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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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 2018!

Ah, the THB Class of 2018! Greet ’em quick, because many of ’em are already gone!

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 got stuck with the dubious status of Met ghost.

THB Class of 2018

Here they are, your THB Class of 2018!

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. That means I spend the season scrutinizing 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. At the end of the year I go through the stockpile and subtract the maybe somedays who became nopes. (Circle of Life, y’all.) Eventually that yields this column, previous versions of which can be found herehereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehere and here.)

Before the rest of them become Mariners, minor-league free agents or otherwise move on, here are your 2018 Mets, in order of matriculation:

Adrian Gonzalez: The first Met to matriculate in 2018 was an aggressively pointless acquisition, arguably emblematic of this franchise’s recent wheel-spinning. Gonzalez, a former star much dimmed by back woes, blocked Dom Smith and prevented Wilmer Flores and Jay Bruce from getting more reps at first, three more sensible answers (from a long list) than employing Adrian Gonzalez. His redeeming quality in the team’s eye was that he was cheap, which may not be a redeeming quality in your eye. Anyway, it was an old song we’re tired of hearing played: Proven Veteran™ Will Nuture Young Player and If Everything Goes Right He’ll Also Bounce Back and Then We’re in the World Series! Everything didn’t go right and Gonzalez was cut after a third of a season wasted. Insult to injury: His 2018 Topps Series 2 card was a horizontal. All right-thinking people know that horizontal cards are designed to lure kids to Satan worship now that backwards messages on LPs are no longer an option.

Todd Frazier: Perhaps you know him from such Mets-media beats as “from Toms River,” “the most enthusiastic teammate ever” and “once played in the Little League World Series.” Frazier arrived on a two-year below-market deal, an admittedly not-crazy find in the free-agent supermarket’s dented-cans and day-old bread aisle. (As always, the real problem is that the owners of the National League’s New York franchise do most of their shopping in that aisle, with no interest in, say, a prime cut of Bryce Harper.) Frazier was, well, Frazier: he didn’t hit for average, did draw walks, played pretty good defense, was the most enthusiastic teammate ever, and continued to be from Toms River. Being a Met, he also spent a ton of time on the disabled list. Notable highlights included somehow stealing an out thanks to a flop in the Los Angeles stands and the discovery of a kid’s rubber mock baseball, and umpire Tom Hallion being so steamed about this chicanery that he pulled a Tiananmen Square as Frazier finished a walk-off home-run trot. Seriously, how weird was that? 2018 Topps Heritage card in which he looks like Todd From Toms River.

Anthony Swarzak: First he was hurt, then he was horrible. Honestly, how many new Mets of recent vintage does that describe? On paper, Swarzak seemed like a pretty good addition: he’d put up the best year of his career in 2017 after knocking around with fly-by-night outfits such as the Doosan Bears, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, and the New York Yankees. But he got hurt in spring training, had to leave his second outing of the season, didn’t return until June and then was reliably awful. That glugging sound was $6 million of grimly extracted WilponBucks clogging up the toilet, with another $8 million ready to pour in 2019. The Mets then offloaded Swarzak on the Seattle Mariners, to the relief of all concerned. 2015 Topps card as a Twin.

Jose Lobaton: Every THB class includes an aged catcher or two, signed as Triple-A depth and summoned after that depth proves necessary, catching being what it is. (This goes from probability to lead-pipe cinch when you employ Travis d’Arnaud, who’s probably plummeting through a skylight at this very moment.) Generally it’s not worth getting too worked up about emergency backstops — sometimes they get one big moment (Taylor Teagarden) before being forgotten, but usually they go in the I Forgot That Guy Was a Met stack (Rick Wilkins, Tom Wilson, Taylor Teagarden again). Lobaton hit a triple in his first Mets AB, was rendered superfluous by the arrival of Devin Mesoraco, spent the summer in Triple-A and then returned in September as a reward for good behavior. [Author is carefully expressionless except for a slight upturn at the corner of his mouth.] While the Mets were at Fenway, a plus-sized rat caused various Mets to vacate their dugout positions, and cameras caught Lobaton trying to flush the rat from its hiding place beneath the bench. “Why on Earth is he doing that?” I asked anybody who’d listen, which at that point was nobody. “Is he actually planning to beat the rat to death on national television? Does he think it’ll reconsider its options and board a hidden rats-only elevator?” Honestly, if you can’t count on ancient catchers to show common sense, what can you count on them for? 2016 Topps card as a National.

Gerson Bautista: A right-handed fireballer who wasn’t ready for prime time, Bautista made five appearances for the Mets, looked awful in four of them and left the impression that a) he had cool hair and b) some nice person should buy him a cheeseburger. His existence then nagged at me because he was the one THB Met who didn’t have a card, and I was goddamned if I was going to spent nearly $20 on a Salem Red Sox set to fix that. For some reason Topps then included 1.5 Gerson Bautista cards in its update set: he has one of his own and shares another one with Luis Guillorme. Recidivist Met Jason Vargas, by the way, got a Series 2 card and an Update card. I love Topps, but every year they offer a reminder that monopolies are not good for quality control. Anyway, Bautista is now a Mariner and I hope someone feeds him.

Corey Oswalt: Oswalt was serviceable as a starter, not so great as a reliever, but only turned 25 in September and never really had a defined role. Honestly, a limitation of these THB write-ups is a lot of them are first impressions of players when no one can know what those players will be. (This lament is particularly true for pitchers.) Anyway, Oswalt made the big leagues after six years in the minors and many years of hard work and dreaming before that. That makes him an immortal, however the rest of his story unfolds, and we shouldn’t forget that. Stuck with a 2013 Topps Heritage Minors card, because Topps consigned him to one of its lamentable new duo cards in its Update set.

P.J. Conlon: Recalled for a spot start in Cincinnati, Conlon became the first Irish-born player in the big leagues since World War II, which seems like something that would have been a big deal in the Eisenhower administration. After a pair of not particularly successful appearances, he was designated for assignment, claimed by the Dodgers, and posted a classy Twitter thank-you to New York on his way out the door. Then, after less than a week as a theoretical Dodger minor leaguer, he wound up back with the Mets. Which led to this amended tweet:

That’s genuinely funny! Anyway, Conlon will be a spring-training invitee in 2019, and still born in Ireland. I’m sure some bored beat writer will get a March story out of it. 2018 Topps Heritage card.

Devin Mesoraco: A catcher with a doctor’s chart that would make Travis d’Arnaud blanch, Mesoraco came over from the Reds when Matt Harvey was finally exiled and crushed five home runs in his first two weeks. Alas, his Mets career path then followed the John Buck arc: he cooled off, got hurt, and only had 12 plate appearances in September. Still, he earned plaudits as a catcher from Jacob deGrom, whom one can regard as an authority on such things. Got a not bad 2018 Topps Update card in which he’s trotting off the field in full catcher’s armor, mask in one hand and weary expression on his face.

Luis Guillorme: Coolly caught a bat one-handed in spring training in 2016, a highlight you’ve probably seen. Made his big-league debut this year and was given very little opportunity to show what he could do, but honestly, can you blame the Mets? I mean, when you get the chance to use a roster spot on the fly-laden corpse of Jose Reyes, you take it instead of worrying about trivialities such as the further development of excellent defensive shortstops. The Mets’ infield has only gotten more crowded since the season ended, and Guillorme’s likely to be an odd man out. Some old Bowman card, as Topps Update stuck him on one of those damn duo things.

Buddy Baumann: A May acquisition from the Padres, Baumann was put on the active roster for a game that got rained out, and then sent back down having never occupied a roster spot for an official game, leaving me with a conundrum: If Baumann never pitched for the Mets, would he count as a ghost? Or would he be, somehow, the ghost of a ghost? Considerable angst was avoided when Baumann was recalled again, and this time he actually got to pitch. It seems like an anticlimax to write that I remember the roster debate more than I do anything he did on the mound, but it’s actually the perfect ending. Some card as an Omaha Storm Chaser, which sounds like the kind of thing Jose Lobaton would do if not properly supervised.

Jose Bautista: Another piece of bruised, discarded fruit that Mets ownership brushed off and assured us would be tasty and nutritious. And to be fair, it kind of was. The former Blue Jays star (and long-ago Met on paper) arrived after the Braves had no spot for him, but proved moderately useful in a half-season as a Met before being flipped to Philadelphia. He connected for a walkoff grand slam against Tampa Bay that was, somehow, his first-ever walkoff homer. He also reportedly played a crucial role mentoring Amed Rosario, which is the kind of thing that different segments of a fandom can simultaneously undervalue and overvalue. Pretty decent 2018 Topps Update card.

Tim Peterson: Arrived at the end of May as part of a grab bag of new relievers and pitched really well in June, then not so well after that — as a lowlight, there was a game against the Pirates in which the abracadabra-walk rule meant he allowed four baserunners on six pitches. Yikes! In fairness, Peterson was also a victim of Mickey Callaway’s growing pains managing a bullpen, at one point spending nearly two weeks on the active roster without appearing in a game. And he wasn’t the only one. Anyway, one of a string of basically interchangeable right-handed relievers. 2018 51s card.

Scott Copeland: Nope, don’t remember him. The record shows that he pitched on May 31 against the Cubs at Citi Field, a night Seth Lugo started and was relieved by Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins, Buddy Baumann, Copeland and Gerson Bautista. Yikes! Copeland pitched better than any of his fellow relievers in that game, facing five batters and giving up a lone single. He apparently wore 62, which is the kind of number big-leaguers once refused to wear unless it was March. I liked it that way better. Some old Topps Pro Debut card.

Chris Beck: No memory of him either. I looked at his horrific pitching line and am glad I’m coming up empty. Pitching 10.1 innings and giving up 10 hits, nine walks and three home runs is not something you want to put on your resume. Some old White Sox card.

Drew Smith: A big right-handed reliever (honestly, they may as well grow on trees), Smith was vaguely handsome in an utterly unmemorable way. Seriously, the guy looked like a generic action figure before some Chinese prisoner glued the cowl on and made you go, “Ohh, it’s Batman/Captain America/the Green Hornet/etc.” Smith pitched pretty well though, only walking six guys in 28 IP. He’ll now probably walk everyone and his grandmother, because middle relievers. 2018 51s card.

Kevin Kaczmarski: Ya got me. Apparently I bought a 2016 Columbia Fireflies set to get a card of him. That qualifies as dedication. And it seems he wore No. 16? Did I get mad about that in some forgotten post? No offense to Kaczmarski, but who let that happen?

Tyler Bashlor: Right-handed reliever. Came in the same Fireflies set that yielded a Kevin Kaczmarski card. Be thankful for small favors.

Drew Gagnon: Right-handed reliever who looked vaguely like Matthew McConaughey, at least to me. Didn’t do much … and will be 29 in June. Good luck. 2018 51s card.

Jeff McNeil: Is there a worse career move than succeeding as a rookie hitter for the New York Mets? After two years lost to injury, McNeil got his Daniel Murphy on as a member of the 51s in 2018, but the team stubbornly refused to call him up until late July, when the trade of Asdrubal Cabrera finally opened up the spot he’d earned about two months earlier. He actually got to play — another thing the Mets have been reliably terrible about in recent years — and took advantage, hitting .329 and proving almost impossible to strike out. He was a success story in the field, too: despite having his defense habitually derided, he worked his butt off and by the end of the season looked more than adequate at second. Honestly, it was everything you could reasonably ask of a rookie, both in terms of preparation and results. So how did the Mets reward him? By bringing in not only Robinson Cano but also Jed Lowrie. McNeil is now being talked up as an outfielder. Maybe that will work out and he’ll be a Ben Zobrist type. Or maybe the Mets are setting up yet another promising young hitter to fail. Old Bowman card, but he has a 2019 Topps card coming out in a week or so.

Austin Jackson: A quietly aggravating player, Jackson had a good first month after being discarded by the Rangers and then went back to being the kind of guy who’d get discarded by the Rangers. His lone skill as a baseball player was his ability to be terrible without being obvious about it. For instance, Jackson was a consistently horrible center fielder, but it took close scrutiny to reveal it: he failed by freezing on contact and having a slow first step, which won’t make highlight films but is actually more damaging on a night-to-night basis than occasionally diving and missing or getting hit in the head by an enemy double. It’s giving guys like this 200 ABs that kills seasons. Jackson won David Wright’s farewell game with a walkoff double, which doesn’t change my verdict appreciably but ought to be acknowledged. 2016 Topps card as a White Sock.

Bobby Wahl: Big right-handed reliever. See anywhere above. 2017 Topps card as an Athletic.

Jack Reinheimer: Nondescript utilityman who came over from the Diamondbacks on waivers in an acquisition that proved serenely pointless. Since the season ended he’s been waived by the Cubs, designated for assignment by the Rangers and claimed off waivers by the Orioles. Sometimes I wonder how stuff like that works. Does poor Reinheimer have a stack of HR paperwork to deal with in addition to having to figure out where the heck to get an apartment? Got a 2018 Topps Update card as a Diamondback, a team he last played for on Aug. 2, 2017. C’mon, Topps.

Daniel Zamora: Big right-handed … oh wait, Zamora was left-handed and actually useful out of the Mets bullpen. It was a small sample size and he’s a middle reliever, but something to build on, maybe. 2018 Rumble Ponies card.

Eric Hanhold: The final new Met of the year was … a big right-handed reliever who didn’t do much but about whom any conclusive judgment would be premature and unfair. If you couldn’t see that one coming by now, I don’t know what to tell you. 2018 Rumble Ponies card.

8 comments to Welcome, THB Class of 2018!

  • open the gates

    Well, that was depressing.

    Except, of course, for Jeff McNeil. But given that he’s about to get a Metsian dose of “he’s an infielder with loads o’potential, so let’s kick him out of the infield and make him an outfielder, because that worked so well for Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, Dom Smith, Howard Johnson, Hubie Brooks and the immortal Juan Samuel” – well, whaddaya know that’s also depressing.

    Let’s Go Mets.

    • It was depressing, wasn’t it? I didn’t think it would be when I started writing, I swear.

      Some reasons it was depressing that might make you feel a bit better:

      * This Old Retread Might Rediscover the Magic was a specialty of the late Alderson regime, but so far Brodie seems to be constructing benches that look better on paper. So maybe there’s hope there. We do have the same cheap-ass ownership, yes, but the new front office’s philosophy for dealing with their cheap-assity seems a little different.

      * A lot of these guys are right-handed relievers who throw hard but have no experience/no secondary pitches/shaky control. Those guys are spaghetti against a wall and depressing to read about. That’s just modern baseball, it seems — those guys really do seem to grow on trees. What exacerbates it is, because of how THB works, you generally don’t get a write-up about the ones who stick. OTOH, sometimes the ones who briefly stick turn into Paul Sewald and you don’t want to read about them anyway.

      We’ll always have fourth catchers to roll our eyes about. But maybe next year’s writeup will sing the praises of Cano, Wilson, Ramos and Diaz, applaud Alonso’s rookie season and talk about how Broxton, Lowrie and the Davises were really useful. It’s possible!

  • Daniel Hall

    I found this post delightful. And, well, depressing. Same old, same old in Flushing. Exchange the names of Players and you can probably tweak this article to fit every season in the 2010s except maybe 2015.

    And while it is hard to stay calm, it’s not the fault of the poor sod “Travis d’Arnaud, who’s probably plummeting through a skylight at this very moment”, that the Mets have used 68 catchers in the last four-and-a-half seasons (rough estimate), but at what point will the front office realize that every buck put into Travis’ pocket will have to painstakenly reclaimed from whatever insurance they will wire princely payments to should The Unthinkable occur and Travis breaks every bone in both arms putting a quarter into a vending machine?

    And when was the last time we actually picked up a pitcher (not a rookie) that was actually not completely useless? Big Sexy was a delight, but that is all I got.

    Yay, the Mets; don’t ever change!

    • It may not be his fault — it’s the supposed causality and implicit moral judgment that makes me bristle about the term “injury-prone” — but unfortunately, if something can happen to a baseball player it’s either happened to TdA or is about to.

  • Gil

    Kudos to Conlon. The Irish are such humorous people.

  • Unser

    Great piece. Was wondering if you had a chance to see the HBO Breslin-Hamill documentary. Quite a tribute to print journalism – seemed like an ode to a largely bygone era of quality writing. Also some discussion on Breslin’s book “Can’t Anyone Here Play This Game?”

  • This is like the FINAL retrospective of anything 2018