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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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Welcome, THB Class of 2015!

Those of you who’ve waited with bated breath for this annual feature (pause for crickets), my apologies — blame paid work competing for my time and the curdling of my attitude about the 2015 World Series from acceptance to anger, a psychological ambush I’ll delve into one of these days.

Background: I have a trio of binders, long ago dubbed The Holy Books (THB) by Greg, that contain a baseball card for every Met on the all-time roster. They’re in order of matriculation: Tom Seaver is Class of ’67, Mike Piazza is Class of ’98, Noah Syndergaard is Class of ’15, etc. There are extra pages for the rosters of the two World Series winners, the managers, and one for the 1961 Expansion Draft. That page begins with Hobie Landrith and ends with the infamous Lee Walls, the only THB resident who neither played for the Mets, managed the Mets, or qualified as a Met ghost.

If a player gets a Topps card as a Met, I use it unless it’s truly horrible — Topps was here a decade before there were Mets, so they get to be the card of record. No Mets card by Topps? Then I look for a minor-league card, a non-Topps Mets card, a Topps non-Mets card, or anything else. Topps had a baseball-card monopoly until 1981, and minor-league cards only really began in the mid-1970s, so cup-of-coffee guys from before ’75 or so are tough. (More on them in a moment.) Companies such as TCMA and Renata Galasso made odd sets with players from the 1960s — the likes of Jim Bethke, Bob Moorhead and Dave Eilers are immortalized through their efforts. And a card dealer named Larry Fritsch put out sets of “One Year Winners” spotlighting blink-and-you-missed-them guys such as Ted Schreiber and Joe Moock.

Another thing that’s slowed me down this year: I decided a while back that every pre-’86 player who never got a “real” Mets card deserved one, so I started making custom cards with Photoshop. That weirdo quest began as a way to solve the problem posed by the legendary Lost Nine.

Who are the Lost Nine? They’re the guys who never got a regulation-sized, acceptable card from anybody. Brian Ostrosser got a 1975 minor-league card that looks like a bad Xerox. Leon Brown has a terrible 1975 minor-league card and an oversized Omaha Royals card put out as a promotional set by the police department. Tommy Moore got a 1990 Senior League card as a 42-year-old with the Bradenton Explorers, which Greg thinks should count and I think shouldn’t, so pppt to Greg. Then we have Al Schmelz, Francisco Estrada, Lute Barnes, Bob Rauch, Greg Harts and Rich Puig. They have no cards whatsoever — the oddball 1991 Nobody Beats the Wiz cards are too undersized to work. So I’ve gone from making cards of the Lute Barneses and Rich Puigs of Metdom to correcting the record for the likes of Larry Foss and Billy Cowan and both Bob Johnsons. Yes, it’s insane.

Anyway, during the season I scrutinize new card sets in hopes of finding a) better cards of established Mets; b) cards to stockpile for prospects who might make the Show; and most importantly c) a card for each new big-league Met. Eventually that yields this column, previous versions of which can be found hereherehereherehereherehereherehere and here.)

Your 2015 THB Mets!

Your 2015 THB Mets!

Without further ado:

Michael Cuddyer: David Wright’s boyhood chum had an odd year, one in which he served as evidence for every debate one could have about roster construction and management. From the get-go, fans fought about whether his signing was welcome evidence that the Mets could spend money again, depressing proof that the Mets had wasted their entire offseason “budget,” and/or a waste given the forfeiture of a draft pick. The Cuddyer-Wright show was largely a bust, as spinal stenosis felled the younger man and the Mets’ paper-thin depth pushed Cuddyer into a full-time role, one his time-worn body clearly could no longer handle. Cuddyer did magic tricks, as innumerable media guides have noted, but the Mets made him the subject of one of their least amusing spectacles, leaving him on the active roster for a month of the summer when he couldn’t play. Once he healed up he played pretty well in the part-time duty originally envisioned, then startled everyone by walking away from the final year of his deal, giving the Mets some financial flexibility they didn’t deserve and winning a final round of well-deserved accolades as a honorable man and a peerless teammate. Cuddyer is probably headed for decades as a minor-league instructor/bench coach/etc., hopefully with our team. Extra points for always reminding me of the silver-haired, flat-topped veteran from cop movies, the guy who’s Seen Too Much of This Shit but still walks the beat because it’s The Right Thing to Do. In THB in a Photoshopped Mets uniform courtesy of Topps. Fortunately, they did a good job.

John Mayberry Jr.: A useful complementary player for the not-so-long-ago Phillies, the younger Mayberry turned in a Mets tour of duty that resembled Chris Young’s, if Chris Young had also been a narcoleptic zombie. If the Mets’ current run of success lasts long enough, Mayberry will go down in franchise lore as a symbol of blue-and-orange bottoming out, the man sent out to hit cleanup against Clayton Kershaw with Eric Campbell for protection. That won’t be entirely fair, but when you hit .164 over 119 plate appearances … actually it is entirely fair. (Please tell me I won’t be copy-pasting this entry for Alejandro De Aza a year from now.) A Topps Phillie in THB.

Jerry Blevins: Won our hearts by adopting a fan-made Twitter avatar. Kept our hearts by being effective against lefties. Had his arm broken by a line drive on April 19. Worked like heck to come back, took a misstep off a curb in Port St. Lucie in August and refractured the same bone. After all that, signed on for another tour of duty. That’s one weird year, folks. He’s a Topps Nat in THB, pending a do-over.

Alex Torres: While pitching for Tampa Bay in 2013, Torres saw his teammate Alex Cobb felled by a line drive to the head off the bat of Eric Hosmer. (Damn that guy.) Cobb missed two months and Torres vowed the same thing wouldn’t happen to him, so he worked with a company called Pinwrest to come up with turban-style protective padding around his cap. Kudos to Torres for prioritizing his own safety above fashion points and to the Mets and most of their fans for being adults about it — it wasn’t so long ago that this team treated Ryan Church’s concussion with scientific rigor and human sympathy better suited to Salem in the 1690s. Unfortunately, Torres walked waaaaaay too many guys while wearing any kind of Mets headgear and was soon banished. He gets a Topps Heritage card; since this is a miracle in itself, I feel bad for whining that his miraculous card depicts him sans distinctive chapeau.

Sean Gilmartin: A Rule 5 guy sticking long enough to become franchise property and not being a liability in the process is a pretty good trick, so kudos to Gilmartin and to the Mets. He could become a useful piece of the puzzle or be one of those Oh Yeah That Guys by next Memorial Day; saying so isn’t to disparage him but to acknowledge that he’s that most confounding of specimens, the middle reliever. Topps Update card.

Danny Muno: Recalled in mid-April and didn’t do much that was particularly memorable, for good or ill. He’s young enough that any grade other than “present” seems presumptuous. Topps Heritage portrait card, since his Topps Update card featured both a whole lot of his rear end and a goofy expression. Thanks Topps!

Kevin Plawecki: His nickname of “The Polish Hammer” never really stuck, not because Plawecki isn’t Polish but because he didn’t do that much hammering. Still, he filled in capably for Travis d’Arnaud; if holding one’s own as a rookie catcher doesn’t seem like grounds for applause, think how many rookie catchers fail to do it. Topps Update card.

Hansel Robles: Handsome, talented, mildly pissy reliever ascended the Mets ranks from warm body to non-blowout middle reliever to setup guy you kind of maybe sort of could trust, which is a pretty good trajectory for a rookie. Plus he made Larry Bowa go ballistic, which is always fun. (But enough with the quick pitches, gang.) Topps Heritage card.

Jack Leathersich: The much-hyped Leather Rocket finally showed up in Queens and looked pretty much like the guy we’d been told about in the minors — he threw hard and was effective when he could find the plate. After a couple of months in New York, he was sent back to Vegas, immediately left in for 57 pitches by Wally Backman, and then needed Tommy John surgery. It’s irresponsible to declare there’s absolutely a causal link in that chain of events, but that’s still no way to treat a pitcher. Leathersich gets a Topps Heritage card on which he sports a beard worthy of the Brooklynite behind the bar who’s easing into the eighth minute of doing something artisanal to your straightforward drink order.

Johnny Monell: Longtime minor-leaguer cracked a pinch-hit two-run double in his second Mets AB and did little after that. I bet every single THB roundup contains a variant of the above written about a momentary catcher. Las Vegas card.

Noah Syndergaard: On a staff of wonderful young starters, here’s betting he turns out to be the best of all. Syndergaard already has better stuff than Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom, and he made great strides in the more difficult business of learning how to pitch. During the summer he went through a series of starts where he became predictable in the early innings and wound up paying for it, but by September he’d learned to counterpunch, mixing up his pitches and his approaches. And in October he showed off a little meanness, famously pointing out to the Royals that if they didn’t like being pitched inside, he was 60 feet six inches away. A mild boo for an invitation that didn’t have to be public — that was a young man’s misstep — but sustained applause for the philosophy and the willingness to defend it. Nothing about the 2016 Mets excites me more than the thought of seeing what Syndergaard does next. Topps Update card.

Darrell Ceciliani: Fill-in outfielder with a silly chin beard and a 51s card.

Akeel Morris: Came and went while I was on a family trip to Mexico, so I suppose it’s possible his cameo is actually an elaborate Truman Show-style prank being played on me. For now he gets an old Bowman card I had stockpiled for things like this.

Logan Verrett: Currently chatting with Jerry Blevins and Kirk Nieuwenhuis about odd years, Verrett was taken by the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft, grabbed by the Rangers on waivers, pitched for them in April and was then returned to the Mets. He made his debut in June and proved useful enough to be handed the ball for a seemingly sacrificial start at Coors Field when Harvey needed some innings shaved off his infamous limit. Verrett responded with a sparkler, scattering four hits and a single run over eight innings, and is now seen as a useful spot starter/long man type. Of such things are long, lucrative careers made. Topps Update card.

Steven Matz: Elbow woes wrecked his ascent, but when he arrived in late June it was worth the wait. Still-young Matz — between the name and the Long Island upbringing how could he pitch for anybody else? — allowed a home run to Brandon Phillips, the first big-league hitter he faced, but not much after that, and he was a terror at the plate, collecting two singles and a double and four RBIs. Those four RBIs in a big-league debut are a Mets club record, by the way — not for pitchers but for anybody. By the end of the day two folk heroes were born — Steven and his grandpa Bert, whose mix of delight and disbelief was the perfect pantomime of what we all were thinking. His first full season should be a treat. Topps Heritage card.

Michael Conforto: With that name Matz should have been the 1,000th Met in club history, but the honor went to Conforto instead on July 24. Having seen Conforto as a Brooklyn Cyclone just last year, I wrote off his debut as a cynical publicity stunt meant to distract us from ownership’s lack of interest in opening the coffers enough to mount a real pursuit of the sputtering Nats. Happily I was wrong: Conforto turned out to be more than ready, combining a perfect swing with a precocious sense of the strike zone. He kept getting better, capping his season with two home runs in Game 4 of the World Series — and a split-second adjustment in timing would have resulted in a 10th-inning walkoff homer to win Game 5. If I’m most excited about watching Syndergaard grow in ’16, Conforto is a close second. For now he gets a Topps Pro Debut card on which he’s still a Cyclone, but no matter; within a couple of years Conforto’s bats, uniforms and possibly armpit hair will be recycled into relics cards.

Kelly Johnson: One of those quietly valuable professional hitters, Johnson arrived with Juan Uribe from the Braves in late July and immediately made his seventh big-league team better, homering in his Mets debut against the Dodgers and tying up the finale of the Mets’ D.C. sweep of the Nats with a long ball off Stephen Strasburg. Extra points for his cold fury in denouncing Chase Utley’s roll block in the NLDS. Topps Update card.

Juan Uribe: Well-traveled, beloved in clubhouses and invariably dressed like a superhero, Uribe showed a knack for big hits down the stretch and served as valuable insurance for the still gimpy Wright. Unfortunately, he landed hard on his chest down the stretch, damaging cartilage that proved slow to heal and limited him to a single AB in the postseason. (He got a hit, of course.) Topps Update card.

Tyler Clippard: A million years ago, the bespectacled, given-to-squinting Clippard made his debut as a Yankee fill-in starter, beating the Mets at Shea. Clippard then became a capable setup guy and closer for the Nats before being jettisoned and finding his way to Flushing. He was on and off down the stretch, probably hampered more by a back injury than anyone admitted, and Terry Collins arguably leaned too hard on him during the postseason, trusting his Veteran Status more than he worried about his iffy recent results. Still, Clippard pitched as well as he could whenever asked to do so, and we’ll always remember his endearingly terrible dance moves during a trio of postseason celebrations. And that’s a heckuva lot better than being that damn larval Yankee who beat us that time. Topps Update card.

Yoenis Cespedes: Look, we always knew it was going to be a summer romance. Cespedes arrived as Plan E or F for the Mets, and contrary to eventual legend didn’t immediately set Citi Field on fire — he started his Mets career 1 for 8, prompting the usual muttering because New York. But he then broke out with a four-RBI night against the Marlins, beginning a stretch when he made the impossible seem routine at the plate. No display was greater than his evisceration of the Nats in D.C. — 6 for 14, 7 RBIs, and a lifetime of therapy bills for the luckless Drew Storen. In all, Cespedes put up 17 HRs and 44 RBIs for the Mets in a little more than a third of a season, catapulting them into the playoffs. He didn’t do much in October, it must be admitted — a big game against the Dodgers, another against the Cubs, but a shamefully botched play to start things off against the Royals and a final, unfortunate one-footed swing he never should have been forced to take. Still, what a lot to remember — years from now, someone will mention parakeets or compression sleeves and wonder why on earth you’ve suddenly become misty-eyed. Topps Update card in which he’s just connected. The card’s wonderful too.

Eric O’Flaherty: Arrived in August as part of the Mets’ star-crossed quest for a lefty specialist, and was mind-bogglingly terrible. Eighteen hits in 8 2/3 innings is no way to go through life, son. Some old Braves card.

Addison Reed: Reed’s had an interesting career already, racking up 100+ saves for the White Sox and Diamondbacks but only turning 27 on Sunday. He pitched capably enough for the Mets down the stretch and should have a role to play for the ’16 club. 2015 D-Backs card. I hate looking at it.

Tim Stauffer: The last newcomer of 2015, as Matt Reynolds was activated for the playoffs but never appeared, becoming the 10th Met ghost instead of the 1,008th Met. Stauffer was … hmm. He was better than Eric O’Flaherty, OK? Old Padres card.

7 comments to Welcome, THB Class of 2015!

  • Dave

    Would have gone with the Topps Update Rookie Debut for Matz, as that was one hell of a game for both him and his grandpa. No card for grandpa is a damn shame.

    • Ken K. in NJ

      Howie Rose may have won that award (I’ve already forgotten what the name of it is) for his radio call on Bartolo’s double but my Call of the Year is Gary Cohen’s “And Grandpa is beside himself”. Makes me smile every time I watch it.

      Fantastic job Jason, these annual rundowns are a highlight of my Hot Stove season.

  • metsfaninparadise

    My comment on Thor got attached to the wrong article. I think he has a legit chance to have an absolutely dominating season in ’16, as Gooden did in HIS second season. He has ALL the tools–stuff, smarts, attitude. With Greinke, Arrieta, and Kershaw all posting similar seasons recently, anything’s possible.

  • Dave

    Tim Stauffer…a reminder of how even one of the most memorable seasons in Mets history still has much to contribute to the “Oh Yeah That Guy” group to which you refer. He reached that status in a hurry.

  • 9th string catcher

    I think of Stauffer as the final officially sanctioned Dillon Gee insult.

  • Harvey Poris

    Ceciliani appears as a Met on a Topps Update Card, sharing it with Danny Dorn of Arizona, as a Rookie Combo (#256)