Sunday, August 1, 2010
More claims for Mets fame
By Mark Simon
Now that the Mets have done the right thing and inducted all-time greats Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, and 1980s architects, manager Davey Johnson and general manager Frank Cashen, it's inevitable to ask: Who's next?
The Mets are unlike some other major league teams in that they don't induct Hall of Fame members on a regular basis -- at least that's been the pattern in recent years. This foursome was the first set of inductees since Tommie Agee was inducted in 2002.
A day before the Mets inducted Gooden and Strawberry, the Giants added two names to their Wall of Fame -- infielder Rich Aurilia and pitcher Shawn Estes-- lesser lights than Gooden and Strawberry. Those two had respectable careers, though you’d hardly compare them to all-time Giants greats like Willie Mays or Juan Marichal. Later this season, the Phillies will add catcher Darren Daulton, who doesn’t exactly ring up memories of Mike Schmidt when you think of all-time Phillies greats. His credentials, as well as those of Estes and Aurilia are more worthy of the Hall of Very Good, which is good enough for some team Hall of Fames, but not others.
The Mets Hall of Fame doesn't quite have the sorts of inclusionist standards of the Giants or Phillies (the Giants Wall honors anyone who played at least nine seasons with San Francisco, or who played five-plus years and made an All-Star team). But maybe it's time they opened their doors a little wider.
I made the comment as such on Twitter a couple of days ago that I was hopeful that a Mets Hall of Fame Induction could become a regular event again. From 1981 to 1993, inductions were held annually with only one exception –1985. But from 1998 to 2009, the Mets only inducted two former players -- Gary Carter and Tommie Agee.
Within a minute, I got two responses, both saying that they didn’t think annual inductions would stand the test of time. I disagree.
Mike Piazza, John Franco and Howard Johnson would loom as three likely inductees that wouldn't generate much argument from the Mets fan base. Statistically speaking, their numbers are overwhelming by Mets standards. We're guessing there's a consensus among fans on their status as Mets icons (regardless of what you think of Johnson's ability as hitting coach) that makes them worthy of selection.
If you're a Mets fan with a good sense of the teams history, a good litmus test for your feelings on where the dividing line stands for the Mets Hall of Fame would be a current member of their broadcast crew-- Ron Darling. If you’re a Hall of Fame “inclusionist,” you’re probably strongly in favor of Darling’s inclusion. If you want your Hall of Fame to be a very exclusive club, you’re opposed, or at least on the fence.
Darling won 99 games in his Mets career, fourth-most in Mets history and was an integral part of the starting rotations of both the 1986 World Series champions and the 1988 NL East titleists. He pitched in multiple memorable games (his scoreless work against the Cardinals in October, 1985 in the game won by Strawberry’s off-the-clock home run, is viewed as one of the best efforts in team history). He ranks among the team’s all-time leaders in just about every major statistical category.
Darling last pitched for the Mets in 1991 but has not yet been deemed Met Hall of Fame-worthy.
When I went to Cleveland to see the Mets and Indians, I took a very careful look at their Hall of Fame and one name jumped out at me –- Charles Nagy.
Nagy won 129 games in 13 seasons for the Indians (1990-2002), a few more than Darling, but he was with the team a bit longer. He had his share of good seasons and bad seasons, as Darling did, had an ERA about as comparable to the league average as Darling, and was an integral part of a couple of World Series-bound teams (close enough to what Darling did). Granted, he doesn’t quite rank with Bob Feller or Early Wynn, but he’s very highly regarded by the fan base.
I asked a colleague who was from Cleveland why Nagy was in the Hall of Fame, and his response was such that it didn’t strike him as a difficult call. I’d imagine Royals fans feel the same way about another pitcher of comparable nature to Darling-- Mark Gubicza, who didn’t even finish his career with the team with a record above .500 (132-135). Both Nagy and Gubicza are in their respective teams Hall of Fames, and Estes (64-50 with an ERA nearly matching the league average) is now a member of his.
But Darling is on the outside looking in. As are fellow pitchers Sid Fernandez, Al Leiter, Jon Matlack, and Jesse Orosco, and you could argue that they all belong. We’re 49 seasons into the team’s history and only four pitchers—Gooden, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Tug McGraw (blogging colleague Greg Prince has also campaigned actively for 1969 pitching coach Rube Walker). That seems like an unnecessarily low total. We can think of a few more hitters who are worthy as well (Edgardo Alfonzo and Ron Swoboda leading the charge).
The good news is that this is a fixable issue, and on a day like today that was incredibly bleak for the current players, it’s good to be reassured that the team is doing at least a little something to recognize some of its former ones.
Mets Hall of Fame Members
Owners/Executives/Pioneers -- Joan Payson, George Weiss, Bill Shea, Johnny Murphy, Frank Cashen,
Managers –- Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges, Davey Johnson
Broadcasters –- Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner
Position Players -– Tommie Agee, Gary Carter, Jerry Grote, Bud Harrelson, Keith Hernandez Cleon Jones, Ed Kranepool, Rusty Staub, Darryl Strawberry, Mookie Wilson
Pitchers –- Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw, Tom Seaver