Mets' Top 5 shortstops: DiComo's take

April 21st, 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 five shortstops in Mets history. Next week: Left fielders.

1. José Reyes, 2003-11, 2016-18
Key fact: His 408 stolen bases and 113 triples with the Mets are most in franchise history

Before Reyes came along, the Mets had just one shortstop compile at least 5.0 career WAR in their more than four-decade history. Reyes busted the top off what was historically the weakest position in franchise lore, making four National League All-Star teams, winning the NL batting title in 2011 and a Silver Slugger Award in '06 and setting franchise records for triples and stolen bases by wide margins.

Had Reyes not left New York for four years toward the back end of his prime (he finished his career with three more seasons in Flushing, returning after serving a 51-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s joint domestic violence policy), he likely would have challenged David Wright for several other franchise records. As it is, Reyes ranks 10th in Mets history with 27.7 career WAR -- more than nine full wins above any other shortstop, and more than the third- through ninth-ranked Mets shortstops combined. The most prolific Met to play the position? It’s Reyes, and it’s not close.

Asked on his final day as a Met what he wanted to be remembered for, Reyes responded: “The player who gave everything he had to this team and this organization.”

“I’m a big José Reyes fan,” Wright once said of his longtime teammate. “He makes everybody around him better, including me.”

2. Bud Harrelson, 1965-77
Key fact: Ranks fourth in Mets history with 1,422 games played for the franchise

A steady contributor during the early days of the franchise, Harrelson was the starting shortstop on both the 1969 and ’73 NL pennant winners. Never a statistical standout, Harrelson nonetheless made two All-Star teams, batting .234 with seven home runs and 115 stolen bases -- eighth most in Mets history -- over 13 seasons with the club. He had a penchant for key knocks, coming through with a walk-off single to spark the Mets’ 11-game winning streak from May to June of 1969, then hitting a go-ahead three-run triple in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series that season.

Of course, Harrelson may be best known for his brawl with Pete Rose during NLCS Game 3.

Fisticuffs aside, Harrelson added significant value on defense, winning a Gold Glove in 1971 and posting positive defensive WAR totals in 11 of his 13 Mets seasons. That last bit -- 13 seasons -- is important. Only Ed Kranepool, Wright and John Franco spent more years in Flushing, prompting Mets play-by-play man Gary Cohen to note that Harrelson is “about as identified with the Mets franchise as anybody who’s ever worn the uniform.”

3. Rey Ordóñez, 1996-2002
Key fact: Ordóñez, Keith Hernandez and Carlos Beltrán are the Mets’ only three-time Gold Glove winners

Although Ordóñez ranks just 15th in career WAR among Mets shortstops, he was the best defensive middle infielder the franchise has seen. Ordóñez won three consecutive Gold Gloves at shortstop from 1997-99 during an era in which offensive prowess often (and unfortunately) leaked into the Gold Glove conversation. It didn’t matter for Ordóñez, who was sharp enough defensively to overcome his .594 OPS over seven seasons. When the glove is that good, the rest matters less.

4. Amed Rosario, 2017-Present
Key fact: Hit .319/.351/.453 in the second half last season

Consider this a potential-based selection. While the 24-year-old’s career counting stats don’t quite stack up to some of the players below him, he’s been better than all of them on a pro rata basis, particularly given his second-half breakout in 2019. Reyes and Rosario are the only shortstops in Mets history to hit at least .280 in a season with double-digit homers and steals. (Reyes accomplished that feat four times, while Rosario did it for the first time last summer.)

Plus, the Mets don’t exactly have any other candidates screaming to be ranked above Rosario here. He gets the nod; within a year, this pick should be unassailable.

5. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2016-18
Key fact: Hit a franchise record 22 home runs as a shortstop in 2016

Technically, Cabrera played shortstop in less than half his career games in New York, but he still spent more time there than at any other position. Cabrera’s most significant contributions also came when he was the Mets’ starting shortstop in 2016. He hit a memorable late-September home run that year to keep the Mets in prime playoff position, then became the only Met to reach base multiple times against Madison Bumgarner in the NL Wild Card Game. Cabrera did himself no favors the following season when he indicated that he wanted the Mets to trade him, but he remained productive until the Mets eventually did in 2018.

Honorable mentions

Although he might be better known for what he did against the Mets in the 2000 World Series than what he did four them in the mid-1990s, José Vizcaíno batted .282 with seven homers and a .688 OPS over three seasons in Flushing. … Rafael Santana manned short for the 1986 World Series champions, but his four years with the Mets were otherwise unremarkable. … A nod to Kevin Elster is in order, given his seven-year tenure and role on the 1986 team. But Elster’s .224/.288/.343 slash line in New York prevents him from being a sentimental pick. … The shortstop on the 2015 team was Ruben Tejada, at least until Chase Utley broke his leg in National League Division Series Game 5. A Met for seven seasons (including a cameo last year), Tejada was a competent defender who never quite made good on his offensive potential.