HomeTeamsMetsBest Mets Closers In Team History

Best Mets Closers In Team History

Quick – who’s the best closer in Mets history? Did you immediately think John Franco with his 424 saves (most ever by a left-handed pitcher) 276 of which came with the Mets?  Could it be Armando Benitez? Jeurys Familia? Billy Wagner couldn’t have played for the Mets long enough right?

History of Mets closers

One thing about Mets closer history is that in their two championship seasons in 1969 and 1986, they did not have a shutdown closer. Both of those teams were sturdily built on the foundation of great starting pitching. The ’69 team had 35 total saves for the SEASON! That was for a team that won 100 games. Dr. Ron Taylor led the team with 13 saves followed by Tug McGraw’s 12. Cal Koonce added 7. The 1969 Mets had 51 complete games.

The World Series losing team of 1973 had Tug McGraw (father of country singer Tim McGraw), as the closer and his rallying cry still echoes in the minds of older Met fans. McGaw had a better 1972 than he did in 1973 and saved more games for the Phillies than he did for the Mets but was on both the 1969 and 1973 rosters making him somewhat iconic.

What about Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell in 1986? The image of Orosco throwing his glove to the sky after striking out Marty Barrett to end the 1986 World Series, is indelible. But the two relievers split closer duties in 1986, with McDowell totaling 22 saves, and Orosco 21. They were used interchangeably by Manager Davey Johnson, who does not get enough credit for adroitly managing his bullpen that season. The Mets had 27 complete games in 1986.

Armando Benitez had 160 saves as a member of the Mets. Benitez had 40 saves two times as a Met but is remembered more for his failures in the playoffs not only with the Mets but with the Orioles before he became a Met.   

Billy Wagner had 101 saves wearing a Mets uniform. What is also indelible is the memory of Wagner collapsing in the 2006 playoffs vs. the eventual champion Cardinals.

Jeurys Familia also saved more than 40 games twice for the Mets including a 51-save season in 2016. His postseason performance as a Met was not as bad as Benitez or Wagner, but it was far from being memorable although the 2015 loss to the Royals was not his fault. Do you wonder how many complete games the Mets had in their run to the World Series in 2015? If the number 1 came to mind, you win the prize. Relief pitching continues to be more essential to a team’s success with each passing season.  

K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez is 9th all time in Mets career saves with 83. Few if any of them were important and none were in the postseason which is not entirely his fault.  

Current closer Edwin Diaz is already 6th all-time in Mets team history with exactly 100 saves since joining the team in 2019. Diaz has only had one opportunity (in 2022), to display his excellence in the postseason for the Mets. Unfortunately, it was only for two appearances in the series loss to the San Diego Padres.

Below is the list of Mets pitchers with 50 or more saves for the team:

John Franco276
Armando Benítez160
Jeurys Familia124
Jesse Orosco107
Billy Wagner101
Edwin Díaz100
Tug McGraw86
Roger McDowell84
Francisco Rodríguez83
Neil Allen69
Skip Lockwood65
Braden Looper57
Randy Myers56
Ron Taylor50

Save totals are not the be-all and end-all statistics that should be used when evaluating closers. Billy Wagner has more than 400 career saves but remains on the outside looking in for an induction into Cooperstown. But it’s not as if save totals are unimportant. That’s what makes selecting a list of all-time Mets closers so confounding.

My ranking for the best 5 Met closers in team history.

Your opinion may differ and that’s fine.

#1 – John Franco – the body of work and good if not brief playoff performance is too much to ignore

#2 – Jeurys Famiila – he was a rollercoaster ride to watch but was better than fans remember.

#3 – Edwin Diaz – his 2022 and so far 2024 dominance, after a rough first season in 2019 is not comparable to any other Met closer except maybe for Wagner. He has a chance to be the Mets best closer of all time if he hangs around another five or more years.  

#4 – Tug McGraw – his ‘Ya Gotta Believe’ 1973 sobriquet is enough along with the 86 Mets career saves.

#5 – Orosco/McDowell – ok this is cheating but somehow, they should be together.

It felt odd to leave out Billy Wagner since he gets left out too often. And honorable mention to Neil Allen. It was he and Rick Ownbey that were traded to St. Louis in return for another should be Hall-of-Famer and Mets legend Keith Hernandez. Allen never did much for the Cardinals in one of the most lopsidedly positive deals in Mets team history!

Mark Kolier
Mark Kolierhttps://mlbreport.com/
Mark Kolier along with his son Gordon co-hosts a baseball podcast called ‘Almost Cooperstown’. He also has written baseball-related articles that can be accessed on Medium.com, Substack.com and now MLBReport.com.


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