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Mets of the 2010s: 30-21

Welcome to the eighth 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]
30. ANGEL PAGAN, 2010-2011
(Also a Met from 2008 to 2009)
Angel Pagan was nearly the Met who got away altogether, and that would have been a shame. Drafted in 1999 and signed in 2000, Angel’s flight up the Met system took him through Kingsport, Brooklyn (in the Cyclones’ first year), Capital City, St. Lucie, Binghamton and Norfolk. The next stop for the swift outfielder was obviously going to be Shea Stadium, but the Mets sold him to the Cubs prior to the 2006 season, and the first time Angel saw Flushing, it was as a visitor. The Mets brought him back in 2008, and by 2010 — with Carlos Beltran still rehabbing his right knee — he established himself as an everyday player and flirted with stardom. Pagan finished in the National League Top Ten in singles, triples and steals; turned an 8-2-6-3 triple play; and registered high in defensive metrics. Alas, Angel fell off his game a notch in 2011 and the Mets decided the 30-year-old could get away for good, engineering a swap of centerfielders with San Francisco. Pagan went on to excel for the 2012 world champion Giants. Andres Torres did no such thing in his one year as a Met.

29. CARLOS BELTRAN, 2010-2011
(Also a Met from 2005 to 2009)
The Carlos Beltran the Mets knew at the beginning of the 2010s was an older, slower, bulkier version of the five-tool stud the club signed as a free agent in the middle of the 2000s. He’d missed much of 2009 with a bone bruise to his right knee and would start 2010 on the DL after arthroscopic surgery the team didn’t sign off on. Carlos and the franchise he hopefully dubbed “the new Mets” upon his 2005 arrival rarely seemed to be on the same page. Yet through it all, when he played, he was quite clearly the same Carlos Beltran, perhaps diminished a bit by time and injury, yet matured as the team leader it was hoped he would be. The Beltran of this decade made the hard slides nobody else would. He gracefully shifted to right field from his longtime glamour perch in center without making a prima donna peep. One afternoon in Denver, he socked three homers. By midseason 2011, the 34-year-old was an All-Star selection again. Not too many weeks later, as his contract was expiring, the Mets traded him for a celebrated pitching prospect named Zack Wheeler. A year later, when the Mets celebrated their fiftieth anniversary, he was named the center fielder on the all-time Met team. He’d always looked good in a Mets uniform. He looked even better in memory. By the end of the 2010s, we’d get a whole new view of him when he was named the new manager of the New York Mets.

28. BRANDON NIMMO, 2016-2019
Was that a bat in his hand or was Brandon Nimmo just happy to see us? Brandon Nimmo was happy to see everybody once the Mets’ first-round pick from 2011 made his major league debut after five years in the minors, but his smile really caught everybody’s attention in 2018 when the kid from Wyoming broke through as a regular in Mickey Callaway’s otherwise erratic lineup. Yes, the outfielder did fine things with a bat — socking 17 homers, slugging .483 — but not swinging served him well, too. Brandon led the majors in getting hit by pitches with 22 (a Mets record) and ranked second in the NL with a .404 on-base percentage, elevated by a Top Ten finish in walks. When he wasn’t taking first base when it was practically handed to him, Nimmo showed he was the giving kind, fitting by personality into the team’s holiday party Santa suit and grinning at all comers like every day was Christmas.

27. IKE DAVIS, 2010-2014
Not staying on his two feet seemed to define Ike Davis’s Mets career. Shortly after his 2010 callup from Buffalo, Ike demonstrated a willingness to flip himself over barriers to catch foul pops. The first baseman did it three times inside his first month as a major leaguer, never letting the railing in front of the Mets dugout at Citi Field separate him from making a putout; the last time he did it, it capped a spectacular comeback against the Nationals (the Mets were down, 6-1, yet won, 8-6). With a flair for dramatic defense, nineteen home runs in less than a full rookie year and an undeniable air of confidence, it seemed nothing would stop Ike Davis. “WE LIKE IKE” t-shirts were dotting the Flushing stands in a blink of an Ike. His second year, however, took Davis off his feet altogether. A May collision with David Wright at Coors Field put Ike’s left foot in a walking boot and ended his 2011 after 36 games. The rest of his Met stay was punctuated by the positive — he piled up 32 homers and 90 ribbies in 2012 — but he never found consistency again, probably a symptom of his energy-draining bout with valley fever, a condition that was diagnosed prior to the ’12 season. Before valley fever, Ike was a career .271 hitter. For the rest of his Met tenure, he batted .219. His last big hit as a Met came on April 5, 2014, a pinch-hit, come-from-behind walkoff grand slam…the first of its kind in franchise history. Two weeks later, Davis was traded to Pittsburgh.

26. RUBEN TEJADA, 2010-2015; 2019
Somewhere in an attic in Queens is a painting of Ruben Tejada in which the subject ages. Playing baseball across six seasons for the Mets, however, the infielder seemed forever young. At first, he was. Promoted to the big leagues at twenty, Tejada’s maturity in the field (the rookie successfully called for a pickoff play at second base to end a game in Washington) was belied by an aura that suggested he was a little awestruck by where he was. In September of his first season, he couldn’t hit his first home run without sliding into third first, for he didn’t realize the ball he crushed had left Wrigley Field, or perhaps he simply didn’t believe it was something he was capable of doing. In 2012, after the Mets didn’t make an obvious effort to re-sign NL batting champion Jose Reyes, Ruben took over at short after Jose bolted to Miami. He certainly didn’t appear overmatched by the challenge, fielding splendidly and actually outhitting his predecessor, .289 to .287. Tejada never much developed beyond the 2012 season, but the Mets kept sending him out to short, sometimes second or third. They never really seemed to have a better option. Ruben was good enough to be the starting shortstop for the NL East champs in the second game of the National League Division Series versus the Dodgers in 2015, which is when Ruben Tejada became a Met cause for the ages, getting viciously taken out by sliding slimebag Chase Utley. We would have rallied around any Met in that circumstance, but the eternal boyishness of Tejada made his broken leg that much more offensive to us and cast Utley in an even deeper shade of villainy. Ruben’s final role for the 2015 Mets was to serve as the personification of the bloody shirt when he limped out during pregame introductions — using a Mets-logoed cane, no less — when the NLDS shifted to Citi Field. Winning one for Ruben Tejada, the kid who couldn’t play anymore for himself or for us, became paramount.

25. DILLON GEE, 2010-2015
Maybe nobody ever yelled “YO MAN!” when Dillon Gee pitched for the New York Mets, though it might have been fitting, because for parts of six seasons, Gee gave the Mets a truly yeoman effort. Rising to the majors in September 2010 without the hype that would accompany the next wave of Met hurlers, Dillon merely gave his club a good chance to win whenever he pitched (especially in his seven-inning, two-hit debut at Washington). From late May 2013 to the end of that campaign, he truly put it together, forging a 2.71 ERA in 22 starts and effectively taking up the role of staff ace once Matt Harvey was sidelined. The 21st-round pick who was never high on anybody’s prospect radar began 2014 on the Citi Field mound as the Mets’ Opening Day starter. His yeoman work wasn’t as productive in the season ahead, though, and injury cost him two months of action. Gee was part of the 2015 Mets who hinted they were ready to contend, but ended up spending most of their league championship season in Las Vegas, never to return to the big club again.

24. ZACK WHEELER, 2013-2014; 2017-2019
(Missed 2015-2016 due to injury)
No matter where you look it up, a pair of DNPs rudely interrupt Zack Wheeler’s statistics. Nothing for 2015. Nothing for 2016. A gaping void where postseason exploits could conceivably be listed. Wheeler and the Mets were heading upward together, or so it was thought. Obtained from San Francisco for two months’ worth of Carlos Beltran in the summer of 2011, Wheeler arrived from the minors in June of 2013, the first Met to have been born in the 1990s. His debut start was in Atlanta, not far from where he grew up — and it was a win in the night half of a two-admission doubleheader, the first part started and dominated by Matt Harvey. Harvey was having a dynamite first full year and Wheeler seemed bound to follow. But Zack’s path wasn’t nearly as clear as Matt’s. Tommy John surgery deleted two seasons of progress for the pitcher who’d been picked sixth overall in the nation in 2009. The Mets looked into trading him. Zack asked them to keep him around. He made it back to Flushing in 2017, just in time for the Mets to go on contention hiatus. Wheeler would need a year-and-a-half to find his groove. Finally, with the 2018 Mets deep in the middle of going nowhere, the future star the Mets traded for seven years earlier commenced to shine. His post-All Star break stats were eye-popping: 9-1 with an ERA of 1.68 in eleven starts. He didn’t exactly pick up where he left off in 2019, as he and the Mets again started slowly, but at last the two parties landed on the same encouraging page come July. The Mets chased a Wild Card and Zack, in his last seven starts, posted an ERA of 2.54, striking out nearly a batter per inning. Now that he was established as one of the better starting pitchers in the National League and the Mets were perhaps poised to make a full-season run at glory in 2020, it seemed perversely natural to learn Zack Wheeler would not be around. In December, the free agent righty signed a lucrative five-year contract to pitch for Philadelphia. At last, his timing was exquisite.

23. TRAVIS D’ARNAUD, 2013-2019
Batting practice for the second game of the 2015 NLCS was marked by a touch of whimsy, as Citi Field’s Home Run Apple displayed an immense bandage, signifying where Travis d’Arnaud’s sixth-inning home run the night before off the Cubs’ Jon Lester practically dented the dang fruit. That shot was one of three dingers Travis delivered in the National League playoffs, but winking at a deeper truth was the implication that first aid was required wherever the catcher went. D’Arnaud, acquired with Noah Syndergaard in the trade that sent very recent Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto in December 2012, was supposed to fill a perennial void behind the plate and pop balls over fences (bruises to apples were optional). To a certain extent, Travis made good on the expectations he’d carried since the Phillies made him a first-round draft choice in 2007, totaling double-digit round-trippers three times as a Met; serving as a vital cog in the Big Met Machine that took first place for keeps in ’15; and catching every single pitch of the subsequent postseason. But the man simply could not stay healthy. Td’A never caught as many as two-thirds of the games the Mets played in any one season and topped 400 plate appearances only once. It wasn’t anything chronic holding Travis back. Rather, some piece of him always seemed to be getting in the way of a bat or a ball. All of it cost him time and likely drained his development. After showing no signs of shaking off the rust of a mostly missed 2018, the Mets released him in May of 2019. Five months later, he was the starting catcher in the AL playoffs for the Rays, again catching every October pitch.

22. STEVEN MATZ, 2015-2019
If you liked narrative, you had to love Steven Matz, especially on the summer day in 2015 when you first got to know him. Promoted from the minors with nothing left to prove at Triple-A on June 28, Steven brought a massive rooting contingent to Citi Field, attributable to his family’s Suffolk County locale and their allegiance to the orange and blue. Yup, Steven was a Mets fan, a Mets pitcher and, as would be learned three at-bats deep into his major league career, a Mets hitter. When the dust cleared that Sunday afternoon, Matz had gone 3-for-3 with four runs batted in while racking up seven-and-two-thirds innings of five-hit ball to beat Cincinnati, 7-2. What made it all the more memorable was the sight on SNY of Steven’s grandfather — Grandpa Bert — going wild on his boy’s behalf. It was enough of a marker in an injury-abbreviated 2015 to earn Matz starts in each round of the postseason, clear through to the World Series…where the Mets were headed after their four-game sweep of the Cubs in the NLCS, with the fourth game effectively handled by Steven. Once the narrative of Matzmania wore off, the Mets were left with a lefty marooned somewhere between promise and frustration…and a slugger who launched homers in consecutive starts in September 2018.

21. SETH LUGO, 2016-2019
He was drafted in the 34th round. He wore No. 67. Yet more than once in the second half of the 2010s, he was as important to the Mets as any pitcher in the house. The righty whose curveball singlehandedly injected the phrase “spin rate” into the Mets fan vocabulary, Seth Lugo was exactly what the Mets needed when their rotation developed dangerous holes in 2016. Lugo took the start seven times between August 25 and September 28, and the Mets won all seven of his games en route to clinching the first Wild Card in the National League. By 2019, Seth evolved into the full-time reliever his team simply could not live without. As the summer grew later and the competitive implications of every appearance deepened, Lugo was trusted with the most crucial outs of any game, whatever inning they appeared in. Eight times in August and September, Seth threw outings of two innings, and the Mets went 7-1. A history of elbow issues kept the de facto ace of the pen from pitching daily. Otherwise, the Mets’ year might have lasted well into October.