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Beating Cooperstown to the Punch

It's been over a year since we elected anyone to the Mets Walk-Offs Hall of Fame, and we're going to make an addition today. The choice may be deemed slightly controversial, but it's our Hall of Fame and what would a Hall be without controversy.

For those unfamiliar, the following 30 people are members of the Mets Walk-Offs Hall of Fame. If you're wondering why any of them are in, do a search of their name within this blog and you should find your answers.

Benny Agbayani, Tommie Agee, Bill Buckner, Gary Carter, Lenny Dykstra, Wayne Garrett, Kenny Greer, Steve Henderson, Keith Hernandez, Gil Hodges, Ron Hodges, Cleon Jones, Ross Jones, Ray Knight, Hobie Landrith, J.C. Martin, Rodney McCray, Kevin McReynolds,Kevin Mitchell, Rey Ordonez, Mike Piazza, Todd Pratt, Tom Seaver, Rusty Staub, Darryl Strawberry,, Ron Swoboda, Marv Throneberry, Robin Ventura, Al Weis, Mookie Wilson

Our newest inductee is one who comes up on the Cooperstown ballot next year. He's unlikely to receive more than token support, and he's unlikely to be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame because his tenure with the team probably was too brief for serious consideration.

But the beauty of our Hall of Fame is that it is a 1-0 vote, and this year, I'm voting for John Olerud.

The controversy comes in that John Olerud had only two walk-off hits for the Mets, but I'm preferring brief quality over lengthy quantity in this instance.

Let's begin with a simple exercise, one that I believe blogger Joe Posnanski did similarly a few months ago.

The Mets have had 208 position players record at least 250 plate appearances. That takes into account basically every notable person to play for the Mets.

Of those 208, let's take their OPS (on-base percentage+ slugging percentage) and compare it to the league average, adjusting for the ballpark played in during those seasons.

When you do that, the position player who rates highest is Darryl Strawberry. David Wright and Mike Piazza are basically even for the third-best spot. Behind them are Moises Alou, which is kind of funny, and Keith Hernandez.

John Olerud rates second-best.

In fairness, that only takes into account hitting ability, and doesn't factor in speed (of which Olerud had none) or defensive skill (of which Olerud had plenty). And the latter was of very high value.

A wise man, familiar with Olerud's work once said to me: "A good defensive first baseman can make your whole infield."

John Olerud was a GREAT defensive first baseman. In fact, for three years, John Olerud did a lot of things that I would describe as great. What would I rate him as GREAT in?

* Defensive ability
(He was part of the best defensive infield ever, according to Sports Illustrated)

* Ability to hit
(as noted with the OPS+ stat)

* Batting eye
(In 3 seasons, he had 100 more walks than strikeouts, and holds the club single-season walk record)

* Clutch play
(He hit .300 and reached base 44 percent of the time or better with runners in scoring position in each of his 3 seasons with the team)

These qualities were evident throughout Olerud's career. Though he's not someone who most would consider Cooperstown caliber, Olerud's numbers are impressive. He ranks among the top 50 all-time statistically in doubles, walks, and sacrifice flies. He also won three Gold Glove awards after he left the Mets.

Olerud had the two walk-off hits with the Mets- a game-winning homer against the Rockies and a two-run single in a memorable rally from four down in the ninth against Curt Schilling. He also had a pair of "walk-up" RBI (game-winning RBI in the bottom of the eighth inning), most notably a two-run single to beat John Rocker and the Braves in Game 4 of the 1999 NLCS..

Let's not forget that in 10 postseason games with the Mets, Olerud had 12 RBI, including a home run against Randy Johnson in the 1999 NLDS opener.

But more than that, with the quality of his play. The Mets had 29 walk-off wins in Olerud's three seasons with the team, and I'm taking an educated guess that he played an important role in almost every one.

I watched the Jason Bay press conference the other day, and though I'm not a huge fan of the move, my acceptance increased, as I listened to Bay speak. Though his skill sets don't remind me of Olerud, his approach and demeanor did. That's a good thing. In fact, it's a great thing. Hopefully in 10 years or so, we'll be welcoming Bay to the Mets Walk-Off Hall of Fame as we're welcoming Olerud with his induction today.


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