"Pretty good, pretty good," he said afterwards.
In 2009, I did a project for my website, Mets Walk-Offs and Other Minutiae, celebrating the best home runs in Mets history. I selected the top 60 regular season home runs and the top 15 postseason home runs. The reason I picked 60 was because it represented the top 1% of home runs in Mets history (and 15 just felt right for postseason).
This was fun to do, but it was imperfect. I had one egregious omission. I tended to favor oddities.
It’s time to give that project an update. And why not do it as a top 100?
The Mets have hit 7,671 regular season home runs. The top 80 represent about the top 1%. And the top 20 postseason home runs get us to an even 100 to celebrate.
Come along for the ride. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the reminiscing. Hopefully you’ll find it Amazin’.8. Edgardo Alfonzo Sends The Mets On Their Way (October 4, 1999 vs Reds)
It took six pitches for the Mets to win Game 163 in 1999.
This was the one-game playoff against the Reds for the NL’s Wild Card spot. The Mets had blown a sizable advantage late in the season for the second straight year, but rallied from two games back with three to play to catch the Reds on the final Saturday and stayed even with them after an excruciating final game against the Pirates and a long Reds rain-delayed win over the Brewers.
The Mets overcame the Reds home-field advantage by taking the crowd out of the game immediately. They punched their ticket to their first postseason spot in the first 11 years with some punch. After Rickey Henderson’s single started things against Steve Parris, Edgardo Alfonzo did what he typically did that season*. He came through when it was needed most.
I put the asterisk there to point out that Alfonzo didn’t hit much down the stretch, though he made up for a .219 batting average and 3 RBI in his last 17 games with 14 walks.
But those numbers belie that when the moment was important, Alfonzo was an important player. He hit .339 in high-leverage situations that year (high-leverage being the moments most important to determining a win or loss).
On this occasion he hit and hit much, crushing a 1-1 pitch over the center field fence for a go-ahead two-run home run. The Mets would never look back.
"Just a big lift for us," Mike Piazza said to reporters afterwards.
Said Rickey Henderson "Alfonzo has been doing a tremendous job for us the whole year. You can't ask any more. We knew he was up for the game. The biggest thing I need to do is get on base for him."
Alfonzo drove in the first runs and the last run, plating three in a 5-0 victory. To top it off, he caught the final out of the game - a line drive to second base.
Ask former Reds third baseman Aaron Boone about his favorite moment and he’ll give an addendum to his famous home run against the Red Sox in 2003. Boone says that when he remembers charging out of the dugout to third base at the game’s start elicited such a loud roar from the crowd that it still gives him goosebumps.
Alfonzo’s home run negated any home-field advantage the Reds might have had that day. There were nine innings to play, but that game was over right then.
I should note here too that while Neil Allen is my favorite Met of all-time (quick version of why: he was nice to me when I was little), Edgardo Alfonzo is my all-time favorite Mets position player.
This dates back to a conversation I was having with a colleague at the Trenton Times in the late 1990s when a colleague and I were discussing whether Alfonzo was better than Jeff Kent.
I remember thinking that this was an absurd discussion – how could anyone think Kent was better? Alfonzo was a terrific hitter with a great eye who could hit for both average and power, and as I noted, always seemed to come through. He was also a Gold Glove-caliber defender at two positions (second base and third base). It struck me as necessary to stand up for an important cause - in this case, the excellence of Edgardo Alfonzo and I preached it often the next few years.
Twenty-odd years later, the baseball math (WAR) doesn’t totally bear my arguments out, but I’d still take Alfonzo over Kent at their bests any day of the week. And I still love the quote from former MLB coach Rich Donnelly on the back of Alfonzo’s baseball card “He honors the game the way he plays.”
What’s particularly cool about this moment is that this was the first of consecutive Mets games in which an Alfonzo home run was the defining moment. We’ll have more to say about the other one a little bit later in this series.
My favorite stat: The Mets all-time leaders in career batting average in high-leverage situations are Keith Hernandez (.324) and Edgardo Alfonzo (.321).