Mets Through the Years: Shortstop
September 11th, 2012 by slangon

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the New York Mets, I’ve been looking at the primary players at each position throughout the teams history. We’ve already looked at the managers, Opening Day starting pitchers, catchers, first basemen, second basemen, and third basemen, as well as all of the Mets’ All-Star representatives. Today, we’ll be looking into the players who’ve manned the shortstop position for the Metropolitans, in cardboard form, of course.

Let’s see if we can get this done before the season ends.

By now you should know the drill. It’s 1962. The first year of the club. Every position is filled by someone that no other team wanted. Elio Chacon is no exception. The Mets got him from the Reds in the expansion draft. He hit .236 and slugged .296 in his only year on the Mets. When was the last time you saw someone slug under .300 who wasn’t a pitcher? He was involved in the first triple play in Mets history, though. The Dodgers’ Willie Davis lined out to a diving Chacon, who started a 6-4-3 triple play on May 30, 1962. He also got into a brawl with Willie Mays later in the ’62 season that apparently got him black listed from baseball. Despite being only 25 in 1962, that was his last year in the Majors.

Al Moran started his brief big league career taking over as short stop for the Mets after the hasty departure of Elio Chacon. He spent 2 years with the team, but 1963 was the only year that he saw significant playing time. He put up a .193/.274/.230 stat line for the season, which is pretty dismal. When you consider that the Mets as a team put up a .218/.285/.315 line, it doesn’t seem as bad. He played his final game on May 10, 1964.

The Mets traded for veteran “good field / no hit” shortstop Roy McMillan early in the 1964 season. He didn’t do much better than Al Moran, but he did manage to hover above the Mendoza Line during the 3 seasons he was with the team. He was the Mets main shortstop during the ’64-’65 seasons, but was relegated to a backup roll in 1966, which was his final year as a Major League player. Years later he would become a member of the Mets coaching staff and would take over as interim manager in 1975 after Yogi Berra was canned. He led the team to a 26-27 record.

The Mets acquired Ed Bressoud from the Red Sox after the 1965 season and he promptly took over at short. Although he didn’t average any better than McMillan (Bressoud hit .225 compared to McMillan’s .226 career with the Mets), he did possess a bit more power (Bressoud hit 10 homers in 1966 compared to McMillan’s 3 homer in as many years).

Bud Harrelson was part of the influx of good young players that started to filter up from the farm right around the middle of the 1960’s. He got a cup of coffee with the team in 1965 and took over regular shortstop duties in 1967. He was the primary shortstop for the Mets from that year until 1975, when injuries sidelined him for much of the year. Although he was never an offensive powerhouse, this was during an era when shortstop was not considered an offensive position so having a shortstop with no power who averaged in the low .200’s was perfectly acceptable, so long as they were solid defensively. Bud provided solid defense and was really a stabilizing presence at short. He was also the kind of player who had no problem taking on an opponent who outweighed him by almost 40 pounds in a fistfight.

Mike Phillips took over shortstop during the 1975 season thanks to the aforementioned injuries to Bud Harrelson. He filled in admirably, batting .256 with adequate defense.

Bud was back (mostly) healthy for the 1976 and 1977 seasons, and performed mostly to his career numbers, i.e. good glove, small bat. He was traded to the Phillies right before the 1978 season. With that trade, pretty much every Met who was part of the ’69 World Champs was gone. Jerry Koosman and Steady Eddie Kranepool were still hanging around, but they too would soon be gone.

Tim Foli, who, judging from the photo on this card, a Mets scout possibly met while waiting in line for Lottery tickets, took over shortstop after Buddy Harrelson’s departure. He was known for exceptional bat control, thanks to an extremely chocked up grip. Unfortunately, this also led to a complete and total lack of power. I guess on the bright side of things, I’m sure nobody was paying much attention to how good or bad the Mets shortstop was in 1978.

Shortly after the start of the 1979 season, the Mets traded Tim Foli and a minor leaguer to the Pirates for Frank Taveras. Frank would have a lock down on the shortstop job for the 3 seasons he was in New York. Considering how bad those late 70’s/early 80’s Mets teams were, Taveras had a pretty nice career as a Met. In 3 seasons, he hit .263 with 184 runs scored. He also stole 90 bases. Interestingly, in 1979, the year he was traded to the Mets, he led the league in games played with 164. He played 11 with Pittsburgh and 153 with New York. Even more interestingly, there are 33 guys who’ve played more than 162 games in a season. Even most interestingly, 6 of those 33 guys didn’t even lead the league in games played the year that they did it.

Rookie Ron Gardenhire was brought up to play shortstop in 1982. He proudly continued the Mets tradition of good glove/no bat shortstops. He hit a middling .240 with 3 dingers and 33 driven in. Oh, and he also didn’t really live up to the “good glove” part, committing 29 errors at shortstop, which was tied with Bill Russell for third most in the N.L. So I guess you could say Ron Gardenhire started his own little tradition of bad glove/bad bat.

Jose Oquendo was the Mets shortstop for the 1983 and 1984 seasons. He didn’t make much of a splash as a starting shortstop, averaging .217 during his 2 years in Queens. He did however go on to enjoy a pretty successful career as a utility man for 10 years in St. Louis. He even managed to play all 9 positions in 1 season in 1988. He’s actually appeared in 3 games as a pitcher in his career and struck out Deion Sanders and Rick Mahler.

The Mets traded for Santana before the ’84 season as a backup to Jose Oquendo, but after they traded Jose away, Rafael was the main shortstop for the next 3 years. including their Championship year in 1986. He was very much in the vein of good field/no hit. He was traded to the Yankees after the ’87 season.

Future Star Kevin Elster came up with the Mets as a rookie in 1986, and took over short stop after the departure of Rafael Santana. He was never much of an offensive threat. Probably his greatest year at the plate with the Mets came in 1989 when he hit .231 with 10 homers and 55 RBI’s. He was, however a solid defensive player who once set a Major League record for most consecutive games at shortstop without an error with 88 games. Cal Ripken Jr. would eventually break that record in 1990 with 95 games. I guess if your record is going to fall, it might as well be to a future Hall of Famer.

After Kevin Elster suffered a serious shoulder injury that cost him all but 6 games of the ’92 season as well as the entire ’93 season, the Mets were forced to trade for Dick Schofield to take over at shortstop. He had been a solid, if unspectacular shortstop for the Angels, and continued that trend with the Metsies. He is the uncle of Jayson Werth.

Tim Bogar came up from the farm in 1993 to take over the shortstop duties. I use the term “take over” loosely since Bogar only started  60 games at that position for the Mets that year. That was good enough for the most games at short, however. He averaged a whopping .244 that season with 3 long balls and 25 rib-eye steaks. Continuing his winning ways, Bogey is currently the bench coach for the Boston Red Sox under Bobby Valentine.

For the next 2+ seasons, number 6 on your scorecard was Jose Vizcaino. He was not bad. During the 1994 and 1995 seasons, he averaged in the mid to high .200’s and scored between 50 and 60 runs. He also drove in about 40 or so per year during that time. That’s all batting leadoff for the most part. In Incredibly Tenuous Statistics News, he along with Darryl Strawberry and Ricky Ledee are the only players to have played for all 4 teams that were or are located in New York, being the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers and Giants.

Rey Ordonez took over at short in 1996 and played the position for the next bunch of years. He was never much of an offensive threat, but let me tell you he was pretty spectacular to watch in the field. He won 3 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1997-99. He was so good defensively that in his rookie year he was 5th in Rookie of the Year voting despite only hitting .257. He was so good defensively, the first time I ever played fantasy baseball, I chose him as my starting shortstop. Unfortunately for Rey-O, he broke his arm early in the 2000 season, and was never quite the defensive player he once was.

When Rey broke his arm in May, the Mets had to scramble to fill the position, sending Melvin Mora and a couple of others to Baltimore for Mike Bordick, which I never quite understood. During the short time he was with the Mets, he put up a .260/.321/.365 stat line. Before Mora was shipped off to the Orioles, he put up a .260/.317/.423 line, and he was 6 years younger than Bordick and making the league minimum. Oh well. I guess that’s why I’m not a GM.

Rey was back in 2001, but as I mentioned earlier, after the broken wing, he was never quite right in the field. Since he already was a bit of a liability at the plate, his decreased defensive value pretty much sealed his fate in Queens. He did play the 2001 and 2002 seasons for the Mets before being traded to Tampa Bay, but by then he was pretty much done.

2003 saw the dawning of a new era at shortstop for the Mets. Jose Reyes was called up mid-season to take over at short after veteran Rey Sanchez went on the DL. After Sanchez was done with his rehab and returned to the team, there was a nice warm spot on the bench for him because Reyes had taken his job. In 274 at bats that year, he hit .307 with 12 doubles, 4 triples, 5 round-trippers, 13 stolen bases, 32 RBI’s and 47 runs scored.

In one of the more head scratching moves on the part of the Mets through the years, in 2004 they decided to move Reyes to second to make room for Japanese import Kaz Matsui. Matsui was a pretty major star in Japan, but was less than stellar upon landing in New York. That is not to say he was terrible. He still hit .272 and scored 65 runs while driving in 44.  He did, however commit 23 errors at short, which was 1 off of the N.L. lead.

It didn’t take too long for the Mets brass to realize their miscue and in 2005, they flipped Reyes and Matsui to put Jose back to his proper spot in the field. In the following few years, Jose led the league 3 times in steals, once in hits and 3 times in triples. He was also scored over 100 runs 3 times and was a 2 time All-Star and won a Sliver Slugger award. Unfortunately, early in the 2009 season, he pulled a calf muscle which, after re-injuring it several times during the course of his rehab, led to him being out for the remainder of the season.

Veteran Alex Cora filled in at short after Reyes went down in May of 2009. He obviously wasn’t going to be the dynamic, exciting player that Reyes was, but he filled in admirably while providing a good veteran presence on an increasingly younger team.

Jose was back on the scene in 2010. It wasn’t his finest year, but it was still good enough to earn him an All-Star nod. 2011 was his walk year, so of course he ended up with an insane season. Not only did he return to the top of the triples list, he (rather controversially) led the league in hitting, something no Met had ever done before. Sadly, 2011 was his final year in a Mets uniform.

Ruben Tejada ended up with the unenviable job of replacing one of the most popular and exciting Met players in recent memory. Despite a bump in the road in early May when he went on the DL, he’s passed with flying colors. In 90 starts at short, he’s put up a .291/.340/.360 slash line. Obviously, the .360 slugging percentage leaves something to be desired, but I don’t think anyone ever confused Ruben with a power hitter. I can say that I’ve seen numerous games where the Mets desperately needed a base runner and he would foul off ball after ball after ball and eventually draw a walk or get a hit to give the team some extended life. Did I mention he’s only 22?

That brings us to the recap. Over 50+ years, 21 different men have called the shortstop position home for the Mets. Buddy Harrelson has spent the most time there, at 1280 games. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know who the greatest player to serve at the position is, though. Jose Reyes is the Mets franchise leader in triples and stolen bases. He’s also second in runs scored, third in hits, fourth in total bases, third in doubles and second in singles. If there was a quantitative way to measure excitement produced, I’m sure he would be the franchise leader in that as well. He was my favorite Met from pretty much the day he was called up and I was mighty sad to see him go.

One Response to “Mets Through the Years: Shortstop”

  1. I still miss Jose. Rey Ordonez is a cool player that I’ve only recently become interested in.

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