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A History of the Mets at Second Base Part 3 - The Seventies and Eighties

Barry DuchanSaturday, November 15, 2008
By Barry Duchan

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of new articles Barry will be writing on Mets second basemen for this site. - M.S.

Ken Boswell started the '70's as more or less the regular at second base. The Mets probably had hopes that farm system product Teddy Martinez would take over or at least platoon with Boswell, but he never hit enough. In 1971, the Mets made second baseman Rich Puig out of Hillsborough High in Tampa (the same school that would later produce Dwight Gooden) their number one draft pick, but of course, Puig never made it. This selection was notable because the next pick in the draft was Jim Rice.

In the winter of 1972, the Mets traded for Felix Millan, who did an excellent job for several seasons. As Millan got older and it became apparent Puig was not going to inherit the job, the Mets gave Joel Youngblood, a jack-of-all-trades a shot at the position. Then, when they acquired slick-fielding Doug Flynn as part of the lamented Tom Seaver trade, the job became his. Unfortunately, Flynn never hit enough to pull his weight in a weak-hitting lineup. Nevertheless, he held on to the job as the farm system produced only Kelvin Chapman, who wasn't any better at bat and considerably weaker in the field than Flynn.

In the early eighties, the Mets farm system produced 2 pretty good candidates to take over the position. Wally Backman, a first round draft pick in 1977 as a shortstop was a scrappy hard-nosed player who was considered below average defensively. It wasn't until Davey Johnson took over that Backman got a real shot. In 1983, Brian Giles, a slick fielder who had been the Mets' second round pick in 1978 got a fulltime shot at the job, but after hitting only .245 with little power in 400 at-bats was replaced by the better-hitting Backman who kept the job, at least on a platoon basis through 1988. Tim Teufel, an excellent acquisition from Minnesota prior to the 1986 season formed a solid platoon with Backman until the Mets' greatest second base prospect ever came up to claim the job. More in my next post.

Part 1 - A History of Mistakes
Part 2 - The Sixties
Part 3 - The Seventies and Eighties - Current Article
Part 4 - Gregg Jefferies
Part 5 - Jeff Kent
Part 6 - The Carlos Baerga era/error
Part 7 - Roberto Alomar
Part 8 - 2004 - 2005
Part 9 - 2006 - 2008
Part 10 - The Future

Note: More of Barry Duchan's writings can be found on his own Metscentric blog.

About Barry Duchan: I've been following the Mets since 1962. Have to admit I was a Yankee fan as a kid, but I found it to be so much more interesting to see how a young team could build itself up rather than following a team where the season didn't really begin until October. I remember them all - Casey, Marv, ChooChoo, Don Bosch, The Stork, etc. As the years went on, I became more and more of a Mets fan, and a Yankee hater once Steinbrenner and Billy Martin entered the picture.   Read More -->

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Comments (3)

Regarding Puig, it used to be a truism that teams didn't spend high draft picks on second basemen, the thought being that if a guy is any good as an amateur, why isn't he playing shortstop? In your piece the Mets have a first rounder and a second rounder, both presumably second basemen from the outset, which probably tells us something we already knew by other means about the Mets drafting expertese in those days.

Anyway, I'm guessing that that particular bit of conventional wisdom isn't so true today, what with all the slugging second basemen we've seen the past few years.

Name of the Yankee second basemen who could not throw to first. Chuck Knoblach was one. The other's first name was Steve ----------?

Steve Sax, but he had that problem earlier in his career with the Dodgers.

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