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 prizes found inside 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 what 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 manufactured. 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.”