Welcome to the first chapter of Faith and Fear’s historical countdown of the The Top 100 Mets of the 2000s. A full introduction to what we’re doing is available here . These are the more or less best Mets we rooted for as Mets fans during the decade FAFIF came to be. In honor of the 16th anniversary of our February 16, 2005, founding, we thought it would be fun (or at least not too painful) to revisit these guys and recall a little something about them.
100. LUIS CASTILLO, 2007-2009
Also a Met in 2010
Luis Castillo was a .302 hitter across 142 games in 2009, and if you gloss over Luis’s 51st game of that year, June 12 at Yankee Stadium…specifically that game’s bottom of the ninth, when the three-time Gold Glove second baseman never quite settled under a two-out, ninth-inning pop fly with runners on first and second who took the job description of “runners” literally…and if you forget that Luis attempted to grasp that pop fly with one hand, dropped it, and allowed those two runners to score, turning a nervous 8-7 Mets lead into a grisly 9-8 Mets loss…well, you might remember Luis Castillo hit .302 across 142 games in 2009. But that’s not what you remember when you think of Luis Castillo, is it?
99. FERNANDO NIEVE, 2009
Also a Met in 2010
The afternoon after Luis Castillo failed to use two hands to secure a third out in perhaps the most embarrassing Subway Series humiliation since the Mets began playing the Yankees for real in 1997, Fernando Nieve emerged from the bullpen to make his first start of the season and rescue Metsopotamia’s self-esteem from the abyss. Six-and-two-thirds innings of two-run ball steered the Mets toward a much-needed 6-2 win in the Bronx, and furnished an even more-needed reminder that tomorrow is inevitably another day.
98. CORY SULLIVAN, 2009
Citi Field was ushered into existence as a great park for triples, therefore a perfect park for perennial leadoff hitter Jose Reyes. Yet nobody presented more compelling evidence that the dimensions could create a little old-time basepaths excitement than Cory Sullivan, an erstwhile Rockies outfielder who joined the injury-riddled Mets in July and ran relatively wild, posting five three-baggers in a 32-game span. With Reyes confined to the DL, Citi Field seemed to have been built specifically for Sullivan, who finished second on the club in triples in less than half-a-season on the roster. Sullivan, however, ran to Houston as a free agent in the offseason following 2009 and never played at Citi Field again.
97. ROBERTO ALOMAR, 2002-2003
The phrase “won the offseason” never resonated more strongly than in December of 2001 when the Mets pulled off what appeared to be a heist, trading for surefire future first-ballot Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar. Alomar was a huge part of winning teams in Toronto, Baltimore and most recently Cleveland. Though he was heading into his age 34 season, he’d shown no signs of slowing when he was 33, having hit .336 in ’01 with 20 homers, 30 steals and well over 100 runs scored. None of the players given up to get him — including megahyped outfield prospect Alex Escobar— would come back to substantively haunt the Mets. For good measure, Alomar had fond childhood memories of Shea Stadium, with his dad Sandy having played for the Yankees there the two seasons Yankee Stadium was being refurbished (after playing briefly for the Mets before Robbie was born). We’re talking about the perfect offseason trade here, except for one stubborn detail: Roberto Alomar was a bust as a Met. Perhaps no high-profile Met acquisition was more disappointing. His range disappeared. His hitting evaporated. He fought for what appeared to be a silly reason with one of his teammates (Roger Cedeño, who reportedly teased him over what young Alomar looked like on his rookie card). After a dozen consecutive All-Star seasons, not even Alomar’s AL reputation could win him election to the NL squad. He fell far and fast and was traded by the middle of 2003, the second consecutive season when Alomar’s Mets had inverted from promising in winter to unwatchable by summer. Robbie did play almost every day, did collect his 2,500 hit in a Mets uniform, and “NEW YORK, N.L.” does appear on his Hall of Fame plaque, but the sour aftertaste of his term in Flushing doubtlessly contributed to pushing his election off to a second ballot. Elaborated no-voter Marty Noble  in 2010, “During his 222-game tour with the Mets, Alomar repeatedly spit in the face of the game by playing with conspicuous apathy.”
96. ANDERSON HERNANDEZ, 2005-2007; 2009
Man, could this kid play defense. Enough so that after his widely craved late-season 2005 promotion from Norfolk revealed his second base skills, his slow-to-connect bat (0-for-17 before a single in the ninth inning on Closing Day) was overlooked or at least forgiven. Penciled into lineups alongside David Wright (22), Jose Reyes (22) and Mike Jacobs (24), Anderson Hernandez, a month shy of 23 upon his arrival, was going to be part of a tantalizingly youthful infield that would catapult the Mets to full contention in 2006. Anderson proceeded to play his role as directed, flying through the air  with the greatest of ease as the ’06 Mets elevated themselves above the NL East pack by mid-April. Unfortunately, Hernandez’s glove, as well as the rest of him, was put on the shelf by a bulging disc in back, something you wouldn’t intuit would sideline an athlete so young. Anderson wound up missing the bulk of that Eastern Division championship season and was never the Mets’ everyday second baseman again. Oh, but how he could field when he was.
95. NELSON FIGUEROA, 2008-2009
With the eighteenth pick of the thirtieth round of the 1995 amateur draft — the 833rd pick overall — the New York Mets selected Nelson Figueroa, righthanded pitcher from Brandeis University. Born and raised in Brooklyn as a Mets fan, this draft pick was a story set to write itself. Nobody, however, would have guessed it would be a longform story, as Figgie would pass through five other major league organizations, endure labrum and rotator cuff surgery, miss an entire professional season, tour Mexico and Taiwan in an effort to regain notice, and require thirteen years before making his Mets debut. Was it worth the wait? Considering it took place at Shea Stadium in front of at least a hundred friends and family members, involved a perfect game bid of 4⅔ innings, and resulted in a win for the 33-year-old journeyman, one would have to say it was. Nelson was certainly satisfied. “It was everything I dream it would be,” he said that April night in 2008. “To come back in baseball and pitch for my hometown team, this journey has been incredible. It’s storybook-like.” Though the rest of Figueroa’s story in Flushing lacked plot development nearly as compelling (he went in 6-11, starting 16 games over two seasons), his final Mets chapter put a bold period on his stay, as he shut out the Astros on a four-hitter in Game 162 of 2009.
94. DAVID CONE, 2003
Also a Met from 1987-1992
David’s 21st-century Mets stint was pure anaConeism. He’d been gone from the Mets for more than a decade and had embedded himself in New York baseball lore more for his world champion American League exploits when he was convinced by a couple of similarly venerable pitchers, John Franco and Al Leiter, to come out of one-year retirement and come to Port St. Lucie to give baseball one more throw. Lo and behold, the 20-game-winner from 1988 had enough left to make Art Howe’s rotation and start the season’s fourth game. Anachronistic or not, 40-year-old Cone turned back the clock that frosty Friday night, blanking the Expos for five innings, ending his Mets return with a flourish out of a storied Flushing past, striking out Vladimir Guerrero with two runners on to put a Conehead on his return engagement. By May, David would re-retire, assigning his Mets presence once and for all to the past.
93. SHAWN ESTES, 2002
On June 15, 2002, Shawn Estes threw seven dominating innings, shutting out the hated Yankees at Shea Stadium while striking out eleven of them and, for good measure, whacked a two-run homer off despised visiting starter Roger Clemens. All of it culminated in an 8-0 thrashing that under 99 of 100 circumstances would have totally delighted every Mets fans in existence, especially considering Clemens also gave up a home run to his personal nemesis (and vice versa) Mike Piazza. But this was the hundredth circumstance, the one that had the Rocket showing his ample ass at the plate against the Mets for the first time since he threw a bat handle at Piazza in the 2000 World Series. Mets fans had been yearning for revenge against Clemens ever since. The chance to get even fell into the left hand of Estes, a starter in good standing for the 2000 San Francisco Giants and, as such, completely detached from the furies of two Octobers earlier. Estes threw in the general direction of Clemens’s backside anyway. He missed. Nobody of a Met stripe was happy. The 8-0 win was thus viewed as consolation rather than conquest. Moral? No good deed goes unpunished (and vice versa).
92. ERIC VALENT, 2004-2005
Eric Valent had singled in the second inning at Olympic Stadium on July 29, 2004. He doubled in the third and homered in the fifth. One particular type of base hit shy of the cycle, Valent unwittingly channeled the spirit of Alexander Hamilton as eventually channeled by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Eric Valent was not throwin’ away his shot. Sure enough, when he lined a Roy Corcoran pitch down the right field line at the Big O, Eric took his shot, and it was as big as the one Billy Joel had written about a quarter-century earlier. First base? Not big enough. Second base. Still not big enough. Third base? That’s the shot Valent was taking. He ran and ran and never stopped until third base was in sight…and he made it, collecting the eighth cycle in Mets history. Sure as shootin’, it was worth a shot.
91. ROBINSON CANCEL, 2008-2009
Talk about keeping your powder dry. Robinson Cancel played in fifteen games for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1999 and then spent the next eight seasons in the minors, affiliated and otherwise. He re-emerged a major leaguer in June of 2008 with the Mets, who at the time groped for anybody who could give them a quality at-bat. In the nightcap of an Father’s Day makeup Interleague doubleheader, Robinson pinch-hit for Pedro Martinez and introduced himself as the Texas Rangers’ daddy, stroking a tiebreaking two-run, sixth-inning single to center that proved the difference in a critical 4-2 Mets win. It didn’t save Willie Randolph’s job — he was fired as manager late the next night in Anaheim — but it did serve to keep Cancel’s number handy should the Mets need another big AB later in the season. On September 25, Randolph’s successor Jerry Manuel started Robinson behind the plate as the Mets pursued a playoff spot. Once again, Cancel culture prevailed, this time in the eighth when Robinson singled home another Met reclamation project, Ramon Martinez, with the run that knotted the Cubs at six. The Mets would win an inning later, forging their final Shea Stadium walkoff triumph. For someone who showed up in big league box scores approximately every decade, Robinson Cancel certainly knew how to make his appearances count.