Keith Hernandez’s top Mets moments, No. 7: The defense rests

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World Series champion and beloved SNY analyst Keith Hernandez will have his No. 17 retired by the Mets on July 9, becoming just the fourth player, plus managers Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges, in the history of the franchise to be bestowed that honor. This is the fourth of a 10-part daily countdown of Hernandez’s greatest moments and accomplishments following his 1983 arrival in Flushing. 

No. 7: The defense rests 

As Elaine Benes mockingly says to Keith Hernandez when they are getting to know each other during their brief dating arc on “Seinfeld,” baseball teams “always put the worst player at first base. That’s where they put me and I stunk.” 

The former Mets star’s reply that Elaine doesn’t “know the first thing about first base” leads to a fun double entendre exchange, but it also was completely true regarding Hernandez’s deserved reputation among the finest defensive first basemen — and probably the greatest — of all time. 

No. 17 won six of his 11 consecutive Gold Glove Awards during his seven seasons with the Mets from 1983-88. No one won the award more at that position, and Hernandez’s mark won’t be eclipsed any time soon considering the active leaders — Paul Goldschmidt, Eric Hosmer and Anthony Rizzo — have won the trophy four times apiece. 

Keith Hernandez
Keith Hernandez won six of his 11 Gold Glove awards with the Mets.
Getty Images

“You can’t compare generations. I never saw Vic Power play. I saw Wes Parker. I would have to say I’m in the top five. I have to believe that,” Hernandez told The Post. “It was a forgotten position when I was growing up. Harmon Killebrew played first base. Teams just put their big power hitters over there without much regard for their defense. 

“But when we were kids, my dad [John] would always tell us: If you can play the field, your manager will be less inclined to take you out of the lineup when you slump. You can win a game with your glove. So I took my fielding very seriously. I took great pride in it.” 

Indeed, the Mets’ primary first baseman before Hernandez, who arrived in a trade with the Cardinals in June 1983, was Dave Kingman, an all-or-nothing slugger who hardly was graceful with the glove. 

Hernandez’s penchant for diving stops and his ability to turn the 3-6-3 double play were unparalleled, but his aggressiveness charging bunts was legendary. 

Perhaps the most famous instance came in the 12th inning of a brawl-filled, 14-inning win July 22, 1986, at Cincinnati. 

All-Star catcher Gary Carter had to be used by Davey Johnson at third base after Ray Knight and Kevin Mitchell were ejected following Knight’s fisticuffs with Reds star Eric Davis. 

Hernandez charged in front of the mound to field a bunt by Carl Willis and threw to Carter, who then fired the ball across the diamond to Tim Teufel covering first for a rare 3-5-4 double play. 

“That play was really easy for me, because I was just playing it aggressively,” Hernandez said. “I was already playing in, it was Astroturf, so I was more concerned because Gary was at third, and he wasn’t used to making that play. But he made the perfect throw.”

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