NEW YORK -- The Mets’ hope is that Francisco Lindor’s New York debut will be so dynamic, so vibrant, as to rank among the best the franchise has ever seen. But even with an All-Star caliber season, that will be a tough list for Lindor (or anyone) to crack.
From free agents to trade acquisitions to Rookies of the Year, the Mets have a long history of sensational debuts. Here’s a look at five of the best:
1. Dwight Gooden, 1984
Numbers to know: 17-9, 2.60 ERA, 218 IP, 276 K, 5.5 WAR
Simply put, no Met engineered the same electricity as Gooden during his 1984 introduction to New York. He won his first career start at age 19, threw his first shutout five weeks later and only improved as the season progressed, going 8-1 with a 1.07 ERA and 105 strikeouts over his final nine starts to win NL Rookie of the Year honors. Although voters snubbed Gooden for the Cy Young Award that went to Rick Sutcliffe, there wasn’t much to quibble about with his 2.60 ERA and Major League-leading 276 strikeouts. The craziest part? Gooden’s sophomore season was even better, ending with a unanimous NL Cy Young Award selection.
2. Gary Carter, 1985
Numbers to know: .281/.365/.488, 32 HR, 100 RBI, 6.9 WAR
Keith Hernandez was traded midseason, so neither his excellent 1983 second half nor his MVP-caliber ’84 campaign count for these purposes. (Same goes for Mike Piazza in 1998, despite his rather absurd 5.4 WAR in 109 games down the stretch.) The situation was different for Carter, whom the Mets acquired from the Expos to much fanfare at the ’84 Winter Meetings. Four months later, Carter began an ’85 campaign that ranked among the finest of his career, adding excellent defense and leadership to his All-Star offensive line. Carter may have had an even greater impact in helping keep the World Series champion Mets focused a year later, but his ’85 season was his best with the franchise.
3. Johan Santana, 2008
Numbers to know: 16-7, 2.53 ERA, 234.1 IP, 206 K, 7.1 WAR
The Mets’ trade for Santana shortly before 2008 Spring Training mirrored their deal for Lindor this winter. On both occasions, the Mets were coming off a disappointing year that saw them miss the playoffs. On both occasions, they revolved their offseason strategy around targeting one of the best players in baseball via trade. Unlike with Lindor, the Mets negotiated a Santana contract extension before completing their trade, giving them confidence that the longtime Twins left-hander could anchor their staff for years to come. While injuries prevented that vision from coming to pass, Santana was still dynamic throughout 2018, giving the Mets the ace they lacked during their ’07 collapse. That the team again fell short of the playoffs was hardly the fault of Santana, who completed a three-hit shutout on the season’s penultimate day -- with a torn knee meniscus that required offseason surgery, no less -- to keep his new team’s hopes alive.
4. Pete Alonso, 2019
Numbers to know: .260/.358/.583, 53 HR, 120 RBI, 5.2 WAR
Much anticipation surrounded Alonso’s rookie season due to the Mets’ decision to keep him in the Minors throughout a strong 2018 campaign. Months later, incoming general manager Brodie Van Wagenen vowed to carry Alonso on the Opening Day roster if the burly first baseman proved he deserved it; Alonso took that as a challenge, leaving no doubt with a scintillating spring. He subsequently collected his first career hit on Opening Day, submitted his first three-hit game the following afternoon and added his first home run in the season’s fourth game. Alonso’s pace never slowed. In June, he broke Darryl Strawberry’s Mets rookie home run record. In July, he won the Home Run Derby. In August, Alonso passed Todd Hundley for the most home runs in a single season by a Met, and in September, he hit his 53rd blast to top Aaron Judge for the most in a season by a rookie in MLB history.
5. Tom Seaver, 1967
Numbers to know: 16-13, 2.76 ERA, 251 IP, 170 K, 6.0 WAR
Seaver’s unorthodox route to the Mets -- the team won a lottery for the rights to sign him following an NCAA eligibility issue -- and strong Minor League debut gave him a reputation heading into his rookie season. But it was nothing compared to what Seaver would accomplish in New York. Successful from the jump, Seaver won his second career start and allowed no earned runs over 10 innings in his third. By May, Seaver was routinely pitching complete games, finishing with 18 of them (including two shutouts). He became the franchise’s first Rookie of the Year, preceding Jon Matlack, Strawberry, Gooden, Jacob deGrom and Alonso.