MLB Top 5: New York Mets Corner Infielders

This is the second article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the New York Mets. In this installment are first and third basemen.

The Mets have gotten plenty of production from their corner infielders throughout the years. First base includes a current star who is capable of setting several offensive records by the time his career is over, as well as one of the greatest all-time defenders at the position. Across the diamond, third base features one player who combined power and speed and was a bright spot during a down era for the franchise, along with one of the most respected players in team history who saw his promising career ruined by injuries.

The Best First and Third Basemen in New York Mets History

First Basemen

Honorable Mentions – John Milner was a solid player who never quite got to the star level, He led the team in home runs three times during his seven-year tenure in New York (1971-77), beginning with 17 en route to a third-place finish in the Rookie of the year voting in 1971. Despite dealing with hamstring injuries throughout his career, Milner had 315 runs, 586 hits, 100 doubles, 94 home runs and 338 RBIs in 741 games. “The Hammer” appeared in 12 games during the 1973 playoffs, totaling four runs scored, 11 hits and three runs batted in. He was sent to the Pirates as part of a four-team, 11-player trade after the 1977 season.

Dave Kingman was one of the most powerful and polarizing players, who made his mark during one of the worst eras for the Mets. He had a pair of three-year stints in New York (1975-77 and 81-83), playing the outfield in the first stint and moving to first base for the second. Nicknamed “Kong” for his ability to hit the ball a long way, Kingman would have fit in with today’s players. He hit at least 30 home runs three times with the Mets, including a league-best (and then a club record) 37 in 1982, but he also hit just .204 that season and led the National League in strikeouts twice.

Kingman was an All-Star in 1976 but was traded from the Mets to the Padres the following year for future manager Bobby Valentine, among others. The club brought him back after making a deal with the Cubs four years later. “Kong” batted just .219 with the Mets but ranks sixth in franchise history with 154 home runs and added 509 hits, 389 runs batted in and 1,053 total bases in 664 games. He finished his career by smacking 35 homers with Oakland in 1986 and totaled 442 over his 16-year career.

Lucas Duda spent his first eight seasons with the Mets (2010-17), appearing at both corner infield spots in addition to first base. He set career highs with 30 homers and 92 RBIs in 2014 and was an integral part of the pennant-winning squad the following year. With the Mets floundering at the trade deadline, “The Dude” picked things up, hitting three home runs in a series against the Nationals that helped the Mets sweep and jump into a tie atop the N. L. East. In the postseason, he had 11 hits and eight RBIs in 14 games, including tying a team record by driving in five runs in Game 4 against the Cubs to send the Mets to their first World Series in 15 years.

The run of good moments came to an end against the Royals. Duda’s errant throw in the ninth inning allowed the tying run to score, with Kansas City winning the game in 12 innings to clinch the team’s first title in 30 years. Duda ranks ninth in franchise history with 125 home runs, and he also totaled 325 runs, 614 hits, 146 doubles, 378 RBIs and 1,141 total bases in 760 games. He played for three other teams and finished his career with the Royals in 2019.

5. John Olerud – He came to the Mets via trade after winning a pair of titles with the Blue Jays. During his three seasons with the club (1997-99), he proved himself to be a clutch hitter and amassed at least 90 runs scored, 150 hits and 90 RBIs in each campaign. Olerud drove in 102 runs in his first year and wrote his name in the record books in the next two. In 1998, he set team records with a .354 average and a .447 on-base percentage to go with 22 home runs, 93 RBIs and 197 hits (third in team history).

The following season, Olerud posted a club-record 124 walks and added a .427 record, which was second behind his own mark. In addition to his offensive prowess, he was a part of the infield that set a major league record for fewest errors in a season with 24 (he had eight). Olerud is the all-time Mets leader with a .315 average and a .425 on-base percentage, and he ranks fifth with a .501 slugging percentage. He also amassed 288 runs, 524 hits, 109 doubles, 63 home runs and 291 RBIs in 470 games.

A former Hutch Award winner, Olerud batted .357 during the 1999 playoffs with seven runs, 15 hits, three homers and 12 RBIs in 10 games, helping the Mets reach the NLCS. He continued his solid all-around play with the Mariners and had brief stays with the Yankees and Red Sox before he retired in 2005. While he didn’t gain election to Cooperstown, Olerud was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, had a two-way collegiate player award named after him and was named the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Century.

4. Carlos Delgado – Like Olerud, he started his career in Toronto, but his focus was on power rather than finesse. Delgado smashed 30 or more home runs for eight consecutive seasons and drove in at least 100 runs six straight years. After spending 2005 with the Marlins, he finished his illustrious career with four seasons in New York (2006-09). While he wasn’t an All-Star with the Mets, he earned MVP consideration twice after smashing 38 homers and driving in more than 100 runs in 2006 and ’08.

During New York’s run to the NLCS in 2006, Delgado had eight runs and 13 hits in 10 games. He also earned the Roberto Clemente Award for his humanitarian work, especially in his native Puerto Rico. Hip injuries led to a pair of surgeries, and Delgado retired in 2010 after 17 big-league seasons. Despite 2,038 hits, 473 home runs and 1,512 RBIs, he failed to reach five percent of the votes for the Hall of Fame in 2015 and was removed from the ballot.

3. Pete Alonso – He has shown unprecedented power in his first five seasons (2019-present) and is well on his way to setting team records. Alonso was a 2018 MLB Futures Game participant who has become one of the most feared hitters in the game. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2019 after batting .260 with 120 RBIs, 348 total bases, a .583 slugging percentage and 53 home runs, which led the league and set both a team record and the major league mark for first-year players.

The “Polar Bear” has four seasons with at least 35 home runs and 90 RBIs and the only year he didn’t reach those totals was the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. He already has three of the top five single-season homer totals and three of the top six RBI seasons in team history, including a league-high 131 in 2022.

Alonso is a three-time All-Star and won back-to-back Home Run Derbies during the midseason break. He ranks second in franchise history in slugging percentage (.528), is tied for fourth in home runs (192) and is tied for tenth in RBIs (498). Alonso also has 402 runs, 635 hits, 111 doubles and 1,336 total bases in 684 games.

Alonso’s power mindset is both his biggest asset and his harshest criticism. He hits plenty of home runs but also hits for a low average and strikes out quite a bit. While Alonso set the rookie home run record, he also set a Mets record with 183 strikeouts in 2019. The energetic slugger is an avid hunter who is also active in the community, with a foundation run by him and his wife helping to support youth, veteran and animal causes.

2. Ed Kranepool – He was the mark of consistency in New York, beginning his career at age 17 at the end of the Mets’ inaugural season and lasting 18 seasons in the Big Apple (1962-79). He was the last remaining original Met, sticking around even after some of the team’s biggest stars were traded in the late 1970s.

Kranepool was billed as a power-hitting first baseman but turned into a contact hitter who was the team’s primary first baseman for a decade and played the corner outfield positions and excelled as a pinch-hitter later in his career. He earned his only All-Star selection in 1965 when he had a career-high 133 hits and drove in 53 runs.

“Krane” spent his entire career with the Mets despite having contract negotiation issues on a near-yearly basis with increasingly stingy team management. He retired after the 1979 season as the all-time franchise leader with 1,853 games. Kranepool batted .261 with 118 home runs, and he ranks third in team history in hits (1,418), fourth in doubles (225), fifth in RBIs (614) and ninth in runs (536). He appeared in nine postseason games, totaling three runs, five hits, four RBIs and a home run in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series. Most of the rest of his time in uniform was spent either in a platoon or functioning as a reserve.

Following his retirement, Kranepool had several business endeavors including working as a salesperson for Pfizer with a focus on diabetes control (which he developed the year he retired), and he does charity work for autism research. Kranepool’s kidneys began to shut down, and he had one replaced in 2019. The issue was discovered when antibiotics for a cut on his foot caused him to have trouble breathing. Kranepool released his autobiography in August 2023.

1. Keith Hernandez – He did not have the power of Kingman, Delgado or Alonso, but he was a stellar contact hitter and one of the best defensive first basemen in major league history. Hernandez began his career in St. Louis, winning five straight gold gloves and sharing the 1979 National League MVP Award with Pittsburgh’s Willie Stargell. However, his attitude and drug use (especially cocaine) led to his trade to the Mets in June 1983.

“Mex” fit in well with his new team, which was full of big personalities and big attitudes. He earned three more All-Star selections, finished second in the MVP voting in 1984 and won six more gold gloves to extend his streak to 11 straight years. In that 1984 season, he was the MVP runner-up and won a silver slugger after batting .311 with 171 hits, 15 home runs, 94 runs batted in and a .409 on-base percentage.

Two years later, Hernandez batted .310, had a .413 on-base percentage, scored 94 runs and led the league with 94 walks. He added 13 hits and seven RBIs in the postseason and drove in three runs in the deciding Game 7 against the Red Sox as the Mets held on to win their second championship.

Although Hernandez made one more All-Star team, his skills were in decline, and his condition was only made worse thanks to a partially broken kneecap suffered during his final season with the Mets in 1989. He finished his career with the Indians the following year. Hernandez ranks third in franchise history with a .297 average, and he had 435 runs, 939 hits, 159 doubles, 80 home runs, 468 RBIs and 1,358 total bases in 880 games. He appeared in 20 postseason contests with New York, totaling six runs, 20 hits, one homer and 12 RBIs.

Hernandez has become even more beloved in the Big Apple since his retirement in 1990. He appeared in several episodes of the hit 1990s television show, Seinfeld, starred in a men’s hair dye commercial with fellow New York sports legend, former Knicks star Walt Frazier, and he has been an analyst for Mets games on SNY since 2006.

Third Basemen

Honorable Mentions – While Gary Carter had arguably the better 1986 World Series, Ray Knight was the one who took home the MVP and Babe Ruth Awards. He came to the Mets in a trade from the Astros two years prior and drove in two runs in the deciding game to help defeat his former team in the NLCS. Despite Carter’s nine RBIs in the World Series, Knight had four runs scored, nine hits and five RBIs. He scored the winning run on Mookie Wilson‘s grounder in Game 6 and broke a tie-in with a home run in the seventh inning the following night.

Knight left as a free agent and spent single years with the Orioles and Tigers before retiring in 1988. He was a coach for the Reds and had two brief stints managing the team (1996-97 and 2003) and also had runs as a broadcaster, first for ESPN and then MASN, which broadcasts Nationals games. Knight also had a 28-year marriage to LPGA star Nancy Lopez.

Edgardo Alfonso split his eight seasons with the Mets evenly between second (524 games) and third base (515). He spent four years at the “hot corner” (1995, 97-98 and 2002), with his best season coming in 1997, when he batted .315 with 163 hits, 10 home runs, 72 RBIs and a career-high 11 stolen bases. “Fonzie” also finished second among National League third basemen in putouts in 1998.

5. Hubie Brooks – The third overall pick in the 1978 draft was the centerpiece in the 1984 trade that brought Gary Carter to New York. Brooks showed flashes during his initial run with the Mets, finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting in the strike-shortened 1981 season. His best year was 1984, his last with the club. Brooks had a .283 average, 16 home runs and 73 runs batted in.

In Montreal, Brooks earned two All-Star selections and two silver sluggers. He returned to the Mets for one season in 1991 after being reacquired from the Dodgers for lefty Bobby Ojeda. In 654 games over six seasons with New York (1980-84 and ’91). Brooks batted .267 with 640 hits, 44 homers and 269 RBIs. He spent one season with the Angels and two with the Royals before retiring in 1994.

4. Wayne Garrett – The Mets took him in the 1968 Rule 5 draft from the Braves and planned to use him as a reserve infielder. Instead, he filled a need at a position in desperate need of stability and became an integral part of the team’s championship run the following season. Garrett hit just .218 in 1969 but came up big in the playoffs. He drove in three runs in the first NLCS against the Braves, including a go-ahead two-run homer in the pennant-clinching Game 3 victory.

However, the Mets never seemed to be satisfied with “Red” and were consistently trying to acquire his replacement. The team sent outfielder Amos Otis to the Royals, losing out on a player who would earn five All-Star selections and three gold gloves with Kansas City. While missing time due to a shoulder injury and Army Reserve obligations, Garrett continued to gain solid playing time. He set career highs with 129 hits, 16 home runs and 58 RBIs during the team’s run to the pennant in 1973.

Garrett injured his shoulder in a horseback riding accident, and he was traded to the Expos in 1976. His playing time and production continued to decline, and he finished his career with the Cardinals two years later. Garrett spent eight seasons in New York (1969-76), totaling 389 runs, 667 hits, 55 home runs and 295 RBIs in 883 games. He played two years in Japan, then worked in the courier business in Florida and was a regular at Mets fantasy camps.

3. Robin Ventura – He spent the first 10 years of his career with the White Sox, earning five gold gloves and an All-Star selection, as well as getting into a fight with Nolan Ryan after charging the mound in a 1993 game against the Rangers. Ventura signed with the Mets in 1999 and paid immediate dividends, hitting 32 home runs and setting career highs with a .301 average, 177 hits and 120 runs batted in.

Ventura’s fantastic season included hitting home runs in both games of a doubleheader in May, finishing in the Top 10 of the MVP voting and winning a gold glove as part of the best fielding infield in the modern era. He continued his torrid hitting in the playoffs and also delivered a defining career moment. The Mets were trailing the Braves 3-2 in the 15th inning in Game 5 of the NLCS but tied the game on a bases-loaded walk. Ventura blasted a game-winning home run, but Todd Pratt picked him up to celebrate after he rounded first base. Although he never was able to run around the bases, Ventura’s hit became known as the “grand slam single.”

Ventura had surgery on his knee and shoulder in the offseason and his numbers declined over his final two years with the Mets. He totaled 219 runs, 394 hits, 77 homers and 265 RBIs in 444 games over three seasons (1999-2001). The Mets traded Ventura to the Yankees, and he made the All-Star team in 2002. Arthritis in his ankle led to him ending his 16-year career after spending the 2004 season with the Dodgers. He was a scout for the White Sox and led the team to a 375-435 record in five seasons as a manager from 2012-16.

2. Howard Johnson – He was originally a relief pitcher when he was drafted by the Tigers in 1979 but was quickly moved to shortstop. Johnson was traded to the Mets before the 1985 but was a reserve and platoon player at both shortstop and third base until his third season in New York. He finally got playing time in 1987 and proved himself worthy of manager Davey Johnson‘s trust bye hitting .265 with 36 home runs, 99 runs batted in and 32 stolen bases. “HoJo” became the eighth player in major league history to join the 30/30 club and his homer total broke the National League record by a switch-hitter.

Johnson was forced back to shortstop in 1988 to make room for phenom Gregg Jefferies, but his home run total fell to 24 and he got just one hit in the NLCS loss to the Dodgers. He had arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder which scared away potential trade partners and stopped a potential blockbuster four-team deal. Johnson responded by earning his first All-Star selection after posting a league-best 104 runs and producing a .287-36-101 stat line, with his average being a career high.

Following another down year in 1990, “HoJo” was an All-Star for the second time the next season after leading the league with 38 homers and 117 RBIs. He finished fifth in the MVP voting in both of his All-Star campaigns and made the 30/30 club each time, becoming the third player in baseball history to reach those marks on more than one occasion (joining Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds).

Johnson was one of those players who had great seasons in odd years and poor campaigns in even years. The trend continued with a down season in 1992, and his broke the trend when the wear and tear on his knees continued the decline continued the following year. Johnson also faced hand and wrist injuries and fought a viral infection. He played for the Rockies and Cubs before his playing career ended in 1995.

“HoJo” played nine seasons with the Mets (1985-93), and he ranks third in franchise history in stolen bases (202) and strikeouts (827), fourth in runs (627) and RBIs (629) and walks (556), tied for fourth in home runs (192), fifth in doubles (214), sixth in total bases (1,823), seventh in games (1,154) and tenth in hits (997). Since his retirement, Johnson was a coach in the Mets’ and Mariners’ systems and spent a year with Tijuana of the Mexican League.

1. David Wright – Like the last three players on this list, Wright’s emergence coincided with his team’s success. He was called up in 2004 and became a star at Shea Stadium and later, Citi Field (although not as much at the latter). In his first seven seasons, Wright had more than 150 hits six times, hit better than .300 and had at least 25 home runs and 100 runs batted in five times and scored more than 100 runs twice.

Wright earned seven All-Star selection, two gold gloves and two silver sluggers, and he finished in the Top 10 of the MVP voting four times. He had back-to-back stellar seasons, setting career highs with a .325 average, 34 stolen bases and 196 hits (fourth in team history) to go with 113 runs, 30 homers and 107 RBIs while finishing fourth in the MVP race in 2007. The following year, he batted .302 with 189 hits and career highs with 115 runs, 33 home runs, 124 RBIs (tied for the second most in team history) and 334 total bases (second).

The 2004 MLB Futures Game participant came back from a stress fracture in his back in 2011 to have three solid seasons. However, his body was beginning to break down. Wright was named the fourth captain in franchise history in 2013, but spinal stenosis limited him to just 75 games combined in 2015-16. He had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck and suffered a shoulder injury during rehab that led to rotator cuff surgery and a lost 2017 season. After several more setbacks, Wright was finally able to resume baseball activities in mid-2018. He had a lengthy minor league rehab assignment and came up to bat three times in the Mets’ season-ending series with the Marlins, marking his last major league action.

Wright finished his career as the all-time Mets leader in runs (949), hits (1,777), doubles (390), RBIs (970), total bases (2,945), walks (762) and strikeouts (1,292). He also ranks second in games (1,585) and home runs (242), fourth in stolen bases (196), tied for fourth in average (.296) and tied for ninth in triples (26). Wright led the Mets to the playoffs twice, totaling 10 runs, 18 hits, five doubles, two home runs and 13 RBIs. He hit a two-run shot in Game 3 against the Royals, helping the Mets win their only game in the 2015 World Series.

In addition to his accolades during his 14-year career in New York (2004-16 and ’18), Wright starred for Team USA in two World Baseball Classic events. In 2013, he earned the nickname “Captain America” after hitting a grand slam against Italy and driving in five runs against Puerto Rico. Even though the Americans lost in the second round, Wright led the tournament with a .438 average and 10 runs batted in.

Wright was also a Wilson Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, led his position in putouts and double plays three times each and was the cover star for the MLB 07: The Show video game. Following his playing career, he married a model, published a memoir and started a charitable foundation that focused on raising awareness for multiple sclerosis.

Upcoming Stories

New York Mets Catchers and Managers
New York Mets First and Third Basemen
New York Mets Second Basemen and Shortstops – coming soon
New York Mets Outfielders – coming soon
New York Mets Pitchers – coming soon

Previous Series

A look back at the Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins Catchers and Managers
Minnesota Twins First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Minnesota Twins Second Basemen and Shortstops
Minnesota Twins Outfielders
Minnesota Twins Pitchers

A look back at the Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers Catchers and Managers
Milwaukee Brewers First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Milwaukee Brewers Second Basemen and Shortstops
Milwaukee Brewers Outfielders
Milwaukee Brewers Pitchers

A look back at the Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins Catchers and Managers
Miami Marlins First and Third Basemen
Miami Marlins Second Basemen and Shortstops
Miami Marlins Outfielders
Miami Marlins Pitchers

A look back at the Los Angeles Dodgers

A look back at the Los Angeles Angels

Los Angeles Angels Catchers and Managers
Los Angeles Angels First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Los Angeles Angels Second Basemen and Shortstops
Los Angeles Angels Outfielders
Los Angeles Angels Pitchers

A look back at the Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals Catchers and Managers
Kansas City Royals First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Kansas City Royals Second Basemen and Shortstops
Kansas City Royals Outfielders
Kansas City Royals Pitchers

A look back at the Houston Astros

Houston Astros Catchers and Managers
Houston Astros First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Houston Astros Second Basemen and Shortstops
Houston Astros Outfielders
Houston Astros Pitchers

A look back at the Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers Catchers and Managers
Detroit Tigers First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Detroit Tigers Second Basemen and Shortstops
Detroit Tigers Outfielders
Detroit Tigers Pitchers

A look back at the Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies Catchers and Managers
Colorado Rockies First and Third Basemen
Colorado Rockies Second Basemen and Shortstops
Colorado Rockies Outfielders
Colorado Rockies Pitchers

A look back at the Cleveland Guardians

Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Outfielders
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers

A look back at the Cincinnati Reds

A look back at the Chicago White Sox

Chicago Cubs Catchers and Managers
Chicago Cubs First and Third Basemen
Chicago Cubs Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago Cubs Outfielders
Chicago Cubs Pitchers

A look back at the Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox Catchers and Managers
Boston Red Sox First and Third Basemen
Boston Red Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Boston Red Sox Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Boston Red Sox Pitchers

A look back at the Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers

A look back at the Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves Catchers and Managers
Atlanta Braves First and Third Basemen
Atlanta Braves Second Basemen and Shortstops
Atlanta Braves Outfielders
Atlanta Braves Pitchers

A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers

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