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New York Mets: Greatest defensive teams in franchise history

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Third baseman David Wright #5 of the New York Mets throws to first base during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on September 25, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Mets won 5-2. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Third baseman David Wright #5 of the New York Mets throws to first base during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on September 25, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Mets won 5-2. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 29: The 1969 New York Mets are honored during the 50th Anniversary of the Mets winning the World Series before the game between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets at Citi Field on June 29, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)

Number 2: 1969

It is probably no coincidence that the 1969 World Championship Mets had several defensive stars on their squad, so I will focus on three in particular: Jerry Grote, Bud Harrelson, and Tommie Agee.

Though the Mets have been blessed with the offensive talents of catchers Gary Carter and Mike Piazza, Mets fans nearly unanimously agree that Jerry Grote is the best defensive catcher in the team’s history. He played for the Mets from 1966-1977, and during that time threw out 39.25% of opposing base stealers. His best year in this department was 1969, where he threw out a whopping 56% of stolen base attempts. For reference, last year J.T. Realmuto, clearly one of the best defensive catchers in today’s game, led the NL by throwing out 47% of attempted base stealers.

Grote also turned 11 double plays at catcher in 1969, good enough for 3rd in the NL.

Unfortunately for him, Grote played at the same time and in the same league as Johnny Bench, who won 10 straight NL Gold Gloves for the Cincinnati Reds from 1968-1977. However, Bench has consistently praised Grote’s defense over the years, at one point saying, “If Jerry Grote were on my team, I’d be playing third base.” With all of that said, 1969 was clearly one of many fantastic years for Grote behind the plate.

Not to be outdone, Bud Harrelson enjoyed an excellent year playing shortstop for the Mets in 1969. He finished top-five among NL shortstops in fielding percentage that year, which continued for the next three years.

Harrelson also had a nearly flawless fielding percentage in the playoffs that year, helping send the Mets to their first World Series title. Though his only Gold Glove award would not come until 1971, Harrelson’s stellar defense in 1969 helped strengthen the team overall.

Finally, Tommie Agee helped round out the Mets’ team defense in 1969. His defense was on full display in the World Series, where his two memorable catches in Game Three rank among the best catches ever in the Fall Classic.

However, he was rock-solid in center field all year for the Amazins, finishing second among NL center fielders in fielding percentage while consistently showing off his incredible ability to track down any ball hit to him. A story about the Mets’ team defense in 1969 would not be complete without him.

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