MLB Top 5: New York Mets Pitchers

This is the fifth and final article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the New York Mets. In this installment are right- and left-handed starters and relief pitchers.

Most of the greatest moments and seasons in New York Mets history can be attributed to pitchers. The franchise has had an abundance of phenomenal right-handed starters and several talented lefties, both in the rotation and the bullpen.

The Best Pitchers in New York Mets History

Right-Handed Starters

Honorable Mentions – One of the lone bright spots for the Mets team that posted a modern baseball-worst 40-120 record in 1962 was Roger Craig, who won three World Series in seven years with the Dodgers before coming to the expansion team in New York. Although he went 15-46 and led the league in losses both years with the Mets, he was an innings eater for the young pitching staff and threw 27 complete games, which ranks eighth in franchise history. He pitched for three years after his time in New York, retiring in 1966. Craig is better known to modern fans as a manager, winning 783 games in 10 seasons and leading the Giants to a pair of playoff appearances and the National League pennant in 1989.

Even before Jack Fisher joined the Mets, he had two brushes with history, although for the wrong reasons. With the Orioles, he gave up the final home run in the career of Ted Williams in 1960 and allowed Roger Maris‘ record-tying 60th homer the following year. Fisher, like Craig, was a workhorse who led the league in losses twice on some very bad teams. During his four-year run with the Mets (1964-67), he went 38-73 with a 4.12 ERA and 35 complete games (sixth in franchise history). Fisher spent one year each with the White Sox and Reds. Following his retirement in 1970, he worked for a publishing company and opened a restaurant using the nickname he had during his career, “Fat Jack.”

Gary Gentry only spent four seasons in a Mets uniform (1969-72), but he played a major part in the team’s first championship. He was on the mound when the Mets clinched the division title and held the powerful Orioles scoreless into the seventh inning in Game 3 of the World Series. The unsung Gentry went 41-42 with a 3.56 earned run average, 563 strikeouts in 789 1/3 innings and eight shutouts, which ranks tenth in franchise history. However, arm and temper issues led to him being traded to the Braves in 1972. Gentry underwent tendon surgery two years later and was released in 1975. He came back to the Mets but tore the flexor muscle in his right elbow after just three pitches in the minor leagues and subsequently retired.

Throughout his 12-year tenure with the Mets (1973-84), Craig Swan dealt with poor run support and several injuries to post a pair of seasons with double-digit victories. He broke a bone in his elbow in 1974, became one of the first pitchers to return after having surgery to fix a torn rotator cuff in 1980 and suffered through a triceps injury that robbed him of his control and led to the end of his career. Swan went 9-6 with no run support in 1978 while leading the league with a 2.43 earned run average. The following year, he set career highs with a 14-13 record, 10 complete games and three shutouts. Swan went 11-7 after recovering from surgery in 1982, but ineffectiveness and injury forced him to the bullpen for his final two years with the club. After he was released, he pitched in two games with the Angels and retired in 1985 and became a physical therapist. Swan went 59-71 with a 3.72 ERA, and he ranks ninth in franchise history in innings (1,230 2/3), tied for ninth in complete games (25) and tenth in games started (184).

Bobby J. Jones is not to be confused by another pitcher with that name who also pitched for the Mets in 2000, albeit as a left-handed reliever. This Bobby Jones was a starter who posted double-figure win totals in four straight seasons and made the All-Star team in 1997 after going 15-9 with a 3.63 earned run average. Injuries and ineffectiveness led to a 12-12 record over the next two years, but he rebounded in 2000, going 11-9 and winning the Division Series-clinching game by throwing a one-hit shutout against the Giants. Jones ranks ninth in franchise history in games started (190), and tenth in wins (74-56) and innings (1,215 2/3) to go along with a 4.13 earned run average, 714 strikeouts and 10 complete games. He spent two years with the Padres, leading the league win 19 losses in 2001 and retiring after the following season.

Steve Trachsel had a solid first half of his career with the Cubs that included his only All-Star selection in 1996. After splitting the 2000 season between Tampa Bay and Toronto, he signed with New York and ran off four straight seasons with double-digit victories and five in his six seasons with the franchise (2001-06). Known as one of the slowest workers in baseball (and given the nickname the “Human Rain Delay”), Trachsel was inconsistent with the Mets, going 16-10 in 2003 and 15-8 three years later, but his ERA was 4.97. He finished his tenure with a 66-59 record, 160 starts and 580 strikeouts in 956 1/3 innings, while also getting shelled in both of his starts during the 2006 postseason. Trachsel returned to the Cubs and pitched for the Orioles before retiring in 2008. He developed into a wine enthusiast and became a sommelier after his playing days.

Thanks to a lack of an ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm, R.A. Dickey had limited success and bounced around a bit early in his career. In order to keep his professional baseball dreams alive, he developed a knuckleball, and it was a pitch he harnessed with more regularity once he came to the Mets in 2010. Like many others who threw the pitch, Dickey was inconsistent at times and faced several injuries. However, he put together a season for the ages in 2012. In the offseason, Dickey and some friends climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, then he used his knuckleball to stymie batters all season long, winning the Cy Young Award, earning his only career All-Star selection, and taking home the Branch Rickey Award after going 20-6 with a 2.73 earned run average and leading the league with 230 strikeouts, 233 2/3 innings, five complete games and three shutouts.

The Mets figured things couldn’t get better with Dickey and traded him to Toronto in the offseason in a deal that brought back catchers John Buck and Travis d’Arnaud, as well has hard-throwing Noah Syndergaard. He finished his three-year run in New York (2010-12) with a 39-28 record, a 2.95 ERA and 468 strikeouts in 616 2/3 innings. He reached double figures in wins in each of his final five seasons with the Blue Jays and Braves and retired in 2017.

5. David Cone – He came to New York in a trade with the Royals in 1987. Cone was such a talented and popular player that he created a subset of Mets fans called the “Coneheads.” Although the pointed rubber head coverings were made popular by a sketch on Saturday Night Live, fans donned them for his starts at Shea Stadium in the late 1980s. He responded with a 20-3 record, a 2.22 earned run average and 213 strikeouts in 231 1/3 innings in 1988, earning his first All-Star selection and finishing third in the Cy Young voting.

Cone reached double-digit victories in each of his next four seasons and struck out at least 200 batters three more times, leading the league twice. He was a part of the Mets when they were falling off when players from their 1986 title team were let go or traded. Before the final game of the 1991 season, Cone was accused of sexually assaulting a woman (charges which were later found to be made up). Instead of taking the day off, he tied a National League record by striking out 19 Phillies. Cone was an All-Star again in 1992, when he went 13-7 but was sent to the eventual champion Blue Jays at the trade deadline. He returned to the Mets for his final season in 2003 and finished his seven-year tenure with the club (1987-92 and 2003) ranked fifth in franchise history in shutouts (15), sixth in strikeouts (1,172), seventh in complete games (34), ninth in wins (81-51) and tenth in ERA (3.13).

Cone won the Cy Young Award with the Royals during the lockout-shortened 1994 season. He went to the Yankees, where he overcame an aneurysm in his shoulder that required graft surgery as well as surgery to remove a bone spur. Cone had come close to throwing a no-hitter in 1991 with the Mets, but succeeded with their crosstown rivals in 1999, when he became the 15th player in baseball history to throw a perfect game. Following his playing career, he became a game analyst, first with the Yankees and then with ESPN in 2022.

4. Ron Darling – He was an All-American at Yale and a first-round pick of the Rangers in 1981 before being traded to the Mets as part of the trade for All-Star outfielder Lee Mazzilli. Darling had a streak of six straight seasons with double-digit victories, including 1985, when he went 16-6 and earned his only All-Star selection, and the following year, when he had a 15-6 record and a career-best 184 strikeouts for a 108-win team. He won a career-high 17 games in 1988 and earned a gold glove the next season.

Darling was traded to the Expos and then the Athletics during the 1991 season, finishing his nine-year Mets tenure (1983-91) ranked fourth in franchise history in wins (99-70) and innings (1,620), fifth in games started (241), tied for sixth in shutouts (10), seventh in strikeouts (1,148) and tied for ninth in complete games (25). He went 1-2 in six postseason starts, with his victory coming in Game 4 of the 1986 World Series against the Red Sox.

Darling ended his playing career with Oakland in 1995. He was a broadcaster for the Nationals in their first season in Washington in 2005, and he joined the Mets as an analyst the following year and has been with Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez in the booth ever since. Darling also wrote a book and started a foundation that helps fund diabetes research.

3. Jacob deGrom – He (along with Seattle’s Felix Hernandez) has changed the way voters have looked at pitchers. deGrom went from being a long-haired member of a Mets staff that led the team to the 2015 World Series to one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, all while his team gave him little run support.

deGrom went 9-6 with a 2.69 earned run average to win the Rookie of the Year Award in 2014 and followed that up by going 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA and 205 strikeouts to earn his first All-Star selection. He missed time in 2016 due to surgery on his ulnar nerve but returned the next season to win 15 games and strike out 239 batters. Despite his team failing to score on a regular basis, the “deGrominator” got even better in 2018, striking out 269 batters in 217 innings, leading the league with a 1.70 ERA (second in team history) and becoming the pitcher with the fewest victories (10-9) to win the Cy Young Award. After signing a big contract in the offseason, he went 11-8 with a 2.43 ERA and a league-high 255 strikeouts, becoming just the 11th pitcher to win the award in consecutive seasons.

“deGoat” continued his dominance in the COVID-shortened 2020 season and finished in third place in the Cy Young voting following a campaign in which he posted a 2.38 ERA and struck out a league-best 104 batters in 12 starts. He was an All-Star for the fourth time in 2021 after going 7-2 with a near-unhittable 1.08 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 92 innings. deGrom reached 100 in just 61 2/3 innings, the fewest since the mound was moved back to its current distance away from home plate in 1893.

However, just after the All-Star break, deGrom’s arm issues began. He missed the rest of the season with elbow inflammation and was unavailable for the first four months of 2022 thanks to a stress fracture in his right scapula suffered during spring training. In nine seasons with the Mets (2014-22), he is the all-time franchise leader in ERA (2.52), ranks fourth in strikeouts (1,607), seventh in games started (209), tied for seventh in wins (82-57) and eight in innings (1,326). He made five postseason starts, with his only loss coming against the Royals in Game 2 of the 2015 World Series.

deGrom was also strong at the plate, batting .204 with three homers and 29 RBIs in 383 at-bats. Citing a desire to be out of the spotlight of the biggest city in the U.S., he signed a five-year, $185 million contract with the Rangers in 2023. deGrom made just six starts before undergoing Tommy John surgery after suffering a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

2. Dwight Gooden – Perhaps no player had as much natural talent in the 1980s, but his habits and poor decisions proved to be his undoing. Gooden grew up in the house with a father who had substance abuse issues and witnessed his older sister get shot by her husband. The Mets took him with the fifth pick in the 1982 draft and he made the big-league club two years later. After some early struggles, Gooden dominated hitters going 17-9 with a 2.60 earned run average and a league-high 276 strikeouts (which ranks third in team history), a performance that earned him an All-Star selection and the Rookie of the Year Award.

The following season, Gooden was even better, winning the Cy Young Award and the Pitching Triple Crown while earning his second straight All-Star selection and finishing fourth in the MVP race after leading the league with a 24-4 record (the second-most in team history), a team-record 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts. He received several endorsements and continued to pitch like a star in 1986, winning 17 games and striking out 200 batters. Gooden went 0-1 but pitched well in the NLCS. However, the Mets won despite him getting roughed up in two World Series starts.

Unfortunately, Gooden followed in some of the same vices his father had, alcohol and drugs, especially cocaine. A stint in rehab in 1987 did not cure the pitcher of his addictions, but he still went 15-7 in 25 starts. “Doctor K” went 18-9 the following year, helping the Mets reach the NLCS once again, and he stayed clean of drugs for a second straight year and went 9-4 in 1989, but he missed two months with a shoulder injury. While some of his championship teammates were being traded or allowed to sign elsewhere, Gooden remained strong, going 19-7 in 1990 and winning 54 games in the first four years of the decade.

The wheels came off in 1994 when Gooden gave up three home runs to Cubs outfielder (and future home run champion in Japan) Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes. The pitcher broke his toe when he kicked a bat rack after he was pulled from the game and started using cocaine again while he was rehabbing the injury. Gooden was suspended and entered the Betty Ford Center but began using again two days after his release. He failed a drug test and was suspended for the entire 1995 season.

During his 11-year Mets career (1984-94), Gooden ranks second in wins (157-85) and strikeouts (1,875), third in games started (303), complete games (67) and innings (2,169 2/3, including 200 or more seven times), fourth in shutouts (23, including a team-record eight in 1985), tied for seventh in ERA (3.10) and tied for tenth in appearances (305). He was also a good-hitting pitcher, winning a silver slugger in 1992, smacking seven home runs and driving in 65 runs in total with the Mets.

“The Doctor” signed with the Yankees in 1996 and pitched a no-hitter against the Mariners in May. After another year with New York, he spent two in Cleveland and parts of 2000 with the Astros and Devil Rays before returning to the Yankees. The Bombers won a title that year, but Gooden did not pitch in the World Series against his former team. He had a rough spring in 2001 and chose to retire rather than be released.

Gooden began working in the Yankees’ front office but left in 2005, thanks to drug and domestic abuse issues. The arrest for the latter issue turned into a high-speed chase and a manhunt in Tampa. After a fourth rehab attempt failed, Gooden went to jail for a year. His life in the past 15 years has been a roller coaster of arrests, addictions and attempted to reconcile with those affected. However, Gooden has had no incidents in the past five years and both he and former teammate Darryl Strawberry will have their numbers retired by the Mets in 2024.

1. Tom Seaver – The Mets have had some amazing and dominant pitchers through the years, but he was the best of the best. Using his fastball and curveball, Seaver began setting records in the Big Apple in 1967, when he was an All-Star and the Rookie of the Year after setting team marks with a 16-14 record, 2.76 earned run average, 170 strikeouts and 18 complete games. The Mets were beginning to turn things around, and the righty was big part of the reason why. He avoided a sophomore jinx, going 16-12 with a 2.20 ERA and 205 strikeouts, his first of nine straight seasons topping 200.

“Tom Terrific” certainly earned his nickname in 1969, earning the Cy Young Award, finishing as the runner-up for MVP and leading the league with a 25-7 record for the “Miracle Mets.” Included in that season was arguably Seaver’s best game. On July 9, he had sent down the first 25 Cubs in order until little-known outfielder Jimmy Qualls hit a single to shallow left field to break up the perfect game with one out in the ninth inning, but he finished with his first of five one-hitters in a Mets uniform. Seaver got roughed up by the Braves in the first game of the first National League Championship Series, but the Mets rallied to get him a win. In the World Series against the Orioles, he lost Game 1, but pitched a 10-inning gem in Game 4 to bring his team to within one win of the title.

The Mets might have dipped a bit in the standings in the early 1970s, but Seaver was as dominant as ever, winning at least 18 games in four straight seasons and leading the league in both ERA and strikeouts three times. He struck out 19 Padres, including 10 in a row, in a game in April 1970, but the following year was his best. He went 20-10 and led the league in both strikeouts (a team-record 289) and ERA (1.76, which ranks second in team history). Seaver won a second Cy Young Award in 1973 after going 19-10 and posting league-leading marks with a 2.08 ERA, 251 strikeouts and 18 complete games. His final victory clinched a division title, and he threw two stellar games in both the NLCS and the World Series but went just 1-2 as the Mets fell to the Athletics in seven games. Shoulder and hip issues hampered Seaver in 1974, but he returned to form the following year, becoming the first right-hander to win three Cy Young Awards after leading the league with 22 wins and 243 strikeouts.

“The Franchise” won 14 games and led the National League in strikeouts for a fifth time in 1976 despite little run support and a contract dispute. Things got worse the following year when the Mets basically refused to change with the times and try to improve through the newly adopted free agency system. Seaver was the team’s union representative and worked to get players negotiating rights. He and Mets management fought in the press until the June 15 trade deadline, when the star was sent to the Reds in a deal that became known as the “Midnight Massacre.”

Seaver’s post-Mets career included an elusive no-hitter in June 1978, a runner-up finish in the Cy Young voting in 1981 and his 3,000th career strikeout, achieved early in the year when he fanned Cardinals first baseman and future Mets star Keith Hernandez. Seaver was traded back to the Mets for the 1983 season and had a resurgence with the White Sox, winning his 300th game on August 4, 1985, before finishing his career in Boston. While he did not make the postseason roster, he was in the dugout to watch his former team win their first World Series since 1969 against his current club.

After a failed comeback with the Mets, Seaver retired in 1987. Over his 12 seasons in New York (1967-77 and ’83), he set team records in wins (198-124), games started (395), complete games (171), shutouts (44), innings (3,045 2/3) and strikeouts (2,541). Seaver also ranks second in ERA (2.57) and fourth appearances (401). His impressive resume includes nine All-Star selections, four 20-win seasons, ten seasons with at least 200 innings 10 times, including a franchise-best 290 2/3 in 1970 and a team-record 21 complete games in 1971.

Following his playing career, Seaver was a broadcaster with both the Yankees and Mets and worked in public relations for Chase Manhattan Bank. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 with 98.8 percent of the vote, which was the highest total at the time. “Tom Terrific” mostly kept to himself in his later years, starting a winery with his wife in California, and removing himself from the public spotlight completely in 2019 after he was diagnosed with dementia. He passed away from complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19 on August 31, 2020.

Left-Handed Starters

Honorable Mentions – Frank Viola came to the Mets at the 1989 trade deadline in the deal that sent future All-Star closer Rick Aguilera to the Twins. Viola was fresh off a World Series MVP in 1987 and a Cy Young Award the following year. He spent three years with New York (1989-91) and earned All-Star appearances in the final two campaigns. His best season was 1990, when he finished third in the Cy Young voting after going 20-12 with a 2.67 earned run average, seven complete games and 182 strikeouts in a league-leading 249 2/3 innings. “Sweet Music” spent time with the Red Sox, Red and Blue Jays and was a pitching coach in the Mets’ organization from 2011-18.

Jonathan Niese used a five-pitch repertoire to post a 61-62 record in nine seasons with the Mets (2008-15 and ’16). He made eight sot starts in his first two seasons before joining the rotation on a full-time basis. His best season was 2012, when he went 13-9 with a 3.40 earned run average and 155 strikeouts. The following two seasons, Niese spent time on the disabled list due to elbow and rotator cuff injuries. He was sent to the Pirates before the 2016 season but was traded back to the Mets in August but struggled in six appearances. Niese had 179 starts, threw 1,079 1/3 innings and ranks tenth in franchise history with 838 strikeouts. He came out of the bullpen six times during the 2015 playoffs, including four World Series appearances. Niese had failed tryouts with the Yankees, Rangers and Mariners, and he has not pitched since Seattle released him in 2019.

Tom Glavine was one of three aces during the Braves’ dynasty in the 1990s before signing with the Mets as a free agent in 2003. He posted a 61-56 record in five seasons in New York (2003-07), posting double-digit win totals four times and earning two All-Star selections. Glavine’s best season was 2006, when he won 15 games in the regular season and two more in the playoffs to help his team reach the NLCS. The two-time Cy Young winner and 1995 World Series MVP returned to Atlanta for one final season in 2008. He finished his career with a 305-203 record and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Johan Santana came to the Mets as one of the best pitchers in the first decade of the 21st century. With the Twins, he won a pair of Cy Young Awards, including 2006, when he won the Pitching Triple Crown. Santana had his best season with New York in 2008, going 16-7 with a league-leading 2.53 earned run average and 206 strikeouts in an N.L.-best 234 1/3 innings. He made the All-Star team the following year and posted similar numbers in 2010, but he tore an anterior capsule in his left shoulder in September and missed all of the next seasons.

Santana authored arguably the greatest moment in Mets history outside of the team’s two championships on June 1, 2012. He thew 134 pitches against the Cardinals, recording eight strikeouts and five walks to pitch the first no-hitter in franchise history (which had reached 8,030 games at that point). Thankfully for Mets fans, challenges were not available at the time, otherwise, a shot down the third-base line by former Met Carlos Beltran in the fifth inning would have been ruled a double and the wait would have continued.

Although he pitched in 21 games that season, the wear on Santana’s shoulder tore the capsule for a second time and he missed all of 2013. He suffered injury setbacks in the next two years with the Orioles (torn Achilles tendon) and Blue Jays (toe infection) and officially retired in 2016.

5. Bob Ojeda – He was traded from the Red Sox to the Mets before the 1986 season and paid immediate dividends, going 18-5 with a 2.57 earned run average and seven complete games as the team’s fourth starter. He made four postseason starts, going 2-0, including a Game 3 win against his former team that kept New York in the World Series. Ojeda missed most of 1987 after having surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve in his left elbow. He was solid the following year but missed the playoffs after cutting off part of his finger while trimming his hedges.

Ojeda was a spot starter and also came out of the bullpen in his final season and finished his five-year Mets tenure (1986-90) with a 51-40 record while sitting tied for eighth in franchise history with nine shutouts and ninth with a 3.12 ERA. He spent time with the Dodgers, Indians and Yankees before retiring in 1994. Ojeda was a pitching coach in the Mets’ minor league system for three years and has been a studio analyst for the team on SNY since 2009.

4. Al Leiter – He pitched sparingly his first six seasons with the Yankees and Blue Jays (thanks to a multitude of arm issues) before latching on full-time with Toronto. A two-year stint with the Marlins included his first All-Star selection, the first no-hitter in franchise history and a spot on the title-winning rotation in 1997 (he came out of the bullpen with for the Blue Jays’ title four years earlier).

Leiter joined the Mets the following year (thanks to the first Marlins “fire sale”) and had his best season, setting career highs with a 17-6 record, a 2.47 earned run average and four complete games while striking out 174 batters. In 1999, he went 13-12 and pitched a two-hit shutout over the Reds to win a one-game playoff and send New York to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. Leiter was an All-Star again the following year when he went 16-8 with a 3.20 ERA and 200 strikeouts, which tied his career high. He made four respectable playoff starts and went 0-1 in the World Series against the Yankees.

Leiter reached double figures in wins in each of his seven seasons with the Mets (1998-2004). He ranks sixth in franchise history in wins (95-67), sixth in games started (213), seventh in innings (1,360) and eighth in strikeouts (1,106). When the Mets declined his option, he split 2005 with the Marlins and Yankees before retiring. His Leiter’s Landing Foundation helped him to win both the Branch Rickey and Roberto Clemente Awards during his career, and he continued to run the charity while also working as an analyst, primarily for MLB Network.

3. Jon Matlack – The fourth pick in the 1967 draft got some seasoning in the minors before making the club on a full-time basis in 1972. Matlack shine, going 15-10 with a 2.32 earned run average, 169 strikeouts and four shutouts to earn the Rookie of the Year Award. His one blemish was allowing the 3,000th (and final) hit to Pirates great Roberto Clemente at the end of the season.

Matlack struck out 205 betters the following year and went 2-2 during the postseason to help the Mets reach the World Series. He earned All-Star selections in each of the next three seasons (winning co-MVP honors in 1975) before dropping off (like the rest of the team) in 1977. Matlack was traded as part of a four-team, 11-player deal after the season, but elbow surgeries, a strike-shortened campaign and a struggling Rangers franchise left him with only 43 wins during his time in Texas.

Matlack finished his seven-year Mets career (1971-77) ranked fourth in franchise history in complete games (65), sixth in innings (1,448, including five times with 200 or more), tied for seventh in wins (82-81), eighth in games started (199) and ninth in strikeouts (1,023). He also had a 3.03 ERA and 30 shutouts, leading the league twice. Following his playing career, Matlack worked in real estate, showed horses and was a minor and major league pitching coach with the Padres, White Sox, Tigers and Astros for nearly a quarter century.

2. Charles “Sid” Fernandez – He started his career with the Dodgers before he was traded due to a logjam of starters in Los Angeles. Fernandez blossomed in New York, earning two All-Star selections in 10 seasons with the Mets (1984-93) and becoming the first native Hawaiian to appear in an All-Star Game. His first came in 1986, when he set career bests with a 16-6 record and 200 strikeouts and earned Cy Young votes for the only time in his career. When the Mets used three starters in the World Series, Fernandez came out of the bullpen three times, including Game 7, when he kept the Red Sox off the board after they knocked out Darling.

“El Sid” was the winning pitcher in the 13-inning All-Star game in 1987 and pitched in the playoff team the following season, winning 12 games both years. He went 14-5 with a 2.83 earned run average and 198 strikeouts in 1989, but his number took a hit the next year. Fernandez missed most of 1991 thanks to a broken wrist from a line drive in spring training and a knee injury once he returned. The following year, he returned to form with a 14-11 record and a career-low 2.73 ERA.

Fernandez hurt his knee again in 1993 and signed with the Orioles after the season. He ranks fourth in franchise history in games started (250), fifth in wins (98-78), innings (1,584 2/3) and strikeouts (1,449) and tied for eighth in shutouts (nine). Fernandez also held opposing batters to a .209 average and 6.85 hits per nine innings (fourth best in baseball history behind Nolan Ryan, Clayton Kershaw and Sandy Koufax). A sweeping curveball and rising fastball helped him reach double figures in wins five times with the Mets and win 114 games in his 15-year career, the most by a player who was born and raised in the 50th state (with him wearing that uniform number for his entire major league tenure).

In addition to the Orioles, Fernandez spent time with the Phillies and Astros before retiring in 1997. He tried a comeback with the Yankees in 2001 that stalled after one minor league start and has spent most of his time golfing, coaching a semipro team and helping find teams to play at sports facilities in Hawaii.

1. Jerry Koosman – He was on the verge of being released after the 1965 minor league season when he learned how to throw a slider and became arguably the best big-game pitcher in franchise history. After a brief call-up the following year, Koosman stuck around with the team and made the All-Star team in 1968, getting the save after he struck out future Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski to preserve a 1-0 National League victory. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting after striking out 178 batters and setting club records with a 19-12 record, a 2.08 earned run average and seven shutouts.

Koosman went 17-9 with a 2.28 ERA and six shutouts in 1969, earning his second straight All-Star selection and helping the Mets reach the playoffs for the first time, pitching some clutch games down the stretch, including the “black cat” series against the Cubs in early September. He had a rough start against the Braves in Game 2 of the NLCS, but the Mets won the game.

“Kooz” won two games in the World Series against the Orioles, including the clincher in Game 5, which was best known for the “shoe polish” incident involving Cleon Jones. Koosman contends that, after the ball hit the dirt, it caromed to him and manager Gil Hodges told him to wipe it on his shoe, which he quickly did and handed it back to the skipper. He finished the complete game and jumped into catcher Jerry Grote‘s arms after Jones caught Davey Johnson‘s fly ball for the final out giving the Mets their first championship.

Koosman faced several injuries over the next few seasons, including a fractured jaw after being hit by a line drive during batting practice, as well as forearm tightness and a torn back muscle. He was also the only player who was still at the team hotel in Florida when Hodges suffered a heart attack and passed away before the 1972 season. Despite the ailments and poor run support, Koosman reached double figures in wins twice in three years after the title. He went 14-15 in 1973 then went 2-0 during the playoffs. Koosman was on the mound for Game 3 of the NLCS against the Reds when the infamous scuffle took place between Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson and Reds star and National League MVP Pete Rose. The lefty beat the Athletics in Game 5 to go up 3-2 in the World Series.

“Kooz” continued his solid work on the mound as the team deteriorated around him. He was the Cy Young runner-up after going 21-10 with a 2.69 ERA and a career-high 200 strikeouts in 1976 and pitched respectably the following year despite going 8-20 and leading the league in defeats. After a 3-15 showing for the dismal 1978 club and with Seaver and most of the rest of the players from the pennant-winning clubs already gone, Koosman demanded a trade and management obliged, sending him to the Twins. In Minnesota, he won 20 games his first season and followed that with a 16-13 record in 1980. He spent time with the White Sox and Phillies before retiring in 1985 thanks to knee issues. A memorable moment came in a game in Montreal the year before, when he gave up Rose’s 4,000th career hit.

The southpaw finished his 12-year Mets career (1967-78) ranked second in games started (346), complete games (108), and innings (2,544 2/3, including 200 or more in nine seasons), tied for second in shutouts (26), third in wins (140-137) and strikeouts (1,799), fifth in games (376) and sixth in ERA (3.09). He spent his post-playing career as a minor league pitching instructor with the Mets and as the owner of a machine design business.

Relief Pitchers

Honorable Mentions – Pedro Feliciano was one of the most durable relievers in franchise history. During his nine years with the Mets (2002-04, 06-10 and ’13), he appeared in 60 games five straight years, holds the top three spots on the team’s all-time list in games pitched for a season (leading the league each time) and made a club-record 92 appearances in 2010. “Perpetual Pedro” pitched in Japan in 2005 and signed a two-year deal with the Yankees, but never pitched for them due to a torn anterior capsule and rotator cuff. Feliciano returned to the Mets for 25 games in 2013 and retired the following year after failing to latch on with the Cubs and Cardinals. He worked as a studio analyst for SNY and passed away in 2021 at age 45 due to left ventricular noncompaction, a rare genetic heart condition.

Billy Wagner was a lefty power pitcher who earned three All-Star selections with the Astros and another with the Phillies before joining the Mets in 2006. He had 40 saves in his first year in New York and was a key piece for a team that came within a win of the World Series. Wagner added three more saves in the playoffs but was hit hard by the Cardinals in the NLCS. He finished his four-year Mets tenure (2006-09) with two All-Star selections, a 5-5 record, a 2.37 earned run average, 230 strikeouts in 189 2/3 innings (10.9 per nine innings) and 101 saves. “Billy the Kid” underwent Tommy John surgery late in the 2008 season and was traded to the Red Sox almost a year later. He finished his career making one final All-Star Game as a member of the Braves in 2010 and is now the coach of the Miller School of Albemarle in Virginia.

Roger McDowell paired with another player on this list to create a formidable righty-left duo for in the mid-1980s. He excelled at multiple-inning appearances and earned Rookie of the Year consideration after gong 6-5 with a 2.83 earned run average and 17 saves in 1985. The fun-loving prankster was even better the following year, using his wicked sinker to amass a 14-9 record and 22 saves. In the postseason, he pitched five scoreless innings in the marathon NLCS clincher against the Astros and appeared five times during the World Series, getting the win against the Red Sox in Game 7.

McDowell rebounded after undergoing hernia surgery in 1987 but was replaced as closer by Randy Myers during the following season. He and center fielder Lenny Dykstra were traded to the Phillies in June 1989, and he continued his solid work for the next two years. McDowell went 33-29 with a 3.13 ERA and 84 saves, which ranks eighth in franchise history. He spent time with the Dodgers, Rangers and Orioles, and he endured two shoulder surgeries before officially retiring in 1998. McDowell worked as a pitching coach in Atlanta’s minor league system from 2002-05 and has been at the major league level ever since with the Braves and Orioles.

5B. Jeurys Familia – The 2010 MLB Futures Game participant underwent elbow surgery early in his career, then established himself as one of the most dominant closers in baseball. Familia posted a 1.85 earned run average and tied a team record with 43 saves in 2015. He had five more saves in eight scoreless outings during the playoffs but blew three saves in the World Series. The following year, Familia set team records with 32 straight saves and 25 in a row to start a season. He earned his only All-Star selection to date while leading the league and setting a new franchise mark with 51 saves. However, the postseason was once again his undoing. He gave up the only runs on a ninth-inning homer in the Wild Card loss to the Giants as the Mets fell, 3-0.

Familia’s 2017 season was interrupted by a 15-game personal conduct policy suspension due to an offseason domestic violence issue, and he also lost nearly four months after having surgery to remove a blood clot in his shoulder. He got back on track in 2018 and was sent to the Athletics at the trade deadline. He signed back the with Mets the following season but was not as effective in a setup role. Familia split 2022 between the Phillies and Red Sox, and he is currently a free agent after a second stint with the Athletics in 2023. He went 28-23 with a 3.27 ERA and 487 strikeouts in 467 1.3 innings. Familia ranks third in franchise history in games (469) and saves (124).

5A. Edwin Diaz – He is arguably the most electrifying closer in the game currently and Mets fans hope he can rise on this list. The 2015 MLB Futures Game participant improved steadily during his three years in Seattle, ending his tenure in the Pacific Northwest as an All-Star after posting a 1.96 earned run average and a league-leading 57 saves in 2018. He was an add-on in the Robinson Cano trade and pitched like one in his first year in New York, with his ERA ballooning to 5.59.

Diaz got back on trade during the COVID-shortened 2020 season but had a slight setback (despite 32 saves) the following year. In 2022, he became what fans and club officials envisioned when he was first acquired. Diaz was named and All-Star and Hoffman Relief Award winner amassed 32 more saves, and he used an overpowering fastball and plus slider and changeup to dominate opposing hitters. He posted a nearly unhittable 1.31 ERA and his 116 strikeouts in just 62 innings (17.1 per nine innings) was otherworldly.

Unfortunately for attendees at Citi Field in 2023, there would be no repeat of his game-entering spectacle, complete with “Narco” entrance song. After signing a five-year, $102 million contract in the offseason, Diaz injured himself celebrating his native Puerto Rico’s upset win over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. The full tear of his patellar tendon required surgery that kept him out all season. In four seasons (2019-present), “Sugar” has a 12-15 record, a 3.20 ERA, 356 strikeouts in 208 1/3 innings (15.4 per nine) and 96 saves, which rank sixth in franchise history.

4. Armando Benitez – He overcame early struggles as a middle and setup reliever in Baltimore to become a stellar closer during his five seasons with the Mets (1999-2003). Benitez is probably best known for being the pitcher who gave up the Derek Jeter fly ball that became a home run after young fan Jeffrey Maier reached over the right field wall and robbed Tony Tarasco of a catch in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS.

Benitez was involved in a brawl between Baltimore and New York once again in 1998 and turned his solid setup work into being named the Orioles’ closer later in the year. He was sent to the Mets as part of a three-team trade the following season and starred as while working in the eighth inning and later the ninth after an injury to the top player on this list. Benitez saved 41 games in 2000 and had two more in eight playoff appearances, but he also blew a save in each round. He earned a Rolaids Relief Man Award after setting a team-record with 43 saves in 2001 and was an All-Star the following year despite struggling more and more to get the final outs in games.

Benitez was traded to the Yankees and then the Mariners in 2003, was an All-Star with the Marlins the following year and spent time the Giants and Blue Jays, where he played his last major league game in 2008. He also played with independent teams for four years Benitez went 18-14 with a 2.70 earned run average and 456 strikeouts in 347 innings (11.8 per nine) with the Mets. He ranks second in franchise history in saves (160) and eighth in games pitched (333).

3. Jesse Orosco – The lefty came to the Mets as the player to be named later from the Twins in the deal for Koosman and became one of the longest-lasting players in baseball history. Orosco played sparingly with New York in his first three years and spent the entire 1980 season in the minors. He was used out of the bullpen upon his return to the Big Apple Orosco was an All-Star two straight years after going 13-7 while posting career highs with a 1.47 earned run average and 110 innings in 1983 and setting a personal best (and a franchise record at the time) with 31 saves the following year.

Orosco split saves with McDowell in a talented lefty-righty combo over the next three seasons, and he was especially good in the 1986 playoffs. During a July game against the Reds, several ejections occurred during a bench-clearing brawl, so the co-closers alternated between pitching and playing right field in the 14-inning victory. Orosco won three games in the NLCS, including Game 6, when he threw three innings to close out the Astros. He got a pair of saves in the World Series, including Game 7, when he also drove in the go-ahead run. The image of him tossing his glove in the air after the final out is etched in the minds of Mets fans.

Orosco’s numbers fell off in 1987 and he was traded to the Dodgers as part of a three-team deal. During his eight-year Mets tenure (1979 and 81-87), he went 47-47 with 506 strikeouts in 595 2/3 innings, and he ranks third in franchise history in ERA (2.73), fourth in saves (107) and sixth in games (372). Orosco went on to pitch for a total of 24 seasons with nine teams, retiring in 2004 with 144 saves and a major league record 1,252 appearances. He mostly stayed away from baseball following his playing career except for a four-year stretch as a coach with a baseball training center in San Diego.

2. Frank “Tug” McGraw – He began his career as a starter, throwing a no-hitter in his first professional start in the minors and beating Sandy Koufax as a rookie in the majors. While he was in the minors, McGraw learned to throw the screwball, a pitch that would prolong his career and make him one of the best relievers in the game. He came back to the big leagues to stay in 1969 and was the final piece of a pitching staff that won the title. He had a three-inning save in Game 2 of the first NLCS but did not appear in the World Series.

McGraw continued to improve while sharing the closer duties for the next two years. Finally, he had the role to himself in 1972 and made his first All-Star team while setting a then-team record with 27 saves. The following season started horribly, with McGraw blowing several saves in addition to the club showing an inconsistency due to several key players being out with injuries. In July, Mets chairman M. Donald Grant spoke to the team, with the outspoken reliever turning his message into the “Ya Gotta Believe” mantra. Eventually, the injured players returned, McGraw started pitching better and the team climbed from last place in the East to first with an 82-79 record, the worst mark by a division winner in major league history.

During the 1973 NLCS, McGraw threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 4 (with the Mets losing in extras) and closed out the series with a save in relief of Seaver in the next contest. He was a stalwart in the World Series against the Athletics, getting a win in Game 2 after throwing six innings of relief and picking up a save in Game 5, the last one the Mets would win in the series. McGraw and the team would take a step back the next year, with the reliever suffering from shoulder pain. He was traded to the Phillies after the season in a six-player deal that brought the Mets catcher John Stearns in return.

McGraw finished his Mets career with a 47-55 record, a 3.17 earned run average and 618 strikeouts in 792 2/3 innings. He ranks seventh in franchise history in games (361) and saves (86). McGraw spent a decade in Philadelphia in an era when the closer role became more specialized. He was an All-Star in 1975 and had a stellar 1980 season in which he earned Cy Young Award votes and had four saves in the playoffs to help the Phillies win the World Series. McGraw retired in 1985 and spent his post-playing days as a television reporter, a public speaker and a father to eventual country music star Tim McGraw, who was born from a 1967 affair. Tug found out he had an inoperable cancerous brain tumor during spring training in 2003 and passed away early the following year.

1. John Franco – Like Fernandez, Franco was a lefty who fell victim to the depth of starting pitchers in the Dodgers’ system in the early 1980s. With Cincinnati, he earned three All-Star selections and saved 148 games in six years, including a league-best 39 in 1989. Two years later, he was traded to the Mets for their southpaw closer, Randy Myers, who earned notoriety as part of the Reds’ “Nasty Boys” bullpen.

Franco went from a power pitcher to one who relied on finesse after arm injuries both in college and during his early professional career. Dodgers great Sandy Koufax taught him how to throw a changeup, and he used it to keep hitters off-balance throughout his 14-year Mets career (1990-2001 and 03-04). Franco earned his fourth and final All-Star selection in his first season in New York when he led the league with 33 saves. He had another solid year in 1991 but lost time and effectiveness over the following two seasons thanks to an inflamed elbow that required surgery. Franco’s lack of power led to trouble in getting the final three outs of the team’s victories, a fact that did not help Mets fans relax in the late innings.

Franco led the league with 30 saves in 1994 as part of a solid five-year stretch. However, he suffered a strained flexor tendon in his left middle finger and missed two months, losing the closer role to Benitez in the process. Franco saw his numbers decline with the reduced role, but he was great in the playoffs, going 2-0 with one save and a 1.88 earned run average in 15 appearances in 1999-2000.

The following year, Franco was named the Mets’ first team captain in more than a decade. The Brooklyn native was deeply affected by the 9/11 tragedy late in the season, losing several friends in the attack, including his son’s Little League coach. Franco earned the Lou Gehrig Award for character and integrity for how he handled himself in the wake of the incident, and he along with several other Mets, took an active role in gathering food, water and supplies for those affected.

Franco missed the entire 2002 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and was not resigned when he became a free agent two years later. He was inconsistent in his final season with the Astros in 2005 and retired after he was designated for assignment. Following his playing career, Franco continued to work with youth baseball in New York city, was an instructor and ambassador with the Mets and was the pitching coach for Team Italy in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Franco finished his Mets career with a 48-56 record and 592 strikeouts in 702 2/3 innings. He is the all-time franchise leader in games (695) and saves (276) and he is tied for seventh with a 3.10 ERA. Franco has 424 saves in his career, which ranks fifth on the all-time list and is the most ever by a left-hander. Despite this, the two-time Rolaids Relief Man Award winner failed to reach five percent of the vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011 and fell off the ballot.

The next team to be featured will be the New York Yankees.

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

0 0 votes
Do you agree with this article? Let's see your vote!
0 0 votes
Do you agree with this article? Let's see your vote!
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x