Archive: February 10th, 2011

5 DUPACR: John Olerud

With 5 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report, we honor the day with former #5 John Olerud.

Why not David Wright? Because this series is about remembering Mets from the past. I hope the day we remember D-Wright as a “former” Met, it is a day in the far, far future.

But back to Mr. Olerud, who was chosen despite playing only three years in Flushing — though it seemed somewhat longer, and at the same time, wasn’t long enough. Going back in the memory banks, it feels like Olerud was on that last Mets team to make a World Series appearance (vs. the Yankees in 2000), but in fact he had already left for Seattle by then. He was, however, part of “The Best Infield Ever“, and a key performer on what was arguably the best Mets team since 1988 — the 1999 Wild Card club that went 97-66 but lost the NLCS to the Braves. Though, the best year of his career was the season before, when he hit .354 (incredibly, good enough only for 2nd place for the batting crown) with a .447 OBP, .551 SLG, .998 OPS, 22 HR, and 102 RBI.

During his time in the orange and blue, Olerud was my favorite Met (with Robin Ventura a close second) because of the way he approached the game, carried himself on the field, remained cool and steady in all situations, and for his incredible clutchness. That’s the way I remember him: as “Mr. Clutch”, seeming to always get the huge hit exactly when the Mets needed it. Since memories aren’t always reliable, I went back to check the numbers, and it turns out that the stats support my memory. In ’98, of course, he hit no matter what the situation, so we’ll throw those numbers away. But looking at ’99, the stats agree with the sentiment: he hit .356 with a .500 OBP and 1.076 OPS with 2 outs and runners in scoring position (he hit .298/.890 overall that year). Similarly, in “high leverage” situations, he hit .315 / .941. If that’s not “turning it up a notch”, I don’t know what is.

Looking back, it’s incredible to believe that the Blue Jays gave up on Olerud so quickly, and dumped him for journeyman pitcher Robert Person. But at the time, they felt Olerud was overpaid, underperforming, and “not aggressive enough”. For once, the Mets came out as the beneficiary in a lopsided trade executed due to poor judgment. I’m not sure it made up for the Nolan Ryan – Jim Fregosi deal, or the Amos Otis for Joe Foy flop, but it certainly paid off well.

Other number fives of note include original Met Hobie Landrith, Ed Charles, Joe Foy, Jim Beauchamp, Mike Phillips (who, remarkably, hit for the cycle as a Met), Steve “Hendu” / “Stevie Wonder” Henderson, Mike Howard, Charlie O’Brien, Jeff McKnight, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Jeromy Burnitz (first time around), and Mark Johnson, among others.

What #5 do you remember best and why? Share your memories in the comments.

The countdown thus far:

#5 John Olerud
#6 Wally Backman
#7 Hubie Brooks
#8 Gary Carter
#9 Gregg Jefferies
#10 Rusty Staub
#11 Lenny Randle
#12 John Stearns
#13 Edgardo Alfonzo
#14 Gil Hodges
#15 Jerry Grote
#16 Dwight Gooden
#17 Felix Millan
#18 Darryl Strawberry
#19 Anthony Young
#20 Howard Johnson
#21 Gary Rajsich
#22 Ray Knight
#23 Doug Flynn
#24 Kelvin Torve
#25 Willie Montanez (no link … sadly, didn’t have time to write a post)
#26 Dave Kingman
#27 Pete Harnisch
#28 John Milner
#29 Alex Trevino
#30 Jackson Todd