Welcome to the third 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.
80. JEFF FRANCOEUR, 2009
Also a Met in 2010
79. RYAN CHURCH, 2008-2009
The decade of the 2000s was not one for consistency in right field. Just about every year somebody else was penciled in as the prevailing “9” in Met scorecards. Nor was this a new trend; the position had gone no more than temporarily occupied since the 1990 departure of Darryl Strawberry. As the void approached its 20th anniversary, the Mets attempted to fill it with a couple of very different personalities and skill sets. In 2008, the club welcomed Ryan Church aboard. Low-key in demeanor, Ryan was capable of getting into a good groove, but is mostly remembered for a bad break, sustaining a particularly debilitating concussion compounded when the Mets were slow to add him to the disabled list, choosing instead to have him fly many hours with the team. (Some protocol.) Midway through 2009, the Mets said “amen” to trading Church to Atlanta, swapping him straight up for Jeff Francoeur, erstwhile Braves phenom. He could still throw well, sometimes hit and make the occasional big play, never failing to smile in the bargain. Vivaciousness wasn’t Francoeur’s problem. Frenchy, however, rarely met four balls he liked, tamping his on-base percentage down somewhere in the neighborhood of his batting average. The Mets would trade him before 2010 ended.
78. BUBBA TRAMMELL, 2000
There is a parenthetical nature to Bubba Trammell’s achievements during his brief time as a Met. In his very first at-bat after coming over in a midseason trade from Tampa Bay, Trammell launched a three-run homer. In his final game, which happened to be Game Five of the 2000 World Series, he scored the tying run in the inning the Mets took a 2-1 lead off Andy Pettitte. In between? Bubba was not asked to do all that much. Bobby Valentine started him only seven times after his powerful late-July debut, and his insertion in the World Series lineup — Trammell’s only postseason start — was something of a desperate measure given that the Mets were down three games to one. The Mets traded him to San Diego the following December, and Trammell would give New York a cause for regret. As a Padre in 2001, Bubba drove in 92 runs, 36 more than any Met outfielder delivered.
77. ANGEL PAGAN, 2008-2009
Also a Met from 2010-2011; No. 30 Met of the 2010s
For four seasons, the top of the Mets’ order flashed a NO VACANCY sign to any player with leadoff aspirations. Jose Reyes had moved in to stay in 2005 and was beyond budging until an injury took him out for the bulk of 2009. Something similar could have been said of center field, which was the exclusive province of Carlos Beltran over the same time period until the ’09 DL decided it needed another high-profile denizen. Enter Angel Pagan, whose own first Met season of 2008 was shortened by a mishap with a side wall. As Jerry Manuel’s contingency center fielder and first batter of practically every game across the second half of the season, Pagan showed what he could do. Angel batted .306 for the year, piled up eleven triples and made a breathtaking trip around the bases via a leadoff inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the first inning off Phillies starter Pedro Martinez in the former Met ace’s first Citi Field appearance (it was the same game Jeff Francoeur ended by lining into an unassisted triple play, so maybe it wasn’t the most breathtaking moment of the day).
76. DAE-SUNG KOO, 2005
Let’s be straight: nobody cares what kind of relief pitcher Dae-Sung Koo was in the one season the southpaw was a Met, so we’ll dispense with a reading of the statistical minutes and get right to the main course of why Mr. Koo’s tenure will forever resonate in Subway Series lore. On May 21, 2005, Dae-Sung made his second plate appearance. His first, earlier in the week, involved the reliever from Korea getting his at-bat over with as harmlessly as possible by standing far back in the box and watching four pitches (three of them strikes) zip by. Koo hadn’t ever batted professionally in Asia, and he wasn’t going to start now. Yet facing no-doubt Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, in a lefty-vs.-lefty matchup that prohibitively favored the lefty on the mound, the heretofore reluctant batter swung and proved that if you make contact, you never know. You would have never known that Mr. Koo could double off the Big Unit, but he did it. Mr. Koo’s wild ride continued two pitches later. Jose Reyes bunted. The play went to first. The runner went to third and kept going. In the oddest sacrifice bunt of the decade, Mr. Koo slid home safely under Jorge Posada’s tag. Shea Stadium figuratively exploded in rapture. Maybe literally, too. Dae-Sung Koo never batted in the major leagues again. He didn’t have to.
75. SHAWN GREEN, 2006-2007
Dominoes tumbled in 2006. A reliever got hurt. The Mets thus needed another reliever, so they traded their right fielder. They thus needed another right fielder, so they traded for Shawn Green, a player a little more famous than he was productive by the time he arrived in Flushing. The best-hitting Jewish big leaguer since the legendary Hank Greenberg made matzo meal out of American League pitching in the 1930s, Shawn and New York might have been a match made in heaven (or at least at a Seder) had the Mets traded for him a few years earlier. Between 1998 and 2002, Green averaged 112 RBIs annually. Though Shawn wasn’t quite that kind of slugger anymore, he did man right field well enough to help his new team nail down their first division title in 18 — lucky chai — years and unleashed the throw that set off the two-men-out double play at the plate that defined Game One of the NLDS versus the Dodgers, one of Shawn’s old teams.
74. JAE SEO, 2002-2005
Jae Seo’s reward for doing what was asked of him was a pat on the back and a ticket out of town. After 52 starts in 2003 and 2004, Seo began 2005 as the odd arm out of Willie Randolph’s rotation. Once back in, Jae gave the new manager as good an outing as could have been desired, going seven innings, striking out eight and giving up only one run against the Phillies in an eventual 3-2 Mets win. His reward? A planned numbers-driven demotion to Norfolk. Seo wouldn’t be back in New York until August, continuing on to an 8-2 record with an ERA of 2.59. The Mets were so grateful for his service that they traded him in January 2006 to Los Angeles.
73. RICHARD HIDALGO, 2004
When the Beach Boys sang about having fun all summer long in 1964, they could have dedicated those sentiments to Richard Hidalgo. Make it a long-distance dedication, because it wouldn’t have made any sense until they saw what Hidalgo did as a Met in July of 2004, a couple of weeks after the Mets picked the veteran outfielder up from the Astros in exchange for David Weathers. Did somebody say weather? Hidalgo must’ve really enjoyed the way the temperatures rose in New York in July, for that was the month Richard began by ripping a baseball a day over a fence for five consecutive days. No Met had executed that kind of home run streak before, no Met has matched it since. From June 20 through September 16, roughly following the contours of the summer solstice, Richard went deep 21 times (including five much-appreciated bombs off Yankee pitching). The Summer of ’04 was Hidalgo’s season within a season and it was a sweet season, indeed.
72. VICTOR DIAZ, 2004-2006
Nothing raises the spirits of a dejected fan base like thinking a gem is being uncovered right before their eyes. Victor Diaz may have come to professional baseball as a 37th-round Dodger draft choice, but by the time the Mets promoted him in September of 2004, fresh off a 24-home run campaign at Norfolk, the outfielder appeared ready to shine. His first homer came on a Saturday at a Shea swarming with Cubs fans who found themselves suddenly silenced when rookie Diaz went deep in the ninth off LaTroy Hawkins to tie the score and effectively quash the visitors’ playoff hopes (the Mets would win in eleven on Craig Brazell’s only big league bomb). That Victor had grown up in Chicago made it a great story. That he bore a passing resemblance to Manny Ramirez vaulted him to the top of the Mets prospect list, at least in the minds of fans who could only imagine their fourth-place club harboring that kind of elite slugger. Omar Minaya, who took over as GM soon after, was similarly sanguine toward the new kid in town. “I see Victor as one of the three players who are at the core of our future,” he said, lumping Diaz in with Jose Reyes and David Wright. The mini-Manny framing wore off as projections for Victor Diaz’s status as the next great Met power bat proved overly optimistic. Still, there exists within the Met annals something recognized as The Victor Diaz Game, and not every callup produces that kind of gem.
71. MIKE JACOBS, 2005
Also a Met in 2010
From filling a roster spot to tearing the retractable roof off Bank One Ballpark, Mike Jacobs enjoyed the ride of his life all in the span of about a week. Slated to be sent back to Triple-A after not playing a lick for several days, the seven-season farmhand was granted a pinch-hit at-bat on the wrong end of a Shea Stadium blowout. He turned it into a three-run homer and a major league reprieve. Kept on the team as the Mets flew to Arizona, Mike practically flew southwest without a plane. At the end of a thudding four-game series sweep versus the Diamondbacks (the Mets plated 39 runs), Mike’s career stat line included four homers, nine ribbies and a .500 batting average. Norfolk was clearly in his rearview mirror. Staying in the lineup for the rest of the season, Jacobs ended his abbreviated 2005 with eleven home runs in all and a presumed reservation to play first base for the 2006 Mets. He was indeed a starting first baseman in the NL East that next season, but it was for the Marlins, who gladly accepted Mike in the trade package that sent Carlos Delgado to Queens.