When you think of the Mets you think of the outstanding pitchers the team has had throughout the years. Undoubtedly the first players you think of are Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden. But after those two, it is amazing how many of the hurlers that jump to mind are southpaws. Below is a list of the 10 winningnest lefties in team history. But before we get to them, let’s consider those who didn’t make the list.
George Stone, the unsung hero of the 1973 team. Mike Hampton, the player who pushed the 2000 team to the World Series. Frank Viola, the guy who the Mets traded five minor league guys to get and who won 20 games in 1990. And Johan Santana, the one-time ace who we hope can bounce back and be the staff’s ace here in 2012. Santana ranks 11th on this list and here are the 10 LHP who currently have more wins for the Mets:
10. Al Jackson – 43 Wins
An original Mets, Jackson served two stints with the club. From 1962-1965, Jackson posted 40 of his 43 wins for New York, although in two of those seasons he finished with 20 losses, too. Following the 1965 season, Jackson was shipped to St. Louis along with Charlie Smith for 1964 MVP winner Ken Boyer. Two years later he was the PTBNL in another deal between the Mets and Cardinals. After a sub-par year in 1968, Jackson was even worse the following year and was dealt mid-season to the Reds and did not get to participate in the club’s first World Series.
T 8. Tug McGraw – 47 Wins
It’s impossible to do McGraw justice in one brief paragraph. Everyone knows him for leading the way to the 1973 World Series and the phrase he coined along the way – “Ya Gotta Believe!” But McGraw was not very good for most of the ’73 season and he actually did his best pitching for the club in ’71 and ’72, when he combined to go 19-10 with a 1.70 ERA with 201 Ks in 217 IP. An injury-plagued ’74 season led the Mets to believe McGraw was near the end of the line so they shipped him to Philadelphia in a six-player deal that netted New York John Stearns and Del Unser. McGraw had surgery and rebounded to pitch 10 more seasons with the Phillies and be one of the heroes of the 1980 World Series team.
T 8. Jesse Orosco – 47 Wins
The all-time leader in games pitched with 1,252, Orosco was drafted by the Twins in the January portion of the 1978 and a year later was named as the PTBNL in the Jerry Koosman deal. He made the Opening Day roster for the Mets in 1979 but didn’t really establish himself until 1983, when he went 13-7 with 17 Saves and finished third in the Cy Young Award balloting. A year later he tallied 31 saves and two seasons after that he closed out both the NLCS and World Series. Orosco won three games in the epic NLCS, but did not earn MVP honors, instead losing out to former Met Mike Scott. After going 3-9 with a 4.44 ERA in 1987, Orosco was dealt to the Dodgers. He played parts of eight seasons with the Mets but his career was just beginning. Orosco pitched until he was 46 years old, finally hanging up his cleats after the 2003 season.
7. John Franco – 48 Wins
Five times in his career with the Mets, Franco topped the 30-save plateau, twice leading the National League in saves. Franco joined the Mets at the tail end of the Davey Johnson era and struggled through the down years of the early 1990s. But he stuck around long enough to participated in the club’s back-to-back playoff seasons of 1999 and 2000. Unfortunately, he continued to hang around for four years after that, too. By the end of his career, Franco was almost as well known for his sway with management as he was for his pitching. But even that couldn’t prevent the inevitable after he posted a 2-7 season with a 5.28 ERA at age 43. Franco finished his career third on the all-time Saves list with 424 and now stands in fourth place.
6. Bobby Ojeda – 51 Wins
At the end of 1985, the Mets and Red Sox executed an eight-player deal that would have huge ramifications in the World Series the following year. The Mets got Ojeda and sent Calvin Schiraldi to Boston. Ojeda went on to win 18 games in 1986 and after the Mets lost the first two games of the World Series, he came on to right the ship with a 7 IP, 1 ER performance in Game 3. Ojeda was just 28 years old but instead of a jumping off point, 1986 became the peak of his career. Elbow surgery cost him four months of the 1987 season and he was never the same. More bad luck hit in 1988, when he suffered a gardening injury that cut off the tip of his middle finger. Ojeda pitched just two more years with the Mets. But he continued his career in the majors and bad luck continued to follow him. In Spring Training in 1993, Ojeda was out on a boat with new Indians teammates Steve Olin and Tim Crews and the three ended up in a horrific accident, with Ojeda suffering major head injuries and Crews and Olin losing their lves. Ojeda came back to pitch nine games that season with Cleveland and two more the following year with the Yankees. Ojeda now serves as a studio analyst for SNY.
5. Tom Glavine – 61 Wins
When he made his first pitch for the Mets in 2003, Glavine was 37. Considering that, his Mets career was very successful but all anyone will remember him for is his final start for the club in 2007. With the playoffs in the balance, the veteran Glavine was on the mound for the final game of the season in a must-win situation. It was hard to imagine a guy who you would want out there more, because in addition to his experience, he was 8-2 in his last 10 decisions. But Glavine surrendered 7 ER in 0.1 IP and clinched the team’s collapse.
4. Jon Matlack – 82 Wins
The fourth overall pick of the 1967 Draft, Matlack won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1972, when he went 15-10 with a 2.2 ERA. The following year he won 14 games and pitched a two-hit shutout in the NLCS. He won 75 games in the majors before age 27 and it seemed the sky was the limit. But Matlack went just 7-15 in 1977 and was shipped out of town in a four-team trade. Matlack had a big year for the Rangers in 1978, winning 15 games, but injuries kept him from reaching those heights again and his career ended in 1983. In the 2011 offseason, Matlack joined the Houston Astros as their Minor League pitching coordinator.
3. Al Leiter – 95 Wins
In his first three seasons with the Mets, Leiter went 46-26 and was one of the stars of the 2000 World Series team. Chances are that no Met from now on will top the 142 pitches that Leiter threw in Game 5 of the Subway Series. Leiter continued to be a big contributor the rest of his Mets career, as he won 49 games the next four years. But along with Franco, Leiter became known for his influence with management, specifically Jeff Wilpon. The veterans were among those who pushed for the Scott Kazmir trade and their careers ended not with cheers, but the general feeling of don’t let the door hit you on your way out.
2. Sid Fernandez – 98 Wins
He didn’t look like a baseball player, he didn’t throw particularly hard but a deceptive delivery made his fastball tough for opposing batters to pick up and he enjoyed a 15-year MLB career. Despite all of his wins for the Mets, my everlasting memory of Fernandez will be Game 5 of the 1988 NLCS. After the Mets’ crushing loss in Game 4 tied the series at 2-2, they needed a strong performance out of Fernandez to get back on track. Instead, he seemed completely out of gas and allowed 6 ER in 4 IP in the first playoff game I ever saw in person. Not that I’m bitter or anything.
1. Jerry Koosman – 140 Wins
It’s hard to feel too sorry for a guy who pitched 19 years in the majors, won 222 games and was a perfect 3-0 in World Series games. But an injury early in Koosman’s career altered what might have been a Hall of Fame career. Koosman won 19 games his rookie season and from 1968-1970 he was 48-28 with a 2.46 ERA. But in 1971, he tore a muscle in his upper back during a start in San Francisco. From 1971-1973, his age 28-30 seasons, Koosman was 31-38. The next three-year period, he was 50-34, including a 21-win season in 1976. A healthy Koosman could have finished with 250 or more lifetime wins and been grouped with guys like Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal instead of Mickey Lolich and Jim Perry.
Do you think Jonathon Niese will eventually be on this list of LHP with the most wins in franchise history? Niese currently has 22 Wins and is in 17th place, three wins behind the immortal Dennis Cook.