Immediately after sharing the first of my series of articles searching for the worst defenders in New York Mets history, people began to jump to conclusions. That’s what happens when a player has a reputation. It’s what has happened for Marvelous Marv Throneberry.
Known best for his lack of defensive skills, people immediately assumed the answer to the question “Who is the worst defender in Mets history?” must be him.
And while 17 errors as a first baseman in only 879 chances back in 1962 is horrendous, numbers do what Throneberry never did well: they defend him.
Marv Throneberry was an awful Mets defender on a team that couldn’t field
The 1962 Mets had four guys commit 20 or more errors with Rod Kanehl leading the way with 32 of them. Charlie Neal had the worst Rtot and the worst defense WAR belonged to Frank Thomas.
Throneberry was right there with the rest of them but not the leader in any of these categories. Maybe it’s because he played in fewer games than some of the other guys. Or maybe he just wasn’t as pitiful with a glove as the legend goes.
The .981 fielding percentage Throneberry put together in that inaugural Mets season did become an all-time low for major league first basemen and would not be matched until Cesar Cedeno did the same in 1979.
Fielding statistics are hard to find especially when looking at it from such a major historic scope. Defenders got better in some ways since Throneberry’s time. Official scorers also became kinder. I would guess that maybe only a player or two managed to again have a fielding percentage at or below what Throneberry did in 1962. With the addition of the DH, many who would have challenged or surpassed him found new homes in the American League.
Throneberry may very well be the worst defensive player to ever put on a Mets uniform. He isn’t a leader in any of the major defensive categories because Casey Stengel didn’t give him the opportunity to play enough and make even more mistakes.
When any of us think of bad Mets defense, it’s always Throneberry who comes to mind first. I don’t know if that’s so far.
Taking a chance, I skipped ahead to 2002 to see what Mo Vaughn did with the Mets. In more chances, he made 18 errors at first base and had other numbers worse than Throneberry’s totals 40 years earlier. However, Vaughn did have a fielding percentage of .984 which still beats Throneberry and his most iconic poor defensive statistic.
I still have a couple more decades to cover. And even if something else is uncovered, Throneberry’s reputation isn’t disappearing.