Outside of the NCAA Tournament itself, the most fun part of March Madness is, of course, filling out those online and office brackets. Brackets that appear online this time of year don't stop with basketball. This simulation, for example, will be ranking the greatest players in the history of the New York Mets.
Back in July 2012, Joe Gergen of Newsday ranked his 50 greatest all-time Mets players. I don't necessarily agree with his 1-8 list, and that was one reason why I used his piece when creating my brackets. Part of the excitement of March Madness, after all, is watching a Cinderella advance through the tournament and potentially flirt with winning it all.
Could an upset pick be my greatest Mets player ever? Read on to find out.
3 Elite Eight
#8 Jerry Koosman vs. #1 Tom Seaver
Koosman spent over a decade (1967-1978) with the Mets. His best season, statistically speaking, came in 1976, during which he went 21-10. Koosman had 17 wins for the so-called “Miracle Mets” in 1969, when the Amazin's went from worst to first and won the World Series.
Seaver, meanwhile, is regarded as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. He was named to a dozen All-Star squads and won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1967. Seaver was the NL Cy Young Award winner in 1969. He retired with 311 wins, and he is in the Hall of Fame.
I respect all that Koos achieved while with the Mets, but I don't know that anybody can beat Tom Terrific.
#7 Darryl Strawberry vs. #2 Mike Piazza
Strawberry was, in his prime, a force at the plate and in the outfield. He twice hit 39 home runs in a season (1987-88), and he had over 90 RBIs in six separate campaigns. His numbers, which were impressive, aside, Strawberry will be remembered for his personal demons preventing him from ever becoming the Hall of Famer that he should have turned into during his New York career.
Piazza, on the other hand, retired as the greatest hitting catcher to ever play in Major League Baseball. He was named to ten consecutive All-Star squads and 12 total All-Star teams. He won the Silver Slugger Award every season from 1993 through 2002. That he isn't in the Hall of Fame continues to be an absolute joke.
Piazza deservedly gets the nod here.
#6 David Wright vs. #3 Keith Hernandez
Wright deserves so much more than he has gotten since making his MLB debut with the Mets in 2004. The most beloved Met of his generation, Wright has remained loyal to the club despite the fact that New York hasn't been a real contender in several years. He is the heart and soul of the team, and there are already discussions among fans about if the Mets should retire Wright's number when he calls time on his playing days.
Hernandez, while certainly a great player, had his best days when with the St. Louis Cardinals. Fans of the team enjoy listening to him talk shop on TV broadcasts, but Hernandez being so high on this list is, for me, a stretch. I see this one as a no-brainer, although I'm sure baseball fans older than am I will disagree.
#5 Dwight Gooden vs. #4 Gary Carter
Gooden was the pitching idol of my youth, and his 24-4 season in 1985 remains one of the greatest years any professional pitcher has ever enjoyed. Like Strawberry, however, Gooden was his own worst enemy, and a drug problem significantly altered and lessened his career.
Carter played for the Mets for only five seasons, first spending 11 years with the Montreal Expos. Even if his Hall of Fame plaque depicts Carter wearing a Montreal cap, I don't think anybody outside of that Canadian city views The Kid as anything other than a former Met. It goes against the logic I used when writing about Keith Hernandez, but I can't go against the 11-time All-Star.
2 Final Four
#5 Gary Carter vs. #1 Tom Seaver
Watching Carter play when I was a child is one reason I grew up a fan of the Mets and not of the New York Yankees, and he'd be a favorite to win this tournament if I was choosing on personal emotion alone.
That said, even suggesting that Carter meant as much to the Mets as did Seaver during his playing career would be ludicrous.
I believe that the Mets missed out on what would have been a memorable moment when the club didn't retire Carter's number before he passed away in February, 2012. He is featured front and center in what one of the most iconic baseball moments to be captured on film. Seaver's greatness as a player, however, is at a different and higher level.
#6 David Wright vs. #2 Mike Piazza
It's my favorite Met of the current era versus my favorite player to ever feature for the club. Unless the Mets pull off something big in the near future, both Wright and Piazza will retire having never won a championship with the team. Wright's all-time greatness cannot yet be defined because he is still an active player, but it's safe to assume his best days are behind him.
Historians will, down the road, view Wright has having been a very good player. Piazza, meanwhile, is on my Mets Mount Rushmore. As I thought I would, I went chalk up to the final.
#2 Mike Piazza vs. #1 Tom Seaver
The top moment in Mets history is the conclusion of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Second on that list is the home run hit by Piazza ten days after the terrorist attacks of September 11. I watch the replay of that HR at least once every year, and each time I am taken back to how I felt on that night.
I never had the privilege of seeing Seaver live and in person, but I've read enough biographies and watched enough tape to know that he's the best of the best that the Mets ever had. There hasn't been another like “The Franchise,” and there may never be.