Discover more from Shea Bridge Report
McNeil the All-Timer
Jeff McNeil is one of the best hitters the Mets have ever had
As we discussed yesterday, Jeff McNeil’s new contract is a great deal, both because McNeil will be a Met for longer and because it’s a good sign of the Mets’ approach to contracts. If McNeil is just the start, the Mets will be in great shape. But talking about the contract comes at the expense of something else: talking about just what a good player McNeil is.
Here are three lists.
Mets’ all-time leaders in seasons batting .300 or better
David Wright (7)
Jeff McNeil, Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Keith Hernandez (4)
Mets’ all-time leaders in seasons batting .311 or better
Jeff McNeil (4)
David Wright, Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Dave Magadan, Cleon Jones (2)
Mets’ all-time leaders in seasons with OBP of .380 or higher
David Wright (7)
Jeff McNeil, Edgardo Alfonzo, Dave Magadan, Keith Hernandez (4)
It’s a pretty simple fact: Jeff McNeil is easily a top-10 hitter in Mets history. There are a few power hitters — Strawberry and Beltrán — who don’t appear on the batting average or OBP leaderboards, and a few guys — Ventura, Delgado, Olerud — who were good, but not with the Mets for that long, and some others — Carter, Backman, Hundley, Cleon Jones — who had some great years and some that weren’t nearly as good. But when you combine McNeil’s average and OBP and the fact that he's already had four great years with the Mets and is now set up for a solid few more, there aren’t many hitters in Mets history who can measure up to him.
And then there’s McNeil’s defense, which people don’t seem to notice. He can play second, third, and the outfield, all fairly well — and he’s gotten better every year. His OAA ranked in the 64th percentile in 2019, the 72nd in 2020, the 91st in 2021, and the 95th in 2022. McNeil is fast; he has a good arm; he doesn’t strike out. He doesn’t hit for much power, besides the juiced-ball season of 2019, but besides that, there’s really nothing anyone can point to as a problem with his game.
There are the other elements, heart and hustle and grit and everything; there aren’t any measurements, but McNeil has always seemed to have buckets of them. He crashes into fences, dives into first to beat out drag bunts, and lets his enthusiasm burst outwards in particularly celebratory moments. There’s a lot that gets overblown about intangibles and motivating teammates and hyping things up; usually it comes from people who have just watched Major League for the first time. But whatever those qualities count for, McNeil has them. And if nothing else, they’re certainly fun to watch.
There’s only one issue that stands out: McNeil and Francisco Lindor’s infamous “ratcoon” incident in the clubhouse tunnel in 2021. That was a real problem, and the way the Mets handled it was far from ideal. But McNeil and Lindor seem to have moved completely past it: the two have played without incident on defense ever since, and Lindor reportedly promised McNeil a car for winning the 2022 batting title, which he could deliver during Spring Training.
McNeil has been a great Met, and now he’s on track to keep at it. In 60 years of Mets history, there have been roughly five players on his level; he’s well worth appreciating while he’s in Queens. The salary details of the contract are fine, but they’re not the most important part. The Mets are getting McNeil for a bargain rate, which is great, but as important as having him in the first place.