Mets' Top 5 right-handed starters: DiComo's take

May 26th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite.

Here is Anthony DiComo’s ranking of the top 5 right-handed starting pitchers in Mets history. Next week: left-handed starting pitchers.

• Mets All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | Bench

1. (1967-77, 1983)
Key fact: The Mets’ all-time leader in wins, ERA, strikeouts, complete games, shutouts and WAR

A near-unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer, Seaver is widely considered among the greatest handful of pitchers of all time. His 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts and 2.86 career ERA speak for themselves.

For Mets fans, the only misfortune -- and it’s a big one -- is that Seaver did not compile all of those statistics in New York. The team infamously traded him in 1977 to Cincinnati, where Seaver played six of his 20 big league seasons. He returned to the Mets briefly in 1983, then won his 300th game in the American League with the White Sox, before ending his career in Boston. But the bulk of Seaver’s contributions came as a Met, including all three of his Cy Young Awards, 10 of his 12 All-Star appearances, two of his three pennants and his only World Series ring.

Seaver’s number is retired at Citi Field, the Mets recently renamed the ballpark’s street address in his honor and the team plans to unveil a statue of him in the near future. As Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said during the revelation of those plans, “Tom was a once-in-a-lifetime player and will always be remembered as one of the greatest players in Mets history. Tom truly lived up to his nicknames of ‘Tom Terrific’ and ‘The Franchise.’” Despite his history elsewhere, in other words, Seaver is as synonymous with the Mets' organization as anyone in the baseball world.

2. (1984-94)
Key fact: Second in Mets history in wins, strikeouts and WAR

If Seaver was the Mets’ greatest of all time, then Gooden was the comet that burned brightest. His 1985 season was one of the finest in baseball history by any measure, coming in the middle of a three-year run to start his career that saw Gooden go 58-19 with a 2.28 ERA and 744 strikeouts. Rated by ERA+, which adjusts for league and ballpark factors, Gooden’s 1985 performance was one of baseball’s six best in the last 100 years.

Even as off-field problems began interfering with his performance, Gooden remained a force, winning 96 games with a 3.44 ERA from 1987-93. The following season was his last in Flushing as drugs took over his life, and Gooden -- despite pitching a no-hitter during his comeback year with the Yankees in 1996 -- was never quite the same elsewhere. He wound up falling well short of the Hall of Fame, leaving his fans to wonder what might have been had he been able to stay clean.

3. (2014-present)
Key fact: The 11th Major League player, and first Met, to win consecutive Cy Young Awards

A fun debate right now is whether deGrom or Jerry Koosman, who will have his number retired at Citi Field in the near future, is the third-greatest pitcher in Mets history. Koosman is a lefty, however, making deGrom the easy pick for third place on this list.

If he maintains his current pace for a few more years, deGrom has a real chance to stand alone above Koosman and Gooden on the franchise pecking order. He could do enough to become a borderline Hall of Famer, but there’s one significant flaw to his case: because deGrom began his career relatively late, around his 26th birthday, he has not been able to amass the type of counting stats needed to enter Cooperstown. To do so, he’ll need to remain elite into his mid- or even late-30s -- a tall task for anyone.

At worst, deGrom is already a franchise icon with a three-year peak rivaling that of Gooden. Regardless of deGrom’s ultimate legacy, his consecutive National League Cy Young Awards are an accomplishment no one can tarnish.

“You look at the names that are mentioned in winning back-to-back Cy Youngs, I would have never thought that my name would ever been mentioned in that,” deGrom said recently. “I’ve said before it was a goal to win one, but to think about winning two is honestly kind of crazy.”

4. (1983-91)
Key fact: Started Games 1, 4 and 7 of the 1986 World Series, producing a 1.53 ERA

Darling’s best season came at the best time for the Mets. Already well-established as a solid rotation option behind Gooden, Darling set career bests over a full season with a 2.81 ERA and 184 strikeouts in 1986. Then, after a slight stumble in the National League Championship Series, he rebounded to give the Mets 17 2/3 strong innings in the Fall Classic. Darling won 99 games over nine seasons in New York, posting a 3.50 ERA. He remains a fan favorite to this day due to his broadcasting work with SNY.

5. (1987-92, 2003)
Key fact: One of six pitchers in Mets history to win 20 games in a season

A key piece in two of the more consequential trades in Mets history, Cone came to the team shortly after debuting with the Royals out of the bullpen in 1986. He proceeded to blossom in New York, going 20-3 with a 2.22 ERA over his first full season in '88. From there, Cone settled in as one of the game’s better starting pitchers, posting a 42-32 record with a 3.35 ERA over the next three years. Midway through the 1992 season, the Mets dealt him to the Blue Jays in a trade for Jeff Kent.

Cone went on to win the AL Cy Young Award back in Kansas City, where he had started his career, while Kent gave his best years to the Giants, not the Mets.

Honorable mentions
Six of the Mets’ seven Cy Young Awards belong to Seaver, deGrom and Gooden. The other went to R.A. Dickey, whose 2012 season -- at age 37 -- was one of the more remarkable feats in franchise history. … Rick Reed’s comeback following a full year in the Minors in 1996 resulted in five strong seasons with the Mets, including All-Star appearances in '98 and 2001. … Injuries marked the Mets careers of Bret Saberhagen and Pedro Martinez, both of whom were past their true primes when they arrived in New York. Both were nonetheless solid contributors. … In addition to deGrom, the Mets had high hopes for onetime super-prospects Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard. All of them looked unhittable at times, but struggled through injuries and inconsistencies as well.