The Mets have always been known more for their pitching rather than their hitting. And nowhere has this lack of hitting been more pronounced throughout the years than with their middle infield combo. Fans have seen guys at these positions who struggled to hit their weight. We’ve watched guys like Roy McMillan, Bud Harrelson, Rafael Santana and Rey Ordonez hold down shortstop for multiple seasons. And Doug Flynn doing the same at second base. While the Mets didn’t have the multiple guys turning multiple putrid years as the full-time second baseman, they had the guys they acquired to man the position turn into mediocrity once they got them. Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga and the $100 million man from Seattle jump immediately to mind.
Just how bad has it been? If we take the players listed as starters at 2B and SS each year on Baseball-Reference and add together their OPS+ marks, we only get eight times in 58 years where the middle infield duo cracked a combined 200. And this counts years where the “starter” didn’t play anywhere near a full season at the position, leaving open the possibility of someone putting up good numbers in a short sample to qualify.
Let’s look at the all-time top five middle infield combos for the Mets:
5. 2018 Asdrubal Cabrera & Amed Rosario (214)
Cabrera, who was always known more for his bat than his glove, only played 98 games for the Mets before he was traded but in that time he put up a 126 OPS+. Meanwhile Rosario, in his first full season at the position played in 154 games but only delivered an 88 OPS+. This was one of the rare years where the Mets got great production from second base. After Cabrera left, Jeff McNeil took over the position and in 248 PA, he posted a 138 OPS+.
4. 2000 Edgardo Alfonzo & Mike Bordick (223)
If you thought Cabrera was doing the heavy lifting in 2018, you might want to avert your eyes on this season. At age 26, Alfonzo looked like a guy who would be a multi-year All-Star and if he aged gracefully, perhaps one who would end up with a Hall of Fame resume. He put up a 147 OPS+, finishing just eight points behind Mike Piazza for the team lead. Bordick, acquired in a deadline-deal trade from the Orioles, was about half as productive as the shortstop half of the tandem, as he managed just a 76 OPS+.
3. 2006 Jose Valentin & Jose Reyes (224)
Before doing the research, my expectation was that this would be the top duo in club history. Valentin, one of four guys to play second base for the Mets this season, made 87 starts and logged 432 PA. He had a very good year but perhaps not as good as my memory suggested, as he put up a 109 OPS+. Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Reyes recorded 703 PA and posted a 115 OPS+.
T1. 2011 Justin Turner & Jose Reyes (238)
This was Turner’s first shot at extended playing time and he responded with a solid season, as he put up a 94 OPS+ in 487 PA while seeing time at 2B, 3B and even a game at SS. In the days before he became acquainted with Marlon Byrd, Turner hit just 4 HR this season. And 2011 was when Reyes had the magical half-season before being slowed by injuries. He won the batting title with a .337 AVG and that propelled him to a 144 OPS+, easily the best mark of his career. Reyes took his talents to South Beach following the 2011 season and was never the same guy again.
T1. 2016 Neil Walker & Asdrubal Cabrera (238)
The Mets traded for Walker to be the replacement for Daniel Murphy, who had a terrific finish to his 2015 season and who’d be even better in 2016-2017 in another uniform. Walker put up a fine season in his own right, with a 121 OPS+ in 458 PA. This was Cabrera’s first season in Queens, too, as he was signed as a free agent to add some stability to the position following Ruben Tejada’s gruesome injury in the playoffs the previous season. Cabrera put up a year almost as good as Walker’s, as he notched a 117 OPS+ in 568 PA.
The other three seasons where the Mets’ middle infield combo topped 200 in this quick and dirty look also happened this century. So, the silver lining in this is that younger fans who missed out on Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden at least saw some guys who weren’t helpless in the middle infield. When the graybeards tell them how Flynn and Frank Taveras were the starting duo for three straight years and never broke a combined 150, they’ll never believed that happened. For what it’s worth, the year before that was Flynn and Tim Foli and they combined for a 132 mark.