Mets History: Cliff Floyd’s impact on the franchise in Flushing
Outfielder Cliff Floyd joined the New York Mets for the 2003 season. For four seasons, he was an impact player many fans adored.
For many New York Mets fans, their lasting image of Cliff Floyd is likely him catching Josh Willingham‘s fly ball out to left field on September 18, 2006, sealing the Mets’ first division title since 1988. However, his baseball career began years before that triumphant September day with a baseball team, much like the Mets, haunted by “what could have been”: the Montreal Expos of the mid-1990s.
Floyd was originally drafted by the Expos in 1991 with the 14th overall pick. He later made his major league debut with Montreal in 1993, appearing in only ten games with 31 plate appearances that year.
His true rookie season came in 1994, which proved to be a breakout year for Floyd and one of the defining seasons of his 17 year MLB career. That year, he hit .281 with a .332 OBP, smacking 19 doubles and driving in 41 runs in 366 plate appearances. These stats propelled him to a 5th place finish in that year’s NL Rookie of the Year voting.
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Unfortunately, Floyd’s impressive rookie year was far overshadowed by one of the darkest events in recent baseball history: the 1994 strike.
It was the culmination of years of disputes between players and owners and put a screeching halt to the Expos’ outstanding 1994 season. When the strike began, they were 74-40, surely on their way to a playoff berth and perhaps the first World Series title in franchise history. This, obviously, did not come to pass.
Floyd’s career, however, continued on a strong upward trend once play resumed in 1995. He played two more years in Montreal before he was traded to the Florida Marlins in 1997. Floyd enjoyed several of his most productive offensive years as a Marlin, highlighted by the 2001 campaign in which he hit .317 with 31 home runs, 103 RBI, 44 doubles, and a .390 OBP. With these statistics, it is hard to believe that he finished a distant 22nd in MVP voting that year.
In 2003, Floyd began his tenure in a Mets uniform. He was signed as a free agent and played four seasons in New York. From 2003-2006, Floyd hit .268 and averaged 20 home runs, 68 RBI, and 23 doubles across those four years.
Floyd was also known for his defense while playing for the Mets and had one of his best defensive seasons ever in 2005. That year, he led the NL with 15 outfield assists, was second among NL left fielders in fielding percentage at .993, and also led the NL in several statistics related to outfield range. The 2005 season also proved to be Floyd’s most productive offensive season since 2001, in which he hit .273 with 98 RBI and a career-high 34 home runs.
In the Mets’ postseason run in 2006, Floyd was limited to only 97 games, but his veteran presence and solid left field defense were major assets to the team. He did produce in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a three-game sweep for the Mets in which Floyd hit .444 and scored three runs. As Mets fans know all too well, the season came to an end the following series against the Cardinals, and with that, Floyd’s time with the orange and blue also came to a close.
Though Floyd’s later years in baseball were hampered by injuries, he was consistently recognized by his teammates for providing an “intangible” factor that contributed to close-knit clubhouses. One of the final stops in his MLB career was with Tampa Bay during the Rays’ 2008 World Series run.
That year, teammate Carlos Pena had this to say about Floyd’s role on the team: “I think his presence was more powerful than we can quantify. He has the quiet confidence that rubs off on people and soon everyone is believing.”
Floyd ultimately retired from baseball after the 2009 season, in which he appeared in 10 games for the San Diego Padres. Today, he is working as a baseball analyst, appearing on radio shows and MLB Network providing his takes on today’s game.
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Though Floyd hasn’t been on the field in years, he serves as a constant reminder to fans of the powerhouse 2006 team that, despite its shortcomings, is one of the most beloved Mets teams in recent years.