Gary Carter or Mike Piazza?  Cleon Jones or Kevin McReynolds?  Jose Reyes or, um, okay that one doesn’t quite work.  But here is my list of the all-time best Mets by position.

The Mets have had a good run for an expansion franchise and fans of the team have seen All-Stars and Hall of Famers play for the squad.  But who are the all-time best Mets at each position?  Some positions are hard to choose from because of several worthy candidates.  And others are hard to find anyone really worthwhile for the honor.

When picking this team, I only considered their contributions while a member of the Mets.  I tried to weight matters evenly between peak and career value but that is always a tricky goal.  My squad contains one player at each position, five starters and a closer.  Here is my all-time Mets squad.

C – Mike Piazza

On most teams without an extended history, catcher is a black hole.  But Piazza had competition from Hall of Famer Gary Carter and power hitting Todd Hundley, who holds the team’s single-season HR mark.  As a point of contrast, the Astros, who entered the league the same time as the Mets, would pick between career stiff Brad Ausmus or Craig Biggio, who only played three full seasons behind the plate.  Meanwhile, Piazza has the top two slugging seasons in team history and ranks second on the team’s all-time HR list.

1B – Keith Hernandez

This pick is not as easy as catcher.  Hernandez gets the nod as he ranks second on the club’s all-time list at games played for the position.  His acquisition was the driving force behind the club’s mid-1980s prosperity.  Before injuries hit, he was the finest defensive first baseman in the game and a solid .300 hitter in the middle of the lineup.  John Olerud was excellent but just didn’t play long enough for the club.  Carlos Delgado joins the discussion if he can hit like he did through the final two-thirds of 2008 this season.

2B – Edgardo Alfonzo

Third base has historically been the worst position for the team, but that changed with the ascension of David Wright.  Meanwhile, second base has been nearly as hard for the club to fill throughout the years.  Wally Backman is the career leader in games but he was also a platoon player and a defensive liability.  Alfonzo only played 2B as his primary position for three years, but was an All-Star and drew MVP votes in two of them.

3B – David Wright

For as much grief as the team gets about the position, the Mets have had some good performances at the hot corner.  Howard Johnson was great for three years and pretty good two other seasons.  Robin Ventura and Hubie Brooks put up quality seasons for the team, as well.  But David Wright is on a Hall of Fame career path.  For the start of his career, he ranks with Eddie Matthews, Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Wade Boggs as one of the best in history.  With 4 ½ excellent seasons already under his belt, Wright will be just 26 in 2009.

SS – Jose Reyes

The gulf between Reyes and the next best shortstop in team history is probably the widest of any position.  Buddy Harrelson played forever but was never much with the stick.  Rey Ordonez wished he was as good at the plate as Harrelson.  Meanwhile, Reyes can be seen everywhere on the team’s leaderboard.  He’s the single-season and career leader on the team in stolen bases and he’s featured prominently in at-bats, hits, runs and triples, too.  Let’s just hope he rebounds with the glove in 2009.

LF – Kevin McReynolds

If it was a popularity contest, Cleon Jones would be the winner, even if his career with the team ended shortly after he was found in the back of a van with a white woman on the side of the road.  Jones was still more popular than McReynolds.  But McReynolds was more consistent than Jones in virtually the same number of games played.  Jones played more games and had the best season, but McReynolds never had a season like Jones in ’72 or ’73.  McReynolds was also much more of a power threat.  It seems a bit odd in retrospect, but McReynolds finished third in the MVP race in 1988.

CF – Carlos Beltran

Coming into the 2009 season, Beltran has played virtually the same number of games for the Mets in center field as both Tommie Agee and Lee Mazzilli.  Yet both of those two were probably more loved by fans than Beltran, which is just insane. Beltran has been outstanding in three of his four seasons with the Mets both at the plate and in the field.  For awhile, fans were chanting for Delgado as the MVP in 2008 but Beltran’s kick in August and September took a back seat to no one and was seemingly recognized by just as many.

RF – Darryl Strawberry

Now he’s just the poster child for what can happen when you get caught up in substance abuse but those who were there in the 1980s saw a tremendous player who could do it all.  Strawberry is the team’s all-time HR leader with 252 and RBIs with 733 and he ranks fourth with 191 steals.  While Reyes probably has the biggest gap on his competition, Strawberry ranks second.  Rusty Staub was pretty good, but Strawberry was just better and also had the advantage of playing twice as many games.

*****

Tomorrow, we will look at the all-time Mets pitchers.

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