So 2020 was a … strange year, on the baseball field and everywhere else. (You might have noticed.) A global pandemic forced a jury-rigged, stop-start 60-game baseball season, which the Mets proceeded to botch, passing up perhaps the easiest path to the playoffs ever available. Even beyond that, though, 2020 was what we now know was the last year of the Wilpon era, with the usual roster heavy on retreads and castoffs and prospects turned suspects.
2021 is likely to be another incomplete, at least somewhat experimental baseball season, but it already promises to be a very different one in terms of payroll, philosophy and — one hopes — results. And that’s made 2020 already feel like it’s a long time ago.
But we have our duties regardless, and among them is welcoming another class of matriculating Mets to The Holy Books!
Background: I have a trio of binders, long ago dubbed The Holy Books (THB) by Greg, that contain a baseball card for every Met on the all-time roster. They’re in order of arrival in a big-league game: Tom Seaver is Class of ’67, Mike Piazza is Class of ’98, etc. There are extra pages for the rosters of the two World Series winners, the managers, ghosts (we got a new one this year), and one for the 1961 Expansion Draft. That page begins with Hobie Landrith and ends with the infamous Lee Walls , the only THB resident who neither played for the Mets, managed the Mets, or got stuck with the dubious status of Met ghost.
If a player gets a Topps card as a Met, I use it unless it’s a truly horrible — Topps was here a decade before there were Mets, so they get to be the card of record. No Mets card by Topps? Then I look for a minor-league card, a non-Topps Mets card, a Topps non-Mets card, or anything else. That means I spend the season scrutinizing new card sets in hopes of finding a) better cards of established Mets; b) cards to stockpile for prospects who might make the Show; and most importantly c) a card for each new big-league Met. At the end of the year I go through the stockpile and subtract the maybe somedays who became nopes. (Lots of nopes — tough business, baseball.) Eventually that yields this column, previous versions of which can be found here , here , here , here , here , here , here , here , here , here , here , here , here , here  and here .)
Still here after all that? Hell, it’s winter — where would you go? Well then:
Andres Gimenez: One of the brightest spots of 2020, Gimenez is now an employee of the Cleveland Soon-to-No-Longer-Be-Indians. (See what we mean by 2020 seeming like a long time ago?) Gimenez arrived earlier than expected and immediately paid dividends, quickly endearing himself to us as one of those players whom you can rely on to do the right thing without needing to think about it. And he showed good range and hands at all three infield skill positions, making him essentially the opposite of a decade or so of Mets. The Mets traded that potentially bright future, but in return they got back Francisco Lindor, a bona fide superstar with a chance to become a franchise cornerstone and New York icon. That’ll work! Some crummy Bowman card, but he has a ’21 Topps card on deck.
Jake Marisnick: A plus center fielder, Marisnick showed flashes of also being a decent hitter in Houston, and essentially stepped into Juan Lagares’ role in New York, complete with the limitations and questions we’d had about Lagares. (The Mets, entertainingly, then brought Lagares back. With his No. 12 adorning the back of Eduardo Nunez, Lagares wore 87 for a single game, then switched to 15. The head, it spins.) We never got a verdict on Marisnick because he was mostly hurt; now he’s a free agent. A dollop of extra credit for being the Mets’ “wet guy,”  though one could argue the optimum number of wet guys per club is zero. Got a cool 2020 Topps Update card out of the whole affair, at least.
Dellin Betances: Gigantic former Yankee power reliever returned to duty across town and demonstrated he wasn’t fully recovered from the injury woes that wrecked his 2019. (Here’s a reminder that you should be much more worried about hearing a pitcher has a bad shoulder than that he has a bum elbow.) Importing him was a familiar Wilponian gambit: “Let’s give this recuperating player a key role because if the healing process goes really really well he’ll be a bargain.” How many times did the Mets try this gambit post-Madoff? How many times did it work? Betances will be back, and hopefully useful this time. Got a terrible horizontal card in Topps Update, and if you’ve read this column before you’ll be familiar with my warnings that horizontal baseball cards lead to drug abuse, Satanism and spontaneous combustion. Subbed that horror for a nondescript but properly vertical Topps Heritage card.
Eduardo Nunez: Useful veteran coming off year wrecked by injuries … see above and sigh. Nunez, predictably, got all of two ABs for New York, though hey, he was 1-for-2. Got a groovy Topps Update card in which he’s wearing shades. It’s the little things. Sometimes it’s only the little things.
Hunter Strickland: Annoying Giants blowhard saw his career hit the skids a few years back, a career tumble that culminated with his washing out with the Nats in the run-up to the 2020 season. Except it didn’t culminate with that, because the Mets plucked Strickland off the scrap heap, dusted him off and marveled that someone had discarded a perfectly good reliever. Strickland soon disabused them of this notion and was quietly returned to the scrap heap where he should have stayed in the first place. Perhaps this is as good a place as any to stop and sigh with relief that our baseball team is (presumably) done behaving like it’s in the rag trade. Some stupid old Giants card.
Rick Porcello: The Mets imported Porcello and Michael Wacha for the back of their rotation (which should have still included Zack Wheeler, but that’s another post), only to wind up needing more from both of them when Noah Syndergaard’s elbow exploded and Marcus Stroman opted out. Porcello seemed like a reasonable gamble, having won a Cy Young award in 2016 and pitched capably in 2018, but he’d interspersed those campaigns with dreadful 2017 and 2019 seasons. Porcello grew up as a Mets fan and seemed like a good guy in the clubhouse, but he was terrible outside of it, giving up hits by the bushel and forcing the bullpen to do things it couldn’t do. He gets a Topps Heritage card — the ’20 Heritages recycled the 1971 design, which is far from my favorite but seemed perfect for such a deeply strange year.
Michael Wacha: Like Porcello, Wacha brought a track record of past success and an iffy future to a present-day gig at the back of the rotation. Like Porcello, the Mets wound up asking more of him than was wise or arguably fair. Like Porcello, he largely didn’t deliver, giving up an ungodly number of home runs. Wacha’s only 29, but fixing whatever’s wrong with him is now somebody else’s problem. Topps Heritage card in which he’s in the same pose as Porcello, appropriately enough.
Chasen Shreve: A skinny reliever who looked like he’d been living under a bridge, Shreve was a nice surprise in an underwhelming bullpen, dominating lefties and holding his own against righties. The Mets non-tendered him after the season, which seemed a bit mean, but then middle relievers are spaghetti thrown against a wall, and one year’s success or failure often says little about the next year’s. Ask Brad Brach — or a hundred other guys — about that. 2019 Topps Heritage card in which Shreve is a Cardinal, clean-cut and unrecognizable.
David Peterson: He shouldn’t have been in the rotation at all, and wound up leading the club in wins. 2020, wooo! Peterson was pressed into service when the rotation was undone by Wilponian gimcrackery, injuries and opt-outs, and opened eyes in his debut against the Red Sox, showing poise beyond his years and battling his way to a victory. He continued to impress all season, riding a plus slider and a brainy approach to pitch selection and location. He’ll be asked to do less in 2021, which is both wise and the kind of thing that wouldn’t have happened under the previous regime. Old Bowman card in which his Mets uniform is a Photoshop job. A week from now he’ll have a ’21 Topps card. (Please don’t let it be a horizontal.)
Brian Dozier: A former star with the Twins and a useful piece with the Nats, Dozier showed very little with the Mets, was shoved aside by a resurgent Robinson Cano, and was soon off the roster. Years from now you’ll take a Sporcle quiz about Mets second basemen and Dozier’s line will still be blank when time expires. When his name materializes, you’ll shrug and agree you had no chance at that one. Old Nats card.
Ryan Cordell: A defensive specialist who’s never learned to hit a breaking ball, Cordell didn’t do much with the Mets but somehow got a Topps Heritage card. Every year there’s a guy who inexplicably gets a baseball card, which as an OCD card-collecting doofus I welcome despite the attendant bewilderment.
Franklyn Kilome: A tall, skinny kid with a live arm, Kilome came over from the Phillies in the Asdrubal Cabrera trade. He was damaged goods when he arrived, missing the entire 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. Oh, those wacky Wilpons! Kilome pitched well in his first outing but after that was consigned to irregular mop-up work — the dreaded Mike Maddux role. It didn’t go well — it didn’t go well at all — but it’s not fair to judge him for that. Hopefully we’ll have something kinder to say in the future. Old Bowman card, Photoshopped uni.
Jared Hughes: Famous for sprinting in from the bullpen, to the apparent annoyance of former teammate J.T. Realmuto, who will not be a Met so fuck him. I said “famous” but OK, I didn’t remember the sprinting until I Google’d Hughes, which I did because I recalled nothing about him except that he was not, in fact, the same guy as Chasen Shreve. (Not only is he his own discrete person, he’s also right-handed.) Pitched pretty well, now a free agent, middle relievers, spaghetti against the wall, etc. Topps Heritage card in which he looks like Chasen Shreve, which is just mean.
Billy Hamilton: Famously fast center fielder and base stealer arrived in a minor trade with the Giants, hit .045 and made a horrific base-running error in a tight game against the Phillies, after which his services were no longer required. A boisterous cheerleader from behind the dugout rail, for whatever that’s worth. 2020 Topps Update card … in which he’s a Giant.
Ali Sanchez: Young, defense-first catcher got a call-up amid Wilson Ramos’s various woes and Tomas Nido testing positive for COVID. He didn’t make much of the chance, but he did collect his first big-league hit, and he only just turned 24. Speaking of young catchers, pour one out for Patrick Mazeika, who logged time on the Mets’ roster but never got into a game. He’s 27 and hit .245 in Double-A in 2019, making you wonder if 2020 was the closest he’ll ever get. For now, Mazeika’s the 10th “ghost” in Mets history and the third without a big-league appearance for any other team. Here’s hoping for another sighting of both young receivers; for now, Sanchez gets a Topps Heritage Minors card as a Rumble Pony. Whatever the hell that is.
Ariel Jurado: Beefy Rangers castoff was imported for a spot start against the Orioles, got destroyed, and was never seen again. Jurado has three total Topps cards — an Update card and two team factory-set issues. This would be quirky if he’d sported an ERA a third the size of what he did; since he didn’t, it’s annoying.
Miguel Castro: A flamethrower who could be a valuable setup guy or even a closer if he could throw strikes more consistently, which might augur future success and might augur nothing but further muttering, seeing how you could have said the same thing about several thousand pitchers in baseball history. Castro’s on his fourth organization and the Orioles gave up on him, which ought to tell you something; on the other hand, he only just turned 26, so keep hope alive! Skinny to the point that every time he came into a game I wanted the trainer to bring him a cheeseburger. Rockies card from a while back.
Robinson Chirinos: A part-timer until his mid-30s, Chirinos found his groove when most catchers with his CV would have feared becoming unemployed, putting up three years with double-digit homers from 2017 through 2019. That was enough for the Rangers to give him a one-year deal at nearly $6 million with an option for 2021, but Chirinos never got untracked and wound up with the Mets, where things didn’t go much better than they had in Texas. My goodness but catcher turned into a black hole in 2020, didn’t it? Don’t forget the Mets also brought Rene Rivera back! Topps Update Rangers card sporting an INAUGURAL SEASON tag for Globe Life Field, which hosted the World Series despite the Rangers not being involved. And you thought our year was weird.
Erasmo Ramirez: A rotund 30-year-old, Ramirez was serviceable for a stretch with Seattle and Tampa Bay but fell off a cliff in 2018. The Mets signed him to a minor-league deal, brought him up in September and probably wished they’d done so earlier, as he proved one of the bullpen’s more reliable arms down the stretch. Alas, he’s now an employee of the Detroit Tigers. Hey, spaghetti against a wall. Pawsox minor-league card scrounged up on eBay.
Guillermo Heredia: His first hit with New York was a home run; afterwards, he talked about how Robinson Cano had been a father figure for him since he came to the U.S. from Cuba, which makes you wonder how he took a certain bit of offseason news. Cano has taken a wrecking ball to his reputation and his Cooperstown chances, but Heredia’s the most recent in a long list of guys who said glowing things about him as a teammate and mentor. Damn shame, that. Anyway, Heredia’s signed on for another tour of duty in 2021, and has the speed and glove to be a perfectly serviceable fourth outfielder. Topps Heritage card as a Mariner.