Welcome to the final chapter of Faith and Fear’s historical countdown of the The Top 100 Mets of the 2000s. A full introduction to what we’ve been 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.
Today, given our Mets of the 2000s at No. 2 and No. 1, we recall more than a little.
2. DAVID WRIGHT, 2004-2009
Also a Met from 2010-2016 & in 2018; missed 2017 due to injury; No. 2 Mets of the 2010s
1. MIKE PIAZZA, 2000-2005
Also a Met from 1998-1999
You can almost see an older David Wright, the version we settled in with during the 2010s, in the role of Randall “Pink” Floyd, quarterback and easygoing big man on campus at Lee High School in Texas in the spring of 1976 in Richard Linklater’s 1993 film Dazed and Confused. Everybody from every clique at Lee likes Randy. Nobody doesn’t like him. No wonder, especially when we see him take under his wing incoming freshman (and Tim Lincecum hairalike ) Mitch Kramer. Kramer’s had a bad last day of eighth grade, absorbing the paddling that’s tradition in their neck of the woods from the high school juniors whose ascent to seniordom they mark by leaving marks on unlucky ninth-graders in waiting. When nobody else is around, Randy bucks up Mitch, letting him know, in so many words, that this is just how their high school world turns; that not every newly minted senior at Lee is a jerk; that Mitch is hardly the first freshman to absorb a licking; and that if he acts as if none of the paddling of the swollen ass with paddles  bothers him, everything will soon be swell.
“Put some ice on it,” QB1 advises. “After that, there’s nothing a few beers won’t take care of.” Why, Randy himself suffered a freshman beating he recalls as “vicious. Had some pretty cool seniors, though. Like, they’d beat the hell out of you and then get you drunk, that sort of thing.”
In his 2020 memoir The Captain, co-written with Anthony DiComo, Wright lets us know that when he was promoted to the Mets in July 2004, he had some pretty cool seniors. Never mind that he’d been a first-round draft pick (compensation in 2001 for Mike Hampton’s free agent departure to Colorado) nor that he’d just been showcased in MLB’s Futures Game. Mets fans couldn’t wait to step (W)right up and greet their projected next savior from Triple-A, who was clearly on the fast track after tearing up Double-A that same season, batting a combined .341 between Binghamton and Norfolk. Wright, 21, intrinsically knew better than to put any stock in his reputation preceding him to New York. In the high school hierarchy of big league baseball, he was just another frosh: Dave and confused. He admits he didn’t have a clue regarding “what to wear, how to behave, how not to embarrass myself.
“Luckily, the clubhouse had a significant veteran presence to help me figure it all out.”
For a team keen to build around Wright and 2003’s similarly hyped callup Jose Reyes, the 2004 Mets, particularly when things weren’t going swimmingly, could have been mistaken as a storehouse for museum pieces. Cool seniors? Seniors for sure. Sixteen different Mets who played for the club the same year David came up were in at least their tenth major league season. A few had cycled out before his July 21 arrival, but the third base prospect wasn’t kidding about a significant veteran presence. Five of the teammates he joined were in the midst of careers that dated to the 1980s. Eldest statesman John Franco had thrown his first major league pitch twenty years earlier. He’d been around so long that he’d twice faced his current manager, 57-year-old Art Howe.
David couldn’t have been more nervous or, in his wide-eyed way, any happier to learn from so many upper classmen. Joe McEwing (a relative neophyte as Met vets went, with a mere seven or so years of service time) took Wright to Foley’s  in Manhattan to celebrate his first game in Queens and then bought him “a nice pair of shoes”. Cliff Floyd footed the bill for the rookie’s suits. They did more than feed and clothe him. They told him how to be in his new surroundings. Franco was quicker with advice than he was with a fastball by then. T#m Gl@v!ne pulled him aside to tell him “you get it,” which David took to mean “I was respectful to both the clubhouse veterans and the game itself”.
David Wright was already being written up in the New York papers as the future face of a perpetually beleaguered franchise, a status that meant everything to those of us in Mezzanine if not so much in that clubhouse. Looking out for him was all well, good and heartwarming, but he wasn’t exempt from rookie hazing. No paddles. Nothing unseemly (at least not as recorded in his book), but stuff designed to let him know a freshman, no matter how highly he’s touted, is still a freshman. David lapped it up: “I tried to show the guys that I could be one of them — that they could rib me or try to embarrass me, and I could take it all in stride.” The institutionalized teasing included a vet-sanctioned decree that the rook take the mic in the bus and at karaoke bars on road trips and sing, à la Alan Alda as George Plimpton in Paper Lion  or the new driver in those old Schaefer Beer commercials .
It was all in good fun, but that didn’t make it any less intimidating. Mike Piazza always sat in the first seat with his big, hulking frame, meaning I’d have to brush his shoulder to get by him. As I sang, he would stare at me with that Piazza scowl I was used to seeing on television.
The words coming out of my mouth might have been Whitney Houston lyrics, but inside, I was thinking: Man, I’m serenading Mike Piazza right now.
Mike Piazza’s shoulders represented a broad boulevard for David Wright to traverse. In the book, David recalls spying Mike “sitting alone at his locker, staring at the ground with a dejected look on his face”. Perhaps with his karaoke performances in mind, David attempted to channel Paul McCartney — take a sad Mike and make it better. Lightheartedly, David began to massage the superstar’s shoulders, cajoling him to tell him, jock to jock, what was bothering him.
“Mike, you all right, buddy?”
“Mike, what’s wrong?”
“Mike, everything okay?”
The popular rookie found the one veteran apparently immune to his innocent charms, admitting, “I was just a happy-go-lucky twenty-one-year-old pestering Mike Piazza, when all he wanted was a few minutes of alone time. Looking back, I’m just fortunate he didn’t punch me in the face.”
By 2004, the Bobby Valentine years and their endless sense of urgency were two years behind us, replaced by the Art Howe interregnum, the tepid nature of which suggests maybe you shouldn’t always name eras for managers. By 2004, as much as one could sit and rue the passing of better years (a recurring pastime for me in the days of Howe), the Mets fan who was determined to keep going as a Mets fan looked ahead as much as he looked behind. Foremost, we collectively looked to David Wright, a bright young face added to the aging Mets roster that July like a crisp twenty direct from the ATM into your wallet of wrinkled ones.
The record shows David Wright of the immediate and distant future and Mike Piazza mostly of the rapidly receding past started in the same Met lineup 134 times in 2004 and 2005. Six times they homered in the same game. Mike and David weren’t exactly ships that passed in the Met night. A season-and-a-half on the same roster, in the same clubhouse, sharing more than a hundred box scores is not a cup of coffee. It’s at least a couple of thermoses’ worth. You’d think it would be good for a platonic shoulder rub between consenting workplace proximity associates.
We came into this series, The Top 100 Mets of the 2000s, to commemorate the spot in franchise history where we as Faith and Fear came along. Half of the 2000s were done. Half of the 2000s awaited us. There was a little Piazza in our immediate future. There was a load of Wright to come, in the decade already in progress and the one after that. For a moment, as we began, they were together.
He tried. He always tried. Lest you forget, Mike Piazza was a 62nd-round draft choice who made himself into the greatest hitter who ever caught, and a catcher of whom he didn’t wish it said was behind the plate solely for his bat. You know who could tell you how hard Mike Piazza worked to remain a viable major league catcher long past the point anybody was going to question his place in the game? David Wright. On the Amazin’ But True podcast last July, David recalled for Jake Brown and Nelson Figueroa that at nineteen in Port St. Lucie, while he was doing his required early-morning work on the minor league side of camp during his very first Spring Training, “I look over, on one of the fields that the major league team used, and Mike Piazza is out there. He’s already solidified himself as probably the greatest-hitting catcher of all time, Hall of Famer, icon, and he’s back there working on his catching and his throwing at like 7:30 in the morning. It just opened my eyes up to, not only is this guy one of the best to ever do it, but he’s constantly working, even though he’s got this résumé.”
The lesson of hard work and wanting to get better always stayed with David. The need to sharpen his continually doubted catching skills remained with Mike. David’s first professional camp was 2002, placing his recollection within six months of Mike’s signature professional moment, the home run he hit at Shea Stadium on September 21, 2001. If anybody could’ve been said to have earned a defensive breather at that stage of his career, it was the man who made New York forget its troubles, if only for an instant, by swinging his bat and brightening a Metropolis’s mood.
Not Mike’s style. Nor was first base, as he acknowledged in his own memoir Long Shot (written with Lonnie Wheeler). “I was a bad first baseman, the Mets didn’t want me to catch, and the whole situation was beating me up,” Mike remembered in his 2013 book. “In short, I was a mess.” Piazza dates his realization to August 6 in St. Louis. David had been up with the Mets for a couple of weeks by then. On August 5, in Milwaukee, the new third baseman had broken out in a big way, knocking in six runs, which remained his career high across fourteen seasons. The kid was beginning to feel his oats. The vet found his appetite diminishing. This specific intersection of Wright and Piazza as summer wound down in 2004 probably wasn’t the best time for anybody to be performing unsolicited shoulder rubs.
There was the way he went out with a gruesome-looking groin injury in May 2003 and returned in August with a five-RBI night to show us all what we’d been missing. There was the surpassing of Carlton Fisk one night in May 2004 and an eleventh-inning walkoff home run the very next night. There was a little extra sticking it to Clemens that same month by way of homering off Houston closer Octavio Dotel to cost Clemens what would’ve been his eighth win of the season without a loss. The All-Star battery probably had a good laugh over that later in the season.
Looking back, Clemens is just fortunate Mike didn’t punch him in the face.
So maybe Mike wasn’t yukking it up once he was situated at first base in ’04, and maybe the big homers were noticeably fewer and farther between once he got to ’05, but there was no chance Willie Randolph wasn’t going to bat him cleanup on Opening Day. He was Mike Piazza. The Mets had gone out and hired a megastar in Carlos Beltran and a legend in Pedro Martinez. Yet it was still Mike Piazza’s team as the 2000s commenced their second half.
And on Mike Piazza’s team, when 2005 began, David Wright batted seventh, between Doug Mientkiewicz and Eric Valent. That was Randolph’s idea. Willie played eighteen major league seasons. He got his first taste on a Pittsburgh team led by Willie Stargell. He apprenticed a little north of Shea in the midst of Munson, Nettles and Piniella. Reggie Jackson came along a year later. Willie Randolph grew up among veterans’ veterans. Wright was gonna be the face of the franchise? Fine. He could face his first full season from the bottom third of the order.
As 2005 went on, there was no keeping a good man down. David batted no lower than fifth from July 16 forward. Conversely, there was no turning back time. Piazza, thirty-six years old, ceased to be the everyday cleanup hitter by early May. After July 5, he didn’t bat cleanup at all, save for his final game as a Met, assigned as a final token of Randolph’s respect.
Mike was the Met of Mets when the Mets went to their only World Series of the 2000s. Mike was the Met who graced the cover of pocket schedules, lest you forget who you couldn’t wait to see. Mike was the Met your otherwise baseball-clueless relations knew and politely asked you about (I say from experience). Many contributed to the Mets cashing in on that pennant at the beginning of the decade. It was Mike Piazza who was counted on to deposit all that Met potential in the bank.
Just as Mike Piazza didn’t have to do all that much to cement his place in Mets history  after what he did in 2000 and 2001 — he was already in everything but name Faith and Fear in Flushing’s Tom Seaver Met of the Decade for the 2000s before strapping on the gear once more and working out so assiduously in the Spring of 2002 — there was little he could do to detract from his legacy by 2005. The greatest-hitting catcher barely batted over .250, but he could still remind you why he was the one Met all of Metsopotamia rallied around for so long. There was a spasm of power in July featuring five homers and seventeen ribbies in fourteen starts. There were sentimental fireworks lighting the September sky: another five home runs detonated across thirteen games as his seven-year contract neared its end. There was that final Sunday afternoon, Game 162, all of Shea standing and applauding for a seven-minute seventh-inning stretch while Mike sheepishly took a curtain call nobody but maybe him wanted to end .
The Mets’ 2000s had four years to go, but it was permanently enshrined as Mike Piazza’s decade .
Yet in a crowd of legitimately credentialed superstars and alongside his fellow gold dust twin Reyes, David Wright stood out. He may not have sought the spotlight, but when it drifted in is direction, he never ducked it. On the Mets, it needed him more than he needed it. The Mets needed him to be in it. Facing all the media, answering all the questions, growing almost overnight into the veteran others looked to was all part of the work he accepted, in a way no different from those drills he did in St. Lucie in his first minor league Spring, except these responsibilities tended to come late at night, after games, after losses especially.
By 2006, with the slot vacant since John Franco’s exit, David Wright was talked about as the next captain of the New York Mets. He was twenty-three at the time and it was a little absurd to imagine a player entering his second full season being anointed a leader of men who’d been accomplishing spectacular big league feats while David was in high school (or in the case of Julio Franco, nursery school). David still liked to talk, with a smile, about having toted Cliff Floyd’s luggage on road trips. He’d taken Carlos Beltran’s invitation to work out with him in ’05 as an implied command. If David Wright was going to lead, he’d do it quietly and he’d take any title that came with it later. Much later.
The leading on the field, however, was in evidence from the get-go, when all those 2004 veterans were in residence. His rookie year was brief but impactful: fourteen home runs and forty runs batted in over 69 games that spurred nice dreams of what 2005 and beyond would bring. It brought satisfying consistency of the highest order.
2005: 160 G, 27 HR, 102 RBI, 99 R, 17 SB, .306 BA, .912 OPS
2006: 154 G, 26 HR, 116 RBI, 96 R, 20 SB, .311 BA, .912 OPS
2007: 160 G, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 113 R, 34 SB, .325 BA, .963 OPS
2008: 160 G, 33 HR, 124 RBI, 115 R, 15 SB, .302 BA, .924 OPS
Also a Met-ric ton of 5s in the stands at Shea, quite likely on the same backs that a few years earlier sported 31s.
Funny thing was you didn’t really get hung up on David Wright’s superb statistics once they became a part of the Sheascape. He didn’t lead the league in any glamour category. He didn’t blow any previous Met hero’s cherished single-season records out of the press guide. He won a pair of Silver Sluggers and a pair of Gold Gloves (the latter after striving strenuously to rein in his scattershot arm) and finished as high as fourth in MVP balloting, but his debut and development was practically businesslike, as if he was supposed to simply burst from the gate and routinely produce at an across-the-board pace no homegrown Met had ever approached before.
We knew Mike Piazza had hit as high as .362 for the Dodgers, catching. We knew that as a superstar kind of figure. Was David Wright a superstar? To us, absolutely. But on sight, on contact, on the larger MLB map? He was recognized. He was respected. He was one of those players you sensed would someday be looked back on as a little underappreciated in precincts where the emotional mail isn’t addressed to the 11368 ZIP Code. We’re looking back now and the sense remains.
Maybe it was because Wright was doing it in the company of the flashier Reyes, the fully formed Beltran and the dangerous Delgado that his numbers sort of blended into the greater whole. Maybe it was because the point of David Wright seemed to be less about hitting a lot of homers and scoring a lot of runs and mixing in the occasional highlight grab and more about being David Wright.
David Wright was all of twenty-three the season after Piazza left, yet David Wright immediately morphed into the media’s go-to guy, certainly among Met position players. It might have had something to do with language. For Reyes, Beltran and Delgado, English  was their second (players from other countries regularly carrying on conversations in a tongue not native to them for publication and broadcast is one of the less appreciated facets of their abilities). David was raised on the mainland, and that’s fine as far as it goes, but what he mainly spoke was responsibility. He was fluent in earnestness, accommodation and availability. He understood that reporters who sought him out were doing a job on behalf of the fans who cared why the Mets lost or won tonight. If you ever read “Wright left the clubhouse before the media entered,” you could safely assume the safety of his spine hung in the balance. Otherwise he stood up straight and he spoke as requested.
He also signed autographs by the dozens, visited hospitals and firehouses to offer the cheer he knew his presence connoted, and smiled at the sight of kids who were growing up idolizing him as he grew up in Virginia idolizing Norfolk Tides. David Wright wasn’t too good to be true. He was true and good, truly so good that it was easy to wander into wondering why he wasn’t maybe a little better; a little more “clutch” (five walkoffs on his Shea ledger notwithstanding); a little more able to lift the Mets in their direst hours of ’06, ’07 and ’08. How could he leave that runner on third?
On September 28, 2008, David led off the bottom of the ninth of the final game of the year, the final game of Shea Stadium’s forty-five years. A win was absolutely essential if the Mets wished to participate in the postseason a year after a September collapse one couldn’t imagine ever having to live through again, yet here was a rough facsimile at hand fifty-two weeks later. The Mets were down by two. Wright worked a full count against the Marlins’ Matt Lindstrom before popping up for the first out. By sound, a hefty plurality of Shea booed the batter on his way back to the dugout.
That may have been the only time David Wright was vocally disapproved by a critical mass of Mets fans. Given the tensions of the moment, it would be almost understandable if it weren’t absolutely disgusting to recall. Booing David Wright didn’t help the succeeding batters mount the daunting deficit or get the team into the playoffs.
For all we know, it cursed David Wright on his way out of Shea Stadium.
The successor facility was a different story. David realized that in 2008, when it was still under construction. As he recounts in The Captain, he and two rookies (Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans) were invited to take a few practice cuts as the new field started to resemble a real park. A little sample of the “state-of-the-art” Met promotional announcements promised to the people of tomorrow. Yet swing as the by now three-time All-Star might, Wright noticed something was amiss.
“Nothing was going over the fence.”
Part and parcel of David’s brilliance in his first five major league seasons was opposite-field power. But Citi was a field opposite Shea’s in design. It was drawn up as asymmetrical to make it, in Jeff Wilpon’s warped thinking, more charming. There’d be more triple opportunities for Jose Reyes, and don’t Mets fans love when Jose triples? What there wouldn’t be were the usual quantity of home runs for David Wright, and home runs get fans’ engines revving, too. To be fair, there wouldn’t be many homers for any Met in 2009. Wright did christen the Mets’ 2009 home season with a drive over the skyscraping left field fence in the fifth inning of their first game at Citi, but the power party petered out soon after. At Shea in ’08, David batted .336 and went deep 21 times. At Citi in ’09, the average dropped below .300 and the homer total plunged to five.
Also, in August, he got hit in the head by a Matt Cain fastball, leaving him more dazed and confused than he cared to admit. Their star third baseman being concussed, coming back too soon, wearing a comically oversized batting helmet for additional protection and finding himself gun-shy at the plate for the rest of the year would be an apt metaphor for the Mets’ inaugural season at Citi Field, but 2009 was weighted with sufficient enough injury-riddled symbolism by the time David went down.
Mike didn’t much dwell on David in his bracingly honest (grievance-airing) memoir. Every reference to Wright was positive. “Showed the stuff of a star,” Piazza said of the kid’s debut; “a terrific young and appealing young player”; “came into his own as a big-time player” in 2005; “the man in waiting” by the time Mike’s contract was up. It doesn’t sound like Mike was ever gonna punch David in the face. Those rejected shoulder-friendly overtures probably didn’t mean as much to the sagging veteran with the as it did to the eager rookie who was just trying to be friendly.
David wasn’t in any condition to catch anybody or anything by July 2016, the month Mike was inducted into Cooperstown and had his 31 raised to the rafters in Queens on consecutive weekends. Wright’s season ended in May when a literal pain in his neck became too much to play through. The neck bone’s connection to the spine bone began to pull the curtain down on David’s by then twelve-year-old major league career. Whether he ever fielded another ground ball or took another swing (and lord knows he would try), his legacy as a Met and in baseball was secure.
No Met had more hits. No Met scored more runs. And no senior was cooler.
A reminder appeared just last week, during this, the second Spring of the 2020s, via a profile of one of many teammates David Wright guided toward the mature phase of their career. Ken Rosenthal wrote in the Athletic about Justin Turner , veteran leader of the defending world champion Los Angeles Dodgers, himself now recognized as a wise old hand of the game (when he’s not risking a spread of COVID-19 in a fit of trophy-cradling giddiness). One episode from Justin’s Met tenure, now a decade old, came to light, involving a game-costing defensive miscue  Turner wasn’t anxious to own up to.
After the game, Turner drifted from the training room to the weight room to the food room, seeking to avoid reporters. He had settled in a sauna when Wright found him and asked what he was doing.
“I don’t want to go talk to those guys,” Turner said. “I’m going to get buried.”
“Look, you’ve helped us win way more games than you’ve lost us,” Wright replied. “The best thing to do in these situations is go out there and tell these guys exactly what happened. If you don’t tell them what happened, they’re going to write whatever the heck they want and assume whatever they want.”
With that, Wright escorted Turner into the clubhouse and stood by his side as he answered questions. Turner recalls experiencing great relief when the interview session was over, and to this day he tells Dodgers teammates the story, using it as a lesson in accountability and responsibility.
Wright’s guidance in that moment is something Turner says he will never forget. And as he became more established with the Dodgers, he also emerged as a model teammate, particularly with the way he regularly demonstrated concern for others.
David’s 2018 comeback, such as it was, was hard-earned. It was spread over two games, brief enough so that you’d think you could have ordered it as a gift for your Mets fan friend over Cameo. He pinch-hit one night, played a few innings the next night. Mostly he said a proper goodbye to Flushing , something hardly any player ever got to do.
One of the few who came close — having taken seven minutes’ worth of slightly embarrassed center-of-attention bows in 2005 before moving on to San Diego — understood what he’d be going through ahead of time and tweeted his sentiments  from his account @mikepiazza31.
“Wish David Wright nothing but the best. A Great Player and class act.”
— Mike Piazza (@mikepiazza31) September 13, 2018 
That small handful of position players with a claim on having been the greatest in franchise history can relate to one another that way.
FAITH AND FEAR’S PREVIOUSLY NAMED TOM SEAVER MET OF THE DECADE
2010s : Jacob deGrom