Star Game in 1997 when he won 10 of his first 12 decisions. He dazzled the Giants with a one-hit shutout in 2000 Division Series clincher.
38) KEVIN MCREYNOLDS (1987-91, 1994)
McReynolds cost the Mets future MVP Kevin Mitchell, but the quiet outfielder was a solid contributor in his five seasons, hitting 122 homers and driving in 456 runs.
37) RON SWOBODA (1965-70)
Survivor of Casey Stengel’s "Youth of America," "Rocky" was a cult favorite whose outrageous backhanded catch saved Tom Seaver and the Mets in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series and whose double drove in the winning run in the clincher.
36) BOB OJEDA (1986-90)
Among the best pitchers in baseball in 1986, he had an 18-5 record during the regular season and was the Mets' most effective starter in both the NLCS and the World Series against his former team, the Red Sox.
35) DONN CLENDENON (1969-71)
Acquired in June 1969, this first baseman added a big stick to the middle of the Mets' lineup and hit three home runs in the World Series victory.
34) ROGER MCDOWELL (1985-89)
This prankster was the right-hand man in the bullpen to Jesse Orosco during the 1986 championship run. McDowell worked five brilliant innings in the pennant clincher against the Astros and was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series.
33) DANIEL MURPHY (2009, 2011-15)
The six-year veteran was best known for his ability to get the bat on the ball, his versatility in the field and his adventurous baserunning -- until the 2015 postseason. Now he seems to be setting records every day. He became the first player to homer in six consecutive postseason games and has totaled seven homers in his first seven playoff games to lead the Mets to their first World Series in 15 years.
32) JON MATLACK (1971-77)
NL Rookie of the Year in 1972, this smooth lefthander formed a Big 3 with Seaver and Koosman, outpitching both in the 1973 postseason and amassing 26 career shutouts.
31) LENNY DYKSTRA (1985-89)
The combative "Nails", who dove headfirst through life, batted better than .300 in two championship series with the Mets and homered twice in the 1986 World Series.
30) DAVID CONE (1987-1992, 2003)
A virtual gift from Kansas City, Cone went 20-3 for the Mets in 1988 and inspired a gathering of Coneheads whenever he pitched, but saved his perfect game for the rival Yankees.
29) WALLY BACKMAN (1980-88)
The scrappy second baseman batted .300 or better three times in nine seasons with the Mets and was among team leaders in stolen bases and agitating opponents.
28) SID FERNANDEZ (1984-93)
Hawaii 5-0 strikeout artist was among the team's most effective starters in mid 1980s and his sterling relief effort in Game 7 of 1986 World Series made possible the comeback victory.
27) JOHN STEARNS (1975-84)
Hard-nosed catcher and college football star, "Dude" could hit, run and block the plate like few others, earning four All-Star invitations.
26) JOHN FRANCO (1990-2004)
Brooklyn's own became the all-time lefthanded saves leader with 276 of his 424 in a Mets uniform, appeared in four games of 2000 World Series and earned club's only win.
25) TOMMIE AGEE (1968-72)
Defensive star of the 1969 World Series and powerful leadoff batter who hit the longest home run in Shea Stadium history.
24) RON DARLING (1983-91)
Smooth righthander, a Yalie, won 99 games with club, fourth all-time, and earned only Gold Glove awarded a Mets pitcher.
23) RON HUNT (1963-66)
Tough second baseman was the first Met selected to start in All-Star Game (1964). Hunt retired as the major-league leader in hit by pitches.
22) JESSE OROSCO (1979, 1981-87)
The whereabout of his glove became a trivia question after he closed out the 1986 World Series with the heave of the year, the high point of a long career in which the lefthander had a Mets ERA (2.73) second only to Tom Seaver.
21) TODD HUNDLEY (1990-98)
Broke Roy Campanella's single-season home run standard for catchers in 1996 with 41, still a Mets record he shares with Beltran.
20) CARLOS BELTRAN (2005-11)
Club records of talented centerfielder and switch hitter, including 41 homers, 127 runs and 80 extra-base hits in 2006. Beltran was diminished by injuries and a called third strike in NLCS.
19) ED KRANEPOOL (1962-79)
Bronx kid who became a franchise fixture from the days of futility to triumph and back again. Kranepool will hold Shea Stadium records for games, at-bats, hits and total bases in perpetuity.
18) AL LEITER (1998-2004)
This New Jersey native solidified his stature as club ace with a two-hit shutout of the Reds in the wild-card playoff in 1999. Leiter threw 142 pitches in a heroic effort against the Yankees in the fifth and final game of the 2000 World Series.
17) JERRY GROTE (1966-77)
Tough catcher from Texas was an underrated presence behind the plate for the entire Tom Seaver era. Grote was an outstanding defender who still ranks third in games played.
16) TUG MCGRAW (1965-67, 1969-74)
A lefthander through and through, this relief ace virtually willed the Mets into the 1973 postseason and electrified Shea Stadium crowds with high-wire performances.
15) RUSTY STAUB (1972-75, 1981-85)
Starred in the 1973 postseason, hitting three homers in the NLCS and batting .423 in the World Series despite an injured right shoulder. Staub was the first Met to drive in 100 runs (1975) and a premier pinch hitter in his second tour.
14) EDGARDO ALFONZO (1995-2002)
Popular second baseman led the Mets in runs, hits, doubles and average in both 1999 and 2000. Alfonzo contributed to the best infield defense in majors.
13) BUD HARRELSON (1965-77)
Slick shortstop with the second-longest tenure in organization was a mainstay of two World Series teams, later a coach and manager.
12) MOOKIE WILSON (1980-89)
The first star of the Wilpon era, Mookie Wilson brought energy, speed and excitement to the top of batting order and hit the most famous roller in World Series history.
11) JOSE REYES (2003-11)
The legs that elevated this shortstop to among the most exciting offensive players in baseball occasionally betrayed him. Reyes won the batting title in his last at-bat for the team before receiving free-agent windfall from the Miami Marlins.
10) HOWARD JOHNSON (1985-93)
A remarkable combination of speed and power, Johnson hit at least 30 home runs and stole at least 30 bases in the same season three times in his career. Twice an All-Star third baseman, "HoJo" led the National League in homers (38) and RBIs in (117) in 1991. The switch hitter was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for pitcher Walt Terrell.
9) CLEON JONES (1963, 1965-75)
A homegrown outfielder, Jones was the most dependable hitter in the Mets' rise to the top. He batted .340 in 1969 and capped off the championship by doubling and scoring the winning run in Game 5 of the World Series, then catching the final out. A natural lefthander who batted right because of the configuration of his field in Mobile, Ala., he remains among the franchise leaders in games, at-bats, hits and total bases.
8) JERRY KOOSMAN (1967-78)
Signed as an amateur free agent in 1964, "Kooz" won 140 games in 12 seasons with the Mets and was a key part of the 1969 and 1973 World Series teams, forming a devastating righty-lefty 1-2 punch with Tom Seaver. Koosman won two games against the Orioles in the 1969 World Series, including the Game 5 clincher. He won two more games in the 1973 playoffs, beating the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship Series and the Oakland A's in the World Series.
7) DARRYL STRAWBERRY (1983-90)
Although he never fully lived up to his potential, he was one of the most feared and dynamic hitters in baseball during a turbulent eight years with the Mets. The first pick in the 1980 draft, Straw averaged 31.5 homers and 91.6 RBIs a year with the team despite a series of injuries, personal problems and severe mood swings. Like his buddy, Dwight Gooden, he finished his career with the Yankees.
6) DAVID WRIGHT (2004-present)
Thethird baseman already holds the club records for RBIs, runs scored, total bases and extra-base hits. He also is the only player to boast a .300 career average after more than three seasons with the Mets. The best position player developed by the franchise, he is a seven-time All-Star.
5) DWIGHT GOODEN (1984-94)
There was no greater phenom in Mets history than "Doc," who in 1984 led the major leagues in strikeouts with 276, won 17 games and became the youngest player (19) to win a Rookie of the Year Award. He was even better in 1985 when he earned a Cy Young Award with a 24-4 record and 1.53 earned run average. A drug problem limited his overall success, but he finished his Mets career with a record of 157-85.
4) GARY CARTER (1985-89)
His addition via a trade with Montreal completed a championship team. A fan favorite after he homered in the 10th inning to win his first game as a Met at Shea Stadium, the enthusiastic "Kid" led all hitters with nine RBIs during the 1986 World Series and his two-out single in the 10th inning of Game 6 ignited the three-run miracle rally that staved off defeat. A superb catcher, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2003.
3) KEITH HERNANDEZ (1983-89)
Acquired from the Cardinals in a 1983 midseason trade, Hernandez led a young team into contention the following year and to a world championship in 1986. The brilliant first baseman won the last six of his 11 Gold Glove awards with the Mets and served as the team’s first captain. A keen student of the game, "Mex" is in his seventh season as the team's television analyst.
2) MIKE PIAZZA (1998-2005)
Arguably the best-hitting catcher of all time, he drove the Mets to the National League Championship Series in 1999 and the World Series in 2000. His game-winning homer in the first game staged in New York after 9/11, one of 220 he hit for the Mets (427 career), is among the most moving and indelible images in club history.
1) TOM SEAVER (1967-77, ’83)
Still "The Franchise" three decades after he tossed his last pitch for the Mets. Seaver's talent and attitude were credited with transforming the team from a laughingstock into a champion. He won three Cy Young Awards and was voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility with the largest percentage (98.8) ever. The only Met to have his number (41) retired primarily as a player for the team.