Mets' Top 5 third basemen: DiComo's take

April 14th, 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. Here is what fans have to say:

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

Previously: Second base | First base | Catcher

1) David Wright, 2004-18
Key fact: Mets’ all-time leader in hits, RBI, runs, doubles and position-player WAR

Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first. Injuries began interfering with ’s career in a significant way in 2011, becoming a major force in his career by ’15. What was once a Hall of Fame career arc fell short of that standard due to the simple fact that Wright could no longer take the field. He was never able to lead the Mets to the World Series championship he so badly craved.

And yet, what Wright accomplished over 14 seasons in New York was statistically more than any Mets position player before him. From 2006-08, he was one of the five best players in baseball, amassing 19.3 WAR over that stretch. His secondary peak lasted through 2013, the year the Mets named him captain, and, despite his career-threatening injuries, Wright played a significant role in the team’s 2015 run to the pennant. He made seven All-Star teams and won two Gold Glove Awards, in addition to his game-winning theatrics for Team USA during two World Baseball Classics.

Wright is the only Mets legend to spend his entire career with the franchise (though his close friend, Jacob deGrom, could eventually join him). Off the field, he created a foundation that has raised millions of dollars for children’s hospitals in New York and Virginia.

“He’s taught a whole generation of Mets how to act,” Mets assistant general manager John Ricco said.

Wright is not just the greatest Mets third baseman of all time, but the greatest Mets position player of all time. If not for Tom Seaver, Wright would be the undisputed greatest Met, period.

2) Howard Johnson, 1985-93
Key fact: His three 30-30 seasons are fourth-most in Major League history

The No. 2 spot on this list likely would have gone to Edgardo Alfonzo, but he qualified for second rather than third base, and thus is ineligible here.

All the more reason to celebrate , a part-time third baseman on the 1986 team who blossomed into a superstar the following season. Taking over from Ray Knight as the starter that year, Johnson compiled the first of three 30-30 seasons, hitting 36 home runs and stealing 32 bases. He repeated the trick two years later, before hitting career-high 38 homers en route to a third 30-30 season in 1991. When Johnson left the Mets after the 1993 season, his 192 homers ranked second in franchise history behind Darryl Strawberry. (Wright and Mike Piazza later surpassed that total.)

Johnson went on to become a Minor and Major League hitting coach with the Mets, serving as a personal mentor for Wright -- the next Met after him to post a 30-30 season.

3) Robin Ventura, 1999-2001
Key fact: Ranked fourth in the National League in WAR in 1999

Only a Met for three seasons, made those count -- particularly in 1999, when he hit .301 with 32 homers and a .908 OPS to finish sixth in NL MVP voting, before providing the signature moment of his Mets career: a grand-slam “single” to win Game 5 of the NL Championship Series over the Braves.

Ventura couldn’t quite repeat his success in 2000, settling for a .232 average with 24 homers, and by ’02 he was gone to the Bronx. Overall, Ventura did more for the White Sox than the Mets; this ranking is a nod to the fact that his single best season and most iconic moment both came in New York.

4) Wayne Garrett, 1969-76
Key fact: His 709 games at third base for the Mets rank third in franchise history

Garrett was coming off an uninspiring rookie season when he became a factor in the 1969 NLCS, hitting .385 with a home run, a stolen base and a 1.236 OPS in 15 plate appearances. He parlayed that into a much-improved sophomore campaign, becoming a staple at third base for the Mets through the 1976 season.

Also a second baseman and shortstop on occasion, Garrett hit 61 home runs in total for the Mets despite constantly battling for playing time throughout his career.

5) Hubie Brooks, 1980-91
Key fact: Was the third overall pick in the 1978 Draft

Popular in Flushing, Brooks burst into the borough with a .309 average in 24 games in 1980, then hit .307 the following year to finish third in NL Rookie of the Year voting. But Brooks grew inconsistent after that, becoming at least as well-known as one of four players the team dealt to the Expos for Gary Carter.

Seven years later, the Mets reacquired Brooks for a single season. Having missed New York’s 1986 playoff run, Brooks retired as the active Major League leader in games played without a postseason berth.

Honorable mentions
Ed Charles spent fewer than three seasons in Flushing, didn’t play in the 1969 NLCS and didn’t produce much in the World Series outside of scoring the winning run in Game 2. But he was well-respected as a veteran leader and elder statesman of that team. … Ray Knight also spent three years with the Mets, but he played an outsized role during the 1986 Series, scoring the winning run in Game 6 and earning MVP honors. … has played more games in the outfield and at second base than at third, but that should soon change. When it does, he’ll rapidly move up this list, having already accumulated more WAR with the Mets than Brooks, Charles, Knight and others.