Yesterday, Mike Piazza was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, becoming the 312th member of that exclusive club. Three years prior, Piazza was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, located far back in Citi Field’s Jackie Robinson Rotunda, unsurprisingly adjacent to the Mets Team Store. With 27 inductees in 54 Mets seasons, new Mets Hall of Famers have been added at the rate of one every (/uses TI-85) two years the team’s been around. Piazza’s 2013 ceremony was the last one, so we’re due for another. Here’s whose faces we think will be on those plaques. — Scott D. Simon (@scottdsimon)
Signed out of Venezuela as a teenager, Edgardo Alfonzo was a man before his time. These days, a middle infielder with who can hit for average and power and draw walks and field his position is hailed as one of the best players in baseball. But when Fonzie took over as a 23-year-old starter in 1997, we’d never before seen anyone like him in Flushing. Four seasons hitting over .300. Top-10 in franchise history for batting average, on base percentage, home runs, RBI and runs scored. One of the most consistent and versatile infielders of his era, Alfonzo moved from third base to second in 1999 to form one of the best infields in franchise history. His first-inning two-run homer led the Mets over the Reds in the 1999 Wild Card playoff. When the Mets made the World Series the next season, Alfonzo led the team with 6.6 WARP. Two years ago, Alfonzo came back to New York to coach the Brooklyn Cyclones. — Noah Grand (@noahgrand)
You’ll note this week’s topic is not who we want to see on a Mets Hall of Fame plaque. Aside from Mets players, the list of current inductees includes a few executives: Johnny Murphy and George Weiss, the architects of the 1969 Miracle Mets, and Frank Cashen, the general manager for the 1986 World Series winner. The Mets’ first owner, Joan Whitney Payson, was inducted into the Mets Hall in 1981, six years after her death.
Fred Wilpon will turn 80 after this season. He’s intensely concerned about his reputation. You may remember that insane New Yorker profile from 2011. (Sample quote: “Everybody likes Fred, there is tremendous respect for Fred, people listen to what he has to say, and I don’t know of anybody who has ever had an open fight with him.”) Wilpon might not commission his own statue outside Citi Field (and nobody’s going to get a Fred Wilpon tattoo). But Wilpon will be a Mets Hall-of-Famer. The only question is when. — Scott D. Simon (@scottdsimon)
Cone’s place in Mets lore occupies that unfortunate stretch of years immediately following ’86, when the team struggled to recapture the success everyone assumed would continue. When Cone was acquired from Kansas City in spring training of 1987, he was an unproven 23-year-old with all of 11 MLB relief appearances to his name. By the time he was traded to Toronto for Jeff Kent in August 1992, Cone was a full-fledged star. He won his only two career strikeout titles as a Met (1990, 1991). His superlative 20-3 season in 1988 helped the Mets to their second NL East title in three years. And while Cone’s star only rose further once he left Queens — he’d win five World Series titles in all, the first coming that fall with the Blue Jays, and his perfect game in 1999 won’t ever be forgotten in the Bronx — he was a consistent winner, even during the offensively lean times of the early ’90s. His time with the Mets was on the short side, but Cone’s results were undeniable. — Erik Malinowski (@erikmal)
Perhaps nobody outside of Bob Murphy, Mets Hall of Fame class of 1984, has had a longer record of contribution to the Mets than the venerable Vice President of Media Relations, Jay Horwitz. Horwitz was hired by the Mets in 1980 and has made an indelible mark on the team as one of the last old-school PR men in the game.
Over the past few years, Horwitz has become something of a pop culture icon for diehard fans. His Twitter account, as infrequently updated as it is, served as great comic relief when the team was not as good on the field. He had a bobblehead night at Citi Field. Tales of his pocket-dialing random contacts are ubiquitous in slice of life stories around the team. He’s as much a part of the fabric of the team as almost anyone, and he deserves induction into the Mets Hall of Fame. – Jarrett Seidler (@jaseidler)
While this past weekend was spent celebrating a certain 1998 Mets-Marlins trade, another between those teams also had a tremendous impact on the franchise. Al Leiter was no stranger to New York City when he came over from Florida in a February 1998 deal for A.J. Burnett and a couple other prospects. He was a second-round pick by the Yankees in 1984, but overuse led to major shoulder problems. Leiter would not establish himself as reliable until he was traded to the Blue Jays.
By ’98, though, Leiter had thrown a no-hitter and earned World Series rings from the Blue Jays and Marlins; he was considered a superb southpaw. He wasted little time becoming the Mets’ ace. It was Leiter who threw a shutout in the one-game Wild Card playoff in ’99 against the Reds. It was Leiter who the Mets turned to guide them through the postseason in ’99 and 2000. It was Leiter pitching his heart out as the Mets tried desperately to stay alive in the Subway Series, only to be done on a ninth-inning thousand-hopper after 142 pitches.
Leiter’s seven years in Queens were excellent, even as he became one of the few bright spots on sagging teams under Art Howe. As the head of the rotation during the Mets’ finest era since 1986, a spot in the Mets Hall of Fame seems well-deserved for the New Jersey native. — Andrew Mearns (@MearnsPSA)
Darling was never the best pitcher on his team, but he was consistently solid. He saved his best performance for the Mets’ championship season, when he spun a 2.81 ERA in 1986. Now, none of this would be enough on its own to get Darling a plaque in the Mets Hall of Fame.
I like when people are able to excel in multiple exploits during the course of their life. Darling’s fantastic work in the Mets broadcast booth puts him over the top. Darling has been with SNY since 2006, so we are now talking about his work in terms of decades. It has been nothing but stellar. Darling has become one of the best color commentators in the game and is part of a broadcast team that is revered as one of the best in the game as well. If Darling stays with the team, his excellent commentary and knowledge of the game — combined with his production as a Met — makes him an easy choice for a plaque in the future. — Tyler Plofker (@TylerPlofker)
The last time the New York Mets introduced an announcer in their Hall of Fame was 1984, when the trio of Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson received their plaques. However, no Mets announcer is more deserving of the honor than SNY play-by-play man Gary Cohen. Cohen started covering the Mets on the radio in 1989 alongside Murphy before taking over primary responsibilities in 2003. He then made the transition to SNY on TV in 2006 and has been a staple of what is arguably the best announcing team in all of Major League Baseball.
Cohen is also celebrated for his memorable calls in New York Mets history such as Todd Pratt’s walk-off home run in 1999 to defeat the Diamondbacks in the NLDS and, more recently, the final out of Johan Santana’s first no-hitter in New York Mets history. Making these calls and announcing every game has made Cohen a staple in Mets fans’ lives. Recently, Cohen’s voice even became recognizable nationwide with his emphatic call of Bartolo Colon’s first career home run. But Cohen is more than just a Mets announcer; he is a fellow Mets fan. — Seth Rubin (@SethRubin)
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