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Bracketology: The Best Players in New York Mets History

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COMMENTARY | For the New York Mets, a franchise that's had its share of great players, selecting the best of the best is quite the task. This bracket is the Mets' version of March Madness.

Before I unveil the bracket, let's review the criteria: To make this list, I not only considered the player's statistics while playing for the Mets, but also what their value to the franchise was. You'll notice, for example, that only two players on the list did not win a World Series with the Mets.

You'll also notice that there were guys who played here longer and who may have even had better stats. However, that doesn't guarantee that they were selected to this exclusive list of great Mets players.

First, the bracket only contains eight players, so if you're left out, don't feel too bad. Second, I only considered the years the player had with the Mets. Only one player on the list -- one of the guys who hasn't won a World Series -- has played, or did play, his whole career with the Mets.

With that said, here's how the players are seeded:

1. Tom Seaver

2. Dwight Gooden

3. Darryl Strawberry

4. Keith Hernandez

5. Mike Piazza

6. Jerry Koosman

7. David Wright

8. Gary Carter

The Elite 8

No. 1 Tom Seaver vs. No. 8 Gary Carter

No eighth seed has ever knocked off the top seed. As good as Gary Carter was, and as much as he meant to the franchise, Tom Seaver was the franchise. The ultimate upset will have to wait.

When the Mets were bad, Seaver was the face of the franchise. When they won the World Series in 1969, Seaver was again front and center. He was there when the Mets lost, and he's credited with turning them into winners.

With the Mets, Seaver won 198 games, three Cy Young Awards, and the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1967. To show how important he was to the franchise, he's the only Mets player to have his number retired. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992, and to this day, he remains the most popular Met of all-time.

Gary Carter was good. In fact, he was real good. And when the Mets brought him aboard prior to the 1985 season, he was seen as the final link to the team's championship puzzle. The Mets won the World Series in 1986 thanks in large part to Carter's production (24 home runs, 105 runs batted in) and leadership. He was also a big-game player. Carter had nine RBI's in the 1986 World Series and his two-out single in the 10th inning of Game 6 kept the Mets' season alive and started their historic rally.

The Result: Unfortunately for Carter, he drew the toughest first-round matchup. Seaver advances.

No. 2 Dwight Gooden vs. No. 7 David Wright

If David Wright is unhappy with his low seeding, he has a case. The franchise leader in many offensive categories, Wright could go down as the greatest player to ever wear a Mets uniform.

But right now, he still has a lot to prove. Sure, Wright has played on some bad teams, and it's not his fault that he hasn't yet won a championship, but I need to see how his career plays out before I can rank him any higher.

Our most recent memory of Wright is how he carried the United States at the World Baseball Classic. When he got hurt, the U.S. was done. So we know that he can hit in the big spot. He just hasn't had many opportunities playing for the Mets.

We also remember that in 2006, he hit .160 in the NL Championship Series. If he wants a higher ranking, he'll have to hit better if and when the Mets return to the playoffs.

What can't be debated is that Wright is currently the best player on the Mets. But when it comes to electrifying the crowd, nobody was better than Dwight Gooden. In 1985, he was as dominant as it gets, putting together one of the best seasons any pitcher has ever had. Gooden won 24 games that year, losing just four and pitching to a 1.53 ERA. His 268 strikeouts were actually eight less than his strikeout total from his rookie season in 1984 when he went 17-9. For the first five years of his career, he was as good a pitcher as there was in baseball. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1984, and went 157-85 in 11 years with the Mets.

The Result: When he was at his best, nobody could hit Doctor K. That includes David Wright. Gooden advances.

No. 3 Darryl Strawberry vs. No. 6 Jerry Koosman

When Darryl Strawberry came to the plate, you stopped what you were doing and made sure to watch. He was as good a power hitter from the left side as Mike Piazza was from the right side. He came up through the Mets' system, won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1983, and was the biggest bat in a potent Mets lineup that won the World Series in Strawberry's fourth season.

For eight years, from 1983 through 1990, there was no better power hitter in baseball. Strawberry hit 252 home runs and drove in 733 runs for the Mets. He was a great talent who the Mets could never seem to replace after he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I never saw Jerry Koosman play, but it's obvious the guy could pitch. Pitching in the shadow of Seaver, the team's ace, Koosman spent his first 12 years with the Mets, winning 140 games and pitching to a 3.09 ERA. He went 2-0 for the Mets in the 1969 World Series, including a complete-game victory in Game 5. Overall, he was 4-0 in the postseason with the Mets.

The Result: The nod goes to Strawberry, who was one of the most feared hitters in the game during his time with the Mets.

No. 4 Keith Hernandez vs. No. 5 Mike Piazza

The four-five matchup is always the most difficult to pick.

Here we have Hernandez, who meant as much, if not more, to the franchise than anyone in the club's history. The Mets got him from the St. Louis Cardinals in 1983. Like Carter would be a couple years later, he was a big piece to the puzzle.

Hernandez, arguably the best defensive first baseman ever, is also known for his leadership. He's one of only four players to captain the Mets, and in 1986, he led them all the way to the World Series title. He had a .297 average in his seven years with the Mets and won six of his 11 Gold Glove Awards playing for them.

While Hernandez could argue about being ranked as low as four, Piazza has a strong case as to why he should be ranked higher as well.

Here's what you need to know about the greatest hitting catcher of all-time: At a time when the Yankees ruled New York, Piazza made the Mets relevant. And he did it from day one. When Piazza was acquired in a late May trade in 1998, the Mets had little going for them. Most importantly, there was no buzz at the ballpark. Piazza changed that. With his star power and big bat, people started paying attention to the Mets again. He hit 220 home runs for the Mets and led them to the playoffs in 1999 and the World Series in 2000. His home run on the first night baseball returned following the terrorist attacks in 2001 helped rebuild New York City.

The Result: While it's impossible to dim Piazza's star, Hernandez won a title. And his defense puts him ahead of one of the greatest hitters ever. Hernandez advances.

The Final Four

No. 1 Tom Seaver vs. No. 4 Keith Hernandez

Hernandez was never the best player on the Mets. Seaver was. Both have the World Series titles and the personal accomplishments (Cy Young Awards, Gold Gloves, etc.) From a numbers standpoint, Seaver was awesome. We're talking about a dominant pitcher. With Hernandez, we're talking about a player who the Mets thought enough of to make him the first captain in franchise history. When it comes to a player's value to his franchise, that counts for a lot.

But Seaver was here longer -- 12 years vs. seven years -- and in terms of fan sentiment, you won't find a Met who has been more popular over the years. In a close one, Seaver advances.

No. 2 Dwight Gooden vs. No. 3 Darryl Strawberry

Strawberry won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1983. Gooden won it in 1984. Both came up as teenagers and were dominant players -- Gooden on the mound, Strawberry at the plate. Both electrified the Shea Stadium crowd. Both helped the Mets win the World Series. Both endured struggles off the field.

These two players -- one a pitcher the other an outfielder -- were so similar in so many ways. Growing up, my two favorite Mets were Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. For me, both were every bit the hero.

While both were great, Gooden's season in 1985 was one of the best I've ever seen. He was unhittable. His numbers were out of this world. In as close a contest as you'll ever get, Gooden advances.

The Finals

No. 1 Tom Seaver vs. No. 2 Dwight Gooden

Ace vs. Ace. Rookie of the Year vs. Rookie of the Year. Cy Young Award winner vs. Cy Young Award winner. Great vs. Great.

Here's the bottom line: Seaver did it longer than Gooden did. While Doctor K was derailed by off-the-field issues, Seaver remained a consistent and reliable presence on the mound.

Some of this has to do with the fact that Seaver led the Mets from bad to good, before the Mets had ever experienced real, sustained success. It also has to do with the fact that Seaver's 1969 season (25 wins) was one of the best ever. Seaver won 20 games four times with the Mets. Gooden did it once. He pitched the Mets to two World Series. Gooden went to one.

There's no bigger Dwight Gooden fan than me. He's my favorite Met of all-time. But Tom Seaver was the best Met ever.

Seaver wins it all.

Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

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