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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Mets of the 2010s: 50-41

Welcome to the sixth chapter of Faith and Fear’s countdown of The Top 100 Mets of the 2010s. An introduction to the series is available here; you can read the most recent installment here. These are the more or less best Mets we rooted for as Mets fans these past ten years. Since a decade is coming to a close, we thought it would be fun to round them up and recall a little something about them.

50. JUAN URIBE, 2015
49. KELLY JOHNSON, 2015; 2016

No delivery from Amazon Prime was ever as anticipated or yearned for as much as the one Sandy Alderson ordered from Atlanta on July 24, 2015. Is it here yet? Is it here yet? When it arrived, containing precious cargo, there were yelps of joy across the land, for the Mets had finally received reinforcements for their depleted bench. Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson were two veterans gathering dust for the utterly out-of-it Braves. Alderson rescued them from baseball irrelevance, and the duo rescued the Mets right back, bringing trusty bats to a pennant lunge that was desperately flailing in search of traction. To make room on the roster, the Mets demoted Danny Muno and DFA’d John Mayberry, Jr. Nobody wished ill on the departees, but nobody complained that they’d been replaced. Understand that the Mets had barely showed a pulse against Clayton Kershaw on Thursday, July 23. The two were traded for on Friday. On Saturday, Johnson homered in a rout of L.A. On Sunday, Uribe won the series finale in extras. Traction was secure for another week and the Mets’ bench was solid for the rest of the season.

48. JOSH THOLE, 2010-2012
(Also a Met in 2009)
47. MIKE BAXTER, 2011-2013
Two men have caught no-hitters for the New York Mets. Conventionally speaking, it was Josh Thole behind the plate for the entirety of Johan Santana’s history-altering effort of June 1, 2012, remarkable from a catching standpoint when you realize Thole was just off the disabled list and was, for the first time, wearing a hockey-style mask in deference to his recovery from a concussion. Through whatever protective device Josh looked out at his pitcher, he put down the right fingers, set the right target and was right on time to embrace him on the mound after he caught the final strike three of the night. One of the putouts that wasn’t scored a K landed memorably in the glove of the Met in left, Mike Baxter, though it might be more accurately recalled Baxter landed in the grasp of the wall where that ball was surely headed. The moment when Santana’s flirtation with indelible Met immortality appeared most endangered came in the seventh when legendary Cardinal villain Yadier Molina sent a liner deep to left field. It looked like a sure double to everybody but the left fielder. Mike from Whitestone — a Mets fan growing up, you know — gave his body and soul to make the catch that made the first no-hitter in New York Mets history possible. All of Baxter went on the DL. None of him wasn’t instantly a local baseball hero.

46. KIRK NIEUWENHUIS, 2012-2015; 2015
As noted often in Met telecasts, Kirk Nieuwenhuis played high school football, experience that came in handy when the alumnus of Denver Christian in Colorado was asked to pick up essential yardage between home plate and areas beyond the outfield fence. The Air Nieuwenhuis offense executed several memorable bombs during his relatively limited reps on the field. Highlights included a Father’s Day walkoff blast versus the Cubs that turned around the 2013 Mets (at least for a while); a trio of homers on the Sunday before the All-Star break in 2015, especially notable because they came at Citi Field and no Met had ever gone deep thrice in a home game before; and, most crucially, the eighth-inning dinger that donged Jonathan Papelbon on September 8, 2015, vaulting the first-place Mets ahead of the second-place Nationals, 8-7, the climactic moment of a contest the Mets had very recently trailed, 7-1. Not incidentally, all four of the 2015 home runs came after the Mets sold Kirk’s contract to the Angels and then, having missed his obvious intangibles, grabbed it back on waivers a few weeks later. Nieuwenhuis batted .079 before he left Queens, .279 following his return. Explanation? Perhaps it takes even the most talented high school running back a while to find the end zone.

45. JUSTIN TURNER, 2010-2013
Justin Turner was pretty much the ideal Met utility player. Once he was up from Buffalo to stay in 2011, Turner made himself extraordinarily useful. When Rule 5 wonder Brad Emaus flamed out as the projected everyday second baseman, Justin Turner emerged to help plug the resulting hole. When David Wright detoured to the disabled list for an extended absence, Justin filled in at third. When Daniel Murphy went down, Justin’s value only rose. When any Met did anything to create a win worth celebrating, Justin brought a pie to the postgame interview tableau. He even found time to break a club record set by Ron Swoboda (most consecutive games with an RBI by a rookie). There was little Justin Turner didn’t do at least a little bit well as a righthanded bat and versatile infielder coming off the bench for parts of four seasons. Not doing anything remarkably well, however, made the Mets decide Turner was expendable. Non-tendered in December 2013, he was picked up by the Dodgers. He’s stayed in Los Angeles ever since, making one All-Star team, earning MVP votes three times and batting .526 against the Mets in the 2015 NLDS.

44. TODD FRAZIER, 2018-2019
In 2017, for the first time since Robin Ventura appeared on the free agent market nineteen years before, the Mets entered a winter looking to acquire a full-time third baseman. Most of the stability that had reigned at the hot corner was because David Wright had played third forever. It seemed like he always would. His bad back had other ideas, thus the notion of Todd Frazier on the New York Mets came to be. The pride of Toms River fit into Flushing as comfortably as could be hoped. He served de facto clubhouse spokesman for a team in transition and was willing to star in goofy promotional videos as needed. It didn’t hurt that Todd’s flair for hitting fly balls to left coincided with the sportwide emphasis on launch angle and the deployment of baseballs that seemed to have a little extra oomph in them. Though he batted only .233 and struck out more than 200 times in his two seasons as a Met, he totaled 39 home runs, at least a couple of a highly dramatic nature.

43. ROBERT GSELLMAN, 2016-2019
HAR — Hair Above Replacement — wasn’t a problem for a starting rotation that featured Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, yet it could be said the 2016 Mets played to their follicular strength when they promoted Robert Gsellman. He had the flowing locks that were de rigueur on the Met mound, but far more substantially, the righty had the stuff to carry the Mets forward when they came up short in the healthy arms department. Pitching every fifth day as a rookie in the heat of a playoff chase, Gsellman posted a 2.63 ERA in seven starts and played a wholly unforeseen role in the unlikely rush those Mets put on to capture a Wild Card. Robert’s future awaited him in the bullpen, where his outings got shorter but his hair stayed long.

42. FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ, 2010-2011
(Also a Met in 2009)
Even though perennially losing teams try their best to win games, clear up to the ninth inning and maybe later, it’s up for debate how badly an outfit going nowhere needs an elite closer. Yet the Mets of 2010 and 2011, for whom .500 was an aspirational mark, had an all-timer in Francisco Rodriguez. When Frankie — whose 62 saves for the 2008 Angels remains the MLB standard — was on call to pitch as a Met, he usually did his job as desired, notching 25 saves in 2010 and another 23 in 2011. Those were both partial seasons, truncated by caveats. In 2010, nothing Rodriguez did out of the pen got as much attention as what happened between him and the father of his common-law wife: an August 11 altercation that saw the closer arrested for third-degree assault. A brief suspension was followed by the diagnosis of a torn ligament in his right thumb, attributable to the fight. In 2011, K-Rod was back and generally keeping both himself and the Mets out of trouble when it became clear that thanks to a vesting option in his already-lucrative contract that the more he pitched, the more the Mets would have to pay him. In a nod to budgetary restraint, the Mets sent their 2009 All-Star reliever to the Brewers at the break in ’11 for what amounted to salary relief.

41. PEDRO FELICIANO, 2010; 2013
(Also a Met from 2002 to 2004 and 2006 to 2009)
Tony Bennett and Pedro Feliciano could compare notes on what parts of their anatomy they left where. Bennett, though he’s from Astoria, has proclaimed loud and clear that his heart wound up in San Francisco. Feliciano, by all evidence, sacrificed his left arm to the playing fields of Flushing — first Shea, then its successor. The lone survivor from the gruesome bullpen implosion of 2008 just kept pitching once Citi Field opened, breaking his franchise record for most appearances not once but twice, culminating with the 92 times he jogged in from the bullpen at Jerry Manuel’s behest in 2010. Having shown admirable durability, Feliciano signed a two-year deal with the Yankees. Unsurprisingly in hindsight, his durability went on hiatus after leading the majors in appearances three straight years and he never worked for the team in the Bronx. When Pedro was next ready to pitch, he came home to Queens for 25 more games in 2013. Despite having been affiliated with six other major league organizations between 1995 and 2015 (and spending a year abroad with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in Japan), every one of the 484 MLB appearances Pedro Feliciano logged came in a New York Mets uniform. It’s the second-highest total in Mets history, behind only John Franco, and most among any pitcher who never threw in a regulation game for any big league unit but the Mets.

Mets of the 2010s: 60-51

Welcome to the fifth chapter of Faith and Fear’s countdown of The Top 100 Mets of the 2010s. An introduction to the series is available here; you can read the most recent installment here. These are the more or less best Mets we rooted for as Mets fans these past ten years. Since a decade is coming to a close, we thought it would be fun to round them up and recall a little something about them.

60. JUSTIN WILSON, 2019
Signed for depth in the winter. Thrust by necessity to the forefront by fall. Justin Wilson journeyed in a season’s time from journeyman to setup man as the 2019 Mets climbed the ladder of possibility. After most of the veteran’s first half was spent on the injured list, Wilson began making an impact from the port side of the bullpen in July, and eventually manager Mickey Callaway relied on him regularly to pave the way for de facto closer Seth Lugo — or vice-versa, as improvisation, combined with Justin’s hot hand, saw the lefty save the Mets’ day on several key occasions.

59. ROD BARAJAS, 2010
58. JOHN BUCK, 2013

The prize found at the top of a pair of cereal boxes the Mets opened twice in the first half of the decade were catchers who came out swinging. Rod Barajas in 2010 and John Buck in 2013 were each veteran backstops whose bats made loud, likable impressions as Mets fans became familiar with their respective forms. Rod provided power unseen from behind the plate since the heyday of Mike Piazza, socking nine balls out of parks in his first 23 games. Buck broke from the gate with even more thunder, totaling 10 HR and 29 RBI by May 3. Of no less import, John nurtured young Matt Harvey to All-Star starter status. Neither Barajas nor Buck could maintain their respective blistering paces, but their reputations as potential game changers stayed strong, and both catchers were successfully sought by contenders before their lone years as Mets were done.

57. JORDANY VALDESPIN, 2012-2013
It’s been a while since they made Characters of the Game like they used to, but in 2012 and ’13, Jordany Valdespin presented himself as a throwback, whether he meant to or not. At bat, he was lightning in a bottle, setting the Met season record for pinch homers (5) as a rookie. In the field, he could be called versatile, posting perfect percentages at four positions, if a dreadful one (.727) as a shortstop. He swiped ten bases in 2012 despite playing fewer than a hundred games. Jordany’s real calling card, though, was his no [bleeps] given personality, starting with the exuberant statement he offered Kevin Burkhardt after his first game-winning hit: “I’m ‘The Man’ right now.” In context, he wasn’t inaccurate. Amid the niceties of baseball protocol, however, it came off as a little gauche, but if you can back it up, you can say you want. Across two seasons, it became progressively harder for JV1, as he liked to be known, to let his game do his talking. Valdespin would get thrown at by opposing pitchers and not have a Met immediately retaliate on his behalf. The celebratory pie-in-the-face he received for an extra-inning grand slam seemed to land a little hard. A t-shirt of his was sliced to ribbons by anonymous clubhouse vandals. There was also the matter of his decision to not wear a cup in a Spring Training game…with Justin Verlander pitching and coming, shall we say, inside. By the middle of 2013, the lightning in the bottle was losing its fizz and after a testy exchange of NSFW words with Terry Collins, Jordany Valdespin could be termed an ex-Met right now.

56. ERIC YOUNG, Jr., 2013-2014; 2015
Speed kills. Speed thrills. Speed was often absent from the Mets’ strategy after Jose Reyes bolted for Miami ahead of 2012, but Eric Young, Jr., was a reminder that a fast pair of feet could really get a team going. EYJ was quite capable of running and did so often. Following his 2013 in-season trade from Colorado, Young took over as starting left fielder and leadoff hitter and sparked the Mets to their best spurt of the year. His 38 steals in 91 games, combined with eight he’d garnered as a Rockie, won him the NL stolen bases title. Eric’s production leveled off in 2014, leading the Mets to let him depart as a free agent, but as they were speeding toward clinching a division title in 2015, they remembered their erstwhile burner and picked him up in late August. His abbreviated second go-round as a Met perfectly encapsulated Young’s skill set. In nine plate appearances, Eric never reached base, yet he crossed the plate nine times in September, each time as a pinch-runner deluxe.

55. JAY BRUCE, 2016-2017; 2018
When he was on, Jay Bruce was a powerful force for the Mets. When he wasn’t, a black hole stood a better chance of getting a base hit. Jay was on a substantial amount of the time during his up-and-down Metropolitan tenure, especially in 2017, when the bat that had made the right fielder a perennial trade target in Cincinnati burned. Bruce entered the ’17 All-Star break with 23 homers for the Mets and was up to 29 in early August when another contender (something New York was no longer) came calling. The Mets sent him to Cleveland, and Jay helped the Indians secure their AL Central crown. When the Mets were the ones acquiring Bruce for a playoff drive in 2016, it had been a different story, as Jay arrived from Ohio ice cold. Still, the sum total of Bruce’s Met experience was positive enough to convince the club to re-sign him as a free agent in 2018. His next term was more reminiscent of ’16 than ’17, which added up to Jay being part of the package sent to Seattle for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz in advance of ’19.

54. SCOTT HAIRSTON, 2011-2012
A part-time outfielder who mashed like a full-time slugger, Scott Hairston tended to get the most out of his select playing opportunities. In 2012, despite starting only 86 times, Hairston hit 20 home runs, becoming only the seventh Met to produce a quantity that high in fewer than 400 at-bats. That was the same season Scott struck for the cycle at Coors Field and contributed a grand slam to a 17-1 rout of the Cubs at Wrigley. His defensive reputation may have kept him glued to the bench when Terry Collins was filling out a lineup card, but his bat had no problem nudging him loose as the innings grew late. In extras in 2012, Scott was a .571 hitter.

53. CARLOS TORRES, 2013-2015
Carlos Torres personified the kind of fabric from which a baseball season is sewn. Across three years in New York, he often represented the difference between fragility and firmness for Mets teams at different competitive junctures. From the middle of June in 2013 through Labor Day 2015, Carlos was regularly on call and responded to whatever a situation called for. Torres was used mostly out of the bullpen to soak up middle innings, but he was also handy to have for nine starts in 2013 and ready to go when a family emergency prevented Bartolo Colon from pitching in 2014. After plowing through two also-ran seasons, Torres was an essential element of the Mets’ rise to prominence in 2015, most notably when he and Daniel Murphy teamed on an unlikely tenth-inning 1-3-1 putout in Philadelphia in late August; the first “1” in that equation was Torres’s left foot, which absorbed the brunt of Met alum Jeff Francoeur’s line drive up the middle (part of the reason Gary Cohen immediately dubbed the sequence of events “the play of the year”). Carlos himself singled to lead off the thirteenth and score the game’s winning run. In a critical showdown in Washington on September 7, Torres was on in the fourth to bail out Jon Niese. Carlos took care of the Nationals, but after being the Met to endure longest without time missed due to injury, he strained his left calf covering first in the fifth. The bad timing didn’t hurt the Mets’ roll toward October, but it did derail Torres from the club’s pitching plans for the postseason.

52. T.J. RIVERA, 2016-2017
The kid from the Bronx makes good in Queens. That sentence, however brief, wrote itself down the stretch in 2016 when T.J. Rivera emerged from both across the Triborough Bridge and out of nowhere to rush the Mets along to a playoff berth. Despite going unselected in the amateur draft, the Mets took the word of an impeccable source — their former catcher Mackey Sasser, who coached T.J. at Wallace Community College in Alabama — and signed Rivera as a free agent in 2011. Five years later, he was called up to the majors when, as seemed to be the case every summer, the Mets were beset by injuries. Soon settling in at second base in place of a hobbled Neil Walker, Rivera proved a lifeline, batting .333 and pushing the Mets to first place in the National League Wild Card standings. T.J. was the only Met to reach Madison Bumgarner for an extra-base hit in the winner-take-all affair to follow, doubling to lead off the bottom of the fifth of what was still a scoreless game. It remains the most recent postseason extra-base hit off the bat of any Met.

51. JAMES LONEY, 2016
The Mets weren’t exactly angling for another Keith Hernandez in May of 2016 when they found themselves bereft of a full-time first baseman, but they surely needed somebody who knew how to play the position and swing a bat competently. With Lucas Duda sidelined for an indefinite period, they reached out and reeled in James Loney, a ten-year veteran wallowing in the minors for Texas. His contribution to a team trying to get back to the postseason was essential, never more so than when with a playoff spot on the line, James delivered. Loney was up with two out and Curtis Granderson on second in the sixth inning at Philadelphia on October 1, the score knotted at two. Facing reliever David Hernandez, the first baseman launched a three-and-one fastball far over the right field wall to put the Mets by up a pair, the same margin by which they’d bring home the Wild Card three innings later. The joy inherent in his 426-foot accomplishment was summed up in the jubilant bat drop with which James followed up his feat. “That’s called being in the moment right there,” Loney said as the postgame champagne flowed. “There’s just times in those big moments where it’s fun to enjoy it, and you’ve gotta have fun in this game.”

No Wheeler; Less Wilpon; Now What?

When the rich guys meet for cocktails at the Rich Guys Club — which is where rich guys get together to tell each other how beautiful and brilliant they are — and one rich guy makes a deal to buy a baseball franchise from another rich guy, maybe one of the rich guys, after everybody’s shaken hands on everything that needs to be shaken on, could leave a large enough gratuity on the table so somebody can sign a frontline starting pitcher.

Or is that too shortsighted a priority for the rabble up here in the not-so-cheap seats?

I don’t know what to make of the news that Steve Cohen, very rich guy, is in negotiations to buy more than half of the Mets from the presumably doing OK for themselves Wilpons. I mean, yeah, hurrah for new blood, new money, a potential new attitude toward offseasons that Patti LaBelle herself would praise to high heavens. Cohen, if and when he takes over, shapes up on a thin sheet of paper as the kind of guy you’d want owning your team. I don’t want or need to know more than the part that says he can afford a baseball team and he’s committed to it being the best possible baseball team. People who have the means to buy professional sports franchises are different from you and me, and who are we — the ticket-buying, cable-subscribing, blog-penning public — to judge them and their outside-the-lines endeavors? Their job is to position the team we love to win and therefore make that team more lovable.

The best news about Cohen, in addition to his resources, is that he’s a Mets fan. Not a Mets fan because he already owns a minority stake in the Mets. Not a Mets fan in the sense that he politely applauds his investment. He’s a 63-year-old Mets fan originally from Great Neck, eight stops on the Port Washington line from Shea. I’ve read he attended games at the Polo Grounds, which means he’s old enough to remember the entirety of the Mets experience and young enough to not remember a time before the Mets. The latter shouldn’t feel like a positive, but after eleven seasons passing through the turnstiles of a ballpark whose guiding architectural principle was Ebbets Faux, I’ll take my chances on a baseball worldview shaped by love of the Mets and nobody else.

The least encouraging news is that this deal is by no means done. It’s supposed to take five years. Or less, depending on common sense and how rich guys operate. Five years sounds a little strange. Fred Wilpon sticking around for a half-decade as “control person” (the MLB acronym for owner that reads as both descriptive and chilling) when we are told Steve Cohen and his billions are en route sounds very strange. When I first heard these were the terms in play, I thought of the Season One episode of M*A*S*H in which everybody’s very certain there’s going to be a ceasefire…everybody but Trapper John, who rejects the rumor of peace “with all my cynical heart”.

“I’ll drink to it,” Trapper tells Hawkeye, “but I don’t believe it.” M*A*S*H, you may be aware, ran ten more seasons (plus a bloated finale movie), so Trapper was on to something there. And, by the way, anybody remember the name David Einhorn? He was the rich guy identified as the Mets’ owner-in-waiting in May of 2011. By September, that deal was dead.

If this does go through, though, it’s nice to think that when the Steve Cohen Mets encounter a baseball situation like the one that encountered the Fred & Jeff Wilpon Mets most recently, the Steve Cohen Mets will respond differently. The F&J Wilpon Mets had Zack Wheeler declaring free agency and fielding offers from all sorts of teams. Well, not all sorts of teams. The Met sort sat out pursuit of a pitcher who’d been very good for them the past couple of years and projected to be something similar a while longer. Zack just signed with Philadelphia, five years at $118 million total, a sum we’ll call Zack Wheeler money.

Maybe there are better options for the Mets than Zack Wheeler. I liked Zack Wheeler as a Met, but I could move on to another pitcher in his place. Who’s that gonna be? There are some fine pitchers out there on the market. I’d take Gerrit Cole, for example. He’s a major league free agent and the Mets are a major league franchise that isn’t paying Zack Wheeler anything. Cole would definitely loom as an upgrade.

Also as a fantasy in the F&J Wilpon Mets world. It’s never occurred to us to think the Mets, as run by their current control person and his right-hand son, would ever, ever, ever go after a pitcher like Cole who would command at least a Wheeler-and-a-half. That’s because we’re hyperconscious of who’s running the show and how they run it. But, hey, if a baseball decision were made that somewhere between Wheeler and Cole there’s an optimal answer for who will start games every fifth day, I’d be all for it. Walker Lockett ain’t it. Corey Oswalt ain’t it. Seth Lugo, unless you got a lot of relief pitching to take his spot, ain’t it. Any good ideas that will take wherewithal — the i is dotted with a dollar sign — are non-starters. That’s who the Mets figure to get to replace Zack Wheeler: a non-starter. When he arrives, we’ll be told it’s a creative choice.

The Steve Cohen Mets, had the clock truly started on their existence, might have extended Wheeler already. The Steve Cohen Mets might have said goodbye to Wheeler because they knew they were going hard after Cole or somebody else approximating his caliber. We don’t know what the Steve Cohen Mets would do. We don’t know for sure that there will be a Steve Cohen Mets. But if there are, I look forward to not even being aware that they’re the Steve Cohen Mets. In a decent-case scenario, they’ll just be the New York Mets whose control person will empower the baseball people to figure out who they need and tell them to do what it takes to get him. In an even better-case scenario, the next time we’d think about who’s in control will be when the control person shows up amid a couple of dozen heartily celebrating Mets to accept a many-flagged trophy from the commissioner.

That’s the best-case scenario, actually. I’d really like to see that.

Mets of the 2010s: 70-61

Welcome to the fourth chapter of Faith and Fear’s countdown of The Top 100 Mets of the 2010s. An introduction to the series is available here; you can read the most recent installment here. These are the more or less best Mets we rooted for as Mets fans these past ten years. Since a decade is coming to a close, we thought it would be fun to round them up and recall a little something about them.

70. ERIC CAMPBELL, 2014-2016
Eric Campbell definitely nailed Triple-A. In parts of four seasons with the Las Vegas 51s, the righty swinger tore up the Pacific Coast League, hitting .322 in close to 900 at-bats. Most compelling was the .355 average he had going in 2014 when the Mets called him up to New York for his major league debut. The Mets weren’t doing particularly well and anybody scalding in the minors, even in an acknowledged hitters league, looks pretty darn good from afar. Up close, Campbell — known naturally as Soup — wasn’t bad. Over three seasons at Citi Field, he’d fill in at first, in the outfield and, when David Wright went down with spinal stenosis in 2015, a lot at third (39 starts in place of the Captain). The year the Mets won the pennant, Eric was a valuable pinch-hitter, producing at a .308 clip off the bench. Ultimately, sustained MLB success wasn’t part of the recipe for Soup, a reminder that a player compiles nearly 900 ABs at AAA for a reason.

69. JOSH EDGIN, 2012-2014; 2016-2017
Josh Edgin opened eyes in his first big league camp in 2012 and brought intriguing stuff to bear when he debuted that July. The lefty retired the first four batters he saw at Turner Field before giving up a home run to Chipper Jones and a double to Freddie Freeman, a one-two rite of passage for any Met reliever. A 1.47 ERA in 2014 portended great things, but then Tommy John surgery cancelled his 2015. Josh returned to help the Mets capture a Wild Card in 2016. On April 28, 2017, in his Moment of Zen, he extricated Jeurys Familia from a bases-loaded ninth inning jam in Washington by teasing a game-ending double play grounder from Bryce Harper. Edgin earned his second and final major league save that night. Two years later, he’d be retired from pro ball and coaching his high school team in Pennsylvania.

68. RAFAEL MONTERO, 2014-2017
The Mets found themselves needing a pair of starting pitchers to get through the 2014 edition of the Subway Series. One was listed by reliable sources as a real comer. The other was Jacob deGrom. The prospect labeled more prime than his contemporary was Rafael Montero. Jake and Raffy were elevated to New York together in the middle of May and, except for their major league beginnings, they’d rarely be mentioned in tandem again. While deGrom commenced carving a Rookie of the Year campaign almost immediately, Montero struggled as a starter and encountered injuries as a reliever. A depleted rotation in 2017 provided him at last with an opportunity to get the ball regularly and he now and then exhibited the form that made talent evaluators mark him for stardom. On August 30 at Cincinnati, it all seemed to come together for Rafael, as he carried a three-hit shutout into the ninth inning, a game the Mets won, 2-0. It was the first of three consecutive starts the righty would win…the last three W’s of a frustrating Met tenure.

67. HANSEL ROBLES, 2015-2018
The live right arm of Hansel Robles was so quick on the draw that sometimes balls he threw weren’t through their flight when his index finger was raised in the air providing a missile guidance system of sorts to help anybody watching follow their trajectory to points unknown. Yes, Hansel was regularly Greteled by opposing batters (seven home runs surrendered over his final 17⅔ innings as a Met), yet that arm did pack enough promise to keep getting chances, especially as the Mets chased playoff berths in 2015 and 2016. Robles went unscored upon in three postseason appearances in ’15 and eventually delivered on his talent by registering 23 saves in 2019. By then, unfortunately, he was pitching for the Angels.

66. RENÉ RIVERA, 2016-2017; 2019
Nobody manning any other position on the diamond is asked to be acutely sensitive to the needs of a teammate, but a catcher has to be there for his pitcher, to say nothing of the ball, which is pretty much the only thing defenders elsewhere on the field have to worry about. René Rivera revealed himself to be the sweet spot for an entire pitching rotation in 2016, becoming the guy more Met hurlers seemed to prefer throwing to than any other option. Noah Syndergaard seemed to benefit most from his presence, crafting his breakout season under the tutelage of the well-traveled pitch-framing vet. When Thor started the Wild Card Game at Citi Field, it was Rivera who handled him from behind the plate. The pitcher responded with seven shutout innings. Noah liked René so much, he asked for him by name when Rivera returned to the Mets as a backup catcher in 2019.

65. MICHAEL CUDDYER, 2015
He’d been a Twin, a Rockie and, most relevantly, a Virginian who grew up in the vicinity of David Wright. His abilities (including a batting crown in Denver) and his connections to a Captain landed him in New York for 2015. From there, Michael Cuddyer built on his background for a club coming into its own. The everyday left fielder as the Mets broke from the gate at 15-5, Michael took on the role of team leader, all the more vital once Wright went out with a monthslong injury. Postgame celebrations were highlighted by Cuddyer awarding a championship belt to the player deemed most responsible for a night’s win. His own playing time got trimmed once the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes, yet Michael Cuddyer never ceased being a frontline teammate to the rest of the 2015 NL champs.

64. JASON ISRINGHAUSEN, 2011
(Also a Met from 1995 to 1999)
The longest homecoming story in Mets history had a happy enough ending. Jason Isringhausen was a Met more than a decade removed from the orange and blue when the former phenom returned to rekindle his career in April of 2011. Shea Stadium, was no longer around and Generation K was a distant memory, yet the former All-Star closer was delighted to be back proximate to where it all began. “To put the ‘Mets’ across your chest,” he confessed, “it’s pretty special.” Izzy, 38, emerged from the pen 53 times in ’11, notching seven saves after Francisco Rodriguez was traded in mid-July. The seventh, on August 15, was the 300th of his career, a milestone the righty watched John Franco reach fifteen years earlier at Shea. Yup, Jason Isringhausen had been around forever and gone from the Mets almost as long. It was special to have him back.

63. NEIL WALKER, 2016-2017
In the annals of tough acts to follow, Daniel Murphy bequeathed a spectral presence Neil Walker didn’t really need. The timing for the solid second baseman’s transfer from Pittsburgh to New York was decidedly less than wonderful, as Neil’s Mets debut followed on the heels of Murph’s NLCS MVP performance the previous fall. Walker did fine for himself in his new locale, especially as a slugger his first Met month. With nine home runs on the board prior to May 1, it appeared possible the Mets wouldn’t miss the perpetually defensively challenged Murphy. Except Daniel the Washington National blossomed into an everyday elite batter whose hitting made everybody forget he wasn’t much of a fielder. It didn’t help the inevitable comparison between second basemen that the guy the Mets didn’t re-sign beat up on his old team like crazy. In 2016, Daniel Murphy batted .347 against all comers, but really came to play against the Mets, raking at a .413 pace. With that as background noise, Neil Walker acquitted himself more than adequately, totaling 23 homers (including a couple of critical blasts that rescued games that appeared lost during the ballclub’s extended flailing period) before an injury ended his season in late August. The next year, Murphy made his second consecutive All-Star team with the Nationals, lifted Washington to another division flag and continued to relentlessly pound Met pitching. Walker was traded to Milwaukee.

62. DOMINIC SMITH, 2017-2019
A slow burn didn’t much more than smolder once Dominic Smith reached the big leagues amid the lost summer of 2017. The erstwhile first-round draft pick demonstrated enticing power during his initial audition at first base, yet couldn’t raise his batting average as high as .200. Injury and a lack of progress kept him from seeing Citi Field in 2018 until June. His most vivid highlight came in left field where he ran into shortstop Amed Rosario on a fly ball and cost the Mets a game against the Giants. Facing the third strike of his stunted career, Smith turned the cliché about the best shape of my life into truth. Shed of weight and baggage in 2019, Dom transformed into a latter-day Lenny Harris when not starting (PH OPS of 1.031) and made himself into a decently serviceable platoon left fielder once first base became the permanent province of Pete Alonso. Another injury turned Dom into the Mets’ most vocal and vibrant cheerleader during the team’s stab at Wild Card glory, but it was Smith who’d be eliciting the final huzzahs of the 2010s. Batting for the first time in more than two months, on September 29, Dom belted a three-run home run to beat the division champion Braves in the eleventh inning of Game 162. Judging from the raucous reception he received, you’d think Smith had won the Mets something bigger than the last game of a non-playoff season. With everybody in attendance suddenly leaning forward into hot anticipation of 2020, maybe he did.

61. HISANORI TAKAHASHI, 2010
Versatility, thy name at decade’s outset was Hisanori Takahashi, a one-year wonder of starting and closing rarely demonstrated in Queens this or any century. No Met pitcher who started as many as a dozen games in a season had ever saved as many as eight other games in the same season before the erstwhile Yomiuri Giant came to Flushing in 2010…and no Met has done it since. When his lone year with the Mets began, the 35-year-old Takahashi was just another crafty middle reliever to manager Jerry Manuel, but a rotation in flux changed Hisanori’s role in May (the same week R.A. Dickey made his Met debut). The southpaw shifted back to the bullpen in August when a combination of legal and physical factors deprived Manuel of Francisco Rodriguez’s services. Takahashi — technically a major league rookie — responded with aplomb, shutting doors as if that’s what he’d come over from Japan to do in the first place.

Mets of the 2010s: 80-71

Welcome to the third chapter of Faith and Fear’s countdown of The Top 100 Mets of the 2010s. An introduction to the series is available here; you can read the most recent installment here. These are the more or less best Mets we rooted for as Mets fans these past ten years. Since a decade is coming to a close, we thought it would be fun to round them up and recall a little something about them.

80. COLLIN COWGILL, 2013
Coming out of the what outfield? winter of Sandy Alderson’s ill-concealed discontent, the Mets were entering the 2013 season with an assortment of options that made Abbott & Costello’s lineup look like known quantities. Who was in center? No, it was Collin Cowgill, late of Arizona and Oakland and reminiscent of, at least according to Spring Training buzz, Lenny Dykstra. Several inches shy of six feet, Collin had the height to compare. By the time Opening Day was over, he also had the memorable home run, in his case a grand slam to ice the Mets’ win over the Padres. Granted, it wasn’t up there with the walkoff wallop Dykstra launched to beat the Astros in 1986’s NLCS Game Three, but power from an unexpected source will make anybody an instant fan favorite. For Cowgill, the favor didn’t last; he batted .180 in 23 games and was dealt to the Angels in June. But no Mets fan around for the rest of the 2010s would hear his name and ask, “Who?” One swing is sometimes all it takes.

79. FRANK FRANCISCO, 2012-2013
The cult of the closer had a perfectly logical avatar to carry its faith forward in Flushing when Frank Francisco, an American League relief pitcher with credentials, was signed for $12 million by Sandy Alderson to pitch ninth innings in 2012 and 2013. Francisco, who’d totaled as many 25 saves in a season for Texas, did what he was asked to do right away, preserving wins in the Mets’ first three games of the year. The club was 3-0, their closer was 3-for-3 in save opportunities and…well, neither entity could quite keep up the blistering pace. Still, Francisco compiled 23 saves (in spite of a 5.53 ERA) and backed up a bit of bizarre Subway Series bluster — “I can’t wait to strike out those chickens” — by throwing a scoreless ninth to end a Citi Field victory over the Yankees on June 22. A lingering elbow injury accompanied by a suspiciously lengthy rehabilitation period sidelined him until September in 2013. Frank notched his one and only save of the year on the last day of the season, closing the books on the last instance in the 2010s that the Mets would entrust their fate to a pricey free agent closer.

78. TYLER CLIPPARD, 2015
Fortification of the back end of the bullpen is the goal of any contender, and the Mets fortified what they hoped would be their fortress of solitude in July of 2015 by trading for veteran righty Tyler Clippard. Handed primarily eighth innings, Clippard tended to protect them very well as the Mets commenced to lap one of his former teams, the Nationals, in the race for first place in the NL East. Chalking up eight holds plus a save in his first twenty-four Met appearances certainly helped clear a path to a division title. The last New York stats Tyler posted, however, are the ones that resonate: two walks in a third-of-an-inning versus Kansas City in the eighth inning of Game Four of the World Series, both of which became earned runs on his ledger and a dagger of loss for both him and the Mets.

77. CHRIS CAPUANO, 2011
Chris Capuano was probably miscast as a 2011 Met, though that was through no fault of his own. A veteran lefty of the sort any contending team would desire down the stretch, the Mets never got around to converting Capuano into prospects as their season went south. Chris made the best of his static situation, most notably on a Friday night in late August at Citi Field when he thoroughly shut down the Braves, one of the clubs that could have used a guy like him: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 13 SO for a 6-0 whitewashing on the eve of Hurricane Irene storming the Metropolitan Area. Capuano’s Game Score, a metric that measures an outing’s dominance, was the highest for any Met starter since David Cone struck out 19 on the last day of 1991. A little over a month after Atlanta succumbed to Chris, the Braves would complete a colossal collapse, blowing their once-comfortable Wild Card lead to the Cardinals and missing the playoffs by a single game. They surely could have used a guy like Capuano…or benefited from him being on a mound somewhere else on August 26.

76. MARCUS STROMAN, 2019
Were the heretofore comatose Mets serious about making a run in 2019? They must have been, because on July 28, the contenders-come-lately swooped in ahead of other more logical trading partners, threw prospects to the wind, and worked out a swap with Toronto for Marcus Stroman, a Long Island kid who salivated at the chance to pitch with something on the line for a New York team. It may not have been the New York team Marcus expected to be joining, but the energetic righty acclimated quickly to his new surroundings, emitting excitement and occasionally flashing the form that earned him a spot on the AL All-Star squad a few weeks earlier. Becoming the first Met to pitch regularly with a single digit on his back (7), Stroman straddled the line between erratic and effective for a spell before settling in as a valuable member of a rotation striving to keep an unlikely Wild Card bid alive.

75. JASON BAY, 2010-2012
Signing Jason Bay didn’t seem like a terrible idea. The left fielder, 31, established a stellar track record with Pittsburgh and Boston, capturing the Rookie of the Year award in 2004, making three All-Star teams in a five-season span, and belting 36 home runs in 2009 while playing his home games in a park whose left field wall is known as the Green Monster. Coming to Citi Field for four years, starting in 2010, shouldn’t have proved daunting, even if almost no 2009 Met managed to hit balls out of its uncozy confines in its inaugural year. Plus Bay could claim Met roots of a sort, having shuffled through New York’s minor league system in 2002, playing alongside the up-and-coming Jose Reyes at Binghamton. There was no reason Bay on the Mets shouldn’t have worked. Yet it didn’t very much. Part of it was bad luck born of hustle. Bay ran into walls of all sizes in pursuit of catches, and staying in one piece proved a challenge. His persistent slump of 2010 and 2011 devolved into a nightmare .165 batting average in 2012. There was residual pop in his bat, most notably the night in Detroit when Jason belted the grand slam that broke a Mets four-run homer drought that had stretched nearly 300 games (Carlos Beltran added his own grand slam the very next inning; go figure). Bay’s pro’s pro aura rarely diminished, but it couldn’t obscure a bat that just wasn’t getting around like it used to. The Mets ate the last year of his contract.

74. JEREMY HEFNER, 2012-2013
From the out-of-nowhere files came the case of Jeremy Hefner, a righty who’d spent five seasons in the San Diego chain, never advancing beyond Triple-A before the Mets picked him up in the offseason prior to 2012. His major league debut was on the nose for an afterthought of a pitcher, as he was called up to serve as the first “26th man” mandated by MLB for use in a makeup doubleheader. His second start, on May 29, was auspicious at the plate (a home run off Joe Blanton) and quality on the mound (6 IP, 3 ER for his first win). Jeremy gave Terry Collins 36 starts over two years, intermittently shining — he carried a shutout into the ninth inning the last time the Mets played the Astros in a National League game — and generally hanging tough, at least until his right arm required not one but two rounds of Tommy John surgery. Hefner’s Met pitching career ended shy of a comeback, but a uniform awaits him in Flushing in 2020, as the new pitching coach for his old team.

73. TIM BYRDAK, 2011-2013
No bullpen that is called upon multiple times a night can persist without a pitcher the caliber of Tim Byrdak. Having been through the wars since 1994 (including a four-year tour of the minors after having already spent parts of three seasons with the Royals), Byrdak joined the Mets in 2011 and became the lefty specialist Terry Collins couldn’t get enough of: 72 appearances in ’11, another 56 in ’12. Though Tim was new to New York, his experience at many prior rodeos made him the bullpen spokesman of record during a couple of fairly lean seasons. He seemed to relish his elder statesman role, never more than when he decided what the clubhouse really needed was a live chicken in the aftermath of the poultry-inflected jibe Frank Francisco directed at the Yankees. Byrdak named the temporary pet Little Jerry Seinfeld, an homage to the cockfighting episode of Seinfeld, before the bird moved on to a more suitable home. A shoulder injury curtailed Byrdak’s 2012, but he fought to return to pitching in September 2013, determined to put in every last day until he qualified for MLB’s Lifetime Pass, a gold card that entitles a player lifetime admission to any ballgame. The catch was a player qualifies only if he’s lasted eight years as a major leaguer. Byrdak, pushing 40, made it back to the Mets, pitched in the final eight games of his career and surely earned his free pass.

72. ROBINSON CANO, 2019
71. EDWIN DIAZ, 2019

It was a matter of debate whether the December 2018 headline-grabbing deal the Mets made with Seattle would be known as the Robinson Cano Trade, the Edwin Diaz Trade or, ultimately, the Jarred Kelenic Trade. The back pages in New York were initially all about Cano, a potentially Hall of Fame-bound second baseman returning to the city where he established himself as a superstar. The smart money said that absorbing the 36-year-old’s megacontract was worth it because the real prize was Diaz, a closer who had just completed dazzling the American League to the tune of 57 mostly unhittable saves. At 24, the righty projected as the centerpiece of what had to be an improved Mets bullpen. Sure enough, Edwin pitched to his burgeoning reputation as the 2019 season got underway, recording save after save and inspiring calls for his entrance into games prior to their ninth innings. What nobody saw coming was Diaz’s penchant for the home run ball undoing his spate of good work, isolating his 26 saves from the sense of foreboding that surrounded the mere sight of him stirring in the pen. As for Cano, he was definitely old, definitely prone to the gentle jog to first on grounders to second and definitely the object of growing derision as 2019 went down the tubes. Then a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion: Cano got ridiculously hot (a three-homer explosion one night versus San Diego; a five-game OPS of 1.445 that was derailed only by a trip to the IL) and the Mets caught fire. His younger, more consistently productive teammates continually vouched for how much Robbie’s leadership meant to them, maybe yielding hope that former top Met prospect Kelenic, whenever the 20-year-old outfielder reaches the majors, won’t totally turn the erstwhile Mariners into latter-day synonyms for Foy and Fregosi.

Mets of the 2010s: 90-81

Welcome to the second chapter of Faith and Fear’s countdown of The Top 100 Mets of the 2010s. An introduction to the series is available here; you can read the first installment here. These are the more or less best Mets we rooted for as Mets fans these past ten years. Since a decade is coming to a close, we thought it would be fun to round them up and recall a little something about them.

90. DAISUKE MATSUZAKA, 2013-2014
89. SHAUN MARCUM, 2013
88. BUDDY CARLYLE, 2014-2015

“Prison time is slow time,” Red said in The Shawshank Redemption, a movie that itself runs for two hours and twenty-two minutes. Baseball seasons fly by too quickly, yet in the 2010s, we had three pitchers who conjure thoughts of games that seemed to take a decade to play. Daisuke Matsuzaka, a fallen idol from his Red Sox days, worked so slowly that SNY put a clock on him to measure the time he took between pitches (it would have been snarkier had they labeled their device a Matsuclocka). Eventually, as opposed to quickly, Dice-K evolved into a reasonably reliable reliever. Shaun Marcum’s specialty was the extra-extra-inning game, taking the ball for the final two innings of a fifteen-inning loss on April 29, 2013, at Miami and eight long frames — the thirteenth through twentieth — against the Marlins at Citi Field on June 8 that same year. Shaun’s FIP of 3.64 indicated he deserved better than a 1-10 mark as a Met; his criticism of the sainted GKR booth post-release, however, guaranteed he’d go unmissed in New York. Buddy Carlyle, meanwhile, never showed anything less than happiness to be here, starting with his insertion into the eleventh inning of a thirteen-inning win at Philadelphia on May 31, 2014, that required 5:32 to complete and tested even the good humor of Gary Cohen. Carlyle, whose professional career dated back to 1996, got the win that long night at Citizens Bank, saw his first Opening Day action anywhere in 2015 and saved the first win of the eventual pennant-winning season ahead. Longevity sometimes has its rewards.

87. BOBBY ABREU, 2014
There’s nothing wrong with a dimmed star hanging on until he’s told to let go, and the Mets have certainly provided space on their rosters for players who used to be much better to flicker away. It doesn’t always end with everybody in agreement that the end has come (neither Adrian Gonzalez nor Jose Bautista ever quite retired after the Mets furnished them with what amounted to their respective final moments in 2018). Bobby Abreu, who built a prospective Hall of Fame case with five previous teams between 1996 and 2012, received an exit strategy from the Mets, and Abreu took it. The on-base specialist returned to the field in 2014 after a year’s absence and provided Terry Collins — his first manager, in Houston, eighteen Septembers earlier — a viable lefthanded bat off the bench. On the eve of the season’s final series, Abreu announced this was gonna be it, and on Closing Day, September 28, Bobby went out in style, starting in right and singling in his third plate appearance. Once he reached first, he tipped his cap to a standing ovation and departed for a pinch-runner, the last of his 2,470 big league hits securely in the books.

86. SCOTT RICE, 2013-2014
It happens most every spring somewhere. There’s a pitcher who appears in camp who’s been trying to make the majors forever. He’s not really on anybody’s radar, but he gets a chance, he gets batters out and, with luck and numbers finally on his side, he makes it. That feelgood story came to fruition prior to the beginning of the 2013 season when southpaw Scott Rice, who’d pitched at every level except the highest of them since 1999, made the Mets, a rookie at 31. On April 1, no foolin’, Rice entered the Mets’ Opening Day game at blustery Citi Field and set down the Padres in order in the ninth to seal an 11-2 victory. Scott was no one-day wonder, pitching 73 times in 2013 and 32 more in 2014, earning from Gary Cohen the nickname Scott “Every Minute” Rice. Sometimes it’s the stuff that takes the longest to boil that tastes most delectable.

85. ANTHONY RECKER, 2013-2015
Unless his picture was printed on both sides, it didn’t show up on the back of his baseball card that Anthony Recker was a handsome devil. What did show up was Recker’s predilection for pop from behind the plate, noteworthy for a catcher who didn’t play all that often. Six home runs in fifty games in 2013. Seven more in 58 games in 2014. A couple more as the Mets got serious in 2015. Anthony was a day game after a night game plugger, and he looked damn good filling the role.

84. LOGAN VERRETT, 2015-2016
A ballclub that confidently shapes its five-man rotation is one that knows it better have a sixth starter ready to supplement its efforts. For a team going somewhere at last in 2015, that quintessential spot starter was Logan Verrett, never more so than on August 23 at Coors Field when, with Matt Harvey needing a breather in the year he came back from Tommy John surgery, Verrett elevated his game in the Mile High City. Eight innings of four-hit, one-run ball kept the Mets’ mind-boggling momentum going, as the first place New Yorkers swept the Rockies and took their act to Philadelphia to conclude a road swing for the ages. The next April, Logan proved similarly indispensable, halting a patented Panic Citi outbreak (the Mets had stumbled from the gate 2-5) with another solid outing — 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R — against the Marlins. Starting and relieving, he’d soon build his record to 3-0 as the 2016 Mets refound their footing.

83. RAJAI DAVIS, 2019
The midday ride of Rajai Davis loomed as a nice little story. It became better than that once he emerged from his vehicle. The veteran of thirteen major league seasons and one intensely memorable World Series, yet assigned to Syracuse at age 38, was alerted that he’d be needed in New York. Sitting there in Allentown on May 22, 2019, thinking he’d be playing just another night of Triple-A ball, Davis hauled ass via Uber to Citi Field. The fare was $243. The payoff was a three-run, eighth-inning pinch-homer that assured the Mets a 6-1 win over the Nats en route to a series sweep. Rajai would be traveling back to the minors before long, but he’d also have cause to book a return trip to Queens in time to crush a crucial three-run double that captured an enormous September game from the Dodgers.

82. DEVIN MESORACO, 2018
If they gave out Cy Young Awards to catchers, Devin Mesoraco would have been the same near-unanimous choice Jacob deGrom was among pitchers in 2018. Mesoraco arrived from Cincinnati via a trade of unwanted assets (for Matt Harvey) that May. Besides showing a proclivity for hitting home runs late in games, Devin settled in as the catcher of choice for deGrom as deGrom grew more and more unhittable. The pairing helped result in the lowest ERA by any Met pitcher in 33 years.

81. JASON VARGAS, 2018-2019
(Also a Met in 2007)
The transformation of Jason Vargas from presumably dependable old pro who’d shore up the starting rotation, to possibly the worst pitcher anybody’d ever seen receive start after start, to quietly and rather suddenly reaching the status of “you know, he’s really not that bad” was, in retrospect, a sight to behold. The lefty got few major league batters out between late April and early August of 2018, and his earned run average soared toward a run an inning. But when the Mets visited Williamsport as part of MLB’s embrace of Little League, the man who wore VARGY on his back seemed reborn. Over his final eight starts of ’18, Jason dropped his ERA by nearly three runs. It was still unspeakably high, but improvement is to be applauded at any juncture. Vargas compressed his trajectory in 2019, looking bad at the very beginning, discovering his groove fairly soon and establishing his Met bona fides once and for all by tossing a complete game shutout versus the Giants on June 5. At the end of the month, Vargy sabotaged his well-earned stability, threatening a reporter and essentially punching his own ticket out of town.

Mets of the 2010s: 100-91

Welcome to the first chapter of Faith and Fear’s countdown of The Top 100 Mets of the 2010s. A full introduction to what we’re doing is available here, but the concept is pretty self-evident. These are the more or less best Mets we rooted for as Mets fans these past ten years. Since a decade is coming to a close, we thought it would be fun to round them up and recall a little something about them.

100. DAVID AARDSMA, 2013
David Aardsma leads off any alphabetical consideration of New York Mets players, having broken Don Aase’s record for Double-A Mets on June 8, 2013, when he entered a tie game versus the Marlins and pitched a scoreless twelfth inning. That game went on to become the longest game in Citi Field history, going twenty, by which time the Mets lost, but Aardsma couldn’t be headed off on the great Metropolitan Roll Call of this or any decade. Also, he inherited 19 runners over 43 appearances and never allowed one to score.

99. PAUL SEWALD, 2017-2019
Paul is here for Paul, but also for Pill (Tyler, that is). Paul is here for the Jacob who wasn’t deGrom (Rhame, that is). Paul is here for both Chasen and Chase Bradford. Paul is here for Kevin McGowan, for Jamie Callahan, for Gerson Bautista, for Stephen Nogosek. Paul is here for every vaguely promising righty reliever promoted between 2017 and 2019 whose good impressions were, shall we say, fleeting. Paul takes the ball for Eric Hanhold, for Tyler Bashlor, for Drew Smith and Drew Gagnon and anybody else who drew the short end of the pen’s straw. Mostly, though, Paul Sewald is here for 120 appearances of his own and the one win he garnered in his 119th, which followed fourteen losses over three seasons. Paul was the first of this cohort to make it to Flushing. Paul’s still here. Many of the pitchers he represents, like the pitches they threw, are gone. Such staying power is not to be underestimated.

98. RONNY PAULINO, 2011
97. PEDRO BEATO, 2011-2012
96. CHRIS YOUNG, 2011-2012

Chris Young the pitcher (not to be confused with Chris Young the outfielder) started a game on Sunday night, May 1, 2011, that would have been easy enough for a nation to ignore when it began on ESPN, yet it turned into at least an irresistible sidebar to larger events before it was over. Young threw seven innings and gave up a single run at Citizens Bank Park, dueling Cliff Lee before handing matters over to the bullpen. By the time the game was meandering into extras — during which rookie Pedro Beato would hold the fort for three scoreless innings — the world learned the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six had stormed the Pakistani hideout of Osama bin Laden, who had engineered the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center nearly ten years before, and killed him. It was a moment of national catharsis, acknowledged as much in the stands in Philadelphia as anywhere else. The connection for Mets fans was obvious: the one recreational interlude associated more than any other with the aftermath of September 11, 2001, took place ten days later, Braves at Mets, Mike Piazza going indelibly deep. When Ronny Paulino, making his first start at Mike’s old position, delivered his fifth hit of this game about a hundred miles south, it felt as if an emotional circle had been excavated and squared. Beato had been in high school in Brooklyn in 2001, Young in college in New Jersey. They had very specific memories of that awful day. So did everybody, of course. Come May 1, 2011, those were lost on September 11, 2001, were still lost. The war fought in the name of preventing another such attack of epic proportions was (and is) still in progress. Yet, for what it was worth, the Mets were on the field again, winning a ballgame in the shadow of global events.

95. LUIS HERNANDEZ, 2010
Leading off the home fifth inning of the seventeenth game of Luis Hernandez’s seventeen-game New York Mets career — in the ninth of nine consecutive starts he made at second base — Luis fouled the second pitch he saw from the Braves’ Tim Hudson off his right foot. Hernandez was in obvious pain, but stayed in the box. The third pitch he saw from Hudson he sent over the right field wall at Citi Field. Somehow he limped around the bases. When the half-inning was over, Joaquin Arias replaced the injured infielder, for Luis Hernandez had broken his foot with that foul. Though he’d compete for a roster spot the following spring (and briefly return to the majors with the Rangers in 2012), that break, that swing and that homer ended Luis’s Mets tenure. Talk about going out with a bang.

94. JUAN CENTENO, 2013-2014
The first time Juan Centeno caught in the major leagues, on September 18, 2013, the other team’s catcher — the Giants’ Buster Posey — stole a base. It was the second of Posey’s season and the sixth of the defending MVP’s career, a record that had established Buster wasn’t in there for his speed. So maybe Centeno would like a mulligan. In the callup’s next time behind the plate, at Cincinnati on September 25, after Jay Bruce had already swiped two bags, Billy Hamilton singled with two out in the fifth inning. Hamilton was already something of a legend, having stolen 75 bases at Triple-A Louisville before his promotion. At two minor league outposts in 2012, Billy totaled 155 that’s not a typo steals. In his first thirteen attempts in the bigs, Hamilton was 13-for-13. Factor in that he shared the same name as a nineteenth-century speedster who pilfered more than 900 bags in his time, it seemed there’d never be any stopping this Billy Hamilton. That was until he took off from first against Juan Centeno, and Juan Centeno stopped him cold, a critical moment in an eventual 1-0 Mets win. Perhaps another legend, the Story of Centeno, was born that Wednesday afternoon at Great American Ball Park. Actually, Juan, who’d leave the Mets after 2014 and earn a World Series ring as a backup on the 2017 Astros, owns an unremarkable caught stealing percentage as a catcher, having nailed only seven runners in fifty-two attempts. But he was the first to halt Hamilton, and Hamilton is one steal shy of 300 entering 2020.

93. COLLIN McHUGH, 2012-2013
As the Mets plummeted from sight in the second half of 2012, as they were prone to do post-All Star break in the first half of the 2010s, Collin McHugh did everything a callup from Buffalo could possibly do to reverse the familiar trajectory. In his first major league start, on August 23, the righty scaled the Rockies at Citi Field: seven innings, two hits, one walk, no runs, nine strikeouts. Coming within a month of Matt Harvey’s similarly eye-opening debut at Arizona, McHugh gave Mets fans a reason to dream of a pitching-laden future whose second halves wouldn’t take annual dives. Alas, in the present of August 2012, the Mets lineup did nothing against the Rockies, and New York lost again, 1-0, with Collin getting no-decisioned. That maiden voyage turned out be the only highlight of McHugh’s Met tenure (not counting the genuinely thoughtful blog he’d been writing since 2008). He’d appear in eleven games across 2012 and 2013, none of them a Mets win, before being traded to Colorado. His own Met record was 0-5 and, truth be told, little of the losing after his debut could be attributed to pitching in hard luck. A trade to the Rockies didn’t much change his fortunes, but the Astros recognizing something special in him did. Collin posted 43 wins across three seasons between 2014 and 2016, and like ex-Met Juan Centeno, a 2017 World Series ring awaited him in Houston.

92. VIC BLACK, 2013-2014
Every decade has its closer of the future. The ’80s had Wes Gardner, the ’90s Derek Wallace, the ’00s Eddie Kunz. In the 2010s, Vic Black was gonna throw hard and shut doors. Picked up from Pittsburgh late in the 2013 season, the righty showed flashes, notching almost a strikeout per inning in 56 games over two Met years. In 2014, only one of the 26 runners on base when he entered scored. Perhaps all Black had to do to ensure his future was stay healthy. In the spring of 2015, however, just prior to Opening Day, Vic went on the DL with right shoulder weakness. He never pitched for the Mets or in the majors again, the closer of the future leaving behind a total of one save in his wake.

91. KEVIN PLAWECKI, 2015-2018
Kevin Plawecki started behind the plate for the Mets 192 times. Rarely did the Mets indicate Plawecki’s place in the lineup was their idea of ideal. The former first-round draft choice was generally pegged as Travis d’Arnaud’s backup, but d’Arnaud had a hard time staying in one piece, thus Plawecki now and then took on the status of regular, most notably during d’Arnaud’s 2015 absences, a year when the Mets scrapped to stay viable in their first playoff race in seven years. Kevin helped keep the Mets afloat, though it was Travis who took over as their surge toward a pennant got serious. Plawecki was the only to Met to stay active on the postseason roster through all three rounds without seeing a speck of action. In 2017, he’d see the battery from both sides now, pitching in a pair of blowouts. His Met ERA of 12.00 went into the books alongside a four-season batting average of .218.

Inadvertent Design of a Decade

A few years ago, Howie Rose suggested to Josh Lewin that if they were to go down to the field from the broadcast booth at Citi Field and ask the players warming up for that night’s game if they knew what day it was, most would have little idea because, Howie explained, ballplayers never have any idea what day it is, mostly because it doesn’t make any difference to them. Howie’s assertion was supported by Nationals beat writer Jesse Dougherty in the Washington Post this past summer. “The challenge,” Dougherty wrote, “is playing a 162-game schedule, with few breaks, while traveling between cities and time zones. The hotel rooms start to look the same. So do the plane rides and bus trips to the ballpark each day.”

Even though we who are watching have to keep track of the days of our lives, the perception described from the inside of baseball seems to make sense. For ballplayers and those who follow them around, the season is simply one day after another. Or night. The mostly infallible Gary Cohen’s only persistently recurring mistake is regularly referring to yesterday afternoon’s game as “last night,” which drives me a little crazy, but I’ve come to understand that tic, too. There’s a lot of blurring over six months. Wednesday. Thursday. Night. Day. None of it materially affects the outcome of winning and losing.

Besides, whenever Mets baseball is happening, I will most likely bear witness to it.

On Friday night, July 30, 2010, after sleeping through the previous day’s matinee from Flushing, I watched the Mets top the Diamondbacks, 9-6. It was a home game, so it wasn’t a challenge to stay awake. If the Mets were in Arizona, and it was a night game, it might have been. Mountain Standard Time, which isn’t a whole lot different from Pacific Daylight, can make keeping up with the Mets a bit more of a challenge than it is in zones closer to home. Usually not impossible, though. I’d have to be pretty tired to miss an entire Mets game.

For hundreds and hundreds of consecutive regular-season games, I was never quite that tired. Nor was I that distracted or disgusted or otherwise engaged so that every pitch of a given game escaped my notice while those pitches were progressing from the pitcher to the batter or catcher. I had quite a streak going. A handful of times it flirted with an end, but from July 30, 2010, through the eight seasons that followed and into the one beyond it, I always managed to stick an ear into the action just long enough to say, OK, I’ve heard if not seen or gone to today’s or tonight’s game. Streak’s still on. The closest I came to streak snappage occurred on August 18, 2014, when I mysteriously scheduled a Monday afternoon colonoscopy that coincided with a 12:10 first pitch between the Mets and Cubs. Fortunately, the medical people got to the bottom of things that afternoon before the bottom of the ninth of what became my 672nd consecutive game witnessed in one form or another.

My streak intact from that day forward, I wasn’t going to take another chance like that when my next colonoscopy came up. I set it for a Monday morning in May of 2019, with the Mets safely ensconced on the West Coast. As Sean Doolittle told Dougherty, “Every start of a series is a Monday, no matter what.” Actually, sometimes you get a wraparound series that goes Friday to Monday (like that one in August of 2014), but what the Mets were about to embark upon wasn’t one of those. They were indeed starting their next series that Monday, May 6, in San Diego. It was just another night game to the host Padres. It wasn’t going to start any earlier than 7:10 at Petco Park, 10:10 back in New York.

Colonoscopy 2.0 went fine. The procedure is never the issue. The preparation is where they get you. I had to start the prescribed regimen early the Sunday morning before, and that was on the heels of an eighteen-inning game in Milwaukee which felt like it ended five minutes earlier. I missed a bunch of that game from being sleepy. Thanks to Twitter and the MLB At Bat app, I was able retrace some steps I snoozed through and write the whole thing up without resorting to the dreaded WW (Phil Rizzuto’s scorecard notation for Wasn’t Watching). If “I missed ‘x’ number of innings” had seemed like an angle that would have optimally entertained, enlightened and informed you, I probably would have detoured from the main storyline and mentioned it. But an eighteen-inning game doesn’t need necessarily need angles imported from dreamland. Therefore, once I was more or less awake overnight that Saturday into Sunday, I filled in blank portions of the Mets’ 4-3 loss to the Brewers by availing myself of the archives on my iPad; pieced together the irritations of the long evening from commonly tweeted grievances about Angel Hernandez; and wrote up the game, not my fatigue. I figure if re-creations were good enough for Les Keiter in 1959, one posted here at 5:49 AM was good enough for me.

So there was little predawn sleep Sunday morning. Or postdawn. There was barely enough will to make it between colonoscopy prep steps to get to the 2:10 first pitch from Milwaukee. I curled up in my office recliner, watched about an inning-and-a-half of Jason Vargas dueling Zach Davies before conking out. When I awoke, I learned Vargas predictably dropped his pistol first, and the Mets lost, 3-2. I wasn’t writing up this game. I just wanted to be able to say I had seen some of it.

That, on May 5, 2019, was Game No 1,390 in the streak that stretched back to July 30, 2010. Game No. 1,391, live from San Diego, would come the next night. Except it didn’t. Following the aforementioned procedure, I didn’t nap. I was tired, but I was up. As the SNY studio show threw the broadcast to Gary Cohen and Todd Zeile, I was up. While I was up, I decided stretching out on the couch was a good idea. I wasn’t recapping this one, either, so I just had to get to the game’s beginning to satisfy my streak’s requirement. Catching a pitch would do it. Just one pitch. Hell, even if I nodded off, I just had to not stay nodded off for the entirety of the game ahead.

I saw Gary and Todd do their setup. I heard Gary promise they’d be back after this commercial break. During the commercial, I closed my eyes for a minute…

The next thing I saw was the postgame show. The streak that touched every season of this decade was over, bowing out at 1,390 games in a row: 671-719, but no longer counting.

For the record, the first Mets game I missed in nearly nine years was the temporarily infamous Chris Paddack Game. I guess that’s what it’s known as. I didn’t see it or hear it, so how the hell would I know, except for catching up to its details in the minutes thereafter. Apparently, the Padres’ young ace was steamed that Pete Alonso was named the National League Rookie of the Month for April rather than Chris Paddack. This was a private war Paddack was waging, one he brought to the mound this Monday night. Having found all the motivation he needed in a slight that was an issue probably only to Chris Paddack, Chris Paddack struck out 11 batters in seven-and-two-thirds innings, limited the visitors from the East to four hits and, with Craig Stammen, shut out the Mets, 4-0.

Not only did this Paddack fellow whom I’d never heard of throughout what he considered his stellar April exact revenge on his imagined rival, he got me good. Paddack and Stammen required only 2:14 to complete their victory. Had the game meandered like most games meander, I’d have been up and sufficiently at ’em in the wee hours to keep the streak going.

Nope. No dice. I couldn’t even pretend in my head that the Mets and Padres had somehow filtered into my subconscious. The Mets fell on the Coast and it didn’t make a sound to me. The best-laid plans of a man told to lay flat on his stomach the previous morning had gone awry.

I could do only one thing in response. The next night, I started a new streak, still in effect at 127 games. Why wouldn’t have I? Except for May 6, 2019; July 29, 2010; and maybe one game earlier in 2010 when I wasn’t keeping quite such close tabs on my diligence, I’d seen or heard or attended some if not all (but usually all) of every Mets game played in the 2010s. It was — out of some combination of obligation and passion — what I did. The Mets played, I was there for it. The streak was a thing for me in the way the snub was a thing for Chris Paddack. It didn’t really matter, but it added a little spice to what Chris Paddack and I would be doing on a given day or night anyway.

Because I absorbed live virtually every bit of the Mets decade that has just passed — and because I wrote up a whole lot of it as it went on — I feel I’m reasonably qualified to look back in something less than anger at these ten years, the 2010s, and put them in what we’ll loosely call perspective.

You didn’t ask me to, but it’s part of the service.

Not unlike days of the week, decades don’t exactly exist in baseball. There are innings that add up to games. There are games that add up to seasons. There’s a compressed postseason. And that’s basically it as far as determining who wins and who loses. Everything else is a matter of how we opt to organize. “The 2010s” holds no particular meaning for baseball any more than any other decade unless we decide it does. Those stats you occasionally run up against — most home runs hit in the 1950s (Duke Snider); most wins by a pitcher in the 1980s (Jack Morris) — are interesting, but hold no more significance than the most home runs hit in a ten-year span that crosses decade borders…and there’s no particular significance in who did what from, say, 1995 through 2004.

But we do get these decades every ten years, and we are stuck with these baseball voids every offseason, so what the hell? Thus, in the days and nights ahead, Faith and Fear in Flushing will bring you The Top 100 Mets of the 2010s, considering the 247 players who played as Mets between April 5, 2010, and September 29, 2019, and ordering what we shall refer to the “best” of them from 100 to 1, countdown (or countup) style.

The parameters aren’t too arduous. Rankings will be based on recollections and research, leaning on impressions and accomplishments more than stone statistical rigor. We’ll take into account what a player did and if it made us as Mets fans sit up and take notice for at least spell, maybe no longer than a given day or night during the 2010s. Worth noting in this process: thirty Mets from this decade began their Met tenures prior to 2010, but we’re not allotting points based on anything anybody did before this decade began. Also, we’re not actually “allotting points”. Plenty of thought’s gone into this exercise, but there is no discernible Statcast-approved formula at work. Take the rankings as seriously or as frivolously as you like.

I’d love to tell you whittling down 247 players to 100 was a tough task. Honestly, it was more the other way around. Almost everybody seems to rank 30 to 50 places higher than you would intuit before delving into the ten-year roster. Still, I don’t mean to strike a dismissive tone. These 247 players were our guys within these ten years. If you missed no more than a couple of games over this period, you’ve come to think of them as extended family.

I was reminded of their status in our lives (certainly mine) the other night when I found myself watching a Mets Classic: July 20, 2011, Cardinals at Mets, the 157th game of my 1,390-game streak. SNY likes to rerun it all out of proportion to its competitive implications for the home team, I think, because it showcases SNY as much as it does the Mets. It was the first time that the channel sent Gary, Keith and Ron out to the Pepsi Porch to make their call. Two Met home runs would be hit in their direction, including the one that won the game for the Mets in the tenth, but the real fun emanated from interludes like watching Keith Hernandez tipping Orlando the hot dog vendor for his goods and services.

Yet rewatching it, I was taken by the familial aspect of the lineup. Cousin Jose Reyes leading off, leading the league in hitting and peaking as a major leaguer. Cousin Justin Turner batting second, playing second and beginning to show he belonged as a major leaguer. Uncle Carlos Beltran, his bags packed for the trade we understood as inevitable, around in right. Hey, it’s Daniel Murphy before he was fully Daniel Murphy to us! And look, it’s Angel Pagan all over again!

Angel hit the walkoff homer that fell just a little shy of the broadcast position in right, but the real revelation was remembering those nights and days when what Angel and an unproven Lucas Duda and a last-legs Willie Harris and an endlessly slumping and aching Jason Bay and a theoretically developing Josh Thole and that beguiling pre-celebrity knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and everybody else involved did mattered so much to us. Eventually, everyone from Reyes to Murph would morph into ex-Mets, and what the players who took their spots as Mets did would matter just as much to us. The successors to these individual 2011 Mets, whenever they showed up, whether or not their work was classified Classic, became the new members of our baseball family. That’s how being a fan works. You pull for the laundry, sure, but you get attached to those who pull on the shirts and pants of preference every night and day and toss them somewhere near a hamper afterwards. Decades and eras and seasons and games and innings are full of these Mets. You spend most nights and/or days with them half-a-year every year. They add up.

We’ll add up a hundred of them in this space, relive what made them relatively special to us, and maybe do a few other 2010s things as well before we get to 2020. I hope it’s as much fun as watching the Mets has been for these past ten years.

Check that. I hope it’s more fun.

The Youthful Exuberance of 2019

In the beginning, the Mets didn’t have to play youngsters. The Mets were a youngster, a toddler, the bouncing baby of the National League basement. No matter who they featured, the thinking went, they were going to be clumsy, so they might as well be familiar. Hence the 1962 Mets’ early reliance on daily lineups of veterans who’d been through the senior circuit wars of the 1950s: Hodges, Zimmer, Thomas, Bell, Ashburn, Mantilla, Neal, Landrith. Everybody there had played this game…and seen better days in it. “All the memories were in the past tense,” George Vecsey wrote, “and most of the talent was that way, too.”

A year later, it was the beginning of a different story, with eternal spring chicken Casey Stengel touting his Youth of America. Ed Kranepool had debuted the previous September at just seventeen, if you know what I mean. Ol’ Case saw him standing there in St. Pete and invoked a previous phenom who got his feet wet at the Polo Grounds: “Who says you can’t make it when you’re eighteen? Ott made it when he was eighteen.” Mel Ott also played until he was 38 and hit 511 home runs. While Eddie dealt with perfectly reasonable comparisons, it was Ron Hunt, 22, who was poised to become the promising newcomer of 1963. Hunt batted .272, took 13 pitches to his person, finished behind Pete Rose for NL Rookie of the Year honors and was about to be the baby face of the two-year-old franchise as it took its act from Manhattan to Queens in 1964.

There’d be push and pull between the young and the old (baseball old, that is) as the 1960s progressed and the Mets intermittently strove to field promise on a daily basis. As 1965 wound down, and Wes Westrum assumed the managerial reins from the reluctantly retired Stengel, he leaned on not just Kranepool and Hunt — each an All-Star already — but rookies named Ron Swoboda (21), Bud Harrelson (21) and Cleon Jones (23). “We’ve looked at old players for four years,” Westrum reasoned, with another triple-digit sum of defeats staring him in the mirror. “We’ve got nothing to lose giving the kids a chance.”

Come 1966, the Mets would rise above tenth place and lose fewer than a hundred games for the first time in their history. It was about time. It was also about experience. Westrum’s key kids included Roy McMillan, 37; Ken Boyer, 35; Ed Bressoud, 34; and Chuck Hiller, 31. On the other hand, Jerry Grote the new catcher, was all of 23, and Kranepool, 21, was still getting the hang of voting. Grote and Kranepool, like Swoboda, Jones and Harrelson, would be sticking at Shea Stadium beyond 1966, while those aforementioned veterans would all be gone before 1968.

The same fate that befell Boyer, et al, however, awaited Hunt, who sure appeared destined to star at Shea for years to come. Ron was traded with Jim Hickman to Los Angeles for Tommy Davis. Davis, a two-time batting champ, wasn’t exactly ancient when he took over left field at Shea in 1967, but he had miles on him; like Hunt, an injury stuck him in 1965 and, like Hunt, his career never looked quite the same. After one solid year for the tenth-place Mets, Tommy, 28, was swapped to the White Sox for a Tommie — Agee, that is — plus Al Weis. Agee, 25, had very recently been the AL Rookie of the Year.

You never know how the demographics will coalesce on a given diamond or in a given era. The story of 1969, which nobody knew was having its preface penciled in as early as 1962 when Master Melvin’s successor Steady Eddie was taking his first swings, is one of kids coming together to take a division, a league and a world by storm. There’s no overlooking the mentorship and big hits provided by the veterans — Weis, Ed Charles and Donn Clendenon all effectively platooned for Gil Hodges from the other side of 30 — but we revel in the image of the Youth of America in full bloom. The young pitchers obviously mattered momentously, but at the core of the so-called miracle were those position players who were once prospects and who were now becoming champions. They all took the field together on the afternoon of October 16, 1969, and all ran for their lives from a grateful throng a couple of hours later.

Ed—24
Tommie—27
Bud—25
Cleon—27
Ron—25
Jerry—27

Even when the blossoming is slow to reveal itself, youngsters growing into winners is an ideal we all hope on. In the Mets’ darkest days, the late summer of 1977, the team’s marketing department, such as it was, went there. It went to the kids. It went to Our Kids, as in the Mets begging parents across the Metropolitan Area to “Bring your kids to see our kids!” The unironic newspaper ad copy wanted us to forget that so many of our former kids were no longer our vets, so it preached promise.

The Mets are as proud of their new youngsters as you are of yours. So to get them acquainted with each other, we’re having three “Family Specials” this fall. Come with your kids and discover a youthful new spirit at Shea.

The you gotta be kidding pitch has M. Donald Grant’s nefarious fingerprints all over it, as the ad attempts to explain away “trades we felt we had to make” in the name of keeping prices down. In addition to losing ballgames and fans at a rapid clip in 1977, the Mets were also lagging in prescience: “We don’t think the practice of paying exorbitant sums of money to certain players in excess of that paid to others will continue in the long run.”

Yeah, good luck with that, Don.

The brighter point of the advertising campaign was to claim “the trades are proving to be excellent ones […] under Manager Joe Torre, our young players are starting to show their stuff and, combined with our veteran talent, the team is beginning to gel.” The best of the veteran talent had been shipped off on June 15, but the ad preferred you focus on the youngsters who composed the big picture — literally the big picture at the top of the ad, an intermingling of young Mets and younger Mets fans. The bigger kids were helpfully identified by first name and age.

Lee—22
Steve—24
Doug—26
Pat—25
Joel—25
John—24

Also pictured: Lisa, Tony, Georgie, Bruce, Ivan, Cindy, Robert, Sylvia, Brock, Sean and Noreen, who ranged from six to fifteen. Those were “your kids,” the ones adults buying a full-priced box or reserved seats were invited to bring along for free to those Family Specials. The attraction was “Our Kids”: Mazzilli, Henderson, Flynn, Zachry, Youngblood and Stearns, five of them getting a chance to play every day and one tasked with pitching every fifth day. Unnoted in the invitation, but certainly implicit, was a chance to get another glimpse of Ed Kranepool, by then a Met forever, yet only 32 in people years.

Hard to believe this didn’t work. (Image courtesy of the Will in Central NJ archives.)

Did anybody actually bring their kids to see the Mets’ kids because the Mets strongly suggested it would make for a fabulous family outing? According to Baseball-Reference, attendance did not noticeably tick up on the first two promotional dates, while the third was rained out. Attendance kept plummeting in 1978 and 1979, two more years when the one thing the Mets couldn’t advertise was winning baseball. By the time the Mets got good again, none of Our Kids from 1977 had much of anything directly to do with it.

But there would be new kids. There usually are. Come 1984, the kids dotting Met lineups would be named Mookie and Hubie and Wally and Darryl (not to mention a few kid pitchers of note). More such kids would be coming soon, as would be a torrent of paying customers impressed not by slogans and specials but hits and runs. These kids of the early ’80s would blend with some imported elders of renown — including that once-young Mazzilli fellow, reborn in grizzled veteran form for a second Flushing go-round — and the 1986 Mets would create history.

Over the next thirty-odd years, the Mets would attempt to re-create not only that kind of championship result, but that kind of incredible chemistry. The push and pull of young and old continued apace. Sometimes all ages meshed. Other times every Met in sight seemed to be born too soon or mature too late. With the exception of occasional outliers — Jose Reyes came up at 19 in 2003; Julio Franco hung around until he was 48 in 2007 — you didn’t necessarily notice whether your Mets of any particular year seemed particularly young or especially old.

In 2019, you noticed.

In 2019, the Mets had veterans. In 2019, the Mets had pitching. But mostly in 2019, the Mets had a youthful core throughout the infield and within the outfield. That core defined who the Mets were as a team and what we as Mets fans felt about the team. This is why Faith and Fear in Flushing is presenting its 2019 Nikon Camera Player of the Year award — dedicated annually to the entity or concept that best symbolizes, illustrates or transcends the year in Metsdom — to the latest edition of Our Kids.

Pete—24
Amed—23
J.D. — 26
Jeff—27
Michael—26
Dom—24
Brandon—26

Together, this cluster of seven position players generated an energy and emitted an aura that made rooting for the Mets fun for fans of all ages.

One great big clusterfun.

Funny thing is I don’t think we even realized we are were on the tipping point of a youth movement as 2019 approached. Sure, the game was getting younger and perhaps cheaper from the perspective of clever front offices everywhere; youth was definitely being served, service time manipulation notwithstanding. And sure, our talent pool included three former No. 1 picks; a former prospect who had only a couple of years earlier landed in the upper echelon of everybody’s projections; a slugger who led the minor leagues in homers the year before; an infielder who batted .329 in an extended audition upon his late-July 2018 callup; and a castoff from an organization that mostly developed studs. With hindsight, the pieces were there. It just hadn’t occurred to us to put them together in advance. It probably hadn’t occurred to the Mets, either.

By the end of the season, they were the Mets more than any Mets were. Granted, those seven Met kids — one more than the Bradys, one fewer than the Bradfords — had help throwing their party. Certified veterans Frazier, Cano and Ramos. Pitchers-in-their-prime deGrom, Wheeler and Matz. Journeyman cameoists Gomez, Altherr and another Davis. That’s how teams that win more than they lose work. Yet over 58 seasons of Mets baseball, I’d be hard-pressed to name another reasonably successful edition whose essence was so vastly defined by its youthful core of position players. 1969 had Seaver and Koosman. 1986 had Hernandez and Carter. 1999 and 2000 had more guys who’d been around than hadn’t. 2006 and 2015, too. All of those guys from all of those years were wonderful. The guys we’re talking about from 2019 were different. Wonderful, but different in composition and as a critical mass.

It would be a blast to report that the kids who elevated our mood from the middle of July to the end of September had a 1969-style ending to their season, but we know they didn’t reach October. It would be most photogenic had they all been gathered together and preserved for posterity the way the wishful-thinking class of ’77 had been, yet the seven of them didn’t even congregate in the same box score after May 16. The closest we had to a “Bring your kids…” treatment was a commercial run on SNY for Beanie Night in September. Pete Alonso, Amed Rosario, J.D. Davis, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto each wore the pom-pommed winter hat the club was giving away, their smiling faces popping up in boxes like they were Mike Nesmith and the rest of the Monkees, monkeying around like it was 1966. Chances are the Mets kids needed to have the retro concept explained to them (The Monkees having completed its last revival on MTV well before any of these players were born), but whoever came up with the concept certainly captured the zeitgeist of this moment in Met time.

Except Brandon Nimmo and Dom Smith weren’t included. Nimmo had been injured most of the summer and Smith was on the IL. Players who are hurt apparently can’t sell hats. By the time Smith was activated and putting a signature on the season’s end with his walkoff home run of September 29, McNeil was sidelined with a fractured right wrist. Mickey Callaway or whoever dictated lineups to the former manager never thought to cooperate, either, as these seven Mets didn’t once trot out to their positions to start a game. Blame lefty-righty matchups and the stubborn incumbency of a couple of vets who were slow to cede claims to their spots on the field.

Yet when we see 2019 in our memories, once our memories enter the serious past-tense stage, we will see these kids together. We will remember their assorted individual accomplishments, natch, but we will feel what they brought to the Mets. The zeitgeist and zest. The vim and vigor. The exuberance that, like the exuberant, never quit. Shirts ripped from one another in exultation. Repeated declarations of resilience embodied in the actions of the inevitably half-clad resilient. A guy on a scooter racing out to embrace a guy called Scooter. Acronyms updated and hashtagged. A Polar Bear, a Solar Bear and a Squirrel. Second halves that were more than twice as good as their predecessors. Two of the young men officially named All-Stars at midseason; two others named theoretical All-Stars for what they did the rest of the season. Shouts about “that New York swagger” and “that New York attitude” in the wake of another New York win. Youth too young to understand their chances to contend had dwindled to practically nil, while experienced old heads watching from a distance drew overly hasty conclusions that it was not too soon to call it a year. Our Kids were impatient to win, yet demonstrated more patience than we did that they eventually would.

As fans we don’t proof at the door. Did we mind, even amid the “don’t trust anybody over thirty” mindset of 1969, that Weis, Clendenon and Charles were older and established when they arrived among us? Did we care in 1999 that Ventura, Piazza and Olerud, to name three, had all come from elsewhere and were each over thirty when they were joined by Rickey Henderson and Orel Hershiser — 40+ California legends — to put us over the top and get us into the playoffs? Is McNeil, 27, necessarily a kid? Is Conforto, who played in the 2015 World Series, not already a veteran? Wasn’t Davis technically a member of those paragons of virtue, the 2017 Houston Astros, before any of us took full note of what a gift those recent world champions had sent us?

Sometimes not everything can be dated via precise chronology or measured by tenure. Sometimes we just know and we can be comfortable fitting who see fit in those boxes we create. Yes, McNeil, an All-Star in his first full season in the bigs, is one of Our Kids. Yes, Conforto, an All-Star in 2017 like Kranepool was an All-Star in 1965 — because the Mets had to have somebody designated as such — was still coming along as 2019 got going. Yes, Davis, a bit player on a potential dynasty maybe too smart to comprehend all its assets, had to come to New York from Houston to let his freak swag fly…as did Grote 53 years before.

Alonso we had a clue would hit ’em out of the park, though we had no idea he’d hit more than anybody else, wind up speaking on behalf of everybody quite often and winning everything a rookie can win. Rosario we were thinking would have to move to center, but that was before he truly got the hang of short and hit nearly 60 points better in the second half than he did in the first. Nimmo reminded us what the happiest man in baseball looked like when he returned in September, whether it was sprinting to first on walks or doing sponsored self-parody; seriously, check out Brandon’s interpretation of Pete’s #LFGM. And Smith, whose stock plunged the minute his alarm didn’t go off to start Spring Training the year before, couldn’t have been more alert to his opportunity when this year ended (he also outlasted the manager who fined him for sleeping late).

What a difference a spring, a summer and a hint of autumn make. Dom, referring to what made these kids these kids and this team this team the last time this team would be exactly this team, told Steve Gelbs, “This group from Spring Training, we grinded together, we vibed in the locker room and we had a lot of fun. We wanted to change the culture here, we wanted to have fun and we wanted to win ballgames.”

That he said it drenched from a Gatorade bath only lent credence to Dom’s words.

Yes, this was our youthful core. Yes, they were a delight to take in as a unit. Yes, the method by which they evinced enthusiasm for one another could come off as a little anathematic for those who identify as old school, but the Mets are traditionally one step ahead when it comes to being excited for themselves, each other and us. Watch footage of the 1965 Dodgers heartily shaking hands when they won the seventh game of the World Series and compare it to how the Mets greeted one another in similar circumstances four years later. Follow the evolution of the high-five and curtain call as both came to represent the Met way in 1986 and consider how silly the rest of the league sounded when griping that it meant the Mets were arrogant. Search for images of when David Wright (2006) and Daniel Murphy (2015) waved fan-made signs celebrating divisional titles. The 2014 Mets, who didn’t win much, got the most out of every home run, simulating a dugout car wash under the supervision of the very veteran Curtis Granderson.

Your smileage may vary, but with all that ebullience as precedent, the tearing of jerseys and the injection of an extra letter into LGM is simply Met evolution in action. We don’t know what they’ll do for an encore. We just hope their future achievements provide the motivation to go suitably nuts.

We don’t know a whole lot of what will come next. We don’t know that this group will stay together and improve together. We want them to keep blossoming, keep blooming. We want to tell them, “OK, bloomers,” in the best sense possible. In our dreams, we might place Alonso at first, McNeil at second, Rosario at short, Davis at third, Smith in left, Nimmo in center and Conforto in right on March 26 and let them ride.

Yet they’re probably not going to make up seven-ninths of 2020’s Opening Day lineup. There’s a decent chance a segment of the seven won’t be with us next year. Trades of young players do happen, sometimes for the ultimate better. Hunt wasn’t here in 1969, but Agee, one trade removed from Hunt-for-Davis, was. We missed Hubie Brooks after 1984, but we were pretty darn delighted to have Gary Carter in 1985 and ’86. Dom Smith, his efforts at acclimating to left field notwithstanding, doesn’t really have a position, not with Pete Alonso having set up shop at first for, we pray, the next decade or two. J.D. Davis’s versatility isn’t quite as agile as Jeff McNeil’s. The Mets could use a legitimate center fielder, a catcher who every pitcher is comfortable throwing to, a fifth starter and bullpen reinforcements. To be distressingly businesslike about the whole thing, chips are chips. The team of our dreams is yet to be determined. It may or may not include those we came to love in 2019. If it does, we can’t be certain that the blossoming and blooming will continue unabated. We can project everybody’s prime all we want and be no more prescient than M. Donald Grant was about the trajectory of player salaries. We’ve been crossing our fingers and hoping for the best since Ed Kranepool. We don’t usually get Mel Ott.

Still, you’ll take what we’ve been given and build on it if you can. You’ll take more of Alonso going deep dozens of times; of McNeil throwing out a runner at the plate from right; of Davis magically sticking his glove out in left; of Rosario reminding you, oh yeah, he was supposed to be this good; of Conforto once and for all consistent beyond the doubt of all but the most cynical; of Nimmo working counts to perfection; and more of Smith loving being a Met like he did in the minutes after he gave us additional reason to love being Mets fans.

“It wasn’t about me, it was about this team,” Dom told Steve Gelbs after his three-run, eleventh-inning home run beat the Braves in Game 162, which was merely his first at-bat in more than two months. “You know, we grinded all year, we fought all year, and we showed so much…”

After he was interrupted by a Gatorade bucket’s contents, he continued: “That just shows the character of the clubhouse. Twenty-five guys who came in every day, we grinded everyday, we worked hard. Obviously we didn’t get to where we wanted to go, but this is the start of something great.”

Again, we can only hope. But why wouldn’t we? After that night Conforto beat the Nationals? After that night Davis beat the Indians? After those nights Nimmo and Alonso waited out opposing pitchers to win via walks? After everything McNeil and Rosario did as their youth morphed into truly valuable experience? After Smith put an exclamation point on the remnants of a stretch run that made us believe the most unlikely of in-season comebacks was possible?

That circle of celebration on September 29, wherein nobody in or soon to be out of uniform was unexcited to be young, old or otherwise and a Met…the home run belonged to Dom, but the vibe that informed the euphoria clearly emanated from the entire youthful core. Dom and Michael and Amed and Pete and Brandon and Jeff and J.D. It felt like the curtain call for what they had brought us in 2019 and what they might bring us in 2020.

Worst-case scenario, we’ll always have the memories they made.

FAITH AND FEAR’S PREVIOUS NIKON CAMERA PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

2005: The WFAN broadcast team of Gary Cohen and Howie Rose
2006: Shea Stadium
2007: Uncertainty
2008: The 162-Game Schedule
2009: Two Hands
2010: Realization
2011: Commitment
2012: No-Hitter Nomenclature
2013: Harvey Days
2014: The Dudafly Effect
2015: Precedent — Or The Lack Thereof
2016: The Home Run
2017: The Disabled List
2018: The Last Days of David Wright

Coming soon: The Top 100 Mets of the 2010s.

Still With Us

Tom Seaver is 75 years old today. We join the multitudes of baseball fans in wishing him a happy birthday and a happy day every day. We miss him. He’s still with us in the most elemental sense, yet we wish he could assert his presence like he did not so long ago.

A ceremonial first pitch.

An inning of erudition in the booth.

A lordly wave of acknowledgement to the sun-soaked masses while taking his shaded seat on stage at Cooperstown.

A story shared about what it was like on the mound; in the clubhouse; in the manager’s office; out to dinner after the crowd went home from Cooperstown.

A quote here or there disapproving of contemporary pitch-counting or talking up the current grape crop in a favored columnist’s copy.

All of this was Tom in the mid-November of his public life, before we realized his immortal’s emeritus phase, which we just assumed would go on and on, was about to go dark. Tom is still with us, but he used to be with us a whole lot more.

As gratifying as it was for 2019 to be graced by a golden-anniversary celebration of the 1969 Mets, you couldn’t in your heart swear it was wholly satisfying. That’s not the fault of those who joined us to celebrate. You loved hearing from Shamsky, from Swoboda, from Gaspar (every right fielder released a book this year) and from everybody else. It was a team effort, both capturing the championship and commemorating it anew. Still, you missed 41. You missed others, too. You wished everybody could have been both alive and well. You yearned for Tom most of all. You couldn’t help it. He’s Tom Seaver. Not was. Is.

He always will be. He always will be 41. Always the Opening Day starter. Always the man whose spot doesn’t get skipped because of rain. Always on call when others are taking an All-Star break. Always the one who expects to be on the mound in the eighth and ninth and the tenth if necessary. Always the one to keep himself in the game because he can handle the bat and run the bases. Always shaking his catcher’s hand for a job well done. Always atop the pitching totals in the Sunday paper. Always the one we look for this time of year, right around his birthday as it happens, to show up in the Cy Young point totals, first or darn close to it. Always a world champion among World Champions.

The greatest of pitchers. The greatest of Mets. Always. Still.

Happy 75th, 41. We are with you.