Mets' Top 5 second basemen: DiComo's take 

April 7th, 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 at this position.

Here is Anthony DiComo’s ranking of the top 5 second basemen in Mets history. Next week: Third basemen.

1. Edgardo Alfonzo, 1995-2001
Key fact: His .318 average with runners in scoring position is highest in Mets history.

Alfonzo might be the trickiest Met to rank because he appeared in 524 games for the team at second base and 515 at third, spending three full seasons as the starter at each position. For the purposes of this exercise, Alfonzo is only eligible at one position; second base, which is statistically one of the weak spots Mets history, and so seems an excellent place to give one of the greatest Mets of all time his proper due.

Playing second, third and even a little shortstop, Alfonzo racked up 120 home runs in eight seasons in New York to go along with a .292 average and .812 OPS. His 1999-2000 campaigns, both spent exclusively at the keystone, resulted in the two highest WAR totals by a second baseman in franchise history. Overall, Alfonzo compiled 29.6 WAR with the Mets -- more than the next two most prolific second basemen combined.

This summer, the team announced that Alfonzo would enter the Mets Hall of Fame in 2020, which he called “a dream come true for me.”

“The Mets have had so many great players in their history, and I’m so proud to receive this honor,” Alfonzo said after the induction announcement. “This is something I never thought would be possible when I started out. I was never much for individual goals, I just wanted to help us win.”

2. Daniel Murphy, 2008-15
Key fact: Six straight postseason games with a home run is a Major League record.

A steady offensive contributor throughout the early 2010s, Murphy never quite blossomed as a star in part because of his defensive limitations -- he was not a natural second baseman, but found himself forced there due to circumstance, and twice shredded knee ligaments as he learned the position -- and in part because of his lack of power.

But Murphy could flat-out rake. One of the better pure hitters to wear a Mets uniform, Murphy batted .288 during his tenure in New York, dipping below .280 just once -- and that in his first full season.

It’s a solid resume. Of course, the reason why Murphy ascends to No. 2 on this list is what he did in the 2015 postseason, homering in six consecutive games against the likes of Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw (the Nos. 1-3 finishers in National League Cy Young Award voting that year) and others.

“Pretty much,” Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said that month, “he’s the best hitter in the game in October.”

At the time, it seemed like a Ruthian hot streak; what few realized was how fully Murphy had transformed his swing en route to becoming one of the most prominent members of what would turn into baseball’s “launch-angle revolution.” When the Mets showed no interest in re-signing him after 2015, Murphy went on to deliver the two best individual seasons of his career in Washington, including his two highest home run totals by a significant margin.

3. Wally Backman, 1980-88
Key fact: Backman hit .333 during the 1986 World Series.

The Mets’ scrappy, do-everything second baseman of the 1980s, Backman often fought for playing time in Flushing and rarely put up flashy numbers. His OPS+ of 97 suggests he was roughly a league-average hitter over nine seasons in New York, but he was one of the key pieces of the 1986 championship team, sparking the game-winning rally with a leadoff drag bunt in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the NL Championship Series, and adding a key RBI single in the 14th inning of Game 6.

In the World Series, Backman hit .333, and scored a game-tying run in the sixth inning of Game 7.

4. Jeff Kent, 1992-96
Key fact: Only 15 percent of Kent’s career WAR came as a Met.

Better known for his six Hall of Fame-caliber seasons in San Francisco, Kent hadn’t yet reached that stratosphere during his mid-20s in New York. Coming to the Mets as the key piece in the trade that sent David Cone to Toronto, Kent hit 67 home runs with a .780 OPS over five years in Flushing before the Mets dealt him to the Indians in an ill-fated deal for Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinosa. Four years later, Kent became the NL MVP Award winner in San Francisco. Still, his production in a Mets uniform can’t be ignored; only Alfonzo hit more home runs than Kent did as a Mets second baseman.

5. Félix Millán, 1973-77
Key fact: Was the first Met (and one of only two) to appear in 162 games in a season.

The slick-fielding Millán gave the best years of his career to the Braves, but he was still a consistent hitter and up-the-middle defensive presence over five seasons in New York. In three of those years, Millán hit above .280, batting second for the 1973 NL pennant winners. That summer, he made just nine errors in 153 games at second base. Like many of the players on this list, Millán would have ranked higher with more time in Flushing.

Honorable mentions

Had Ron Hunt spent more than four years with the Mets, he almost certainly would have cracked the Top 5. Instead the Mets traded him in 1966, even though he made two All-Star appearances before his 26th birthday. … A first-round Draft pick in 1985, Gregg Jefferies never quite developed into the superstar some envisioned. He was solid nonetheless, hitting .289 over more than 6,000 big league plate appearances. … Tim Teufel spent much of his Mets career in a platoon with Backman, and the rest fighting Jefferies for playing time. As a result, he never appeared in more than 97 games in a season, but when he did play, he tended to be productive. … Ken Boswell’s finest contributions to the Mets came in the postseason. He hit two home runs in the 1969 NLCS, then went 3-for-3 off the bench in the ’73 World Series.