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Although I’m excited for the first time Billy Wagner jogs in from the bullpen to shut the door after 8 brilliant innings from Pedro, the off-season acquisition I am most looking forward to is Carlos Delgado. He has the potential to be the best position player to ever play for the Mets, even though that crown most likely will stay with Mike Piazza for many years. Delgado is only 34, coming off a great season, and despite missing 34 games two years ago, has never been a health risk. If all goes according to plan, there is no reason to believe Delgado can’t set several Met single-season records, especially for a first baseman.
But before Delgado lights up Shea, I want to reminisce about the best first baseman the Mets have ever had….who also happens to be my favorite player ever. And no, I am not talking about Keith Hernandez. Who then? Well, the man, the myth, the legend…John Olerud.
Yes, defensively, Hernandez certainly was superior. And since he played for the Mets for several more years, Hernandez also probably meant more for the franchise. However, Hernandez never had as solid of a three year stretch that Johnny-5 enjoyed in orange and blue.
Olerud holds (or is tied for) the Mets single season record for batting average, on-base percentage, games played, bases on balls, runs created, times on base and hit by pitches. He is also in the top 10 for most of the other offensive categories. While never a real homerun hitter, Olerud still ranks third on the Mets career slugging percentage leaderboard, thanks to a healthy dose of doubles each season. His career on-base percentage with the Mets is a sparkling .425, the only player in franchise history to end his Met career in the 400s.
Olerud retired following the 2005 season, despite a fairly productive 173 ABs with the Red Sox. I miss him already. No one was classier, on the field and off. Respected by teammates, fans and the media, the game will certainly miss him. So before we welcome our new first baseman to Shea, let’s take a moment and give Olerud his due. His B-Ref page sponsor sums it up best:
Johnny O exemplifies all the ideals of a baseball player. He is a classy, graceful, intelligent, modest, kind-hearted guy with the sweetest lefty swing ever.
Mon 03/13/06, 11:04 pm EST