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Mets of the 2000s: 90-81

Welcome to the second 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 [1]. These are the more or less best Mets we rooted for as Mets fans during the decade FAFIF came to be…and the decade future former Mets farmhand [2] Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy. 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.

[3]

90. CARLOS GOMEZ, 2007
Also a Met in 2019
He had youth, not much more than 21 years of it upon his May 2007 promotion from New Orleans. He had speed, as evidenced by the 12 bases he stole in limited action and the plays he made in left and right. He had the potential of a Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus Top 100 prospect. It was enough to make Mets fans salivate over what Carlos Gomez might do in the years ahead. It was also enough to make the Minnesota Twins want him as the biggest name in a package of promising players before they would send Johan Santana to New York. Go-Go would go on to a fairly stellar career that a dozen years after beginning at Shea Stadium would end, poetically enough, at Citi Field.

89. NICK EVANS, 2008-2009
Also a Met from 2010-2011
That rare Double-A callup, Nick Evans burst to first-day prominence in May of 2008, debuting by doubling not once, not twice, but thrice within the expansive confines of Coors Field. Starting a big league slate with a 1.500 slugging percentage will raise expectations, and while Nick couldn’t keep up the pace (who could?), his bat became reliable enough for Jerry Manuel to depend upon down the stretch of Evans’s rookie season. The manager trusted him as his starting left fielder the final day of Shea Stadium, with a playoff spot not to mention history on the line.

88. BRIAN STOKES, 2008-2009
87. LUIS AYALA, 2008
How do you replace one of the top closers of his generation? When Billy Wagner was lost to an injury in early August 2008, not to return to the mound for more than a year, Omar Minaya stitched a bullpen’s back end out of two relievers heretofore off the Metsopotamian radar: Luis Ayala, traded over from the Nats ,and erstwhile Devil Ray Brian Stokes, most recently a Triple-A Zephyr. Together Ayala (a win and seven saves in the course of 11 appearances) and Stokes (an ERA under 1.00 over 13 straight outings) Plan B’d the Mets through their first Wagsless month, fort largely intact. Come the latter half of September, all Mets relief bets were off, but the duo did keep the Mets’ pursuit of the postseason a little more alive that might have been anticipated when Wagner went down.

86. MARK GUTHRIE, 2002
Bad lefthanded relieving can really kill an otherwise good season. Good lefthanded relieving can only do so much for an otherwise bad season, but during 2002, when all about him crumbled, Mark Guthrie held up his share of the Shea bullpen infrastructure. Lefty batters couldn’t touch the veteran (.187) and righty batters homered off him only once in 94 at-bats. A mere six of 37 runners Mark inherited scored. His 68 appearances yielded a nifty ERA of 2.44. The 2002 Mets failed as a unit, but in his only year in the orange and blue, Guthrie was well within his individual rights to declare, “I got my men.”

85. KRIS BENSON, 2004-2005
Although Kris Benson was the No. 1 pick in the nation when the Pirates drafted him in 1996, over time he might have grown used to being overshadowed. That will happen when you pitch for a while on a staff anchored by eventual Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez and T#m Gl@v!ne, but most of that was a symptom of being married to the former Anna Adams, a woman who had no problem attracting attention on her own. Though Kris was a name pitcher when the Mets swung a deadline trade for him in 2004, the acquisition that brought him to New York became a footnote to the other deal the Mets made the same day, the one that sent their own No. 1 draft pick, Scott Kazmir (chosen 15th overall in 2002) to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano. While Mets fans bemoaned the surrender of a highly touted left arm for one that was wild and, ultimately, irreparable, the reception for righty Benson was applauded politely and welcomed without much fanfare. Getting Anna seemed the bigger story [4] during most of Kris’s competent two-season Shea stay, especially when she dressed as Santa’s slinky helper for the team’s holiday party for kids. Kris was Santa; nobody noticed. The getup may not have been deemed family-appropriate outside the Benson household. Ho-ho-no, said the Mets, trading Kris to Baltimore less than a month after Christmas. The Bensons are no longer a couple, even if they now and again show up in the media [5] as an item.

84. MO VAUGHN, 2002-2003
83. ESIX SNEAD, 2002; 2004
82. OMIR SANTOS, 2009
A home run can travel far and, in the mind’s eye, it can keep going into legend. Mo Vaughn hit more than a few as a Met, if not nearly as many as were hoped for when Bobby Valentine campaigned to acquire him from Anaheim after Vaughn was inactive for a year. The former American League MVP socked 29 homers for New York before his arthritic knee sidelined him for good. The most vividly memorable of them was one that soared an estimated 505 feet and glanced off the massive Budweiser sign [6] that dominated the Shea scoreboard, the consensus choice for most powerful home run any Met ever hit, at least among those preserved on video. Vaughn’s bomb of June 2002 came in a losing cause, which can’t be said of Esix Snead’s lone homer, whacked the same season, well after the Mets had dropped out of contention. But on the September Saturday night when Snead stepped forward, the recently promoted Esix put his bat and a win on the Met map, launching a three-run eleventh-inning job that beat the Expos and briefly cheered Flushing toward the end of an otherwise disconsolate year. Fast-forward to the Citi Field era and turn north toward Boston, where unsung catcher Omir Santos poked a Jonathan Papelbon pitch just above Fenway Park’s Green Monster to engineer a dramatic 3-2 victory that happened in May 2009 but is probably airing again right this very minute as a Mets Classic on SNY.

81. FERNANDO TATIS, 2008-2009
Also a Met in 2010
The last time the baseball world had given a ton of thought to Fernando Tatis, he was hitting two grand slams in the same inning off the same pitcher, future Met Chan Ho Park. This was 1999, when Tatis was a Cardinal en route to a bang-up season that featured 34 home runs and 107 runs batted in along with a newborn son he named after himself. It was a great way to usher out a century, but Tatis the elder would fade from baseball consciousness as the 2000s progressed. He didn’t play professionally in 2004 and 2005 and was marooned in the minors for the entirety of 2007. In 2008, at the age of 33, Fernando made a comeback with the Mets, and the Mets couldn’t have been happier. Looking to keep playing so he could help fund the building of a church [7] in his Dominican Republic hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, his return proved a blessing [8] in Flushing. The veteran hopped off the scrapheap to pile up valuable hits, none more sorely needed than the walkoff double he delivered in the bottom of the twelfth on May 28 to defeat the Marlins and push the scuffling Mets in the general direction of contention. By season’s end, Tatis had garnered Comeback Player of the Year honors. In the 2020s, Fernando is better known as father to his lavishly compensated [9] namesake son, who currently stars for the Padres in a city appropriately nicknamed Slam Diego. Power apparently runs in the Tatis blood.