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Mets of the 2010s: 50-41

Welcome to the sixth chapter of Faith and Fear’s countdown of The Top 100 Mets of the 2010s. An introduction to the series is available here [1]; you can read the most recent installment here [2]. 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.
[3]
50. JUAN URIBE, 2015
49. KELLY JOHNSON, 2015; 2016

No delivery from Amazon Prime was ever as anticipated or yearned for as much as the one Sandy Alderson ordered from Atlanta on July 24, 2015. Is it here yet? Is it here yet? When it arrived, containing precious cargo, there were yelps of joy across the land, for the Mets had finally received reinforcements for their depleted bench. Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson were two veterans gathering dust for the utterly out-of-it Braves. Alderson rescued them from baseball irrelevance, and the duo rescued the Mets right back, bringing trusty bats to a pennant lunge that was desperately flailing in search of traction. To make room on the roster, the Mets demoted Danny Muno and DFA’d John Mayberry, Jr. Nobody wished ill on the departees, but nobody complained that they’d been replaced. Understand that the Mets had barely showed a pulse against Clayton Kershaw on Thursday, July 23. The two were traded for on Friday. On Saturday, Johnson homered in a rout of L.A. On Sunday, Uribe won the series finale in extras. Traction was secure for another week and the Mets’ bench was solid for the rest of the season.

48. JOSH THOLE, 2010-2012
(Also a Met in 2009)
47. MIKE BAXTER, 2011-2013
Two men have caught no-hitters for the New York Mets. Conventionally speaking, it was Josh Thole behind the plate for the entirety of Johan Santana’s history-altering effort of June 1, 2012, remarkable from a catching standpoint when you realize Thole was just off the disabled list and was, for the first time, wearing a hockey-style mask in deference to his recovery from a concussion. Through whatever protective device Josh looked out at his pitcher, he put down the right fingers, set the right target and was right on time to embrace him on the mound after he caught the final strike three of the night. One of the putouts that wasn’t scored a K landed memorably in the glove of the Met in left, Mike Baxter, though it might be more accurately recalled Baxter landed in the grasp of the wall where that ball was surely headed. The moment when Santana’s flirtation with indelible Met immortality appeared most endangered came in the seventh when legendary Cardinal villain Yadier Molina sent a liner deep to left field. It looked like a sure double to everybody but the left fielder. Mike from Whitestone — a Mets fan growing up, you know — gave his body and soul to make the catch that made the first no-hitter in New York Mets history possible. All of Baxter went on the DL. None of him wasn’t instantly a local baseball hero.

46. KIRK NIEUWENHUIS, 2012-2015; 2015
As noted often in Met telecasts, Kirk Nieuwenhuis played high school football, experience that came in handy when the alumnus of Denver Christian in Colorado was asked to pick up essential yardage between home plate and areas beyond the outfield fence. The Air Nieuwenhuis offense executed several memorable bombs during his relatively limited reps on the field. Highlights included a Father’s Day walkoff blast versus the Cubs that turned around the 2013 Mets (at least for a while); a trio of homers on the Sunday before the All-Star break in 2015, especially notable because they came at Citi Field and no Met had ever gone deep thrice in a home game before; and, most crucially, the eighth-inning dinger that donged Jonathan Papelbon on September 8, 2015, vaulting the first-place Mets ahead of the second-place Nationals, 8-7, the climactic moment of a contest the Mets had very recently trailed, 7-1. Not incidentally, all four of the 2015 home runs came after the Mets sold Kirk’s contract to the Angels and then, having missed his obvious intangibles, grabbed it back on waivers a few weeks later. Nieuwenhuis batted .079 before he left Queens, .279 following his return. Explanation? Perhaps it takes even the most talented high school running back a while to find the end zone.

45. JUSTIN TURNER, 2010-2013
Justin Turner was pretty much the ideal Met utility player. Once he was up from Buffalo to stay in 2011, Turner made himself extraordinarily useful. When Rule 5 wonder Brad Emaus flamed out as the projected everyday second baseman, Justin Turner emerged to help plug the resulting hole. When David Wright detoured to the disabled list for an extended absence, Justin filled in at third. When Daniel Murphy went down, Justin’s value only rose. When any Met did anything to create a win worth celebrating, Justin brought a pie to the postgame interview tableau. He even found time to break a club record set by Ron Swoboda (most consecutive games with an RBI by a rookie). There was little Justin Turner didn’t do at least a little bit well as a righthanded bat and versatile infielder coming off the bench for parts of four seasons. Not doing anything remarkably well, however, made the Mets decide Turner was expendable. Non-tendered in December 2013, he was picked up by the Dodgers. He’s stayed in Los Angeles ever since, making one All-Star team, earning MVP votes three times and batting .526 against the Mets in the 2015 NLDS.

44. TODD FRAZIER, 2018-2019
In 2017, for the first time since Robin Ventura appeared on the free agent market nineteen years before, the Mets entered a winter looking to acquire a full-time third baseman. Most of the stability that had reigned at the hot corner was because David Wright had played third forever. It seemed like he always would. His bad back had other ideas, thus the notion of Todd Frazier on the New York Mets came to be. The pride of Toms River fit into Flushing as comfortably as could be hoped. He served de facto clubhouse spokesman for a team in transition and was willing to star in goofy promotional videos [4] as needed. It didn’t hurt that Todd’s flair for hitting fly balls to left coincided with the sportwide emphasis on launch angle and the deployment of baseballs that seemed to have a little extra oomph in them. Though he batted only .233 and struck out more than 200 times in his two seasons as a Met, he totaled 39 home runs, at least a couple of a highly dramatic nature.

43. ROBERT GSELLMAN, 2016-2019
HAR — Hair Above Replacement — wasn’t a problem for a starting rotation that featured Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, yet it could be said the 2016 Mets played to their follicular strength when they promoted Robert Gsellman. He had the flowing locks that were de rigueur on the Met mound, but far more substantially, the righty had the stuff to carry the Mets forward when they came up short in the healthy arms department. Pitching every fifth day as a rookie in the heat of a playoff chase, Gsellman posted a 2.63 ERA in seven starts and played a wholly unforeseen role in the unlikely rush those Mets put on to capture a Wild Card. Robert’s future awaited him in the bullpen, where his outings got shorter but his hair stayed long.

42. FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ, 2010-2011
(Also a Met in 2009)
Even though perennially losing teams try their best to win games, clear up to the ninth inning and maybe later, it’s up for debate how badly an outfit going nowhere needs an elite closer. Yet the Mets of 2010 and 2011, for whom .500 was an aspirational mark, had an all-timer in Francisco Rodriguez. When Frankie — whose 62 saves for the 2008 Angels remains the MLB standard — was on call to pitch as a Met, he usually did his job as desired, notching 25 saves in 2010 and another 23 in 2011. Those were both partial seasons, truncated by caveats. In 2010, nothing Rodriguez did out of the pen got as much attention as what happened between him and the father of his common-law wife: an August 11 altercation that saw the closer arrested for third-degree assault. A brief suspension was followed by the diagnosis of a torn ligament in his right thumb, attributable to the fight. In 2011, K-Rod was back and generally keeping both himself and the Mets out of trouble when it became clear that thanks to a vesting option in his already-lucrative contract that the more he pitched, the more the Mets would have to pay him. In a nod to budgetary restraint, the Mets sent their 2009 All-Star reliever to the Brewers at the break in ’11 for what amounted to salary relief.

41. PEDRO FELICIANO, 2010; 2013
(Also a Met from 2002 to 2004 and 2006 to 2009)
Tony Bennett and Pedro Feliciano could compare notes on what parts of their anatomy they left where. Bennett, though he’s from Astoria, has proclaimed loud and clear that his heart wound up in San Francisco. Feliciano, by all evidence, sacrificed his left arm to the playing fields of Flushing — first Shea, then its successor. The lone survivor from the gruesome bullpen implosion of 2008 just kept pitching once Citi Field opened, breaking his franchise record for most appearances not once but twice, culminating with the 92 times he jogged in from the bullpen at Jerry Manuel’s behest in 2010. Having shown admirable durability, Feliciano signed a two-year deal with the Yankees. Unsurprisingly in hindsight, his durability went on hiatus after leading the majors in appearances three straight years and he never worked for the team in the Bronx. When Pedro was next ready to pitch, he came home to Queens for 25 more games in 2013. Despite having been affiliated with six other major league organizations between 1995 and 2015 (and spending a year abroad with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in Japan), every one of the 484 MLB appearances Pedro Feliciano logged came in a New York Mets uniform. It’s the second-highest total in Mets history, behind only John Franco, and most among any pitcher who never threw in a regulation game for any big league unit but the Mets.