As has become annual custom here on the day following the night the Oscars are presented, the Academy would like to pause for a moment to remember those Mets who have, in the baseball sense, left us in the past year.
Joaquin Arias, 2010
Earth to Jerry: The game counted. It was 1-1. We could have used our two best players to theoretically help win it. That would have been nice. Instead, it was six innings of Mike Hessman and Joaquin Arias — fine fellows, no doubt, but not David Wright and Jose Reyes in a 1-1 game. Not even close.
—October 4, 2010
Eddie Kunz*, 2008
Evans, 22, and Daniel Murphy, 23, are the co-starting leftfielders. Eddie Kunz, 22, is the closer. These arrangements may be temporary or they may be a harbinger of what is to come. Either way, it’s going on right now in the midst of what is still, despite recent evidence to the contrary, a pennant race.
—August 3, 2008
Andy Green, 2009
Yet here we all were — us, the Mets and Andy Green — doing what seemed to come naturally. For us and the Mets, it surely wasn’t 2006 anymore, but in our souls, it’s never 2006; it’s almost always 2004 or 1977 or some year like that. For Andy Green…well, he was just happy to be here. Sunday he had been a Buffalo Bison. Monday, like so many in his herd, he was grazing a big league spread in a big league clubhouse. Why shouldn’t Andy Green be happy to be here? And why shouldn’t we be happy to have him? We would make the best of Andy Green because we knew how to make the most of moments exactly like this one.
—August 18, 2009
Carlos Muñiz, 2007-2008
You know you’re going well when your bullpen, previously sponsored by Much Maligned — I had gotten to thinking the Mets’ Much Maligned Bullpen was its official name — is a freestanding entity of valor and accomplishment. At the end of the game yesterday, DiamondVision announced the star of the afternoon was the combined corps of Muñiz, Heilman, Schoeneweis and Wagner for their five hitless innings. A cheer went up. Ten minutes ago, Carlos Muñiz was the most popular member of that crew and that was only because nobody knew who he was.
—July 13, 2008
Frank Catalanotto, 2010
I’d like to believe the same man who can get through to baseball’s most notorious free swinger has more on the ball than threatening to bat Jose Reyes third and actually batting Frank Catalanotto fourth.
—April 19, 2010
Anderson Hernandez, 2005-2006, 2009
Gosh, Saturday’s game was so much fun, making it that much more of a shame that we had to trudge back to our usual humdrum lives so soon again. What, Angel Pagan couldn’t have kept the ninth-inning rally going for the power-hitting Anderson Hernandez, he who has the distinction of bopping the Mets’ 6,000th home run? (That’s 6,000 in franchise history, not in one game — that, as they used to say on SportsCenter, would be a record.)
—September 13, 2009
Mike Hessman, 2010
Hessman rips into the third pitch he sees from Romero and becomes the only Met to fully comprehend that Citizens Bank Park is a bandbox. It’s a three-run homer, and the Mets are within 7-5. Get a guy on, and Reyes up, and…I should point out that I didn’t believe for a second this would work out. Not consciously. Not seriously. In fact, I couldn’t even get the kinks out of the You Gotta Believe reflex completely because just as I earlier imagined Bo Diaz, now I was whisked into the land of Prentice Redman. Anybody else remember Prentice Redman?
—August 7, 2010
Fernando Nieve, 2009-2010
Given the tenor of what enshrouded the Mets from Friday, I think we can catalogue Nieve’s 6⅔ innings as the best, most crucial start we’ve seen since Johan in Game 161 last September. It was definitely an effort that won’t keep us all awake and drinking later tonight.
—June 13, 2009
Sean Green, 2009-2010
I must confess that as Sean Green faced Pujols, I wasn’t just confident he would give up a death blow; I was not altogether rooting against it. I’d felt like a tool for taking these Mets so seriously so late in their decline, at least a month after they revealed themselves incapable of keeping up with the Phillies let alone the Giants. C’mon Albert, I thought after Green hit DeRosa with the bases loaded to make it 8-7. Just pull the plug on us already, you bastard. Just put us out of our misery.
—August 7, 2009
Gary Matthews, Jr., 2002, 2010
In 2006, his free agent walk year, Gary Matthews, Jr., suddenly became a star. He made hellacious SportsCenter catches for Texas, batted. 313 and scored 102 runs. Then he scored an unbelievable contract based on his brilliant timing, signing with the Angels for five years and $50 million. Three of those years are over with. None of the first three much resembled his 2006. Then again, not much of our last three have resembled our 2006. And now we get his next two years. Hmmm…maybe that’s what attracted Omar to Gary Matthews, Jr. They both peaked four seasons ago.
—January 22, 2010
Elmer Dessens, 2009-2010
Nieve didn’t have it. Recently repurposed long man/money sponge Oliver Perez didn’t have it, either. By the time we got to Elmer Dessens, there was nothing left to have. The Mets could dress up as New York Cubans but there was no disguising that they had no pitching for the first four innings Saturday night. Dessens, Igarashi and Mejia gave up no runs over the next four, but by then the horse was galloping south on I-94 and Mrs. Lincoln had forgotten how much she enjoyed the play. Those were, however, sharp uniforms.
—May 30, 2010
Raul Valdes, 2010
They turned the farcical into the nearly tragicomic. It wasn’t surreal because nobody could have dreamed up the scenario of Lopez, the grand slam hitter from Friday, pitching to Raul Valdes, the grand slam pitcher from Friday. Valdes gets on and then gets thrown out trying to stretch an infield single that was thrown away into a double. I’m sitting on the couch yelling at Valdes for getting caught. It doesn’t even occur to me that this is Raul Valdes who probably hasn’t touched first base since he was six, and the whole irony of Lopez as the guy who slammed Valdes the night before is lost on me.
—April 18, 2010
Alex Cora, 2009-2010
Well, that wasn’t so bad. I mean, the Mets lost. To the Yankees. Because Alex Cora inexplicably threw a ball to Jose Reyes’s invisible twin brother on the edge of the outfield grass, and because Elmer Dessens was Elmer Dessens. And because they couldn’t hit, not even against Javier Vazquez. How is that not so bad? Because I’d expected much worse.
—May 21, 2010
Omir Santos, 2009
The system installed to see to it that bad umpiring could be overruled by modern technology had a redemptive flavor to it as well. When Omir Santos unleashed that lethal short swing on Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth, I thought it was too much to ask for it to go out. Then I thought it was too much to ask for it to be ruled to have gone out even though it did. “We always get screwed on these calls,” I informed Stephanie who is quite aware of our track record in call-screwage. Ah, but home run replay. That’s a relatively new twist on a formerly rancid cocktail of arbiter incompetence. Even Joe West can watch TV. Even Joe West and his merry men — including Paul Nauert, ball cop — could see Santos’ shot landed above the magic barrier that separates homers from doubles before bouncing back to earth. It took a while, but fingers were twirled and runs were assigned. Omir Santos: short stroke, long trot.
—May 24, 2009
Mike Jacobs, 2005, 2010
Benson and Floyd and Victor and all of today’s disappointment retreated — still there, but at a decent remove — and what was left was Mike Jacobs, who went from trying to catch his breath in the batter’s box to mashing one into our bullpen (Hey, cool! He’ll get the ball!) before you could say “Tricia’s from Ditmas Park, and IT’S HER BIRTHDAY!” After the inning I grabbed the TiVo remote and bi-doop-bi-doop-bi-dooped my way back so I could watch Jacobs levitate around the bases again, then one more time because I’d enjoyed it so much the second time.
—August 21, 2005
Henry Blanco, 2010
The Mets were leading 6-3 at this point of the nightcap. While the carnitas were being roasted or folded or whatever it is that makes them marvelous, I looked up at the monitor. The bases were full of Mets: Blanco on third, Pagan on second, Castillo on first. Reyes was coming up with one out. He took one ball then slapped a grounder to Dodger shortstop Jamey Carroll. Carroll threw home. Blanco appeared to be a dead duck. As I calculated the situation-to-be — two out but the bases still loaded for Jason Bay — I saw the throw get away from catcher A.J. Ellis. Blanco, suddenly live gazelle instead of dead duck, was safe. It was 7-3 Mets. Yet it was so much more. It was the jolt I didn’t realize I was dying for, more than I was dying for warmth, more than I was dying for carnitas. When Blanco slid across the plate successfully, I didn’t think. I just jumped. I jumped in the air and clapped. Then I did it again. As I was jumping and clapping, I was yelling, something along the lines of “YES!” and “ALL RIGHT!” and, in case the Taqueria cook wasn’t sure, “HE SCORED!” It wasn’t what I was yelling, it was that I was yelling. Yelling and clapping and jumping. It was instinct. It was Mets fan instinct. It had been missing for so long that I instantly savored the realization of what had just happened.
—April 30, 2010
Nelson Figueroa, 2008-2009
We thought about the perfect game, the no-hitter. We thought about it, hoped for it, knew it wasn’t coming, nodded our heads when it didn’t arrive. I bet Nelson Figueroa did all that too. And I bet he knew there wouldn’t be 27 up and 27 down. After all, he knows how things work around here. He knows because as a kid he was one of us, and because now he is — at long, long last — a New York Met.
—April 11, 2008
Chris Carter, 2010
I do know Chris Carter thinks New York fans are “intelligent,” “passionate,” “understand the game” and “deserve a winner”. That’s nice of him to say, and I got the sense he believes it. Talk to Chris Carter for a few minutes, and you get the sense he doesn’t say anything he doesn’t believe.
—October 2, 2010
Rod Barajas, 2010
It happens every year. It’s baseball. It’s funny that we almost never notice how common it is. We go from barely aware of Rod Barajas to relatively obsessed with Rod Barajas to not batting an eye when Rod Barajas is dispatched from our midst. We care about Rod Barajas until we don’t, or until he gives us little we consider worth caring about. When Rod Barajas was outhomering every catcher in the National League, we were smitten. When he stopped homering and then stopped hitting altogether, we lost interest. When he went on the DL for nearly a month after straining his oblique, we weren’t all that heartbroken, bastards that we are. We wanted to see Thole. We wanted to see hope. We had seen enough of Rod Barajas.
—August 24, 2010
Hisanori Takahashi, 2010
First, it wasn’t easy. Jason Michaels brought home a run. Now it wasn’t a combined shutout anymore. Now it wasn’t quite so breathable. It was a one-run game, one closer fill-in gone, the other not on the most solid of ground. Two on, one out. Yet the Mets’ world did not come crashing down on Hisanori Takahashi. He had to nail down two outs and he did (weird balls & strikes umpiring helped, but it’s been known to hurt, so we won’t question Angel Campos too harshly). Angel Sanchez popped up and Tony Manzella looked at strike three and that was that in a good sense. No closer per se, but when BTO blares, nobody much notices that it was an understudy instead of a star takin’ care of business.
—August 28, 2010
Fernando Tatis, 2008-2010
The mind ran away, as it’s entitled to after that rarest of good nights…Tatis can hit. Tatis can stay. Tatis can be the extraordinarily capable supersub this team is missing. Tatis can be the wise voice this team is dying for. Tatis can be Ray Knight for a new century, taking the pressure off our stars who are too callow or too reticent or too insolent or too dim to really handle all these reporters who surround you after every game, win or lose. Fernando Tatis is just what we need! The mind comes back, realizing it just pulled a long thought foul. In the meantime, I’m glad someone associated with the Mets is happy and he knows it and he really wants to show it.
—May 28, 2008
Jeff Francoeur, 2009-2010
It would enhance this game’s classic bona fides if indeed Eric Bruntlett had extended himself as heroically in the bottom of the ninth against Jeff Francoeur as Francoeur had against Bruntlett in right in the top of the ninth when he channeled Ron Swoboda. The Phillie second baseman, however, just happened to be in the right place while every Met who mattered found himself in the wrong place. The two runners in motion would have been better off standing still, while Francoeur’s mistake was suddenly developing a knack for making contact.
—August 24, 2009
John Maine, 2006-2010
Fourteen strikeouts. Overpowering. Untouchable. And 23 outs without a hit. The phrase I kept coming back to was “All right, John — let’s go.” I heard myself saying it in the fourth after a pitch, so I just kept saying it. “All right, John — let’s go.” And John went as long as he could. He still hasn’t given up anything like a legitimate base hit. The dagger in the heart of history of course rolled 45 feet and not foul. When Paul Who?ver half-swung, half-bunted and totally fucked with our hearts, time kind of stopped. It wasn’t going to get to Wright and Wright wasn’t going to get to it and it wasn’t going to cross over a line and this nonentity of a third-string catcher actually had the nerve to run instead of doing what big-shot ballplayers do when they’re not sure where a ball is going. Doesn’t Paul Who?ver know to just stand there and get thrown out? With John Maine’s 115th pitch, he was removed (I was already envisioning him lifted after eight regardless of no-hitter because Pitch Count Is All). I knew what was next. I knew we had to stand up and applaud Maine’s brilliant stab at Met immortality. Then I knew we had to continue as he walked to the dugout. But I didn’t have it in me. I clapped weakly and trudged away. I hadn’t been to the bathroom the whole game (who’s superstitious?) but mostly I had to go hit something (the vacated cheesesteak stand did nicely) and slam something (men’s room door) into a wall lest I moisten anything (like a tissue).
—September 30, 2007
Pedro Feliciano, 2002-2004, 2006-2010
Pedro kept showing up. Pedro kept getting the call and, more often than not, Pedro kept getting the key out. Maybe it was only one out, but Pedro got his man. One man in particular, who literally towers over Pedro Feliciano, was made to look small in his presence. That alone was awfully impressive in an otherwise depressing campaign. Ryan Howard has six inches and 70 pounds on Pedro Feliciano if you believe official listings. Goodness knows you couldn’t trade Pedro Feliciano for Ryan Howard. But would you trade Pedro Feliciano knowing Ryan Howard is looming somewhere on your schedule over and over — and over and over — again? When the Mets dismantled most of their disaster-laden bullpen after 2008, they left one mainstay in place. No more Heilman. No more Schoeneweis. No more Smith or Sanchez or Ayala. But yes, more Pedro Feliciano. Always more Pedro Feliciano.
—November 18, 2009
*At last check, former supplemental first-round pick Eddie Kunz was still in the Mets organization. But after not appearing in a major league game for two consecutive seasons; posting ERAs of over 5 these past two full minor league campaigns; spending all of 2010 at Double-A Binghamton after spending all of 2009 at Triple-A Buffalo (while the Mets’ bullpen was in its usual state of flux both years); being removed from the 40-man roster last fall; no longer pitching under the auspices of the general manager who drafted him high and might have had a stake in his development; and receiving no invitation to major league camp this spring…well, his inclusion here as a former New York Met does not seem inappropriate. Designation subject to change should Kunz reverse his trendline, which is both possible and, of course, desirable. Kunz won’t turn 25 until the second week of April.
UPDATE: Eddie Kunz was traded to the Padres on March 29, 2011. So there ya go.
Two great preseason publications are out, each with contributions from Faith and Fear and other Mets writers you know and love. Get your hands on Amazin’ Avenue Annual here and Maple Street Press Mets Annual here.