Mets' All-Decade Team dotted with stars
Piazza, Johan, Wright headline club's previous 10 years
NEW YORK -- Though it hardly was an achievement players recognized, the Mets extended their streak of consecutive decades appearing in the postseason in 2000, and came within a few outs, or runs, of a return to the World Series in '06. Otherwise, the past decade wasn't particularly kind to them. Disappointment and the disabled list were all-too-frequent visitors to their clubhouse. Though they produced six winning seasons and four with sub-.500 records in the 10 years, the winning percentage for 2000-09 was merely .503, and the shortfalls of 2006, '07 and '08 stained what was a period of regular-season winning.
None of which is to suggest that the "oughts," as some folks identify 2000-09, were without moments and main men. Here is where we identify the latter, the All-Decade Mets team. With input from Jay Horwitz, the club's media relations vice president; Gary Cohen, a play-by-play Mets voice since 1989; Howie Rose, the longtime radio voice of the club; and two veteran Mets observers, Bob Waterman of the Elias Sports Bureau and Dan Castellano, formerly the Mets' beat reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger, we have chosen a team of eight position players, five starting pitchers, a closer, a setup reliever and a manager who are hereby identified as the All-Decade Mets for the oughts.
Some of the selections that follow were foregone conclusions, even if they were determined by default. And two positions were quite difficult to figure out -- not for competitive reasons. There was no voting, per se, but rather discussion and decisions, based on the quality of performance and length of tenure with the Mets. For example, Mike Hampton made important contributions to the 2000 team that confronted the Yankees in that year's World Series, but he appeared in merely 39 of the 1,642 games the Mets played in the decade. His candidacy was weak.
The only guideline for this exercise allowed for choosing the three most deserving outfielders, regardless of specific defensive assignment. Otherwise, the process was simple, fundamental choosing. The results follow:
Mets All-Decade team
Catcher -- Why not start with the most obvious? Mike Piazza was the Mets' catcher for five seasons (and a miscast first baseman for 69 games in 2004) and, though he was in the latter stages of a brilliant career, he still was the team's most productive hitter. He hit 157 home runs, the most on the team in the decade, and drove in 455 runs, the third-highest total. Piazza's selection was the primary no-brainer in this exercise; the competition wasn't particularly stiff.
First base -- Similarly, Carlos Delgado was the consensus first baseman. "Who else is there?" was heard in the brief discussion this position warranted. Even missing so much of last season and not joining the Mets until 2006 couldn't deny Delgado. He had enough quality offense to offset his lack of quantity in games.
Second base -- Waterman suggested second be left vacant because no Met who played the position played it well enough and long enough to warrant the designation of All-Decade. But we muddled though. Edgardo Alfonzo and Luis Castillo each played 268 games at second, the most by Mets players. No others were seriously considered. Alfonzo produced a terrific 2000 -- driving in 94 runs, scoring 109, hitting 25 home runs and batting .324 -- all as a second baseman. His .294 average was the third highest among the players with at least 1,000 at-bats with the Mets in the decade. Thumbs-up to the Fonz.
Third base -- The Mets best of Robin Ventura came in 1999, and he was gone to the Yankees after the 2001 season. But David Wright probably would have emerged as the All-Decade third baseman even if Ventura's stellar 1999 had happened in the oughts. Wright seemingly is destined to be the all-time Mets third baseman. He won two-thirds of the Mets triple crown for 2000-09, driving in 561 runs, batting .309 and finishing second to Piazza in home runs (157-127). Mr. Wright, indeed!
Shortstop -- The World Series Mets of 2000 played with an understudy shortstop, Mike Bordick. The stunning defensive brilliance of Rey Ordonez was gone after 2002, at least partially because Jose Reyes was on the threshold. Reyes, despite the debilitating injuries that cut short his 2003, '04 and '09 seasons, is with Wright and Piazza as no-brainers. He was a dynamic offensive force for four seasons and a shortstop whose defense has been overlooked because of his offensive prowess. And he can dance.
Outfield -- Another foregone conclusion is Carlos Beltran, who, despite his extended absence last summer, ranked second in Mets RBIs in the decade (466) and tied Wright for second in home runs. He won three Gold Gloves and, in 2006, produced what arguably was the best offensive season by a Met in the decade -- .594 slugging percentage, 127 runs, 116 RBIs, 41 home runs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 18 stolen bases.
Best buddies flank Beltran on this team as they did in 2005 -- Cliff Floyd in left field and Mike Cameron in right. Each was chosen by default to a degree. Floyd hit 81 home runs and drove in 273 runs in his four seasons at Shea Stadium. Moreover, he was the primary force in the first months of '05 when the team's fortune reversed under Willie Randolph. His positive influence in the clubhouse cannot be overstated. He was Wright's big brother.
Cameron, the most skilled outfield defender in Mets history, played merely 68 games in right field during his too-brief Mets tenure, and before he and Beltran collided -- face to face -- in August 2005. But the guidelines allowed his selection as one of the three outfielders. So his 30-home run season in 2004 and his general brilliance in center in '05 worked for him.
Rotation -- This was easy except for the fifth spot. In no particular order: Al Leiter, Johan Santana, Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel and ... before you condemn Trachsel, understand he won 66 games in five seasons with the Mets. Leiter was second in the decade (65) and Glavine (61) third.
Now about No. 5, Howie Rose supported John Maine, and the only other legitimate candidate is Pedro Martinez, who produced the third-lowest ERA of Mets with at least 400 innings in the decade. Santana's 2.78 and Leiter's 3.43 were lower than Martinez's 3.88. But Maine's ERA was only slightly higher at 4.01. And Maine won six more games than Martinez, 38-32. Castellano favored Martinez for his overall impact -- not merely his numbers -- particularly in 2005. So Pedro it is.
Bullpen -- Billy Wagner had some competition from Armando Benitez, but he was more highly regarded. The setup job was quite intriguing. John Franco was considered, as was Aaron Heilman, who had fine seasons in 2005 and '06. But Rose made the point that, if all the setup relievers were considered, no matter how restricted their roles might have been, no one filled his role more effectively than Pedro Feliciano. Heilman was a close second.
Manager -- Randolph came within a Game 7 vs. the Cardinals in the 2006 National League Championship Series to lead the Mets back to the World Series for the first time since 2000, but during the previous decade, Bobby Valentine, the only skipper in club history to lead the team to back-to-back postseason appearances, is the choice after leading the Amazin's to the Fall Classic in the 2000 World Series vs. the Yankees.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.