Who is the best New York Mets left fielder in franchise history?
Throughout New York Mets history, there are many fielding positions that have a clear all-time franchise great. For pitchers, it’s clearly “Tom Terrific” himself, the great Tom Seaver. For third basemen, “the Captain” David Wright has that title locked up. The first base prize belongs to Mr. “good fundies” himself, Keith Hernandez.
But what about left field? There’s no one guy who spent his entire career in Queens playing left field for the Amazins that comes to mind as the obvious, indisputable number one. The contenders for “best left fielders in Mets history” seem to come out of, well, left field.
With that said, spanning their entire history from 1962 through the present day, the Mets have had several fantastic players manning the left side of the outfield for years at a time. Here are my picks for the top five left fielders in Mets history, beginning with number five. An honorable mention goes to Bernard Gilkey, who had an outstanding season for the Mets in 1996 as their everyday left fielder but never quite regained that offensive prowess for the rest of his career.
5) Dave Kingman
Dave Kingman had two separate stints with the Mets, navigating the Shea Stadium grass from 1975-1977 and 1981-1983. He split time between left field and first base while in Queens, but he played enough games in left field and produced enough runs at the plate to warrant inclusion on this list. Kingman was one of the first notable “all or nothing” major league hitters that hit for extraordinary power but often struck out more than anyone else in the league. In today’s game, with strikeouts becoming increasingly common, Kingman would probably be a superstar.
He set many franchise power records while with the Mets, starting with the 36 home runs he hit in 1975. That was a new single-season team record until he broke it himself the next year with 37. In total, Kingman had three years in Flushing with 35+ home runs, which puts him in select company with Mike Piazza, Darryl Strawberry, and Howard Johnson as the only Mets ever to hit 35 or more home runs in at least three separate seasons. Kingman is fifth all-time in franchise history with 152 home runs in a Mets uniform.
Unfortunately, Kingman was never a defensive wizard. Far from it. He posted a career defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR) of -6.2, which if anyone is unfamiliar with the term, translates to “bad.” A 2012 Bleacher Report article titled “40 Worst Fielders in Baseball History” referred to Kingman as “simply awful in the outfield.” Had Kingman been an above-average, or even an average, defensive player, he likely would have placed higher on this list.
Nonetheless, Kingman’s mammoth home runs were legendary during the 1970s and 1980s. Mets fans of a certain age vividly remember being awed by his power. The nostalgia factor is strong with Kingman, and he is still one of the overall greatest and most memorable left fielders in team history.