Welcome to the tenth 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.
10. PETE ALONSO, 2019
Prior to 2019, no Met rookie had hit more home runs than Darryl Strawberry; no National League rookie had hit more home runs than Cody Bellinger; no rookie from either league had hit more home runs than Aaron Judge; no Met had hit more home runs in a season than Todd Hundley or Carlos Beltran; no rookie had ever led all of baseball in home runs; no Met had ever led all of baseball in home runs; no Met rookie had made the All-Star Game as a position player; no Met had turned the Home Run Derby’s final round into a personal, national showcase; no Met had created on behalf of his teammates a September 11 tribute that skirted MLB’s ridiculous rules about what could be worn during a game; no Met determined that a walkoff celebration was incomplete without the removal of the game-winning hitter’s uniform top; nobody who loved the Mets had thought to effectively amend the Let’s Go Mets acronym; no Mets fan had any reason to light up at the invocation of a polar bear; and nobody knew quite what to make of a first base prospect named Peter Alonso. After 2019, Peter Alonso was Pete Alonso, and everybody knew what that meant.
9. MICHAEL CONFORTO, 2015-2019
On the night the Mets made Michael Conforto the 10th overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft, 980 different men had played as Mets since the inception of the franchise in 1962. It would take Conforto barely more than a year — or 20 Mets — to rise to the big club. Thus, the first thing Michael did when he made his Met debut on July 24, 2015, was make numerical history, by becoming the 1,000th Met ever. The next night, he collected four hits and a walk, strongly indicating that the chronological trivia associated with the outfielder’s promotion would be a footnote compared to the career that was about to transpire. The first five seasons of Conforto haven’t played out on a straight upward trajectory — he’s been hurt, he’s been benched, he’s been demoted — but he has flourished more than he’s stumbled. Michael was 22 when he came up, and he was still 22 when he hit three home runs in the 2015 postseason (including a pair in Game Four of the World Series). He’s been an All-Star once, topped 25 homers three times and increased his RBI total annually, reaching 92 in 2019, the same year he passed 100 HR lifetime…and he was still only 26.
8. CURTIS GRANDERSON, 2014-2017
If all Curtis Granderson did was play virtually every day that he wore a New York Mets uniform, that would distinguish him from all of his contemporaries. In an era when almost nobody stayed in the Met lineup daily, Curtis was the reason you had to say “almost”. Grandy was the rock of the Mets roster for most of four seasons, especially the two in the middle of his tenure, 2015 and 2016, not coincidentally the two seasons when he helped lead his team into the playoffs. Whether you found him in right or, as necessary, center, you knew you were gonna get solid, heady defense. Wherever he appeared in the batting order — leadoff a lot, but cleanup sometimes — you knew the opposing pitcher was in for a battle. No Met drew more walks in a single year during the decade than Curtis, who worked out 91 bases on balls in 2015. Anecdotally, you’d swear each one ignited or extended a rally. For a while in ’15, the veteran’s walks were the Mets rallies, but he also chipped in 26 homers, 33 doubles and a world of smart baserunning. He went deep three more times in the World Series and drove in a dozen postseason runs overall. A year later, his over-the-shoulder robbery of Brandon Belt’s bid for an RBI double at the center field wall kept the NL Wild Card Game scoreless in the sixth. Yet plucking statistics and highlights from Granderson’s time as a Met seems to undersell what he meant to the franchise. You could just as easily go by Major League Baseball presenting him with the Roberto Clemente Award in 2016, annual recognition of the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”. Actually, you could have just paid attention to how Curtis played the game and treated people, and you would have gotten the Grand picture.
7. NOAH SYNDERGAARD, 2015-2019
How many minor leaguers show up in the majors with a camera-ready nickname? Noah Syndergaard was already Thor when he received the call to pitch for the Mets for the first time on May 12, 2015, at Chicago, and a discernible portion of the Citi Field crowd five days later came equipped with hammers of the gods to acknowledge the highly touted Thor was home at last (how they got them by security, Odin only knows). Syndergaard had been expected in Flushing since the December day in 2012 when the Mets traded their reigning Cy Young laureate, R.A. Dickey, to Toronto for Thor’s lightning bolt of a right arm. It was an exchange of characters, to be sure. Noah relished being Thor — he dressed up in costume and visited Times Square for promotional purposes just as he was getting very famous — but he was no less enthusiastic about his identity as one of the league’s best young pitchers. He not only won the Mets’ lone successful outing in the 2015 World Series, he literally dared the Kansas City Royals to do something if they didn’t like the way he came high and inside at their pesky leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar (“they can meet me sixty feet, six inches away” became as memorable a phrase as any Dickey ever coined). By 2016, Noah was an All-Star and the clear ace of a Met staff otherwise depleted by injuries. He dueled Madison Bumgarner for seven scintillating shutout innings in an October showdown that required no verbal challenges. Syndergaard’s ensuing seasons would encompass their share of speed bumps, but Thor remained as formidable on a mound as his namesake did in mythology.
6. MATT HARVEY, 2012-2013; 2015-2018
(Missed 2014 due to injury)
Matt Harvey’s ascent to superstar status felt exactly right. It wasn’t just that he was dominating hitters as 2013 got underway, it was how he was doing it. Matt was next in the line that began with Tom Seaver and continued through Doc Gooden. In his second year — and first full campaign — he threw their kind of stuff, radiated their kind of presence, was replicating the caliber of results they regularly posted at their peak, and pulled the spotlight toward him by dint of his performance. Harvey was a homegrown flamethrower like Seaver and Gooden. He was young and robust like Seaver and Gooden were when we were motivated to immediately idolize them. And, when it came to pitching, he was practically fully formed from the outset. In 2013, every fifth day was a Mets fan celebration. We called it Harvey Day. We got hyped up for every one of the 24-year-old’s starts and were rarely let down. In the middle of it all, on July 16, Matt strode to his normal base of operations, and started the All-Star Game at Citi Field. The whole thing was, we learned, too good to last. Matt’s right elbow went awry; Tommy John surgery ended his ethereal ’13 (26 starts, 2.27 ERA) in August; rehab kept him away in ’14; and the Matt Harvey story was never as spectacular again. The pitcher wasn’t bad in 2015. Hell, he was top-notch for seven months, including the postseason (33 starts, 2.79 ERA), even if the November portion did go on a batter or two too long where he was concerned. But by 2016, with another injury in the offing and a stream of headlines that had little to do with pitching, you had to squint in the rearview mirror to make out the Matt Harvey who was everything in 2013. In 2018, the lights went out on the Dark Knight of Gotham. But what a Knight it had been there for a while.
5. YOENIS CESPEDES, 2015-2018
(Missed 2019 due to injury)
At around 3:30 in the afternoon on July 31, 2015, the New York Mets were a scuffling enterprise. By four o’clock, they were a juggernaut. We wouldn’t understand just how mighty they’d become for a couple of weeks, but the fun part was embedded in discovering just how much impact Yoenis Cespedes brought with him from the Detroit Tigers. Traded to the Queens for minor leaguers Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa, Yo instantly changed the composition of the Mets lineup and just as quickly raised the sights of the Mets fans. A summer spent scrounging for offense — lest we forget John Mayberry, Jr., batting cleanup versus Clayton Kershaw on July 23 — was now something else altogether. These were the days and nights of Yoenis Cespedes, his neon compression sleeve, his dead-on-balls accurate arm showing its stuff in left and center, and oh that bat. In a span of 31 games between August 12 and September 14, Yoenis socked seventeen homers and knocked in thirty-seven runs. It was unreal output, except it was real and, indeed, it was spectacular. It drove the Mets to their first division title in nine years and it motivated an otherwise cautious ownership to invest heavily in Cespedes for the rest of the decade and the beginning of the next one. When he was healthy, he was a force. He wasn’t healthy that much after 2016, and by 2019, the Mets were feverishly renegotiating the terms of his contract. On the other hand, for the leap the Mets took at the trade deadline in 2015 and the adrenaline rush that followed, you’d sell your soul and call it a bargain.
4. R.A. DICKEY, 2010-2012
R.A. Dickey’s birthplace is generally listed as Nashville, but Mets fans could have been forgiven for believing this guy came out of nowhere in 2010. R.A. Who? A journeyman righty who had to persevere through injuries and convince an industry that dismissed his abilities reinvented himself as a pitcher, learning and mastering a hard knuckleball few had seen and fewer could hit. That was the pitcher R.A. Dickey. We would learn over three seasons that the person R..A. Dickey wasn’t a reinvention, but an authentic human being you couldn’t have imagined had you tried. His getting batters out was great. His describing the process of getting batters out was even better. We’d heard ballplayers speak in complete sentence and marveled. This fellow came at us in glorious paragraphs laced with multisyllabic eloquence. But if all he did was talk a good postgame, the pleasures of recalling R.A. Dickey as a New York Met wouldn’t so resonate long after his departure, and we wouldn’t have collectively remained a diehard fan of the man from Tennessee. His entire story coalesced unbelievably in 2012 — a searing memoir of his personal battles, a documentary exploring his professional rebirth and, oh yeah, a twenty-win season that ended with his earning the National League Cy Young Award at age 37. So go ahead, print the legend of R.A. Dickey. It has the benefit of being true.
3. DANIEL MURPHY, 2011-2015
(Also a Met in 2008 and 2009; missed 2010 due to injury)
If Mets fandom had a news crawl running across the bottom of its screen for the balance of Daniel Murphy’s stay on the team he liked to refer to as the Metropolitans, the text would have suggested we were living inside an all-Murph format. Maybe Daniel Murphy should be traded… Daniel Murphy needs to play regularly… Daniel Murphy doesn’t have a position… Daniel Murphy hits too well to not play every day… Daniel Murphy is a DH in the wrong league… Daniel Murphy has made himself into a serviceable fielder… Daniel Murphy is still a butcher… Daniel Murphy selflessly plays wherever they put him… Daniel Murphy runs us out of innings… Daniel Murphy is sneaky fast… Daniel Murphy said WHAT? On the debate seemed to go, even once Murph established himself as an above-average hitter whose lively bat outpointed his fundamental shortcomings. If you include postseason action, no Met totaled more hits in 2010s than Daniel, with 810 altogether. And you can’t accurately consider Murphy as a Met without taking into account his 2015 postseason, for that is when the chatter surrounding him changed to awe. Simply put, Daniel Murphy transformed overnight into a slugger for the ages. The Mets played nine games versus the Dodgers and Cubs en route to winning the National League pennant. Daniel homered in seven of them, including the final six in a row; he’d hit only fourteen home runs the entire regular season. The playoff pitchers he tagged were predominantly elite (Kershaw, Greinke, Lester, Arrieta). For good measure, he pretty much stole a run from L.A. in the decisive fifth game of the NLDS, a game the Mets won by one run, as he zipped from second to third on a walk when literally nobody was looking. When it came time to vote for an NLCS MVP, the balloting in Chicago was beyond reproach: Most Valuable Murph it was. The World Series was a different story, with Daniel’s bat going cold, his glove reverting to iron and his exit via free agency imminent. The rest of our days devoted to talking about Murph regarded muttering how he was killing us in some other uniform.
2. DAVID WRIGHT, 2010-2016; 2018
(Also a Met from 2004 to 2009; missed 2017 due to injury)
David Wright played third base for the New York Mets, but he was the Captain. The use of past-tense in the latter half of that summation acknowledges the reality of Wright’s farewell at the end of 2018. Really, he is the Captain, and will be for as long as there are New York Mets. Maybe the title of captain will be handed to somebody else down the line, and maybe that captain will perform the duties of what is technically an honorary position honorably, but just as we’re never going to call any other Met besides Tom Seaver the Franchise, we’re never going to think of anybody but David Wright as the Captain. The Captain wasn’t something Wright played. It was who he was when he played, for David was front and center for his team every waking day and inning in and out of orange and blue. The Mets named him the Captain in Spring Training of 2013, once he signed on to stay a Met for the rest of his career, but he was inherently that individual all along, dating back to 2004. He could politely defer through his youth, demonstrating respect for his established elders to a fault, yet these had long been David Wright’s Mets when we entered the decade, and we were thrilled to root for them that way. David was an All-Star three times in the 2010s, and none of that was honorary. David Wright was the same high-caliber third baseman as always once he became the elder, and he was as lethal a hitter as ever once he got the hang of Citi Field’s dimensions. Yet we probably instinctively remember him mostly at his Met bookends: young, fresh-faced David Wright, the crown prince of Shea Stadium; and wise, relatively old David Wright, whose two great accomplishments from 2015 forward were coming back to hit a World Series home run and, three years later, coming back at all. Somewhere in between his glorious rise and his bittersweet denouement were some fine years when everything was basically as it was supposed to be. The Captain was playing; was starring; was leading; was the Met of Mets. If you stuck with this team from one decade to the next, from one ballpark to the next, part of you will always see David Wright in the present tense. He is the Met of Mets. He is the Captain.
Still to come: the No. 1 Met of the 2010s.