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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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Mets of the 2000s: 30-21

Welcome to the eighth 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.

30. JOSE VALENTIN, 2006-2007
The Mets might have viewed Jose Valentin as a square peg, but the round hole they had at second base had begun to ostentatiously gape. Driven to try anything there, they inserted the veteran they viewed mostly as a pinch-hitter. To the surprise of depth chart trackers everywhere, the player projected well behind several other second base candidates in March was ensconced as the Mets’ starting second baseman before May ended. By trusting a second Jose in the middle of their infield, the Mets received production and professionalism, peaking on September 18, when Valentin launched a pair of homers to help the Mets clinch their first division title since 1988. “Other” Jose-Jose-Jose popped eighteen homers during the regular season and drove in five more runs during the NLCS.

29. LENNY HARRIS, 2000-2001
Also a Met in 1998
28. JOE McEWING, 2000-2004
A bench is only strong as the players who understand that though they might sit on it for innings on end, that moment when they are told to get off it could be as important as any in the game. Mets bench strength was sturdy in the early 2000s whenever Bobby Valentine pointed to Lenny Harris or Joe McEwing. On October 6, 2001, Harris’s talent for hitting in a pinch was cause for Shea celebration as he recorded the 151st pinch-hit of his career. Tina Turner (“simply the best”) wafted over the speakers and Lenny’s teammates surrounded him at first base to commemorate the breaking of Manny Mota’s specialist record. Super Joe’s milestone seemed to be every at-bat he took against Randy Johnson. While his career average wasn’t really 1.000 versus the Big Unit, McEwing made a habit of connecting for big hits with the future Hall of Famer on the mound. Less glamorous but more essential for each Met was the versatility the extraordinarily likable pair gave Bobby V. In 2000, Lenny played first, second, third, left and right, DH’d in Interleague competition, and pinch-hit 45 times after his June reacquisition from Arizona. During that same pennant-winning year, Joe was all over the infield and outfield as needed. In his five seasons as a Met, McEwing pinch-ran 56 times, the most by any player in franchise history.

27. GLENDON RUSCH, 2000-2001
Also a Met in 1999
When nobody was looking, Glendon Rusch snuck into a rotation honing itself for a second consecutive playoff run. Rusch was around a little in 1999, but hardly enough to have a spot locked up for 2000. Yet the lefty earned a shot in mid-April, threw eight innings of four-hit ball at Pittsburgh, and kept coming back for more. By season’s end, Rusch had started thirty times and won eleven games, combining with Al Leiter and Mike Hampton to give the Mets their strongest lefty-leaning starting staff since the halcyon days of Koosman, Matlack and Stone. Assigned to the bullpen for the postseason, the unsung southpaw provided as much relief as Bobby Valentine could have hoped for, throwing 8⅓ innings in all and registering an ERA of 1.08. Most noteworthy were Glendon’s three stabilizing shutout innings in the 10-6 NLCS Game Four slugfest that otherwise shook Shea. The sedation of St. Louis resulted in Rusch’s only career postseason win.

26. BOBBY J. JONES, 2000
Also a Met from 1993-1999
The second-best pitcher to ever come out of Fresno produced the best postseason start ever crafted by a pitcher to come out of Fresno, even if usually reliable Bobby Jones was never going to be mistaken for immortal Tom Seaver. In 2000, it was all he could do to be the best Met pitcher named Bobby Jones. The Mets had a new lefty reliever that year who went by the same handle — Bobby M. Jones from Jersey. For a while, Bobby J. Jones from Cali wasn’t technically a 2000 Met. So unable to get batters out, the eight-year veteran agreed to accept a demotion to Norfolk to sort himself out. Returning from Triple-A at in midseason, the old Bobby Jones morphed into the old Bobby Jones again. Given his first opportunity to pitch in the playoffs in Game Four of the NLDS, he evolved into practically another Seaver, nurturing a gem of a shutout: one hit, two walks, utter mastery. That it also happened to clinch the Division Series didn’t hurt its instant legend. None other than Bob Murphy judged over WFAN that “the Mets have never had a better ballgame pitched in their thirty-nine year history than this game pitched by Bobby Jones.”

25. PEDRO FELICIANO, 2002-2004; 2006-2009
Also a Met in 2010 and 2013; No. 41 Met of the 2010s
If there was a dangerous lefthanded batter intent on doing damage to the Mets at a critical juncture in the latter innings of any game in the late 2000s, chances are Pedro Feliciano would magically appear sixty feet and six inches from him. Beginning in 2006, Feliciano never pitched in fewer than 64 games a year in any year over a five-year span. In 2008 and 2009, Pedro led the National League in appearances and set a Met record in that department twice (he’d do it again in 2010, raising the still-unmatched franchise mark to 90). To underscore his particular role and the value he brought to it, consider Feliciano’s success versus one of the batters he was retained to retire. Pedro battled the Phillies’ lethal lefty slugger Ryan Howard nineteen separate times across the final two seasons of the decade. He walked him twice. He never gave up a hit. The Phillies may have won the NL East war in those years, but head-to-head, Pedro was not readily conquered.

24. TURK WENDELL, 2000-2001
Also a Met from 1997-1999
George Mikan was retired from basketball. Mark Gastineau was retired from football. Wayne Gretzky was recently retired from hockey. But baseball’s signature No. 99 continued doing his thing as the century that began immediately after 1999 got in gear. The endlessly colorful Turk Wendell was still sporting that necklace of teeth he’d personally obtained from other species. He was still slamming the rosin bag as prelude to facing batters. And he was still steering the Mets safely through the latter innings of tight ballgames. In 2000, Turk pitched 77 times in the regular season — registering seventeen holds for the league champs — and six more games in the postseason. During the Mets’ critical Game Three victory over the Yankees in the World Series, Wendell came on in the seventh and struck out his first two batters, keeping the game tied long enough to hand it off to Dennis Cook, who handed it off to John Franco, who, after the Mets broke the tie, handed it off for shall we say save keeping to Armando Benitez. That sequence serves as a reminder of how much the Bobby V Mets relied on their bullpen and how often Turk acted as its anchor. Like the unusually high uniform number, the neckwear and the bit with the bag, Wendell coming through in the clutch was a trademark characteristic.

23. T#M GL@V!NE, 2003-2007
Except for workspace in which to reach his goal of a 300th win, T#m Gl@v!ne didn’t really need the New York Mets. Very much an Atlanta Brave icon, Gl@v!ne was romanced by the Wilpons prior to the 2003 season and accepted an attractive free agent offer to change NL East addresses. Gl@v!ne was used to pitching deep into October, while the Mets of that moment were clearly on a downswing that not even a two-time Cy Young winner was likely to reverse. During his first season at Shea, the would-be ace appeared out of his element pitching for a last-place outfit. He upped his game the next season, joining Mike Piazza to compose the Mets’ All-Star delegation (he’d be chosen again two years later). Eventually T#m settled in for what felt like the long haul, serving as the lone known, dependable quantity as the 2006 playoffs got underway. Indeed, Gl@v!ne, at age 40, won a game apiece in each series the Mets contested. Returning for 2007 with the 300 milestone in sight, the lefty achieved his aspiration on August 5 in Chicago. A week later, the Mets gave him his very own day, emceed by fellow 300 club member Tom Seaver. The fans who’d never warmed to him now applauded him heartily. T#m Gl@v!ne might be remembered fondly — might be remembered as “Tom Glavine,” even — had his Met story ended there, but the 2007 season had some miles left in it. By September they revealed themselves nothing but bad road when the eventual Hall of Famer pitched. In his final three starts, when he was needed to be at his best, Gl@v!ne fell far from it, posting a 14.81 ERA in what became three Met losses. In Game 162, with the Mets and Phillies tied for first and the Wild Card out of reach, T#m took on the Marlins in an absolute must-win…and didn’t, lasting only a third-of-an-inning while being charged with seven earned runs. That balls weren’t necessarily hit terribly hard off him was obscured in the aftermath of the 8-1 loss that finished off a 5-12 Met collapse when Gl@v!ne admitted that while he was “disappointed” by his performance, he was by no means “devastated”. The pitcher of record’s sentiments hardly matched the mood that permeated Flushing on September 30, 2007. Nevertheless, it would be the last thing the pitcher said as a Met and represents the epitaph for his five intermittently effective years in New York.

22. MIKE HAMPTON, 2000
Mike Hampton was acquired by the Mets ahead of the 2000 season for one very specific reason: to pitch the Mets into the World Series. The club that missed its desired October destination by two NLCS wins in 1999 needed somebody stellar to provide it the extra yardage for which its fans so desperately yearned, and Hampton — who was not beyond wearing a football helmet in the dugout — was deemed the man to carry the Mets the rest of the way. While he didn’t match the 22 wins he notched for Houston in ’99, Hampton eventually found his groove, pitching to a 2.39 ERA over his final dozen regular-season starts. Mike had helped the Mets to a Wild Card, but his prime directive was to get them to the World Series. In the 2000 National League Championship Series, the southpaw checked that most enormous box in a most impressive fashion. In NLCS Game One at St. Louis, Mike threw seven shutout innings en route to a 6-2 Mets win. In NLCS Game Five at Shea, Mike completely suffocated the Cardinals, tossing a three-hit shutout that ended in champagne showers. The Mets had won the pennant and Mike Hampton was voted the Championship Series MVP. With the final year of the contract he brought over from the Astros expired, he departed as a free agent after the World Series, accepting copious amounts of money to change uniforms, as athletes will…and identifying other factors as compelling him to make the switch in apparel, as athletes also will.

21. JAY PAYTON, 2000-2002
Also a Met from 1998-1999
Tom Petty never declared a favorite Met, but Jay Payton might have fit Tom’s bill, as one of the franchise’s most promising prospects of the ’90s exemplified Petty’s theory about the waiting being the hardest part. Drafted in the supplemental portion of 1994’s first round, injuries got in the way of Payton’s rise through the system, and the center fielder didn’t make the Mets for good until 2000. When he did, it took him some time to claim a regular role — center field didn’t become his alone until early June — but when he did, he broke only the hearts of the opposition. There were catches against walls that Spider-Man would have envied. There were seventeen homers, including one that won an extra-inning game versus Milwaukee in September, just as perennial late-season doubts were creeping into the Metropolitan conversation. There was a third-place finish in NL Rookie of the Year voting. And when things got as real could be, with the Mets having given up a ninth-inning lead to the Giants in the second game of the NLDS, there was Payton singling in Darryl Hamilton from second to recapture the upper hand for the Mets, enabling them to tie their set in San Francisco. Jay would hit safely in all five intracity World Series games, crowning his only Fall Classic appearance with a ninth-inning, three-run homer off Mariano Rivera, the only home run the usually untouchable closer surrendered across 36⅓ career World Series innings.

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