Mets Mount Rushmore: The four sweetest swings in franchise history
Baseball, at its best, is poetry in motion. One of the most beautiful pieces of baseball poetry is a player’s swing, and the New York Mets have been blessed with several memorably smooth swings throughout team history. When a swing is just right, it looks effortless to the fans watching at home. Of course, most athletes would probably say that even the most “effortless”-looking of swings required years of training and practice to develop.
From both the left and right side of the plate, there have been a few New York Mets players who have stood out for the smoothness of their swings. I put out a question on Twitter a while ago asking Mets fans to respond with the “prettiest swings in Mets history.” There were a variety of answers, but a few names showed up again and again.
With those names in mind, I’ve decided upon my “Mount Rushmore” of the four sweetest swings in Mets history. Here they are, in no particular order.
Mets Sweetest Swings: Darryl Strawberry
I know I just said that this list is in “no particular order,” but there was one player that showed up more than anyone else in the Twitter responses: Darryl Strawberry. His left-handed swing was well-known throughout baseball for its beautiful simplicity. Strawberry’s smooth swing frequently produced towering moonshot home runs that seemed to rocket into the stratosphere as soon as they left the bat.
Back when Strawberry played, baseball players were generally much skinnier and less bulky than they are today. The strength of his swing seemed to come from pure magic, since he weighed under 200 pounds in his Mets heyday and did not have a lot of visible muscle in his arms or legs. He also let go of his swing with one hand, which made his home runs even more majestic.
When Strawberry was still in school at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, CA, one writer described him as having “the body of a basketball forward and the natural baseball swing, a powerful, looping uppercut, of a historic homerun hitter.” Strawberry carried that reputation throughout his 17-year MLB career, which most famously began with eight years as a New York Met.
Mets Sweetest Swings: Michael Conforto
Ever since he broke into the big leagues straight from Double-A Binghamton in 2015, Michael Conforto’s beautiful left-handed swing has caught the attention of baseball players and fans all over the country. Though some have compared him to Strawberry in that regard, Conforto’s swing has less of an uppercut and is a little shorter than was Strawberry’s.
However, like Strawberry’s, Conforto’s swing seems to explode out of nowhere. He does not have a high leg kick, an open stance, or a long stride at the plate. He keeps everything compact, and even when his swings result in outs, Mets fans are just happy that they got to witness the sweetest swing in the game today.
In a 2020 press conference, Mets manager Luis Rojas described Conforto’s smooth swing by saying, “It’s something you fall in love with from the first time you see it.” After watching him for a just a couple of at-bats, I’m sure any baseball fan would agree that it’s love at first sight with Conforto’s beautiful lefty swing.
Mets Sweetest Swings: John Olerud
For three years in the late 1990s, John Olerud was one of the best pure hitters that ever suited up in the orange and blue. In the field, he played a nearly-flawless first base, and at the plate, he made a name for himself with a silky-smooth left-handed swing.
In terms of mechanics, Olerud’s swing was somewhere between Strawberry’s and Conforto’s. Like Strawberry, he let go with one hand after following through with the bat. However, his overall swing was more level than Strawberry’s, closer to Conforto’s in that respect if not even more level.
A former Toronto Blue Jays catcher and teammate of Olerud’s, Pat Borders, once praised Olerud’s swing by saying, “He has unbelievable ability. It makes me mad, because I work so hard and I could never have a swing as nice as his. He reminds you of Wade Boggs — he has a super eye and a great swing. Everything is so compact, it’s hard to make him look bad on any pitch.”
Olerud’s sweet swing resulted in three outstanding offensive seasons for the Mets. He holds the Mets’ single-season batting average record with a .354 mark in 1998 (which did not even lead the National League and landed him a distant 12th in NL MVP voting). Olerud also owns the top two single-season on-base percentages in Mets history, with his .447 OBP and .427 OBP in 1998 and 1999, respectively, topping that list.
Mets Sweetest Swings: David Wright
After three left-handed hitters in a row to start this list, it is only fair to include at least one righty to complete the Mount Rushmore of beautiful Mets swings. David Wright is as worthy a candidate as there is for “sweetest right-handed swing in Mets history,” and his name was mentioned quite often in the Twitter responses mentioned above.
There was nothing like the crack of the ball off of Wright’s bat to send Mets fans circa 2004-2018 into an excited frenzy. He almost always kept two hands on the bat as he swung, with his right knee dipping nearly to the ground on the follow-through. Though Wright was notorious for his swing’s uppercut when he struck out, his elevated swing also launched 242 career home runs, many of them no-doubters.
Wright’s sturdy right-handed swing was capable of hitting the ball to all fields, but perhaps its most iconic sequence of events was when Wright would get a fastball over the plate, connect with gusto, pull the ball, and send it flying into the left field seats while doing his signature “hop” as he left the batter’s box to circle the bases. For all of his career injuries and disappointments, Wright was still one of the most prolific hitters in Mets history, and his memorable swing had a lot to do with his success.
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There were plenty of other worthy contenders for this list that came up on Twitter, such as Keith Hernandez, Carlos Beltran, Cliff Floyd, and Daniel Murphy. Of course, a very special honorable mention goes to Bartolo Colon, whose swing may not have been traditionally “sweet” but was always a sight to behold. Still, when putting together a “Mets Mount Rushmore” of all-time sweetest swings, it’s hard to find a worthier quartet than Strawberry, Conforto, Olerud, and Wright.