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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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A Met For All Seasons, The Mets For Every Season

A Met for All Seasons began as an idea and an email exchange in which your Faith and Fear authors swapped picking seasons and players who’d suited up for the Mets during that season, players who were emblematic of Mets history for a decade or a year or maybe just a few minutes.

That email exchange was, um, in 2011. We do like to take our time.

More self-charitably, what happened was life got in the way, first and foremost the fact that the Mets kept playing baseball games and adding to their history, so there was no particular need to stop this happy/miserable carousel and look back at moments in time through a different lens. At least not until the pandemic brought us a silent spring, two cooped-up authors and a baseball-sized hole in a lot of lives. The idea we’d never quite had time for was at the door, leaning insistently on the bell.

And so, at long last, A Met for All Seasons, here presented in summation. Thanks to all of you for playing along at home, and a tip of the cap to all the teammates we most certainly remember even if they weren’t explicitly profiled in these posts. Hey, maybe next time.

1962: Richie Ashburn

The problem was that Ashburn hated losing. Which is the dark side of the ’62 Mets, the theme that usually stays submerged beneath the funny stories. Stengelese dominated headlines (and distracted the press from the wretchedness of the team), but there was no shortage of ’62 Mets who didn’t find their manager’s act particularly funny, or enjoy being National League doormats. Ashburn’s season came down to Sept. 30, 1962, a sparsely attended Wrigley Field matinee featuring two horrible teams. In the eighth, with the Mets trailing 5-1, Sammy Drake singled and Ashburn whacked a 2-2 pitch between first and second, singling and moving Drake up a base. Joe Pignatano came up … and hit into a triple play. (The Man Who Walked Away)

1963: Ron Hunt

In 1963, Ron Hunt was a player. The Mets had themselves a player. Not one to remember from distant better days or mock or pity or grow as old as Casey Stengel waiting for to develop, but one you could pay your money to enjoy right now and soon thereafter. This flirtation with eptitude grabbed attention throughout the Metropolitan Area and well beyond. (First Star I See Tonight)

1964: Rod Kanehl

Kanehl played baseball hell for leather. Fans loved that. He also played it intelligently, with sound instincts and a hunger to learn. His teammates and coaches respected that. The problem was that for all his verve and brains, Kanehl didn’t play baseball very well. He saw time at seven positions in ’62, a sign of admirable versatility … except for the fact that he somehow made 32 errors playing those positions. Herein lies a question to ponder: Is a utility player who can’t actually play any position still a utility player? (The First Patron Saint of Ridiculous Causes)

1965: Ron Swoboda

Swoboda has always understood what that summer meant to the fans, and refused to see what he did and what we did as disconnected. He has always been willing to bridge that gap, and make us feel like it doesn’t have to exist, even though he and we know better. “I never felt above anyone who bought a ticket — I just had a different role than they did,” he’s said. “We were part of the same phenomenon.” (My Swoboda)

1966: Shaun Fitzmaurice

What happened? I can’t find a record of a significant injury, or some mischance that derailed Fitzmaurice’s career. He simply never ignited the way that 1964’s record of successes suggested he would. And there’s no shame in that. It’s easy to forget it, watching the best players in the world plying their trade on TV or down there on the field, but baseball’s really hard. The vast majority of “next Mickey Mantles” turn out to be the latest somebody elses, not because they’re unworthy but because the game is grueling and demanding and fickle and unfair. (The Prince of Proximity)

1967: Al Schmelz

The problem, I soon discovered, was that it was easier to find Jimmy Hoffa than to locate a decent color photo of Al Schmelz in a baseball uniform.  A couple of Mets yearbooks had pictures of him grouped with other guys invited to camp — but they were always small and in black and white. He’s in the team photos — in glorious color, no less — in the ’67 and ’68 yearbooks, but of course he’s in the back, almost completely blocked by his teammates. So I did the best I could. (The Great White Whale of Arizona)

1968: Cleon Jones

The biggest moment in Mets history is also one of the quietest. You’ve seen it: With two outs in the ninth of Game 5 of the 1969 World Series, Davey Johnson hits a fly ball to left. At first the ball looks like it has the distance to be trouble, but the peril is illusory. Its momentum dies in the cool air of October and gravity pulls it down, to where Cleon Jones is waiting at the edge of the warning track. He catches it with two hands, almost gingerly, and then both his glove and his knee come down, until his knee brushes the dirt and his hands are clasped — as if in prayer, or benediction, or a little of both. (A Mobile Moment)

1969: Donn Clendenon

The exchange of players from June 15, 1969, however, transpired in a whole other beautiful world, one where Mets general manager Johnny Murphy could look at the roster he and his predecessors had been crafting when no one was taking them seriously and realize they were at last at the juncture when that mythic big bat could make a meaningful noise. Enter the strong, long and lanky Clendenon, albeit a couple of years removed from his most muscular production (28 home runs, 98 runs batted in and a .299 average in 1966 — adding up to an OPS+ of 141, not that anyone knew what the hell that was then). But the 1969 Mets, while they craved a legitimate cleanup hitter, didn’t necessarily have to have a superstar; nor were they willing to give up too much of their awesome young pitching to nab one. They needed someone who’d been around the league, someone who could get around on a fastball, and someone who would be OK playing sometimes. They needed a dependable right-handed hitting first baseman to complement their perennially developing lefty-swinging incumbent Ed Kranepool. Kranepool was 24. Clendenon was a month from 34. Between them, they averaged out as a 29-year-old switch-hitter, forging an ideal everyday player within Gil Hodges’s platoon of platoons. (With & Without Donn Clendenon)

1970: Tommie Agee

Guy hits home runs. Guy steals bases. Guy continues to make great catches in center field and becomes the first Met to win a Gold Glove. Is it any wonder the guy becomes the talk of day camp in the summer of 1970? Tommie Agee is the name I remember taking up the most Met talk when I talked Mets with other seven-year-olds. Slugging, sprinting, snaring…that’ll get kids’ attention. He was fearsome in his talent, approachable in his demeanor. Me, I liked to talk about Tom Seaver, but I didn’t mind hearing about Tommie Agee. It was a good Tom to be a kid. (Mutual Attraction)

1971: Tom Seaver

It was very important in the summer of 1971 that when I was assigned to a Long Beach Recreation Center Pee Wee League baseball team that I got to wear 41. I worried that because of my late registration (our family tended to be late for everything) that I’d miss out on the plum number because, c’mon, it was 1971 and didn’t every kid want to wear 41? Wasn’t every eight-year-old’s favorite player Tom Seaver? (My Seminal Seaver Summer of ’71)

1972: Gary Gentry

Some of the Miracle Mets had retired because they were old, at least for baseball, but others had disappeared before their time — what had become of Rod Gaspar, or Jack DiLauro? As I kept reading and learning, I figured out that Gaspar and DiLauro had been the last guys on the roster, the kind of guys who had to keep fighting for big-league jobs. But that still left one mystery: What had happened to Gary Gentry? (Pitchers Break)

1973: Willie Mays

I wouldn’t have traded those two years of Willie Mays for anything or anybody. I wouldn’t have traded him for Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench or any of the in-their-prime future Hall of Famers from the All-Star Game three years earlier. I wouldn’t have asked to have Charlie Williams back had Charlie Williams gone to California and turned into Nolan Ryan rather than remaining Charlie Williams. I had Willie Mays as a New York Met when I was nine and ten. Maybe Willie was too old to play like he did when he was a kid, but I was old enough to get why it didn’t matter. I got the New York Giants connection. I got the meaning behind the ovations. I got why baseball made people not just happy but weepy. It all came together on the night of September 25, when Willie Mays and his 660 home runs — same number Topps would put into its base set of cards over the next few years — said “goodbye to America” in a New York Mets uniform at a packed Shea Stadium. The Mets had improbably scratched and clawed their way into first place. Willie, who’d been hurting and sitting the previous few weeks, gave them his blessing. You gotta believe you me that they won the division and, with Willie pinch-hitting at a critical juncture in Game Five of the playoffs versus the Reds, the pennant. (Mets Legend Willie Mays)

1974: Tug McGraw

The Mets were on their way to the division title, the pennant and a seven-game World Series duel that fell just a touch short of dethroning the Oakland A’s mid-dynasty. Tug was more than a beloved teammate and character by the time it was over. He was a folk hero, a legend, the personification of Belief. By shouting and leaping and pounding his glove to his thigh (and getting batters out by the bushel), he was the Met who made 1973 a miracle of its own. The Mets have never retired “You Gotta Believe” as a catchphrase since then. When things get dark enough to allow in only the slightest glint of light, it’s the light that takes precedence in our collective inner Tug. We gotta believe, we keep telling one another, because in 1973, that’s what Tug told us. Those words would live with us forever. Yet somehow, Tug McGraw would stay in our immediate company only one year longer. (A Trade Beyond Belief)

1975: Mike Vail

Mike Vail had breathed life into the cause surrounding a team otherwise running out of time. As fans, even when we’re 12-year-old fans, maybe especially when we’re 12-year-old fans, we need a cause. In September of 1975, we needed Mike Vail’s hitting streak to keep on keepin’ on. (Live From New York, It Was Mike Vail)

1976: Mike Phillips

My one memory of Phillips as an actual Met is seeing him hit a leadoff homer, with his name immediately popping up in yellow capital letters on the screen, which was Channel 9’s way of noting round-trippers. That’s the entire memory — I have no context beyond it, and when I sat down to write this, I wouldn’t have sworn that what I recalled was accurate. Plenty of memories from when you’re seven years old turn out to be incomplete, distorted or fundamentally incorrect. So I checked. (My Superhero)

1977: Lenny Randle

For one season, Lenny was a legend of perhaps not quite Kiner-Mays proportions, but in 1977, especially after June 15, you learned to not expect too much. On Saturday afternoon, July 9, a day devoted to playing stickball with/against a frenemy of mine (he’d committed the traitorous sin of quitting on the Mets and taking up with that other New York team, thus revealing a disturbing paucity of character), a transistor radio kept us apprised of what the Mets and the Expos were up to at Shea. They were up to extra innings. Extra, extra innings. In the seventeenth, with Lee Mazzilli on first and two out, Randle crushed a Will McEnaney pitch to end the game in the Mets’ favor, 7-5. I don’t remember how the stickball turned out, but as far as I’m concerned, I won the day. (At Least We Had Lenny Randle)

1978: Craig Swan

[P]itchers whose baseball cards you’d think twice before risking in flipping all took a back seat to this guy from the Mets. The Mets made hardly anybody take a back seat to them in 1978, but when it came to earned run average, all you hurlers can just be quiet back there. Mr. Swan is driving. (The Last Ace From the Deck)

1979: Ed Kranepool

[O]n September 30, 1979, anybody who was watching or listening to the Mets and Cards from St. Louis was about to witness something that seemed unimaginable across the history of the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York. It was Ed Kranepool’s last game. Torre sent him up to pinch-hit for John Pacella in the seventh. Eddie produced a double, his 1,418th base hit, which remained the Met standard until David Wright passed him in 2012, and his 90th career pinch-hit, still a franchise record (and 31st all-time in the major leagues). The manager just as quickly removed him for pinch-runner Gil Flores. That was it. The Ed Kranepool Era was over. Well, the part where he played for the Mets, that is. When you’re talking Mets, I don’t think the Ed Kranepool Era ever ends. (18 and Life)

1980: Lee Mazzilli

Lee Mazzilli in 1980 was an idol the likes of which we just don’t have today, yet he was surely who we reveled in idolizing back then. If deconstructing the whole Archie Graham/Burt Lancaster dynamic challenged the sanity of the contemporary characters played by Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones at the end of the ’80s, we began the ’80s confident Mazzilli was the Met on whom the sun and moon rose and set, and it didn’t seem the least bit crazy in our world. (Local Boy Made Good)

1981: Mookie Wilson

Had the Mets used that weekend series against the Cardinals as a launching pad, had they refused to lose, the immortality would speak for itself and there’d probably be a documentary airing intermittently on MLB Network celebrating the achievement. The Mets of Mookie Wilson would rate that kind of enshrinement down the line, just not these Mets of Mookie Wilson, nor this swing of Mookie Wilson’s. Knowing what was to come, perhaps it’s a little greedy to wish the transcendent Mookie Wilson moment of 1981 would live on for everybody as another Mookie Wilson moment from five years hence does. (One’s Moments in Time)

1982: Rusty Staub

The name was the second thing. How did that work? Had his parents given him the alternate name Rusty? If so, why hadn’t mine given me a wonderful parallel identity? Or — and this was where the foundations of the world really got wobbly — had Daniel Staub named himself that? Could you do that? Maybe you could, if you were brave and audacious enough — if you were a hero. Which Rusty Staub plainly was. He was my favorite Met, after all. (Big Man at the Beginning)

1983: Darryl Strawberry

The Mets were a last-place team again in 1983. That 6-15 start didn’t shake off so easily; they were 37-65 before truly getting it in gear to finish 68-94…which isn’t much of a record. And the attendance was still pretty light. But if you’d stuck with the Mets in the years before they earned the right to draft Darryl Strawberry, then after the clock officially started on the wait for Darryl Strawberry to rise to the majors, you knew this last-place finish was nothing like the cellar-dwelling that had been the rule of the house prior to 1983. The future heralded by Darryl Strawberry had commenced in earnest. And, oh, what a future it would be. (Star of the ’80s)

1984: Wally Backman

Was Backman still the right personality for the job he’d always wanted? I wondered. After one Las Vegas season ended, Backman was brought in as a September coach, and chose 86 as his number — the only time, I believe, that’s adorned a Met back in a regular-season game. It was nice to see, but also a little sad — because I had the feeling that was as close as Backman was fated to get. (A Foxhole Player)

1985: Dwight Gooden

What Darling did on the first night of October, Gooden did basically every five days through the month of September. In the heaviest month of the year in the fiercest year the Mets had ever contested to that point (from July 29 to September 24, the Mets and Cardinals traded first and second place continually, with the Mets never more than a game ahead of the Cardinals and the Cardinals never more than three in front of the Mets), Doc started five times. He compiled 44 innings of must-win work that yielded an earned run average of 0.00. Grab yourself four paper clips, attach those five games and call that the greatest starting pitching performance in New York Mets history. Or, given the time of the season and the franchise at the time, the greatest finishing kick. (Doc, for All Seasons)

1986: Keith Hernandez

Hernandez battled insecurity and loneliness as a Cardinals rookie, overcame it with the help of veterans (Lou Brock and Bob Gibson were vital mentors, the first sympathetic and the second famously not), shared an MVP award, got married, got divorced, developed an infatuation with cocaine, kicked it, wound up in Whitey Herzog’s doghouse, and was exiled to the hapless Mets in the summer of 1983. His first reaction was to ask his agent if he had enough money to retire. Fortunately — for the Mets, for all of us, and for Hernandez himself — he didn’t. (A Complicated Man)

1987: Lenny Dykstra

Dykstra retired after 1996, 33 years old and beloved in two very different cities. And since he retired, everything has gone horribly wrong. Or, perhaps, it’s gone pretty much as it went then, except there are no baseball heroics to make us want to hand-wave the rest away. Sure, some of the stories were entertaining, such as Dykstra’s brief time in the spotlight as a stock-market guru, anointed by CNBC’s Jim Cramer as a homespun American genius. But others weren’t, at all. (Nails and the Chalkboard)

1988: Gary Carter

In the days after Carter’s death, the memories from his teammates were heart-breaking — and raw in a way I’d rarely if ever heard from pro ballplayers.  Keith Hernandez — Goofus to Carter’s Gallant — responded with grief so raw that listening to it made me feel like an intruder. But the words that really got me came from a sadder, wiser Darryl Strawberry: “I wish I could have lived my life like Gary Carter.” (The Kid Is Still in the Picture)

1989: Ron Darling

To those qualities he added a handful of ineffable somethings — style, glamour, and ease with the bright lights. And he had an intriguing background, one not exactly standard for a professional ballplayer. For openers, he was the son of a Chinese-Hawaiian mother and a French-Canadian father, a proto-Benetton ethnic mix that made vaguely cringy references to “exotic good looks” de rigueur when he was written about outside of the sports pages. He spoke French and Chinese, and he’d studied French and Southeastern Asian history at Yale. If I’d told you back then that George Plimpton — he of the Paris Review bylines and the good-schools accent — was going to invent a fictional Mets ballplayer, you’d have expected a creation a lot more like Darling than Sidd Finch. (Pitching With Mister P)

1990: Gregg Jefferies

It was soon an open secret that Jefferies’ teammates hated him. They thought he was Davey’s pet, a baby, and a brat. That kind of thing usually wasn’t allowed to leak out of a clubhouse, but the late-80s Mets leaked like a dysfunctional White House, and sports-talk radio was starting to bloom into the poisonous flower it would become. And Jefferies proved regular grist for this cynical mill. He made a fetish of his signature-model black bats, rubbing alcohol on them after games to spot the points of contact. He pouted after poor at-bats and misplays in the field. None of it would have mattered if the kid had outhit his personality, but he didn’t. And as the bad buzz got louder, the past came to look more like a warning that had gone unheard. (I’ve Seen the Future and It Doesn’t Work)

1991: Rich Sauveur

I’m at a baseball-card show in a sad hotel in Alexandria, Va., one I’d debated not bothering with. It’s in one of those half-ballrooms, with the accordion divider separating the couple of dozen card-dealer tables from the quarterly meeting of the Northern Virginia Chapter of Actuaries. I pay my $2, walk in, scan the room with my by-now-practiced eye and know immediately that I should have stayed home. There are barely any tables with storage boxes — just the usual tipped glass cases maintained by the price-guide set. I circle the perimeter anyway, because it’s 40-odd minutes back to Bethesda. At one of the tables, I do a double-take. Clipped to the tilted-up display case is a 1993 Topps Gold card. And it’s … Rich Sauveur. The card I’ve been searching for. The one nobody else seems to know exists. (Cardboard Lessons)

1992: Todd Hundley

Hundley was retired by the time the Mitchell report came out in 2007, but finding his name in there was about as surprising as waking up in the morning to discover the sun had risen again. Todd Hundley’s power surge might not have been entirely natural? Hell, I was surprised he hadn’t glowed in the dark during night games. (A Baseball First Husband)

1993: Joe Orsulak

[W]hy did I decide, somewhere toward the end of his perfectly representative but objectively unremarkable three-year tenure in our midst, that Joe Orsulak is one of my favorite Mets ever? Honest to god, I really don’t know. But just as honestly, he really is. (Right There)

1994: Rico Brogna

I immediately think of Rico Brogna when I think of the 1994 Mets season because of the idea he represented to me coming out of that strike-shortened year. Rico Brogna was who and what I wanted to come back. He’d brought me hope and I figured he could only deliver more. I was going to hold tight during absent August, silent September, ohfer October, the long, even colder winter, and the farce spring when MLB lured replacement players to wear their clubs’ uniforms in games that didn’t count, threatening to keep them around for games that did. By April 26, 1995, the latest the Mets have ever opened a season (until 2020), I should have been fed up with baseball, which didn’t even have the dignity to be around for months on end to let me be fed up with it. Instead, I kept hanging tight, waiting for Rico and welcomed back the whole package, lock, stock and Brogna. (The Very Idea of Rico Brogna)

1995: Jason Isringhausen

An impression was made. This player who hadn’t been in the majors until mid-July wound up fourth in NL Rookie of the Year balloting (Hideo Nomo won; Chipper Jones placed second). Further, Izzy made Mets rookie pitching history. Nobody who’d come up so late in a Met season — right after the midpoint of the strike-shortened 144-game campaign — had ever done so much winning right out of the box. Going 9-2 overall would be astounding from April until October. Izzy crammed all of his wins into a two-and-a-half month window. By comparison, Jacob deGrom in 2014 and Noah Syndergaard in 2015 also won nine games as callup starters, but both of them debuted in May. Rick Aguilera notched ten victories, but was called up in June 1985. Izzy was a young man in a hurry that hadn’t quite been seen before at Shea. (Land of Trope and Dreams)

1996: Rey Ordoñez

You hear the cheers — and Howie Rose’s astonished “threw it from his knees!” has endured — but what I remember happened a few seconds later, between innings. It was a sound I’d never heard before in a ballpark, a kind of murmur/mutter all around me and Greg. After cocking my head a moment, I realized it was the noise made by 25,000 people turning to the 25,000 people next to them and asking some variant of, “Did he really just do that?” Yes, he had. And he’d keep doing it through a seven-year Mets career that was sometimes annoying and occasionally infuriating but never dull. (That Sound)

1997: Edgardo Alfonzo

As the year went on, anybody who relished watching the Mets daily realized there wasn’t anything Edgardo Alfonzo couldn’t do well. He wasn’t particularly fast, but he wouldn’t get himself thrown out unnecessarily. If you needed a runner moved along, he could handle the bat. There was pop. There was savvy. There was silky smoothness at a position that had been missing dexterity since…well, forever. The Mets had steadily received some fine production out of third base dating back to the days of Hubie Brooks, but nobody stationed at the hot corner — not Brooks, not HoJo, not Knight or Magadan or Bonilla or Kent — was assigned its challenges in deference to defensive skill. Third wasn’t even Fonzie’s first position, but you would have thought he was born to play it. As the Mets ascended from a typical 8-14 start to a rousing 88-74 finish, it was Fonzie who led them from nowhere to somewhere. He placed ninth in the league in hitting and thirteenth in MVP balloting for a team that almost nobody noticed was building itself into a winner. (Eighth Wonder)

1998: Todd Pratt

When Todd Pratt was 29, he was working at a Florida instructional school and managing a pizza parlor. He was out of baseball after playing 102 big-league games over 11 pro seasons as the property of six organizations, and it would have taken a truly heroic optimist to predict his future would include star turns on baseball’s October stage, cult-hero status and years of reasonably secure big-league jobs. Somehow, that’s what happened. (Nine Wonderful Days in the Life of Todd Alan Pratt, Backup Catcher)

1999: John Olerud

John Olerud, content to hit and field without a lot of muss and fuss, went relatively unnoticed in 1999 as the Mets chased that playoff spot that eluded them in 1998. Mojo rose in his midst. He played in every game but one, starting all but four the Mets played. Opposing pitchers presumably kept an eye on him just as Olerud watched what they were doing quite closely. He walked 125 times in ’99, taking as gospel the bromide about it being just as good as getting a hit. It would figure that in the season cleanup man Mike Piazza set the franchise RBI record and five-hole hitter Robin Ventura drove in more runs than any Met ever other than Piazza, somebody would be on base a lot just ahead of them. Oly, you know, batted third in 159 games. (Love in the City at Century’s End)

2000: Melvin Mora

The good news is there was going to be 2000. We’d get through the 20th century and cross the bridge into the next one. The computers and lights would stay on, and life would resume pretty much as it functioned in 1999. Parochially speaking, this meant we could look forward to Melvin Mora on the New York Mets. True, the element of surprise wouldn’t burst from every swing he took or every throw he gunned, but we had him. World, you’ve been warned. (Mora in America: Melvinnium Approaches)

2001: Mike Piazza

Piazza was a courtesy pick, whom the Dodgers had no intention of actually signing — or of having play pro ball if they did expend a pittance as an additional courtesy. The courtesy pick would get to suit up for pro ball, but only because Lasorda was his bodyguard, strong-arming anybody who got in his buddy’s son’s way. Which was pretty everybody drawing a Dodgers paycheck who wasn’t named Tommy Lasorda. The Dodgers reluctantly signed Piazza (for all of $15,000) after a tryout in Dodger Stadium, during which Lasorda told the team’s skeptical scouting director that Piazza was now a catcher. So far, if we’re being honest, it’s a story that probably makes you feel a little queasy. But here’s where it gets interesting. (This One Has a Chance)

2002: Al Leiter

Thirty-seven regular-season games at Shea Stadium Al Leiter was my starting pitcher, plus twice in the playoffs and, to be rotationally retentive about it, once as an opponent. I don’t ever remember thinking in advance, “Leiter? Not again.” Nor, probably, did I think, “Oh boy, Leiter!” It was more like, “Al Leiter…all right, let’s go…” The games could get edgy when Bobby Valentine was managing, but a bit of the edge was taken off knowing Al Leiter was starting. His near-constant presence was comforting. That was where my head was at on Opening Day 2002, just as it was more than two-dozen times before. Standing and applauding in the right field boxes, it was exciting to welcome Alomar and Vaughn, welcome back Burnitz and Cedeño, value as ever Piazza and Alfonzo. But when we got to “pitching and batting ninth, warming up in the bullpen…” Al Leiter. All right. Let’s go. (Face of the Franchise)

2003: David Cone

Plenty of power pitchers look impressive on the mound but arrive with mechanics that make you cringe because you can almost hear things grinding and fraying in their shoulders and elbows, but Cone looked like a gyroscope, from the way he loaded his arm down near his hip to the finishing, energy-dissipating kick of his right leg. It was like an engineer and an artist had collaborated to create the Platonic ideal of a pitcher. (Baby-Faced Killer)

2004: Joe Hietpas

Hietpas was called up in mid-September 2004, which was a strange time in Mets history. Art Howe had been fired but agreed to finish the season, which seemed pointless from the perspective of employer and employee alike. Hietpas was a catcher known for his receiving skills and a rifle arm, though he’d never hit in the minors. Somehow Hietpas hurt himself despite having nothing to do; updates on his status were perhaps understandably scanty. All I knew was the remaining games on the schedule were dwindling with no sign of Hietpas in a box score. Howe might not have lit up a room as promised, but he was universally hailed as a genuinely nice man; surely he wouldn’t let Hietpas’s opportunity pass him by. (Beginnings, Endings and Things That Were Both)

2005: Pedro Martinez

I’m wary of any sentence that begins with the words “people forget”. A mighty big supposition is required to decide what is commonly retained and what escapes the collective consciousness. I can suspect you’ve forgotten a fact or two, yet I can’t possibly prove it without a torrent of interrogation. Maybe the stuff I’m thinking about today has been buried in your subconscious under stuff you’re thinking about today. Maybe you remember this stuff very well but haven’t seen fit to think about it of late. Nevertheless, I suspect people forget just how big Pedro Martinez was as a New York Met, especially in 2005, but really pretty much to the conclusion of his contract in 2008. He loomed as large as an individual Met possibly could over the entire operation from the instant he got here. Pedro was where we looked for answers, for progress, for hope. In that first year, Pedro was where we got it. (Unforgettable, That’s What You Are)

2006: Carlos Beltran

I suspect Beltran’s entire Mets career would be regarded differently if he’d swung and missed that final pitch instead of taking it, even though it would have changed nothing. Should he have swung too late to show he really cared? Smashed himself in the face with the bat to express his grief? Does Beltran remain unappreciated because he didn’t grimace enough? (The Sins of Carlos Beltran)

2007: Jose Reyes

In a game that enters the bottom of the twelfth, with San Francisco ahead, 4-3, Reyes leads off against the closer of blown leads past, Armando Benitez. Seven years since J.T. Snow and Paul O’Neill convinced us to cringe, it is surprising to realize somebody is still trusting Armando Benitez with save situations, but at this point in his managerial career, Bruce Bochy is not yet a certified genius. Armando is his man. Fortunately, Jose is ours. Benitez walks the shortstop with whom he briefly shared a clubhouse four years earlier. The count had gone to three-and-two and…yeah, we recognize Armando Benitez. We also recognize Reyes on first. First? Make that second, for Jose has goaded Armando into a balk. Endy Chavez then bunts Jose to third. Carlos Beltran grounds out, and Jose has to stay put, but since when does Jose Reyes stay put? He dances off third. He is Lola from “Copacabana”. She would merengue/and do the cha-cha… And while Armando Benitez tried to concentrate on getting a third out, Jose Reyes has teased from Benitez’s ever-tender psyche a second balk. Jose can dance home. The game is tied. Moments later, Carlos Delgado homers, and the Mets have won, 5-4. Jose Reyes and the Mets are 33-17, five games up on the Braves, eight ahead of the Phillies. Who the hell is going to stop Jose Reyes and the Mets? (7 Days)

2008: Johan Santana

The Johan Santana start of September 27, 2008, lives in a class of its own. That it wasn’t a no-hitter — or the no-hitter — is immaterial. We’d never had a no-hitter. We wouldn’t have known what to have done with one. What we had was the cloud that followed us from the previous September to this one. What we required was someone to chase the cloud away. That September, specifically on a gray Saturday afternoon, the last Saturday afternoon Shea Stadium would ever know, Johan Santana was every element under the sun. He was earth, wind and fire while chasing the clouds away. (Dates With Destiny)

2009: Angel Pagan

The other emblematic player was the Cyclones’ first heartthrob — a lithe, dark-eyed center fielder with a name borrowed from a shoegazer band you wanted your parents to hate. The girls screamed for Angel Pagan; so, in my own nerdy blue-and-orange way, did I. I was certain that he was the one, the Cyclone who’d solve the pitiless math of the minor leagues and show up one day at Shea. Pagan was going to be a star, and I was going to be able to point at him from the back of the mezzanine and tell people how I’d seen him play in a little park on the beach, not so long ago and not so far away, and now just look at him. Which turned out to be true. Eventually. If you squinted a little. (Lost and Found)

2010: Ike Davis

I’m tellin’ ya, brother, you want in on Ike Davis. Talk about a sound investment. Gonna be the best all-around first baseman our Mets have had since John Olerud. Wait, did I say Olerud? I meant Hernandez. Yep, Keith Hernandez — Mr. Seinfeld himself. I bet ya loved Keith Hernandez. I bet in your heart of hearts you don’t think the Mets have ever truly replaced Keith Hernandez. Well, this Ike Davis is the sure thing, Mac. The bat. The glove. The personality. Wait ’til you listen to the kid speak. He’s a natural! And you don’t even have to hope the Mets’ll trade Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey for him. He’s on his way — it’s in the bag. Whaddaya say, how about putting down your heart and your hope on some of this Ike Davis action I’m lettin’ you in on.Oh, you won’t be sorry you did. I’m promising ya, pal, you’re gonna flip for Ike Davis. (The Sure Thing [One of Them])

2011: David Wright

That first at-bat wasn’t what he’d hoped for during all those nights dreaming about what might be: he was retired on a pop-up in foul territory, with Expos catcher Brian Schneider making a nifty catch that ended with him flipped over the dugout railing. Wright made outs in his other three at-bats as well: a groundout, a pop to short and a fly ball to right. The Mets won by a single run. Not a debut heavy on fireworks, but as I left Shea I made sure to tuck my ticket stub deeper in my pocket. When I got home, I filed it in a cubby of my desk instead of tossing it in with the recycling. Everything I’d heard and seen had convinced me that David Wright would be special. (A Special One)

2012: R.A. Dickey

The language-lovers among us who absorbed every step of his Metsian journey, especially his accounts and descriptions thereof, felt a thrill going up our leg, to borrow a 2008 phrase from Chris Matthews (himself more about Hardball than a knuckleball). I noticed that as much as virtually every Mets fan in creation toasted R.A.’s success warmly and effusively, it was those of us who worked closely with the language who seemed most thrilled on the man’s behalf. We intrinsically felt we had one of our own was out there on our behalf. Editors. Writers. Educators. This wasn’t just a Met excelling at pitching. This was a kindred linguistic spirit. We were in awe that somebody like this was so good at the sport we cherished even if most of us had never had any hope of playing it at any competitive level beyond the schoolyard (and even back then not that competitively). (Nothing Standardized About Him)

2013: Wilmer Flores

Flores was 22, looked 12, and ran like he was 52. He seemed uncertain in the field, making physical errors and sometimes going saucer-eyed in the heat of the moment. The Mets would move him around the infield, looking for a place to hide him and never finding one. Not exactly a recipe for success, but Flores could hit — in fact, he destroyed lefties. He showed a knack for big moments, which he’d eventually ride to a niche in the Mets’ record books. And while baseball players are taught to be stoic and stone-faced, as armor against the game’s cruelties, Flores’s emotions were always front and center. When he succeeded, he radiated joy; when he failed, he was accompanied by a little black cloud of misery. You sometimes wondered how the Mets should best use Flores, or if they should at all, but you always rooted for him. It was impossible not to. (The Man Who Was Untraded)

2014: Jacob deGrom

Ideally, all the Mets pitchers we pictured forever starring for us when we were dreaming our pitching dreams circa 2014 — including Rafael Montero, who was considered a bigger star in the making upon his concurrent-with-deGrom promotion — would still be starring for us at the dawn of the 2020s. It hasn’t worked out that way. Little deal was made of Jacob deGrom, yet nobody’s been the bigger deal or has signed one, for that matter. He’s been certified the best pitcher in his league two years running. He’s clearly the signature arm of a franchise that fancies itself legendarily pitching-rich. He’s carved himself a niche on the Mets’ version of Mount Pitchmore alongside Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and Jerry Koosman, and is maybe not too many innings from joining Tom Terrific in elevating their dual status to twin peaks. (Shtickless Wonder)

2015: Michael Conforto

Terry Collins’ mishandling of Conforto led to him not being able to hit anybody, which led to his being banished to the minors, which led to him hitting like his old self because he got to play every day and his luck turned and Collins wasn’t around to fuck with him, which led to his recall, which led to a ridiculous Just So story about what had happened and the supposed lesson of it. But the Mets weren’t done — they tried to turn Conforto into a center fielder, a position for which his ceiling was “heroic adequacy.” They did pretty much everything they could to derail him, but somehow he survived. (The M Met)

2016: Matt Harvey

The Dark Knight drifted in the span of a few seasons from a major storyline for the Mets to a suddenly faded piece of their history. “A Met for All Seasons is right,” Boras insisted. “Matt Harvey as an outsize Met figure is right. But we know what seasons were the most right. The seasons that were less right we’d prefer he not be a part of.” Alderson countered, “Us neither. Sometimes, however, you play the ball where it lies, and sometimes you pitch the pitcher there, too.” (After the Fall)

2017: Paul Sewald

A Jonah needs a certain modicum of talent — your overmatched emergency starters and stone-fingered infielders don’t count, because they shouldn’t have been put it that position in the first place. A truly tragic or star-crossed player isn’t a Jonah either, because when a Jonah screws up your reaction should be more of a sigh than remote-throwing, drywall-punching rage. Life with a Jonah is a grinding, corrosive series of letdowns, not a sequence of blowups that leave craters in the soul. And a Jonah need not be universally viewed as such — the identification can be completely subjective, with one fan’s Jonah another fan’s guy to merely shrug and grumble about. Which brings us to the 2017 Mets, and Paul Sewald. (Sympathy for a Jonah)

2018: Noah Syndergaard

As origin stories go, that one’s up there with Steve Rogers agreeing to the U.S. Army’s experiment or Peter Parker encountering a radioactive spider. But Syndergaard, endearingly, has never stopped sounding a bit like his old geeky duckling self even after turning into a fiery, terrifying swan. “My arm is like a trebuchet,” he told reporters during the 2015 playoffs. “It’s got to be loose and whiplike, and you have to use the force of your body to deliver the pitch.” When I read that, I needed a minute. Trebuchet? Really? Who was this kid? (The Model of a Modern Pitcher)

2019: Dom Smith

Because Braves manager Brian Snitker was also determined to torture us, he switched pitchers yet again, bringing on someone named Grant Dayton. The Mets countered with none other than Dom Smith — the same Dom Smith who hadn’t had a plate appearance since late July. This seemed cruel, to say the least. It all seemed cruel by that point. And then Smith hit the ball over the fucking fence. (The Shot Heard Through the Spring)

2020: Pete Alonso

The statistical odometer reset to zero for the new year, as it always does, and it wouldn’t budge until who knew when, but the legend of Pete Alonso kept gathering mileage and momentum because Pete Alonso was determined to live up to his legend, bat or no bat. Pete was on Zoom extending his best wishes to a Mets-loving grandma whose spirits were thus lifted out of the park. Pete got in touch with medical teams fighting the virus, and they took an instant from saving lives to say thanks for his saying thanks. Pete started a foundation called Homers for Heroes. Pete stood up for the idea that the lives of Black people matter before every sports league figured out that was a pretty simple truth. You didn’t need baseball to be in progress to keep rooting for one of baseball’s rising stars. (The Power Broker)

2021: Steve Cohen

Though Anybody But the Wilpons would have garnered some degree of applause, it was Cohen who stood as the people’s choice as reporting mounted through 2020 that the Wilpons were still trying to sell the franchise (word was the next generation of Katzes wasn’t keen on hitching its wagon indefinitely to Jeff). Other groups bid or tried to bid. Cohen, though, despite having his first attempt dashed in winter, never let go of his desire to own the Mets and never hesitated to dip into his pockets to make it happen when the opportunity arose anew in summer. And it happened. The Wilpons and Katz sold him the Mets. That’s all that had to happen for Steve Cohen to be the best thing that ever happened to the Mets on the cusp of 2021. Whether that description would hold once 2021 unfolded in real time… “Well,” Mets fans could tell one another, “we’ll see.” (Honeymoon in Flushing)

9 comments to A Met For All Seasons, The Mets For Every Season

  • Ed Rising

    2003 David Cone? Wasn’t done with the Yankees by then too? Back to the drawing board with you! Interesting list and very cool to bring back those emails to a blog. Will read it more thoroughly later.

  • eric1973

    Thank you both for this Amazin’ series.

    My favorite part of Mets history is the 70’s, as I became a daily fan in 1973. So glad that around half the team from 1969 was still on THAT team, making 1969 not just ancient history to me, but one I could hold dear, as if it were my own.

    My biggest regret as a fan was not experiencing Gil Hodges as a manager in real time, as it was actually happening.

    He is probably the most revered and most significant figure in Mets history. (He and Seaver.)

    Love that story Seaver tells, about how he was pitching with a big lead, and then gave up just enough runs to win the game. Seaver was very pleased with himself, but then Hodges called him into his office and chewed him out. And Seaver never ‘pitched to the score’ ever again.

  • Ed Rising

    Eric, we became fans around the same time so I totally get what you are saying. 70’s were a groovy time! LOL

  • eric1973

    Oscar Gamble’s hair.

  • Daniel Hall

    This year was “grueling and demanding and fickle and unfair”. Thankfully, you “glowed in the dark during night games”, and gave us another Mets compendium in itself with more than just “a modicum of talent” and “heroic adequacy”. Twice a week you came up with a show better than any “in a sad hotel in Alexandria, Va.”.

    Thank you for that, a lot. It made the madness a bit less … well, it was still plenty mad.

    (wipes away a tiny tear)

    Now – (slaps hands together) … What are the chances there was a vaccine in Old Man Cano’s juice, and can we all have some before the ’21 season is supposed to start!?

  • open the gates

    Thanks again for a truly awesome series. It was easily the second best thing about the Mets in 2020. (The best, of course, was The Sale, but you covered that in your 2021 entry.) Hopefully, next year you’ll be so busy chronicling Steve Cohen’s first World Championship you’ll be too busy for any side projects.