Aug 11, 2019

All Time Mets Single Season Batting Leader: John Olerud (1997-1999)

John Garrett Olerud was born August 5, 1968 in Seattle Washington. He would become known as “Johnny O” as his playing days went on.

The tall sleek six foot five left handed hitter, attended Washington State University. There he was a star player, eventually making the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

He earned the Baseball America College Player of the Year, batting .464 with 23 HRs 81 RBIs. As a pitcher he was an incredible as well going 15-0.

In 1989 he suffered from a brain aneurysm, but recovered quickly & when he returned he hit an incredible .359. As a result of the aneurysm he would wear a batting helmet during his career while playing first base.

He was soon drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the third round of the 1989 draft. Johnny O was brought right up to the Blue Jays big league club, playing in six games. In 1990 he became a regular first baseman; but was platooned by manager Cito Gaston. Olerud batted .265 with 14 HRs & 48 RBIs. His numbers gradually got better, in 1992 he hit .284 with 16 HRs & 66 RBIs as the Jays went on to win the World Series.

Post Season: In Game #4 of the ALCS against Oakland, he had four hits with two RBIs including a HR, as the Blue Jays went up three games to one in the Series. In the clincher Game #6 at Sky Dome he had two more hits, including an RBI double. Overall he batted .348 with one HR two doubles & four RBIs. In the World Series he batted .308 playing in four games against the Atlanta Braves.

In 1993 Olerud had an incredible break out career year; he led the majors in hitting, batting .363. He also led the league in doubles (54) & on base percentage (.473). He had 200 hits with 24 HRs 107 RBIs & 109 runs scored.

He made the All Star team, leading the Blue Jays to another World Series title. In the ALCS against the White Sox he batted .348 (8-23) with three RBIs. In the World Series he batted just .235 but hit a HR in the Game #1 Blue Jays victory at Sky Dome.

He hit over .290 two more seasons in Toronto but never lived up to the expectations after his great 1993 season. By 1996 Carlos Delgado was hitting HRs and ready to play first base. Olerud was never a favorite of manager Cito Gaston & that December he was traded to the New York Mets for Robert Person. Many believe manager Gaston had tried to urge Olerud to become more of a power hitter which led to lower batting averages, especially the .274 that season.

Olerud was a true professional, and brought one of the sweetest swings in baseball to Shea Stadium.

On the field he was a great defensive player, coming in among the top first baseman in the league in fielding percentage, assists & put outs, making very few errors.

In his three seasons with the Mets he would hit over .290 with at least 150 hits, 90 RBIs, 85 walks, thirty plus doubles & play in 154 games or more each season.

On Opening Day 1997 he gave Mets fans a taste of what was to come from his bat as he got two hits & drove in a run in the Mets loss to the San Diego Padres. He had two hits in each of his first three games and in the month of April hit .356 with a dozen multiple hit games.

On May 19th he hit a walk off two run HR to beat the Colorado Rockies 4-3. He hit another HR the next day in Florida and two days after that had a three hit four RBI day at Philadelphia.

In June he hit HRs in back to back games at Wrigley Field including a three RBI day. In the month he had four separate games where drove in three runs or more. One of those games came on June 16th in the first regular season subway series game with he Mets & the AL New York team.

Olerud's 1st inning double off Andy Petite drove in Bernard Gilkey for the first ever subway series run. In the 7th he singled with the bases loaded to drive in two more runs, helping Dave Mlicki to a 6-0 shutout.

On June 29thth he hit a pair of two run HRs against the Pirates in Pittsburgh leading New York to a 10-8 win. He drove in runs in five straight games but then had his average tail off through the summer. In August he had an eleven game hit streak and drove in 13 runs. On August 22nd he came to bat in the 9th inning with the Mets down 8-5. He doubled off the Padres Trevor Hoffman and then scored when Todd Hundley hit a two run HR.

On September 11th, he had a big four hit day where he hita solo HR & drove in five runs against the Montreal Expos, in a 9-5 Met win. On September 24th he hit a grand slam HR off Pittsburgh's Chris Peters. Overall he drove in five runs in the game, his second five RBI game in the month.

He closed out the season driving in 14 runs, with at least one RBI in the last six games. In his first Mets season, he hit .294 with a .400 on base % 22 HRs 34 doubles 85 walks (7th in the NL) & 102 RBIs.

In 1998 Olerud put on a hitting display rarely seen by a player in a Mets uniform. He finished April batting .359 with a .485 on base % In May he hit safely in 20 of 25 games driving in 18 runs getting the average up to .372.

On June 5th he had three hit day in Boston during inter league play, hitting a three run HR at Fenway Park helping the Mets to a 9-2 over the Red Sox. He tailed off in June & early July but then went on a tear. He had a 23 game hit streak from late July into August & actually hit better in the latter part of the year.

He helped the Mets take the first two games of a series in San Diego by driving in five runs over the two games. On July 28th he hit a three run HR in the Mets 7-3 win & then drove in two runs the next day in the 7-6 victory. In August he had four different games where he drove in three runs each time. In September he had ten multiple hit games, and during the week of September 16th he had 12 hits over a four game span. That month he hit four HRs, including a two run shot against the Braves on September 5th leading to a 5-4 Mets win.

On September 15th he hit another HR & drove in four runs in an 8-4 Met win at Houston. He closed out the year driving in runs in six of his last ten games while drawing walks in each of his last nine games.

On the 1998 season he set a Mets record for batting average, hitting .354 (2nd in the NL) breaking Cleon Jones .340 mark set three decades earlier. He also set a Mets club mark with a .447 on base percentage (2nd in the NL) & runs created (138). Olerud drew 96 walks (4th in the NL) hit 22 HRs, with 36 doubles & drove in 93 runs.

In 1999 he was part the Mets “best infield ever” along with Eduardo Alfonzo, Rey Ordonez, & Robin Ventura, as they graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with that title.

For the second year in a row he posted the league’s second best fielding % (.996). That year he joined Felix Millan as being the only two Mets to ever play all 162 games in a season. He helped the Mets to a Wild Card berth & their first post season appearance in 12 years.

He began the year with an Opening Day HR in Florida and drove in runs in the five of the first seven Mets games. In May he had a 13 game hit streak, hit four HRs & drove in 22 runs. On May 23rd he singled off the Phillies Curt Shilling in the bottom of the 0th inning scoring Luis Lopez with the game winning walk off run.

In mid July he drove in runs in nine of thirteen games. On July 30th he hit a HR off former Met Rick Aguilera in the top of the 9th inning at Wrigley Field. The HR proved to be a game winner as Sammy Sosa homered off Armando Benitez in the bottom of the 9th but the Cubs fell short by one run.

On August 10th he drove in three of the Mets four runs in a 4-3 win over the Padres. He broke up the 3-3 ties in the bottom of the 7th inning with a n RBI single scoring Rickey Henderson.

On August 22nd with the Mets down 6-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning, Olerud hit a grand slam HR off the Cardinals Rich Croushore bringing it to 6-5. Mike Piazza followed with another HR to put the Mets ahead. After Armando Benitez blew another lead, the Mets won it inthe 9th with an Edgardo Alfonzo walk off hit. Olerud had five RBIs in the game.

In September as the Mets chased the Braves in the NL East as well as the wild card, Olerud hit safely in all but seven games. On September 19th he drove in four runs & hit a big three run HR to keep the Mets one game back in the standings as they beat the Phillies at Shea 8-6.

On September 29th although the Mets were seven games back of the Braves by now, they were still in the wild card race. Olerud hit a grand slam off the Braves Greg Maddox leading the way to a 9-2 Mets home win.

In the final game of the season, he had two hits in the wild card playoff game where the Mets beat the Reds 5-0 in Cincinnati advancing to the playoffs.

On the year he hit .298 with a .427 on base percentage, hitting 19 HRs with 39 doubles & 96 RBIs. He also set a Mets club record for walks (125) & times on base (309). The Mets got to the NLCS and within two games of the World Series.

Post Season: In the NLDS he tore up the Arizona Diamondbacks pitching hitting .438 with 6 RBIs & a HR in the four games. In Game #1 he had three hits, including a 3rd inning two run HR off Randy Johnson in the Mets 8-5 win at Arizona.

After going hitless in the Game #2 loss, he had a big Game #3. In the 3rd inning, he singled home the Mets first run with a base hit off Omar Dahl. He then scored on a Robin Ventura ground out. In the Mets big six run 6th inning, Johnny O singled scoring Bobby Bonilla & Rickey Henderson , helping in the 9-2 Mets win at Shea Stadium.

He closed out the NLDS with another two hit game in Game #4, also drawing a walk. This was the game Todd Pratt’s walk off HR advanced the Mets to the 1999 NLCS.

In the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, Olerud started out slow collecting two hits in the first three games, all Mets losses. Then he continued his hot hitting from the NLDS six hits in the final three games. He finished the series batting .296 with two HRs & six  RBIs.

In Game #4 with the Mets backs against the walls, down three game to none, Olerud helped spark the club as he drove in all three runs in the Mets 3-2 win.

First he hit solo HR off John Smoltz in the 6th inning breaking up a scoreless tie. Then in the 8th inning, with the Mets down 2-1& with Roger Cedeno & Melvin Mora on base, Olerud came through again. This time he hit two run base hit off New Yorks Public Enemy #1- reliever John Rocker. This put the Mets ahead for good and shoving right back in loud mouth John Rockers face. Rocker had made insulting comments to the people of NY City in the press.

In Game #5 at Shea Stadium, Olerud set the tone with a 1st inning two run HR off Greg Maddox. He would have two hits in the 15 inning epic, won by the Mets on Robin Ventura's grand slam single.

In the final Game #6 he had two more hits, & helped the Mets tie the game while down 7-3 by singling home a run & scoring on Mike Piazza’s two run HR in the 7th inning.

In 2000 he decided he wanted to go back to his hometown and raise his kids in the state of Washington. They had better schools and he wanted to be able to take them to school during the season instead of living across the country. He broke many Mets fans hearts when he signed on with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent. He spent the next four and a half seasons in Seattle, playing over 150 games each year, hitting over .300 with 90 or more RBIs twice.

He would win three Gold Gloves, leading the league in fielding twice, assists three times & games played twice. He also made his second All Star team in 2001. In 2004 he went to the A.L. New York club for a brief period & then signed with the Red Sox in 2005 his final season, batting .289.

Olerud finished his 17 season career with a batting title, three Gold Gloves, five Player of the Week Awards & two All Star appearances. He was also voted one of the 50 Mets of all time. 

He played in 2234 games (130th all time) with a .295 batting average, 2239 hits (170th all time) a .398 on base percentage (66th all time) 500 doubles (58th all time), 1275 walks (47th all time) 1139 runs scored (218th all time) 88 hit by pitches (125th all time) 96 sac flies (40th all time) 255 HRs (196th all time) & 1230 RBIs (141st all time).

Interestingly the slow footed Olerud played in 2234 games and he never stole a base and grounded into 232 double plays (51st all time).

Olerud was fortunate enough to play in eight different post seasons, getting to two World Series & seven Championship Series. Overall he hit .278 with 9 HRs 10 doubles & 38 RBIs in the post season.

At first base he played 2053 games (17th all time) with 1418 assists (11th all time) made 16165 put outs (33rd all time) posted  a .995 fielding % (16th all time) & helped turn 1581 double plays (15th all time)

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