John Olerud was a star first baseman in an era of sluggers

Cincinnati Reds v New York Mets
Cincinnati Reds v New York Mets / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

They don’t make first basemen like John Olerud anymore. In fact, they rarely ever did. In his three years with the New York Mets, Olerud slashed .315/.425/.501 with 63 home runs and 291 RBI. He wasn’t an overpowering slugger by any stretch. This was not the way Olerud ever operated.

From his early days with the Toronto Blue Jays through his final at-bats with the Boston Red Sox, Olerud was a unique hitter. He walked more than 200 more times than he struck out in his career. He was a professional hitter who preferred to put the ball in play rather than send one into the upper deck.

In the time of slugging first basemen with forearms thicker than thighs, Olerud was a star often overlooked.

Former Mets first baseman John Olerud was an overlooked star by the masses

Mets fans do right by Olerud and seem to have always appreciated him. Even if he wasn’t the huge power threat many other first basemen typically are, Olerud did other things well.

It all began in 1997 when the Mets robbed the Toronto Blue Jays in a trade for Robert Person. It was highway thievery. In his first year in the Big Apple, Olerud hit .294/.400/.489 with 22 home runs and 102 RBI. Year one was great. Year two would get even better.

Olerud’s second season with the Mets put him into the franchise’s history books. His .354 batting average may not have earned him a National League batting title but it did set a new franchise record.

He wasn’t just rocketing singles either. Olerud had 36 doubles, 22 home runs, and 93 RBI to go with his .354/.447/.551 batting line.

In his third and final year with the Mets, Olerud played all 162 games for the playoff-bound Amazins. He hit .298/.427/.463 while adding another 39 doubles, 19 home runs, and 96 RBI. The standout number for him in this particular season came via the walk. Always patient, Olerud drew 125 free passes.

Consistency was a huge part of Olerud’s career. He never hit lower than .256 and his OBP was always .344 or higher. Keep in mind, those lows were at the beginning and end of his career. During his prime seasons, which includes his three years with the Mets, you could count on Olerud to give you home run totals in the high teens or better and the kind of run production needed from a middle-of-the-order bat.

As if Olerud wasn’t built well enough at the plate, he played superb defense. He wouldn’t get the acknowledgement via Gold Glove award until the 2000 season when he would go on to win the first of three trophies for it. Yet another snub in his illustrious career, Olerud only ever made two All-Star teams; never doing so as a member of the Mets.

Olerud was one of those quiet, go to work and do your business type of athletes. He didn’t cause a stir. You always knew what you were going to get.

If you were designing the perfect first baseman, you might not think of Olerud immediately. He wasn’t going to hit 30 home runs or win an RBI title. What he would do is give your team a chance to win consistently.

In the era of first basemen hitting 40+ home runs and swinging for the next county, Olerud was different in the best ways possible.

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