Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
When it comes to Mets fans, whose passion for and knowledge of the team is remarkable, it's rare for players to slip through the cracks and not be revered when they should be.
But in the case of the five players below, their exploits on the field haven't resulted in the kind of adulation that should've come their way.
Some of them are overlooked because of a few bad moments that happened at the worst possible time (such as the first player on the list), while others are thought of less often because they were overshadowed while here.
Below are the five most underrated Mets of all time...
Armando Benitez, 1999-2003
Now that you're done screaming, let's talk about Benitez.
During his time with the Mets, Benitez -- like every closer in the history of baseball -- blew some big games. He blew Game 1 of the 2000 World Series at Yankee Stadium, which put a serious dent in New York's title hopes and tilted that series toward the Bombers. And he was unable to shut the door in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS. But neither of those games ended with Benitez on the mound. And his overall postseason performance with the Mets was quite good.
Benitez had an ERA of 0.00 in the 1999 NLDS, 1.35 in the 1999 NLCS (the run he allowed in Game 6 was the only one he allowed in 6.2 innings that series). He had a 0.00 ERA in the 2000 NLCS and a 3.00 ERA in the 2000 World Series. The only shaky postseason series Benitez had was the 2000 NLDS, which the Mets won in four games anyway.
In the regular season with the Mets from 1999-2003, Benitez was a force, with a 2.70 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 456 strikeouts (11.8 per 9) in in 347 innings. Quite simply, Benitez was largely dominant and one of the main reasons why the 1999 and 2000 Mets got as far as they did.
John Olerud, 1997-1999
As a Mets fan who grew up around the time Olerud was in his prime in Queens, I maintain to this day that the 2000 Mets would've won the World Series had they not lost Olerud via free agency to the Mariners the prior offseason.
Olerud, somehow acquired by the Mets before the 1997 season for only Robert Person, got lost a bit among the shuffle of Mike Piazza's arrival in 1998 and the emergence of Edgardo Alfonzo as a star around the same time.
But what Olerud did in his brief time with the Mets can't be overlooked.
In 476 games over three seasons, Olerud hit .315/.425/.501 with 63 homers, 109 doubles, and 291 RBI while playing terrific defense at first base.
Olerud hit .438/.526/.625 in the 1999 NLDS as the Mets -- without an injured Piazza for the final two games -- won their first playoff series since 1986. He then hit .296 with a pair of homers in the 1999 NLCS.
That the Mets lost Olerud to the Mariners after that season wasn't their fault, since he was determined to return home to Washington.
Howard Johnson, 1985-1993
For a player whose name is all over the Mets' all-time offensive leaderboards, Johnson doesn't get talked about nearly enough.
During his peak from 1987 to 1991, HoJo brought a rare mix of power and speed, hitting .258/.347/.492 while smacking 157 homers and swiping 160 bases.
Johnson had three seasons with the Mets where he hit at least 30 homers and swiped at least 30 bases (1987, 1989, and 1991), was a two-time All-Star (1989 and 1991), and finished in the top 5 in the National League MVP voting twice (1989 and 1991).
In his nine seasons in Queens, Johnson mashed 192 homers (only Piazza, David Wright, and Darryl Strawberry have hit more as Mets) and stole 202 bases.
Sid Fernandez, 1984-1993
Fernandez is one of the best pitchers the Mets have ever had, but that fact has gotten lost in the shuffle somehow.
During his 10 seasons with the Mets from 1984 to 1993, Fernandez and his "rising fastball" posted a 3.14 ERA and 1.11 WHIP while striking out 1,449 batters in 1584.2 IP.
Fernandez wasn't in the Mets' 1986 postseason rotation that featured Bob Ojeda, Dwight Gooden, and Ron Darling, but he made arguably the most important relief appearance in team history in Game 7 of the World Series against the Red Sox.
Taking over for Darling with the Mets trailing, 3-0, in the fourth inning, Fernandez fired 2.1 innings of no-hit ball while walking one and striking out four to keep New York in the game.
Jon Matlack, 1971-1977
In the shadow of Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, Matlack carved out quite the Mets career in his seven seasons in Flushing.
Matlack won the Rookie of the Year award in 1972, when he had a 2.32 ERA in 244 innings pitched, and he didn't really slow down from there.
Over 1,448 innings pitched in 203 games (199 starts), Matlack had a sparkling 3.03 ERA and 1.19 WHIP while making the All-Star Game three times (1974, 1975, 1976).
In the 1973 postseason, Matlack was tremendous, firing a two-hit shutout against the Reds in the NLCS and posting a 2.16 ERA in 16.2 innings over three starts against the Athletics in the World Series as the Mets took the heavily favored A's to seven games.