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Mets’ top 25 all-time home run leaders, #20: Cliff Floyd

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Cliff Floyd helped the Mets bridge the gap between the terrible and the great, and hit a fair number of homers along the way.

2006 NLDS - Game One - Los Angeles Dodgers vs New York Mets Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

20. Cliff Floyd

Home runs as a Met: 81
Home run rate: 1 per 23.6 plate appearances (4.3%)

I have had a couple of Mets-themed birthdays in my life. The first was when I was a kid, and the second, I am unashamed to admit, was as a grown-ass man far into my 20s. For that second one, I attended the double-header at Shea in which Mike Pelfrey made his major league debut; I also received several pieces of Mets merchandise as gifts, two of which are still in my possession. The first is a David Wright jersey, which, to this day, is the only player jersey I have ever owned. The second is a baseball that is autographed by the subject of this article—and the player ranked 20th on the list of the Mets’ all-time home run leaders: Cliff Floyd.

The Mets needed all the things, basically, when they signed free agent slugger Cliff Floyd to a four-year, $26 million contract in December 2002. The wheels on the bus of the successful turn-of-the-century Mets teams had gone flying off, jalopy-style, in 2002—one of the most LOLMets seasons in Mets history—and GM Steve Phillips was on the hunt for solutions.

Art Howe, that square-jawed heckuva guy who was fresh off an apparently impressive managerial run in Oakland, was newly installed as Bobby Valentine’s successor when Floyd inked his deal. Improbably, long-time arch-enemy Tom Glavine signed a deal of his own. The Mets, we were told, were primed for a return to contention.

The best-laid plans, am I right? Almost nothing went well for the 2003 Mets, and they finished in last place in the NL East by a laughably wide margin and an awful 66-95 record. They were spared the lowly distinction of being the worst in baseball that year by a few other basement-dwellers—most notably the Detroit Tigers, who, with their 43-119 record, only missed tying the 1962 Mets’ modern-era MLB record for single-season futility by a whisper.

One of the great things about baseball is that there is always something to enjoy about your team, even in the worst of times, and Cliff Floyd’s terrific—if injury-shortened—season was certainly one of those things for Mets fans in 2003. Floyd, a player with a long track record of success to that point, did it all at the plate for the Mets that year and hit 18 home runs en route to a 134 OPS+ (.290/.376/.518). Floyd took a step back from that performance in 2004 as he fought through additional injuries, but he hit another 18 home runs and finished with a 111 OPS+.

Mercifully, things started changing for the Mets in 2005. Gone were Steve Phillips and Art Howe, and in their place were the hometown guys, Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph. Minaya did the impossible and signed the legendary Pedro Martinez, who was fresh off one of the greatest postseason runs in baseball history with the World Champion Red Sox. Then, a few weeks later, Minaya went out and signed Carlos Beltran, who himself was fresh off an otherworldly postseason performance with the Astros.

Whether due to some influence by those events or not, Cliff Floyd turned in his most complete season as a Met that year. Despite his ankles and heels threatening to explode at any given moment, Floyd played in 150 games, amassed 626 plate appearances, and hit 34 home runs in 2005—with a tidy 127 OPS+ to boot. Readers who were attending games at Shea in those days may recall the “MVP!” chants Floyd was feted with throughout the season.

Sadly, Floyd was limited to 97 games and 376 plate appearances in 2006. The Mets had something of a juggernaut of a team that year, and, in terms of performance, Floyd was easily overshadowed by any number of his teammates. For those of us who loved rooting for Cliff Floyd, it was sad to know he was ending his Mets career that way—and sadder still when the season ended before what we all felt was its time.

I still have that Cliff Floyd-autographed baseball, and I keep it out on display. Floyd isn’t the most famous Met of all time. Others have had longer, more productive tenures with the team. Still, there was something special about rooting for Cliff Floyd. Maybe it’s that he, like Rusty Staub, acted as a sort of bridge from some very bad times to some very good ones. Or maybe it’s that he was one of the few bright spots on some crappy teams, or that he struggled with pain and injuries and found a way to overcome them.

Whatever the reasons, rooting for Cliff Floyd was great. He hit a fair count of home runs at a strong clip in a relatively short span of time; and so, for now, he occupies a hard-won spot as one of the Mets’ top 25 all-time home run leaders.

Cliff Floyd (with the Mets)

Year Games Plate Appearances Home Runs OPS+
Year Games Plate Appearances Home Runs OPS+
2003 108 425 18 134
2004 113 457 18 111
2005 150 626 34 127
2006 97 376 11 88