Mets Through the Years: Right Field
October 3rd, 2012 by slangon

I’ve got to get this up before 4:10. Of course I had to leave right field for last. The Mets have had more right fielders in their history than any other position. Typical. Anyway…

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 managersOpening Day starting pitcherscatchersfirst basemensecond basemen,shortstopsthird basemen, left fielders and center fielders, as well as all of the Mets’ All-Star representatives. Today, we’ll be looking into the players who’ve played right field for the Metsies, in cardboard form, of course.

Unlike most other positions on the inaugural edition of the Mets, the team actually fielded a future Hall of Famer in right. Of course, it was a Hall of Famer at the end of his career, but hey, he was still pretty damn good, which is probably why he was a Hall of Famer. Ashburn easily led the team in batting average, at .306, as well as on-base percentage, at .424. Of course since the ’62 Mets hit .240 as a team, he only scored 60 runs that season. He was the Mets first All-Star, to boot.

Who would’ve thought that for the first 2 years of their existence, the Mets would have Hall of Fame right fielders? Like Ashburn, The Duke was on his last legs and just a shadow of his former self. He was clearly part of the Mets plan to bring in aging fan favorites from other New York teams to try and put butts in the seats (Duke, Gil, Yogi, Casey, Roger Craig, Charley Neal, etc.). The Silver Fox only batted .243 in 1963, but he did swat 14 homers, which was good for 3rd on the team. He also slugged .401, which topped the Mets regulars.

“Smilin” Joe Christopher took over right field for the Mets in 1964. He had played a handful of games in right, spelling both Ashburn and Snider over the first 2 years, but ’64 saw him make 127 starts in right. He had a career year, hitting an even .300 with 16 home runs and 76 driven in. He was tops on the team in RBI’s and second in homers and average.

Johnny Lewis (Who may or may not be a professional baseball player. It’s a little hard to tell from this card.) took over in right for the 1965 season. Johnny was a bit of a step down from Joe Christopher in average and RBI’s. He hit .245 and drove in 45. He was right there in home runs though, with 15. One of his most dramatic came on June 14, 1965. The Mets were playing the Reds and Jim Malonley was throwing a no-hitter for Cincinnati. The game was 0-0 after regulation and went to the 11th, with Maloney still on the hill. Lewis led off the top of the 11th with a solo shot to break up the no-hitter, the shutout and ultimately hand Maloney the loss.

Do you see how unspectacular this Al Luplow card is? No hat. No background to speak of. If it weren’t for that bat, you’d barely be able to tell that this was a baseball card. Well, it turns out it’s the perfect card to represent Al Luplow’s 1966 season as the primary right fielder for the Mets. He hit .251 with 7 homers and 31 driven in.

Ron Swoboda made the move from left field to right in 1967 and stayed there through the 1970 season. This was actually the first time in their history that the Mets had the same right fielder 2 seasons in a row. Known more for his bat than his glove, Swoboda made a historic catch in Game 4 of the ’69 World Series (at least historical among Mets fans). It was the top of the 9th with Mets up 1-0. The Orioles had 2 men on for Brooks Robinson with 1 out. Robinson hit a ball that looked like it was heading for the gap, but Ron laid out to make a diving catch. One run still scored to tie the game, but had he not made that catch, Baltimore would’ve taken the lead. The Mets went on to win the game in the 10th.

After the Mets sent Swoboda to Montreal, rookie Ken Singleton took over right field duties. ALthough he got off to an inauspicious start with the Mets, Ken went on to have a long and successful career. Unfortunately, after the 1971 season, the Mets shipped him off to Montreal, as well, as part of the deal that brought Rusty Staub to New York. During his only year as a full time Met, he hit .245 with 13 homers and 46 runs batted in.

Speaking of Le Grand Orange, he immediately took over in right upon his arrival in Queens. He was a perennial All-Star in Houston and Montreal before coming to the Mets, although he would never receive that honor as a Met. He was still quite productive during his 4 year stint as the Mets right fielder, especially during the ’73 post-season, which was the only post-season appearance of his long career. Although he only batted .200 in the NLCS against The Big Red Machine, he did hit 3 homers and drive in 5 in those 5 games. He also batted .423 in the World Series with 6 RBI’s.

After the Mets shipped Rusty to the Tigers, Dave Kingman took over in right. He did typical Dave Kingman things by batting .238 but sending 37 balls over the fence. He also only drew 28 walks but was 2nd in the N.L. in strikeouts with 135.

Dave Kingman was traded to the Padres in June of ’77, and Mike Vail took over in right. Interestingly, as of 1975, Vail was considered the Mets “player of the future” and the Mets basically traded Rusty Staub to make room for him. Apparently, though he dislocated his foot playing basketball during the offseason and was never really quite right. In ’77, which was his only year as a full-time player and his last as a Met, he hit .262 with 8 homers and 35 RBI’s.

After Mike Vail’s disappointing season, the Mets picked up free agent Elliott Maddox to play right field in 1978. Although he was an excellent defensive player, he only hit .257 on the year. He did walk 71 times though, compared to only 38 strikeouts. Take that Dave Kingman.

Although, Maddox was still with the Mets until 1980, Joel Youngblood took over the majority of right field duties in 1979 and 1980. He was not too bad, considering how bad those late 70’s Mets teams were. He hit in the neighborhood of .275 and drove in between 60 and 70 both years. Of course, he’s probably more known as the only player in baseball history to get a hit for 2 different teams in the same day. On August 4, 1982, he got a hit for the Mets at Wrigley. They traded him to the Expos right after the game, so he flew to Philly to meet up with his new team and he got a pinch hit for them. Coincidentally, both hits came off of Hall of Fame pitchers. Fergie Jenkins was pitching for the Cubs and Steve Carlton was throwing for the Phillies.

Ellis Valentine played right for the Mets in 1981 and 1982. He barely made it over the Mendoza line in ’81, but picked things up in ’82. His stat line his first year was .207/.227/.355 but he improved that to .288/.294/.407 his next season. He was also known for his great arm in the outfield. In 1982, he turned 5 double plays from right field.

1983 was a momentous year in the annals of Mets history, and a lot of that has to do with the coming of Darryl Strawberry, who would own right field for the next 8 years. During that time, he won a Rookie of the Year, was named to 7 All-Star teams, win 2 Silver Sluggers, come in the Top 10 in MVP voting 4 times and set countless Mets franchise records. During his career as a Met, he batted .263, hit 252 home runs and drove in 733. He also won a World Series with them.

Hubie Brooks had the dubious honor of replacing Straw in right field. Obviously, he wasn’t going to put up the same kind of numbers as Darryl, but he did hit a respectable 16 homers that year.

Bobby Bonilla became the #9 man on your scorecard for the 1992 and 1993 seasons. Despite a tumultuous relationship with both the fans and media, Bonilla put up pretty good numbers during those years. HE hit .249 with 19 taters and 70 RBI’s in ’92 and bested that with a .265 average, 34 home runs and 87 driven in in ’93. That latter performance garnered him an All-Star appearance.

Before he was the Mets primary left fielder, Joe Orsulak spent the 1994 season patrolling right for the team. Nothing much to report. A .260 average, 8 homers, 42 driven in. It was the ’94 Mets. Who really cares? Really.

Like Joe Orsulak before him, before Carl Everett took over in center for the Mets, he spent a year playing right. He was pretty close to Joe’s numbers too. He also hit .260 in 1995, but he hit 12 homers to Joe’s 8. He also drove in 54 to Joe’s 42. Close enough. But look at Carl’s crazy muscles.

Alex “The Goon” Ochoa (Doesn’t he look like a goon in that picture? Whatever a good is.) took the reigns in right for the ’96 and ’97 seasons. He was one of the many ultra-hyped prospects in Mets history that never really panned out. He did hit .294 in 1996, but only drove in 33. His average dropped precipitously in ’97 to only .244. That year he only drove in 22. The Mets shipped him off to the frozen tundra of Minnesota after that.

The aptly named Butch Huskey took over right field duties in 1998. He was coming off of a good ’97 season where he hit .287 with 24 homers and 81 driven in. He failed to match that production in ’98, though. He dropped to a .252 average with just 13 homers and 59 RBI’s.

The Mets gave up not only Todd Hundley, but also the awesomely named Arnold Gooch to get Roger Cedeno from the Dodgers. Roger had a great year, too. He batted .313, stole 66 bases and scored 90 runs to help the Mets to the Wild Card. After the ’99 season, they shipped him off to the Astros as part of the package that landed both Mike Hampton and…

Old Droopy Face manned right field for the Mets during their World Series run in 2000. Although his .266 average, 18 homers and 69 RBI’s don’t exactly jump off the page, they fit in nicely with a 2000 Mets team that saw all but 1 of their starters hit in the double digits for home runs. He ended up spraining his ankle during Game 1 of the NLDS and missed the remainder of the post season. He had 1 at-bat in which he flied out to center.

Timo Perez took over the right field job in 2001. The .247/.287/.356 stat line that he put up that year probably explains why in 2002 the Mets went out and got (back)…

The former Mets 1st Round Draft Pick had some monster years with the Brewers, but sadly that didn’t translate too well to New York. After hitting 30+ homers for 4 years in a row with Milwaukee, he only managed 19 dingers for the Mets in 2002.

The Mets brought Roger Cedeno back to play right field for them in 2003. Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite the player he was in ’99. This time around, he only managed a .267 average, 14 steals and 70 runs scored.

Richard Hidalgo was brought in to play right field mid-way through the 2004 season. His overall numbers that year were not very impressive. He batted .228 and hit 21 homers with 52 runs batted in. He did, however have an interesting year for the Metropolitans. He came over from Houston on June 18 and within his first 16 games with the Mets had already wracked up 8 homers. That included a 5 game stretch from July 1 to July 5 during which he hit a home run every day. That stretch included 3 games against the Yankees in which he hit a homer every game. That 5 game stretch is a Mets club record.

The Mets got Victor Diaz when they traded Jeromy Burnitz to the Dodgers and stuck him out in right for the 2005 season, mostly based on the .529 slugging percentage he put up during his 15 game cup of coffee at the end of 2004. Shockingly, that didn’t translate to a full season. Baby Manny only hit .257 with 12 fence busters in 2005.

The Mets traded Mike Cameron to the Padres for Xavier Nady and I had high hopes for him. During the 75 games he played for them in ’06, Nady hit 14 homers and drove in 40. You’s have to figure he’d be around 28 and 80 if he played a full season. Sadly, Duaner Sanchez got the munchies and the team was forced to send Xavier to the Pirates to get back Roberto Hernandez. The other thing that sucked about that trade was Ollie Perez.

The Mets traded for Shawn Green in 2006 to fill the void left by the departure of Nady. Green got a full season in right field in 2007. Although he wasn’t quite the slugger that he was in his hey day with the Dodgers, he fit in quite nicely in a lineup that included Beltran, Delgado and Wright. Green hit .291 that year with 10 homers and 46 runs driven in. Of course, the Mets came up 1 game short that year and it’s all been down hill since.

I don’t know why, but I remember when the Mets traded Lasting Milledge to the Nats for Church and Schneider, I got excited about the deal. In hindsight, I think I was just looking for something to be excited about with the Mets. Church actually had a pretty decent 2008 season, hitting .276 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI’s. Of course he was also hitting .307 with 10 homers and 37 RBI through 57 games before he got derailed by a concussion that was mishandled by the Mets. Or the doctors. Or the Mets doctors.

Church had actually gotten off to a pretty decent year in 2009 as well before he was abruptly and unexpectedly traded to Atlanta in exchange for Jeff Francoeur. I actually liked Frenchy when he was a Met. He finished out the year really well for them, hitting .311 during his time in New York with 10 home runs and 41 RBI’s. I also loved that cannon of arm. I can’t think of too many baseball related things more fun than watching a runner tag at third only to watch Francoeur gun him down at home after making the catch. That being said, when the Mets shipped him out shortly before the end of the 2010 season, it was time for him to go.

After having surgery on his knees, and with the emergence of Angel Pagan, Beltran graciously consented to move to right field in 2011. This marked the first time in his career he wasn’t in center, outside of 3 games he spent in right while with Kansas City. Most people didn’t think he was going to be able to stay on the field, never mind produce at any level. Through 98 games with Mets in 2011, however, he put up a .289/.391/.513 stat line. He also landed the Mets a prime pitching prospect when he was traded to the Giants late in the season.

Although he hasn’t been playing much right field as of late, Lucas Duda has played the most right field of any Met this season. He’s definitely had his ups and downs throughout the year. Hell, he even got shipped back to AAA at one point. Obviously his .239 average and 120 strikeouts in 120 games leaves something to be desired, but his 15 homers and 57 RBI’s are encouraging. It’s especially tempting to get excited about him when you watch how far he hits some of them homers, too. I know that a fence scraper is the same amount of runs as a moonshot, but man, does he hit some long balls.

In conclusion, over their 50 year history, 33 different guys have played right field for the Mets. As I said at the top of this post, that is much more than any other position. Darryl Strawberry has played the most games in right, with 1062 games under his belt. I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to anyone when I say that he is hands down the greatest right fielder the Mets have ever known. Hell, he’s hands down one of the greatest players the Mets have ever known at any position.

So there we have it. As I promised waaaay back in March, I have gone through the Mets history of every position, in the form of cardboard. I have to admit that it was pretty exhausting and if given the chance to do it over again, I might have to decline. But I’m glad I did it. And I got it done before the first pitch of the Mets final game of their latest pointless season. But of course I’ll be back watching them next year.

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