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February 20, 2007

Most talented Mets ever?

MetsBlog links to the New York Post's sports blog, which has an entry entitled "Most Talented Met Ever." Without a question mark.

Mike Vaccaro says: "Carlos Beltran reported Monday morning, and it begs the question: who is the most talented man to ever wear a Mets uniform?" He's got his list, which you can view if you click the link above, but let's try to deal with definitions first.

First: Does talent mean raw ability or statistics? If it's raw talent, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry have to be near the top. But both succumbed to vices and ruined their careers. For talent plus a successful career, I don't see how you can top Tom Seaver. Most people who put him lower than first are simply too young to have seen him pitch.

Next: Ever wear a Mets uniform? If you take this literally, you have to go with Willie Mays, who played part of 1972 and all of 1973 with the Mets. But he was finishing out his career at the time, and no one would argue that he was more than a shadow of his Hall of Fame self. I would normally dismiss this interpretation, but Vaccaro ranks Carlos Beltran first, who's played only two years with the Mets. That makes no sense to me.

Related: How long does the player have to have played for the Mets? Nolan Ryan pitched his first four-plus spotty years with the Mets but went on to pitch Hall of Fame baseball for 22 more years with three other teams. So Ryan shouldn't count. But what are we to make of Vaccaro's inclusion of Jose Reyes and David Wright, two young stars, in his top 10 list? He's basing his ranking as much on a prediction of their abilities as on their showing in the limited time they've been in the majors. To a lesser extent, I think that explains his ranking of Beltran as well.

The only thing I get out of Vaccaro's post is that it's another parlor game. It might be a lot of fun if we only knew what the rules are.

UPDATE (2/21): Since everyone's clamoring for my picks, let me first define my terms. I require that the player have spent at least five years on the Mets, and I lean toward performance over raw ability.

1. Tom Seaver.
2. Dwight Gooden.
3. Mike Piazza.
4. Darryl Strawberry.
5. Keith Hernandez.

I don't think I'll go any farther than that. Yes, I've put Gooden and Strawberry in there at the top. I guess I wouldn't have mentioned it yesterday if Vaccaro had given Seaver top billing, as I have.

Honorable mentions go to Jerry Koosman, Gary Carter, David Cone, and Tommie Agee (who's a sentimental favorite as much as an actual "most talented.")