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Shadows in the Moonlight

The Oscars were handed out Sunday night, most of them to the actual recipients on the first try [1]. Thus, per Monday morning-after tradition [2], the Academy pauses to remember those Mets who have, in the baseball sense, left us in the past year.

AKEEL J. MORRIS
Relief Pitcher
June 17, 2015

Nuke LaLoosh was portrayed by Tim Robbins, a real-life Mets fan and the closest I could come up with as a precedent for what 22-year-old Akeel Morris tried to do Wednesday night in Toronto. The differences in their tales, beyond fiction and what actually happened, were stark. For example, LaLoosh walked 18 and struck out 18 in his Bulls debut, the cinematic Carolina League being notorious for its disregard of pitch counts. Morris, meanwhile, wasn’t having such control problems down at St. Lucie. He was having a whale of a season when the bullpen-stressed Mets reached down and called him up for what seemed like the hell of it. The Mets, trailing by three in the eighth, gave Morris a chance at Rogers Centre. Everybody deserves a chance. The view to Akeel, however, obliterated any chance the Mets had of coming back on the Blue Jays. The kid faced eight batters and retired two. Five of his runners scored. His earned run average, a spiffy 1.69 in 24 Single-A appearances, sits at 997. Sorry, that’s his chronological rank in the countup toward One Thousand Mets. Morris’s MLB ERA is impolite to mention in public.
—June 18, 2015
(Traded to Braves, 6/8/2016)

DANIEL JOSEPH “Danny” MUNO
Infielder
April 17, 2015 – July 24, 2015

You don’t have to pick up Troy Tulowitzki, throw his back legs over your shoulder and drag him Pete Campbell fantasy-style through the snow to Citi Field, but my goodness, is it that hard (and that expensive to hunt down a 2015 version of, say, Bob Bailor? A bench player who talents transcend those of Danny Muno is not an unreasonable request.
—July 11, 2015
(Released, 6/28/2016; signed with White Sox, 7/2/2016)

DARIO RAFAEL (Espinal) ALVAREZ
Relief Pitcher
September 3, 2014 – October 1, 2015

Hats off in particular to […] Alvarez for pulling a modern-day Rich Sauveur in striking out Bryce Harper after coming out of close to nowhere and making his first pitches of the season count like crazy…
—September 7, 2015
(Selected off waivers by Braves, 5/25/2016)

JOHNNY MONELL
Catcher
May 9, 2015 – October 4, 2015

Monell would face Santiago Casilla, which begged the question of 1982 Mets backup catcher from after Stearns got hurt (which means he wasn’t good enough to play in front of perpetual scrubeenie Hodges) Bruce Bochy, “You’re actually bringing in a pitcher specifically to face Johnny Monell?” Johnny Monell, the .182 wonder? Johnny Monell, who got to .182 from .095 the week before by getting on what for him qualified as a torrid streak yet .200 was a distant dream? Johnny Monell, who the legendarily wise, lavishly bejeweled Bochy saw no need to keep around despite an eight-game front row seat to his talents in 2013? Yes, indeed. One of the greatest managers of the modern era brought in a pitcher specifically to face Johnny Monell. Or simply decided he’d seen enough of Romo, the man who gave up two ninth-inning hits in the same season to Michael Cuddyer.
—July 7, 2015
(Free agent, 10/10/2016; signed with KT Wiz, 12/9/2016)

JUSTIN MARSHALL RUGGIANO
Outfielder
July 30, 2016 – August 26, 2016

[T]he entirety of whatever trip the Mets were on last night must have looked a lot better through a hallucinogenic prism. Not that the part where I imagined Justin Ruggiano hit a grand slam off Madison Bumgarner wasn’t, well, far out, but Jacob deGrom and I kind of crashed when Bumgarner came up in the bottom of the very same inning, the fourth, and hit his own two-run homer to completely erase what was left of the lead Ruggiano built with a single four-run swing. Trippy right?
—August 19, 2016
(Free agent, 11/5/2016; signed with Giants, 12/16/2016)

GABRIEL (Gomez) YNOA
Relief Pitcher
August 13, 2016 – October 2, 2016

Next up was lefty-swinging Logan Schafer, perhaps not the one Twin to have up when you’re having no more than a two-run lead, which is exactly what Ynoa was nursing on the mound. There was no reason to think the rookie righthander wouldn’t retire Schafer, but if you were Terry Collins, and you’d just gotten to two out in the fifth with Gabriel Ynoa filling in for Jacob deGrom, why push it? Exit from Schafer City, Mr. Ynoa…
—September 19, 2016
(Sold to Orioles, 2/10/2017)

DILSON JOSE (Garcia) HERRERA
Infielder

August 29, 2014 – October 3, 2015

We love Dilson Herrera because he’s new and has done nothing to disappoint us. We watch him show a good eye at the plate and a compact swing and soft hands in the field and imagine we’ve got something here. And hey, maybe we do.
—August 31, 2014
(Traded to Reds, 8/1/2016)

JONATHON JOSEPH “Jon” NIESE
Starting Pitcher
September 2, 2008 – November 1, 2015
August 2, 2016 – August 23, 2016

Jon Niese, per the late Dennis Green, is who we expected him to be. Three fine innings against those poisonous Arizona Diamondbacks, a dreadful fourth, gone in the fifth. You can’t say he didn’t provide distance, to judge by how far Rickie Weeks and Yasmany Tomas hit their home runs off him. To be fair to Niese, he was pitching in an unfamiliar time zone, in uniform tops that are described as alternate, on a Wednesday, which is a day that only occurs once a week, so how was he supposed to get comfortable?
—August 18, 2016
(Free agent, 11/3/2016; signed with Yankees, 2/19/2017)

ANTONIO FRANCISCO (Rafael) BASTARDO
Relief Pitcher
April 8, 2016 – July 30, 2016

The other deal: Antonio Bastardo to Pittsburgh for Jon Niese. No, really. When it was announced, I heard myself say “YAY!” and it wasn’t to welcome back Niese. Bastardo has delayed my last train. Enjoy your reacquaintance with all three rivers; jump into any and all of them if you like.
—August 1, 2016
(Traded to Pirates, 8/1/2016)

JAMES DUFFY “Jim” HENDERSON
Relief Pitcher
April 5, 2016 – October 2, 2016

Jim Henderson is either pitching way better than we could have expected or exactly as we should’ve expected. After a season in the minors rehabbing a surgically repaired shoulder, the former Brewer closer (and old-friend protégé) is pitching with a vengeance. In three innings, he’s faced and retired nine batters, seven of them on strikeouts. Given Henderson’s recent track record, no, you couldn’t have expected that. But given the Hendersons’ track record, yes, of course we knew he was gonna be splendid. The Mets have had three prior Hendersons in their history. Every one of them emerged in a blaze of glory.
—April 11, 2016
(Free agent 11/2/2016; signed with Cubs, 1/27/2017)

EARL LESTER “Buddy” CARLYLE
Relief Pitcher
May 31, 2014 – May 15, 2015

Exit Blevins, enter Buddy Carlyle, the incredibly well-traveled vet who was barely in the Mets’ plans until approximately 48 hours earlier. Carlyle had been pitching on and off in the big leagues since 1999 and had never recorded a save. He had never pitched on Opening Day until now. A Mets game isn’t truly a Mets game until a Mets fan braces for the worst. Here in the bottom of the ninth, we had ourselves an official ballgame. Carlyle will never rival Wright in the Mets record book — he is more likely to land among the Collin Cowgill curiosities — but he was having a moment in this spotlight. One ground ball from Ryan Zimmerman to shortstop. Another ground ball from Wilson Ramos to shortstop. Wilmer Flores, at one point a budding third baseman in an organization where there’s been no future in that job title since July 21, 2004, handled both of them cleanly, firing them to Duda for the second and third outs. For the first time in his major league career, Buddy Carlyle was a closer. For the eighth time in his major league career, David Wright was a winner on Opening Day, 3-1. The mighty Nationals were 0-1. The 2015 Mets were 1-0.
—April 7, 2015
(Released, 3/25/2016; retired)

SCOTT LOGAN VERRETT
Starting Pitcher
June 18, 2015 – September 23, 2016

And speaking of legends, let’s hear it for Logan Verrett, the veritable Seventh Beatle of our already immortal starting rotation. Logan is an afterthought all-star, ostensibly lower on the depth chart than still-rehabbing Zack Wheeler, even. Nobody asked this son of a Leach to squeeze into the class portrait, but based on his first two starts — 12 IP, 0 R, 9 H, 3 BB, 10 SO — somebody needs to Photoshop him in.
—April 20, 2016
(Sold to Orioles, 11/30/2016)

ERIC SINGLETON CAMPBELL
Infielder
May 10, 2014 – October 5, 2016 

Yes, Soup is on again. He’s been chilling in the shadows for several days since his unlikely callup from Las Vegas. The Mets called everybody up once the Triple-A season ended. It would have been impolite to leave Eric behind. After the copious pinch-hitting and pitching changes, somebody needed to play first. Soup played it with aplomb. Good for him. Great for us.
—September 10, 2016
(Free agent, 11/7/2016; signed with Hanshin Tigers, 11/19/2016)

ALEJANDRO ALBERTO (Cedea) DE AZA
Outfielder
April 3, 2016 – October 2, 2016

Three cheers for Alejandro, formerly known to me as Almostandro for the way he never quite came through. He is these days experiencing a De Azanaissance, making this a welcome period of rebirth for us all. Thursday, Al (as we fair-weather fans of his call him) pulled in a possible Cardinal homer at the wall in the first, singled in two runs in the fourth and went very deep with two on in the fifth.
—August 26, 2016
(Free agent, 11/3/2016; signed with A’s, 1/20/2017)

JAMES ANTHONY LONEY
Infielder
May 31, 2016 – October 5, 2016

How about a Kris Bryant grounder to the ever aggressive Reyes, who, instead of firing to Rivera for one excruciation-extending forceout at the plate, went around the horn, throwing a little low to Walker, who stretched for the putout that offed Baez? Walker, in turn, pivoted and sent a slightly wayward bullet to Loney. Loney had to be a bit gymnastic to receive the delivery on the fly, but he did. Such a sequence of events is spelled, in baseball shorthand, 5-4-3, as in game-ending double play. The Cubs, with the bases loaded and nobody out, lost, 2-1. The Mets, on the other end of that exact equation, won, 2-1. How the hell did that happen? Exactly as detailed above, but seriously. How the hell did that happen?
—July 20, 2016
(Free agent, 11/3/2016; signed with Rangers, 1/24/2017)

KELLY ANDREW JOHNSON
Infielder
July 25, 2015 – November 1, 2015
June 10, 2016 – October 2, 2016

Johnson, as you know, is the Brave who became a Met who became a Brave who became a Met who started as a Brave before sojourning to all of the American League East as well as Arizona. Lemme check…yeah, he’s a Met now. Not only is he a Met, but he is a Met who homered in the eleventh inning of a nothing-nothing game.
—June 26, 2016
(Free agent, 11/3/2016; currently unsigned)

RUBEN DARIO TEJADA
Infielder
April 7, 2010 – October 10, 2015

I had no problem figuring out Saturday that Ruben Tejada is pretty damn good at second, even if he’s actually a shortstop. He was in the middle of an around-the-horn double play early and made a sensational jump and throw to retire Adam Jones later. Ron Darling compared him to Roberto Alomar, presumably the pre-Met version. Tejada was showing himself to be a free-range second baseman, unencumbered by age, injury and lack of mobility. He also singled and scored what proved to be the winning run in the sixth. I’m not sure I’m ready to anoint Ruben Tejada the second baseman of the future or even the present. He’s supposed to be a shortstop and he’s only 20 years old. He’s batting .185 and is obviously raw. But he is exciting and the Mets are winning.
—June 13, 2010
(Released, 3/16/2016; signed with Cardinals, 3/19/2016)

BARTOLO COLON
Starting Pitcher
April 2, 2014 – October 1, 2016

The impossible did happen. Red Smith called it once, and Gary Cohen confirmed its recurrence. Bartolo Colon hit a home run. It was a midseason shot heard ’round the world for our times, one marveled at ad infinitum on devices barely bigger than the ball Bobby Thomson sent soaring into legend with 20-year-old Willie Mays on deck. We saw it, we heard it, we emoted and emojied it and we relish reliving it the day after because it was just that inexpressibly fantastic. Now let’s never forget it. It’s too good not to be remembered.
—May 8, 2016
(Free agent, 11/3/2016; signed with Braves, 11/17/2016)