Mets Thursday Therapy: The long wait for a reliable third baseman

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: David Wright #5 of the New York Mets looks on during batting practice before a MLB game against the New York Mets at Sun Life Stadium on September 22, 2010 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: David Wright #5 of the New York Mets looks on during batting practice before a MLB game against the New York Mets at Sun Life Stadium on September 22, 2010 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images) /

Long before my time on this earth, the New York Mets were a franchise without steadiness at third base. I wouldn’t know. By the time I was born, Howard Johnson was already making a name for himself over at the hot corner. In my prime baseball watching years as a teenager, there was David Wright to solidify the fact that the Mets had finally found the magic formula for filling out the position.

Younger Mets fans might not realize, but the franchise had a long struggle to find stability at the position. Don Zimmer was the first to ever play the position. In the years after he got things started in 1962, the franchise missed way more than they hit.

Every season was a new plan at third base. Ken Boyer and Ed Charles each got back-to-back Opening Day starts in 1966-1967 and 1968-1969 respectively. However, one can make the argument that their overall performance left a lot to be desired.

Notoriously bad Mets third basemen

The third base carousel early on in Mets history included plenty of names that have been lost to history. However, there are a couple of notoriously bad ones mixed in there as well.

Jim Fregosi was the first to become a curse word to the Mets. The All-Star infielder was acquired after the 1971 season in a trade with the California Angels. Not only was Fregosi a bad player in New York but the Mets lost Nolan Ryan in the trade.

In my opinion, it’s even worse than the Tom Seaver trade because of what the Mets gave up and how little they got back.

The 1970s were unkind to the Mets in many ways. Repeated attempts at finding a stalwart at third base proved unsuccessful.

In 1975, they brought in former MVP Joe Torre. He showed his age, batting only .247 in his first season with the club. He quickly became more of a platoon player and shifted his focus from player to player-manager to just skipper by the end.

A few experiments in the late 1970s proved unsuccessful at the position. Finally, with the arrival of Hubie Brooks, the Mets began to see the light.

Some success at third base, finally!

Brooks was an effective third baseman for the Mets but he merely paved the way for the first truly awesome man to play the position, Howard Johnson. Johnson stole bases, hit home runs, and became one of the team’s leading weapons.

His career in New York wouldn’t last long, though. While he helped them get through their golden era in the late 1980s, Johnson faded in the early 1990s as did many of our favorite Mets from that time period.

An array of players took the position in the 1990s. Major names like Bobby Bonilla, Edgardo Alfonzo, and Robin Ventura all played the position on a regular basis. Although the stability wasn’t there, the output improved drastically.

It all turned around when a man named David Wright took over. From 2005-2016, the Mets could pencil him in as their Opening Day starter at third base.

Finally, after years of waiting, the greatest third baseman in franchise history had arrived.

A problem in the post-Wright years

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. Since Wright’s retirement, the Mets have experimented at third base with a few different options. Current third baseman, J.D. Davis, is far from grabbing the position by the horns and making it his for years to come.

For a positive spin, Major League Baseball does employ some fantastic third basemen. In a time when teams are routinely shedding salary, free agents are looking to make as much money as possible, and few men retire with the team that originally drafted them, the Mets are bound to stumble on someone, right?

Down on the farm, two of the club’s top ten prospects are third basemen: Brett Baty and Mark Vientos. It’s also a spot we could see Ronny Mauricio shift to if that’s what the club sees in the stars.

Next. Top 5 third basemen in Mets history

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Outside of Wright, third base has never been an easy position for the Mets to fill. It may feel like we’re on a carousel again. With so many options, we can only hope one of those darts lands bullseye.

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