Welcome to the ninth 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.
20. ASDRUBAL CABRERA, 2016-2018
It couldn’t be said of Asdrubal Cabrera in his first year with the New York Mets that “he did everything but remove the batting helmets of his teammates after they hit a home run,” because Asdrubal did everything for the Mets in 2016, including removing the batting helmets of his teammates after they hit a home run. Yet after that playoff campaign was over, it was clear Cabrera was the Met who most deserved to doff his hat for a year well done. Asdrubal was the everyday shortstop who played through nagging pain, giving the Mets the last of his range; the consistent slugger who set a team record for most home runs at his position (22, plus one as a PH); the clutchest among his mates, delivering the most memorable blow of the season via a three-run, bat-flipping, arm-raising game-winner to foil the Phillies in eleven down the stretch at Citi; and one of the best low-key free agent signings the Mets ever made.
19. JEFF McNEIL, 2018-2019
If your bat plays at every level, sooner or later it — and you — will be taken seriously wherever you go. After five seasons in the minors, including two limited by injury, Jeff McNeil’s bat demanded attention in 2018. At Double-A Binghamton, McNeil was a .327 hitter. Moved up to Las Vegas, Jeff strafed Triple-A pitching at a .368 clip. By July 24, there was nowhere else to go but New York, where the Mets discovered their non-prospect was carrying the bat of their dreams. Sixty-three games while the Mets were otherwise playing out the string revealed the man we’d soon be calling Squirrel could hit pitchers anywhere. McNeil raked .329 for two months as a starting second baseman. The Mets being the Mets, they went out in the offseason and committed to Robinson Cano to play in Jeff’s spot. Undeterred, McNeil made himself useful at four different positions in 2019, rotating among second, third, left and right, starting 123 times somewhere, and challenging for the NL batting crown before finishing fourth. His road to .318 (and a .916 OPS) included a detour to the All-Star Game in Cleveland…where the scoreboard operator posted Jeff’s name alongside Jacob deGrom’s picture . Based on his first two seasons in the bigs, eventually everybody will recognize this guy as a singular offensive force.
18. JON NIESE, 2010-2015; 2016
(Also a Met from 2008 to 2009)
When Jacob deGrom threw his final start of 2019, it could have been presumed he’d clinched his second consecutive Cy Young Award, but it was certain that he’d tied for first under the category heading, “Most Starts by a New York Mets Pitcher in the 2010s”. DeGrom was now on a plateau with none other than Jon Niese, up to that moment the Met workhorse of the decade. For that matter, if you go back twenty full years and include his 2008-2009 introduction, you’ll find no Met pitcher has made more starts in the 21st century than one Jonathon Joseph Niese. Not Leiter. Not Trachsel. Not Santana. Not, for another nine starts of 2020, deGrom. Nope, Niese. Sticking to the decade in question, Niese was the 2010s’ stealthy stalwart, perennially circling the concept of Met ace without ever really claiming the title. On Opening Day 2013, you might have thought different, as Johan Santana was done, R.A. Dickey was traded and Matt Harvey lacked the requisite hash marks to be handed such a plum assignment. The ball wound up in Jon’s left hand, the culmination of five years of steady progress within the Met rotation. In a way, that Monday afternoon at Citi Field was the peak of Niese. Not only was he the winning pitcher versus the Padres to kick off the season, but he was justifying the thought that the best was yet to come. He’d been extended through 2016 the spring before, a solid $25.5-million bet that the southpaw born the same day the Mets last won a World Series would keep getting better in sync with his team. Instead, Niese labored with less and less distinction as time went on — and only through 2015 for the Mets, losing his priority status on a staff soon populated by brighter prospects settling in for their own long haul. Jon ended his initial Met tenure as a middle reliever, albeit in the most recent World Series the Mets played.
17. JUAN LAGARES, 2013-2019
With one glittering exception, the Mets of the 2010s put very little emphasis on defense. The exception, though, proved the rule of what a critical element of baseball defense can be. Juan Lagares’s entire Met career was defined by his glove, certified Gold in 2014, though from the moment he arrived in April of 2013, you knew his fielding had to be valued differently from the kind demonstrated by his teammates. Simply put, Juan was the best center fielder the Mets ever had from a pure, shall we say, center fielding standpoint. He came in on balls, he went back on balls and he snared virtually all those balls. He went up over fences to get them, he dove to the ground to grab them, he took them out of the air on the dead run. Consider that, according to Baseball-Reference, the leading Met by WAR in 2014 was Juan Lagares…a position player whose OPS+ registered as barely above league average. But Juan didn’t lead his team in Wins Above Replacement based on his batting. That’s how Gold his Glove was. Analytics not your thing? “Where extra-base hits go to die” was Gary Cohen’s description of Juan’s leather, and that, too, pretty well covered the breathtaking breadth of what Lagares could do.
16. JOHAN SANTANA, 2010; 2012
(Also a Met from 2008 to 2009; missed 2011 and 2013 due to injury)
For the record, Johan Santana pitched in 50 games for the Mets of the 2010s, and more than a few reflected the form that earned Santana two American League Cy Youngs in the previous decade, not to mention how loftily Johan carried the Mets down the stretch of 2008 (never higher than in the short-rest shutout he threw at the Marlins with a torn meniscus in his left knee and the veritable weight of Shea Stadium on his shoulders). In the ’10s, Santana won a pair of Opening Day starts, the second of them, in 2012, after a year spent rehabbing from surgery on his left shoulder’s anterior capsule. There was a night in 2010 when he shut out the Reds and whacked a home run to complete a 12-pitch at-bat. There was an afternoon in 2012 when he needed only 96 pitches to blank the Padres on four hits. There were plenty of good games for Johan Santana in 2010 and 2012 before and after the injuries that eventually subtracted him from the Mets’ plans for good. But there was one game, on a Friday night in June of 2012, that gets repeated on SNY regularly, and not because it was a good Johan Santana start, but because it was an immortal Johan Santana start. On June 1, 2012, Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter in New York Mets history. No other decade in which the Mets have played has had one of those. No other pitcher for the Mets has pitched one of those. It was, for a half-century, the holiest grail in franchise lore, and Johan Santana strode to the Citi Field mound and got it for us. More can be said of what the man did during his final two active seasons as a Met, but nothing else need be.
15. JOSE REYES, 2010-2011; 2016-2018
(Also a Met from 2003 to 2009)
Summertime 2011 and, for Jose Reyes, the hitting was easy. He sure made it look that way. From May 24 to July 2, a span of 34 games, Jose slashed .413/.447/.627, raised his season average to a league-best .354, swiped 13 bases and, because he still had the legs that differentiated him from every Met who preceded him, tripled nine times. Those legs also famously sustained hamstring strains, and, indeed, Reyes suffered another one of those in early July — and reaggravated it in August. The otherworldly numbers the Mets shortstop was producing tailed off a bit as summer turned to fall, but he had enough left to secure the first batting title captured by any Met, carving a .337 average into the record books. It was the professional apogee Reyes was swinging and running toward since his mouthwatering 2003 debut and it should have represented an all-time milestone in the life of the franchise. Jose, however, had one foot out the free agent door the day he clinched his crown, soon signing with Miami when the Madoff Mets did not make any kind of discernible offer to keep their homegrown four-time All-Star and soon-to-be-named 50th-anniversary-team shortstop. Reyes would have a second term with the Mets, facilitated by unsavory circumstances (Colorado released him on the heels of a domestic violence suspension). Though it wasn’t an ideal avenue to reunion, Jose contributed tangibly to the 2016 Wild Card push, taking over third base in the absence of his “baseball brother” David Wright. One day after David said goodbye to Mets fans on the final weekend of the 2018 season, Jose did the same. It was as if their shared era, which took place mostly in the preceding decade, had come out of retirement for one overdue final bow.
14. JEURYS FAMILIA, 2012-2018; 2019
Much of the downside of the Met experience in the 2010s was informed by injuries to the anatomy and implosions of the bullpen. But for a three-year interlude, there was Jeurys Familia, who emerged from a 2013 mostly lost to biceps tendinitis and bone spurs to become maybe the best righthanded relief pitcher the Mets ever featured. In 2014, Jeurys served as setup man par excellence to his close friend Jenrry Mejia. When Mejia disappeared from the Mets’ depth chart thanks to multiple PED suspensions, Familia stepped up to ninth innings like they were where he was meant to live. Nobody ever saved more games in a season than Familia, first with 43 in 2015, then 51 in 2016. Nor was any Met pitcher on the mound as often as prelude to the popping of corks. Jeurys finished off the division-winner at Cincinnati on September 26, 2015; the Wild Card clincher at Philadelphia on October 1, 2016; and both postseason series wins in the 2015 postseason. Terry Collins leaned on his closer a ton, perhaps contributing to his sagging at a couple of very inconvenient moments in the 2015 World Series and 2016 Wild Card Game (amounting to three blown saves and a devastating loss), but overall, Jeurys’s tenure as bullpen ace provided Mets fans a rare ninth-inning comfort zone. Of course it didn’t last, because of course there’d be another injury: an arterial clot in his right shoulder that effectively ended Familia’s 2017 and, with it, the Mets’ run as a legitimate contender. Jeurys’s healthy postscript saw him traded to Oakland in 2018; re-signed as a free agent for 2019; and struggle in his old eighth-inning spot, the circle of Met bullpen life squared yet again.
13. BARTOLO COLON, 2014-2016
There were reasons to not be overly excited about Bartolo Colon becoming a Met prior to 2014. Yes, he was past his fortieth birthday. No, his physique didn’t inspire confidence. Sure, he’d been suspended for a PED violation not long before the Mets signed him. And, ugh, he’d been a Yankee at some point. But after three seasons of close quarters with a veteran righthander like no other, none of the theoretical drawbacks sprung to mind. All you remembered about Bartolo Colon was that he mostly kept the Mets in games; that he won more games (44) than any Met starter while he was around; that he fielded his position splendidly; that his at-bats morphed from entertainingly futile to admirably competitive to a frigging May 2016 home run in San Diego (where he’d return as an All-Star two months later); and that he never stopped being very good at what he did while also being wholly unique — a.k.a. “Big Sexy” — as he did it. He was Bartolo Colon of the New York Mets. We were all the better for having been able to say that.
12. LUCAS DUDA, 2010-2017
No Met hit more home runs in the 2010s than Lucas Duda did, totaling 125, which also happen to be the seventh-most hit by any Met in franchise history. They were distributed over portions of eight seasons, but measured by perception, you’d swear they left the yard in three weeklong bursts of about 40 apiece. That’s what Duda being locked in felt like. (It also hinted at what it felt like when he wasn’t.) After four seasons of auditions that didn’t win him much in the way of organizational faith, Lucas at last elbowed aside the intramural competition of Ike Davis and Josh Satin and took over first base all by himself in 2014. When the rest of baseball languished at a low power ebb, Duda developed into an elite slugger, blasting 30 homers and knocking in 92 runs for a team clawing to reach beyond mediocrity. A year later, Lucas proved his power wasn’t a fluke, walloping another 27 out of the park, including nine during the second-half homestand versus the Dodgers, Padres and Nationals that transformed the Mets from dreamers to doers. Duda’s grand slam put the Mets up early in their NL East clincher at Cincy, and his first-inning three-run job in Chicago all but buried the Cubs in what became the night the Mets won their fifth National League pennant. The quietest Met — you never could tell for sure whether he was fully in on the @wefollowlucasduda  joke — later succumbed to injury (as Mets of all personality stripe do) and the Flushing portion of his career petered out with a trade for minor league replenishment when his contract was about to lapse (another fate common to Mets who excelled in the mid-2010s).
11. WILMER FLORES, 2013-2018
The indefatigably boyish  Wilmer Flores didn’t need a position most days. He just needed to be Wilmer Flores, and that alone won him the devotion of a fan cohort otherwise choosy about who it chose to support. It might be a leap to call him the Sara Lee of this decade’s Mets, but it really did seem that nobody didn’t like Wilmer Flores. How could you not love this kid? He’d be directed to any of four infield slots and give it his best, none of which could be described as defensively adequate, but he surely didn’t let his struggles with the glove interfere with the magic inherent in his bat. The magic was back repeatedly when there was a chance for Wilmer to singlehandedly win a game. On ten separate occasions, Flores drove in the run that directly ignited celebration. Four of those walkoff RBIs came via home run. One has its own nickname, “Tears of Joy,” which alluded to the fact that Wilmer cried a couple of days earlier when he thought he was about to be traded. When he wasn’t, his BQ (beloved quotient) shot through the roof. When he ended the crucial July 31, 2015, battle with the Nationals with a twelfth-inning homer, well, we were all eternally on the same emotional page with him, the best of Met Friends  forevermore.