New York Mets first baseman John Olerud had a historical year for the franchise in 1998 as he ended up hitting .354/.447/.551/.998 with an OPS+ of 163 (League average is 100), he also slugged 39 doubles and 19 home runs while driving in 96 runs in 160 games played.
Before he reached New York, Olerud played for the Toronto Blue Jays where former manager Cito Gaston tried to get Olerud to hit for more power by having him take the approach of trying to pull the ball. He would hit a career high 24 home runs with the Blue Jays while also leading the league with a .363 batting average as well as a .473 on-base percentage and a 1.072 OPS during the ’93 campaign.
However after his career year in Toronto, Olerud began to regress and eventually he would find himself wearing the Orange & Blue after being traded to the Mets for Robert Person before the start of the 1997 season. This is when the Mets coaching staff encouraged Olerud to revert to his natural approach at the plate and start to use all parts of the diamond.
It paid off in 1998, the big yet soft spoken first baseman with a smooth stroke and a slick glove, set a New York Mets franchise record when he finished the year batting .354, topping a record held by legendary Mets outfielder Cleon Jones originally set in 1969. Olerud also set the Mets on-base percentage record at .447 that same season.
Unfortunately, Olerud would fall short to Colorado Rockies’ great Larry Walker by 9 points as Walker would eventually win the batting title with a .363 average during that ’98 season.
Olerud, a Washington state native would eventually sign with the Seattle Mariners prior to the 2000 season however his three seasons with the New York Mets should never go forgotten. Quiet… but one of the best leaders to don the uniform.