The Mets All-Time “2 Guys” Team: 2nd Base

Mike:

Let’s take a break from the Winter Meetings to continue around the diamond, identifying our Mets All-Time “2 Guys” Team. It is time to discuss second base. Edgardo Alfonzo was a fabulous all-around second baseman for the Mets, but not the type of player we are honoring for the “2 Guys” team. Two other players do quickly come to mind, though, Ron Hunt, and Wally Backman. I loved Wally and his constant dirty uniform, but if we are picking an all-time tough 2nd baseman I have to pick Hunt. Understand that when it comes to Hunt I am biased. Ron Hunt was my very first favorite player as a child. But let’s end all argument on this topic with the fact that no one in National League history has been hit by pitches more than Ron. Try standing still while a fastball hits you square. Hunt did that 50 times in 1971 alone. And keep in mind he did this in an era where the only thing between him and that baseball was some flannel. There was no body armor in the 60′s.

Jimmy:

Upon his propensity for leaning into the pitch, Ron Hunt once quipped, “Some people give their body to science. I give mine to baseball.”

It really is an amazing statistic. Hunt led the NL in HBP for seven consecutive seasons, from 1968-74. Despite having almost zero pop — 39 HRs across 12 seasons, so there was no reason to walk this guy, ever — he ended up with a career OBP of .368 to go with a SLG of .347. It’s staggering that a guy with his limited skill set could have placed 4th (’71), 5th (’73), and 6th (’68) among the National League’s OBP leaders. He couldn’t hurt you with the bat — and apparently, pitchers couldn’t hurt him with the ball! But you know what? That was a skill Hunt developed with the Expos out of desperation, presumably.  On the Mets, he was simply the first good, young position player to arrive on the scene. Hunt was second in Rookie of the Year Voting in ’63 (Pete Rose won it with nearly identical stats), and was named the starting second-baseman in the 1964 All-Star Game, with Billy Williams, Willie Mays, and Roberto Clemente in the outfield (Aaron didn’t even start!). Even so . . . I think you should take a longer look at Wally Backman. On rosters filled with far more talented players, Backman’s balls-to-the-wall, hair-on-fire approach to the game came to embody “competitiveness” for the NY Mets.

Mike:

Look at that expression – all business!

Wally was crazy and combustible. No doubt about that. I just can’t give in that he was tougher than Hunt. Hunt was best summed up by his own quote, “Some people give their bodies to science; I give mine to baseball.” It was not just the hit by pitches record. Hunt never put his own safety above making a play. One unfortunate defining moment Hunt had as a Met is another indication of that.

BOO!!!!!!!!!

On a double play grounder to short in 1965, Hunt stood in like nails and was bulldozed by Phil Gagliano. Hunt ended up with a separated shoulder on the play. Not exactly Roberto Alomar, right? (Alomar used to run into short centerfield to “elude” base runners during his pitiful time with the Mets.)  Mets fans never forgot that play. Gagliano was booed unmercifully for the rest of his career every time he set foot in Shea.

And yes, Hunt did not get hit by as many pitches as a Met as he did in later years. Still keep in mind he got hit by more in his rookie year, 1963, then Wally did in his entire career. In 3,708 PAs and 14 seasons, Backman totaled 5 HBPs. For a tough guy, he sure could duck!

Jimmy:

I have mixed feelings about Wally. He really was the fuse for those dynamite Mets teams of the late 80′s. At the same time, Wally’s intensity could cross the line into batshit-crazy territory. So I can understand why no MLB team has made him a manager. It’s easy to imagine it ending very, very badly. By the way, he curses like a sailor. In this clip that lasts under two minutes, Wally says “Fuck” 35 times in a postgame speech as manager of the South Georgia Peanuts. It’s profane, stupid, hysterical, embarrassing, and undeniably Wally. I wonder how R.A. Dickey would enjoy listening to that?

Here’s another classic bit of Wally debating the finer points of the national pastime — “Minor league motherfucker is what you are!” — and it’s not safe for work, folks.

Do we have any other candidates? Jeff Kent? Because I’m thinking “no” for Greg Jeffries.

Maybe we should go with a platoon?! Or better, we need some sort of tie-breaker. How about a reader’s vote? Do we have enough readers to make a quorum? Right now, our All-Time Mets “2 Guys” Team has Stearns at Catcher, Delgado at First. Who plays Second? Please let us know in the comments section. I’m talking to you, Alan, Dan, Don, Frank, Charlie, Ken! Anyone, anyone?

LET THE VOTING BEGIN NOW IN OUR COMMENTS SECTION!

 

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21 comments

  1. Terrimac says:

    Wally Backman, definitely!

  2. Ken H. says:

    I grew up in a family that loved Felix Millan, and while I appreciated Teufel’s punch, I’m a Wally guy!

  3. Victoria Geus says:

    Ron Hunt!! Boo Phil Gagliano, booooooooooooo!!!!!!!!

  4. Tom M says:

    Hunt never met a fastball he was afraid of.

    The Backman ejection video hilarious though!

  5. matt says:

    hunt for sure

  6. Kelly G says:

    I thought Who was on First. What is on Second.

    I don’t know anything about either player so my vote is strictly based on your arguments here.

    Though I do enjoy some good cussing now and then, I have to go with Hunt. Mike has the more compelling argument.

  7. Alan K says:

    I’d go with Wally at 2B, mostly because Hunt was gone by 1967, the year I first followed the Mets closely. But no way a corporate guy like Alderson ever lets Wally manage the Mets.

  8. Don Patten says:

    I’ll vote for Hunt, but the Backman video was hysterical. By the way, who thought it was a good idea to record Backman, I hope the mike was live!

  9. Ken H. says:

    I’m surprised to see all the Hunt votes. He really didn’t find his HBP niche until he got to the Expos in ’71 when he was credited with 50 HBPs in one season. As a Met, Hunt had only 41 HBPs in FOUR seasons. If he ever goes into the HBP HOF, it certainly will not be as a Met.

    As a point of information, 60% (3) of Backman’s career HBPs were credited to his ledger as a Met. He had two other HBPs in his career: one as a Twin and another as a Pirate.

  10. IB says:

    Brought a tear to me eye discussing Ron Hunt. He was my first childhood baseball hero too. I turned blue when Rose beat him out for Rookie of the Year. So, from an emotional standpoint it’s Hunt all the way. There’s not much to choose from – I might have said Alfonzo but I was too disgusted when he indignantly called a 7-8 million dollar a year contract offer as an “insult”. An insult? I think I was making $300 a week at the time. Never forgave him.

  11. Frank Dunne says:

    After watching Wally in the locker room… I went outside and took some batting practice. He is a little intense.

    Two GREAT choices, and difficult to pick. Going with the stats, judging both as a METS second baseman ONLY:

    WALLY BACKMAN.

    The batting stats were too similar (minus the HBP stat)to judge. The tie breaker was the fielding. Stats don’t lie. Backmans defense wins.

    Hunt as a Met at 2nd committed 64 errors in 3,561.2 innings.
    Backman as a Met at 2nd committed 60 errors in 5105.2 innings.

    • Michael Geus says:

      I’m OK with that Frank, good points.

      But who was tougher? I still think Wally was crazier, but nobody was tougher than Hunt.

      • The man voted, Mike. It’s already been recorded in the machine. You don’t get to go back and question the merits of each vote. Let it go. But, back to your point, “nobody tougher than Hunt,” I don’t know. In a bar brawl, which guy do you want? I’m thinking Wally is jumping on the biggest guy in the room.

        • Michael Geus says:

          OK, fair enough, this is not Florida.

          But no way I want to be with Wally in the bar. Wally starts fights and gets me hurt.

          Hunt finishes them!

  12. Florida Met Fan Rich says:

    Ron Hunt “No Broken bones about it”!

  13. Ken H. says:

    No votes for Argenis Reyes. Always the forgotten man.

  14. cynical yankee fan says:

    Where is the love for Ken Boswell?

    I never saw Ron Hunt play for the Mets.

    I have to go with Wally.

  15. [...] we did with our big Hunt/Backman vote ,you can add your nominations right here as comments to this post. We will be accepting nominations [...]

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