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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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Welcome, THB Class of 2022!

Spring is here … oh wait it totally isn’t, it’s cold and barren and horrible out there. But spring will be here soon enough, believe it or not. Which means we’d better welcome 2022’s matriculating Mets, now proud members of The Holy Books!

(Background: I have three binders, long ago dubbed The Holy Books 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, Noah Syndergaard is Class of ’15, etc. There are extra pages for the rosters of the two World Series winners, the managers, ghosts, 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, nor got stuck with the dubious status of Met ghost.)

THB Class of 2022 collection of baseball cards

(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. Eventually that yields this column, previous versions of which can be found herehereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehere and here.)

The 2021 Mets featured 42 new players, smashing 1967’s de facto club record of 35 and nearly eclipsing 1962’s 45, notable because in ’62 every Met was a new Met. The 2022 team was relatively more exclusive, adding “just” 31 during a long, winding season that was exciting, occasionally thrilling, heartening and ultimately disappointing. (Though they did set a fairly obscure record, quite possibly noted only by me, in adding three ghosts to the roster of not-quite Mets.)

But enough preamble — time for the amble!

Starling Marte: Apparently chiseled out of granite, Marte brought the Mets the kind of swagger they hadn’t seen in some time, with everyone seeming to play at a slightly faster tempo in his presence. Though his numbers weren’t eye-popping, his excision from the lineup in September after taking a pitch to the hand coincided with the team’s descent from excellent to merely good, and his loss was glaring during that last disastrous showdown with the Braves. Wears a bejewelled Mickey Mouse pendant probably worth the GDP of a small country, which prompted some ingenious Met fan to make an oversized display head of Mickey Mouse with a Starling Marte pendant. Honestly that should have counted as the NL East tiebreaker instead of the statistical Manfred fuckery that did instead. 2022 Topps Update card.

Eduardo Escobar: Was hot early and late but either ineffective or injured in between. Still, Escobar won plaudits as a clubhouse mentor and esteemed teammate, something I’ve grown more wary of discounting just because it can’t be quantified, and his attention to the game and delight in it when things went well made him impossible to dislike. Had a very odd offseason as Carlos Correa wasn’t and then was and then wasn’t a Met, something the club will need to address. It seems unlikely to become a problem, though — one of the advantages of employing a player like Escobar is he’s seen it all before. Topps treated him very strangely, giving him an ersatz card in its Mets factory team set, otherwise ignoring him in the flagship line, and issuing the same Topps Heritage card for him in both series. (Monopolies are bad for product quality, kids.) I went with the team-set card.

Mark Canha: A successor to R.A. Dickey in that I wasn’t entirely sure he was a real person and not invented by some urban blue-state blogger who wished there were more players like Mark Canha. (Not that I know any bloggers like that.) But Canha was very real: a foodie who discussed NYC dining destinations over a headset mic while in the outfield and a UC Berkeley grad who went back to school during the pandemic to study public health. Apparently his arguments about politics and life with fellow former Athletic Chris Bassitt were quite something to witness; we didn’t get to eavesdrop on those, but we did get Canha’s horrified astonishment at Jeff McNeil’s dietary preferences (Lunchables were invoked), not to mention some epic celebratory expressions. Canha even arrived in the big leagues with a deadpan postgame interview repurposed from Bull Durham. That was enough to make me a Canha stan from the jump, but he was also a pretty good player, most emphatically when he beat the Phillies with a five RBIs’ worth of homers in August, the exclamation point on the most amazin’ win of a season that had plenty of them. Topps team set card because his non-Photoshopped flagship one was lame.

Adam Ottavino: A well-traveled veteran reliever, Ottavino won me over because his mental adaptation to that role struck me as perfect. Ottavino is paid to do one thing, which is to maneuver hitters into having to try and hit his frisbee slider. Generally they can’t, but it’s a slider, so the ones that don’t do what Ottavino wants them to do typically end up somewhere disastrous, and at the worst possible time. It’s a pitiless formula that will force even the least reflective man to confront profound existential questions, which might be why Ottavino always plied his trade with a mildly weary but mostly blank expression, like a gunfighter in a Sergio Leone film. Ottavino’s slider usually obeyed his commands and he had a great year, leading to another tour of duty with the Mets. But expect no change in demeanor: He’s a middle reliever, so he knows fortune remains fickle and the cosmos fundamentally malign. Topps Update card.

Travis Jankowski: “Late-inning center fielder” is a role the Mets have filled in serial fashion in recent years, and in 2022 they turned to the lank-haired Jankowski, a former Stony Brook star and fleet-footed Padre prospect turned suspect. Jankowski didn’t do much in the early going, broke his hand making a diving catch against San Francisco, missed two months, got claimed on waivers, collected a lone plate appearance as a Seattle Mariner, came back to the Mets on a minor-league deal, and didn’t appear in another big-league game. Even by the standards of a baseball journeyman, that’s a lot. He’ll go to camp with the Texas Rangers; I suppose I wish him the best. Topps Update card.

Max Scherzer: The $43 million man lived up to his billing, posting a 5.2 WAR and keeping the Mets not only alive but also flying high during Jacob deGrom’s inevitable absence. The unquantifiable was a revelation too: We knew about Scherzer’s nail-spitting competitiveness on the mound, having seen it up close so many times when he was in a Nats uniform, but watching it in sequence instead of isolation made it more impressive. I loved the way Scherzer would lead pitching strategy lectures in the dugout, invariably in the company of Bassitt but also with deGrom, the younger starters and the occasional wise catcher alongside him. I also loved what absolute shit he looked like in the dugout on days he pitched: drenched in sweat with his hair a bristly middle-aged guy horror. He looked like that because his brain only had room for thinking about how to get the next brace of enemy hitters out — he probably wouldn’t have noticed if he was on fire. Chronic oblique injuries took some of the luster off his numbers and two year-end misfires against the Braves and Padres made for an unfortunate ending, but I can’t wait to see Scherzer on the mound again next year, aiming his heterochromatic death stare at new unfortunates. Topps Update card in which he’s wearing one of those stupid blue tops.

Chris Bassitt: Bassitt won 15 games in his one-and-done season in New York, and I mourned his departure when he moved on to Toronto. (Did he dislike New York? I always wonder when these things happen.) Anyway, I loved his weird delivery, with the ball seeming to come out of nowhere like an ax getting chucked in a videogame featuring Viking berserkers; I loved his multitude of pitches; and I loved the slightly scary intensity he brought to his profession, as evidenced by the “grind you till you break” voiceover that the Mets played approximately 800,000 times. (Can we now admit the Mets bodega thing was a little weird?) Bassitt wound up as the Mets’ most reliable starter, and if the health of aged Hall of Fame pitchers doesn’t prove as robust as we hope in 2023 he’ll be more fondly remembered than he is now. Terrific Topps Update card showing off that violent motion.

Joely Rodriguez: Generally known around our house as Fuckin’ Joely, which wasn’t particularly fair but sure seemed to fit. Acquired from the Yankees for the equally frustrating Miguel Castro, Rodriguez struck out guys by the bushel and generally kept the ball on the ground, but also walked guys by the bushel. He was the most reliable lefty in the pen, a statement that came without qualifiers during a nice summer run and counted as damning by faint praise other times. (Recidivist Met Chasen Shreve started the year as the other pen southpaw, which I didn’t remember at all.) Rodriguez is now a Red Sock, with his duties to be assumed by Tampa Bay import Brooks Raley; Raley looks like a better bet on paper but he’s also a middle reliever, so light a candle. Rodriguez was a trading-card nightmare, with his 2020 Topps Total card (as a Ranger) proving unobtainable and his various minor-league cards annoyingly expensive. I eventually solved this problem by making a Joely Rodriguez custom card, something I bet no one else has ever done, because why the hell would they? It took me a long time, proving rather convincingly that I’d flunked the whole time=money thing. Fuckin’ Joely indeed.

Nick Plummer: A Cardinals prospect who never ignited, Plummer showed up wearing Darryl Strawberry’s No. 18 and gave us a Strawberry-esque moment at the end of May, collecting his first big-league hit by way of a game-tying ninth-inning homer in a game the Mets stole from the Phillies. Plummer went 3-for-4 against the Nationals the next day, with another homer … and here comes the record scratch, as those were his final hits for the season. I was in California that weekend and missed it all, to my mild resentment, but the person to really feel for is whatever poor schmo at Topps got very excited about the only two notable days of Plummer’s career, leading to year-end products being positively saturated with Nick Plummer Mets cards long after everyone had forgotten that Nick Plummer had been a Met. Anyway, Topps Update card.

Adonis Medina: Secured his first big-league save on June 5 against the Dodgers. That sounds like a random back-of-the-card factoid about a bit player … which isn’t wrong, seeing how Medina was designated for assignment by the Mets in early September and will pitch in Korea next year. But let’s go back to that save: After dropping the first two games in L.A., the Mets won the third game and then looked for a split of the series in the finale. They came from behind to take the lead in the eighth and handed the ball to Edwin Diaz, who got the Dodgers in order. But with Diaz having been used in the eighth, the Mets had to turn to Seth Lugo in the ninth, and Lugo let the Dodgers tie it up. The Mets took a one-run lead in the 10th, but now what? “What” turned out to be Medina, sent out to face Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner with a ghost runner on second. Yipes! Medina got a flyout from Betts, a groundout from Freeman (moving the ghost runner to third) … and Turner went to first on catcher’s interference, bringing up Will Smith. Medina fanned Smith and so secured a save, a split and a place in Mets history. How many times do you think he’ll tell that story in Korea? He’s probably telling it right now. Hell, it’s what I’d be doing. Syracuse Mets card.

Yoan Lopez: A Cuban defector who was put on waivers three times last March, Lopez recorded an ERA near six in 11 innings as a Met, but earned his teammates’ respect in his second inning of work, throwing high and inside to the Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado a half-inning after Genesis Cabrera hit J.D. Davis in the ankle. Exception was taken and there was a lot of pushing and shoving, punctuated by an amusing bit of color commentary from Ron Darling: “I personally wouldn’t have thrown at the head of Arenado … I would’ve hit him, though.” Released in December and signed on with the Yomiuri Giants. Topps Total card as a D’Back.

Colin Holderman: The name suggests he was born to be a middle reliever, and Holderman pitched well in two stints with the Mets after making his debut in mid-May. Well enough, in fact, that he caught the Pirates’ eye and became an acceptable return at the trade deadline for Daniel Vogelbach. Syracuse Mets card.

Ender Inciarte: Back in 2016, Inciarte rewrote the ending of a Citi Field game between the Mets and Braves, reaching over the fence with two outs in the ninth to turn a Yoenis Cespedes homer and a 6-4 Mets walkoff win into a sparkling defensive play and a heartbreaking 4-3 loss. I was in the park, and I remember feeling almost dizzy from a five-second journey in which ecstasy and jubilation turned into disbelief and dismay. Six years later, Inciarte collected one hit in eight ABs for the Mets, and if he made a good catch I don’t remember it. 2021 Topps Heritage card in which he is a Brave and smiling broadly. Is he thinking about that catch? You just know he’s thinking about that catch.

Daniel Vogelbach: The Mets’ big acquisition (ahem) at the trade deadline, Vogelbach did his part, proving a potent bat from the left side and becoming an instant fan and clubhouse favorite, chatting cheerfully with anyone in range in the dugout and showing an odd affinity (for a position player) for the company of pitchers. Though I despise the designated hitter, it at least provides a logical niche for a player like the husky, lead-footed Vogelbach, who’d otherwise be glued to first base with the range of a refrigerator the guys from a cut-rate appliance superstore claim they weren’t paid to actually bring into your apartment. In case you’re wondering, yes, of course Vogelbach was once a Milwaukee Brewer. Topps Heritage card.

Tyler Naquin: Acquired from the Reds to be a fourth outfielder with some pop, Naquin hit a couple of homers early but never really found his place in New York, let alone our hearts. So it goes sometimes. 2022 Topps card as a Red.

Mychal Givens: A favorite of Buck Showalter’s from Baltimore, Givens arrived from the Cubs at the trade deadline with fans complaining that he wasn’t the stud lefty reliever the Mets needed — hell, he wasn’t a lefty at all. It’s hard to blame Givens for that, but it was easy to blame him for other things: His first Mets outing was a disaster and subsequent ones weren’t much better. Givens settled in and acquitted himself tolerably after that, but by then none of us wanted to hear it. Returned to the Orioles for 2023, which was probably wise for all involved. 2022 Topps card as a Cub.

Darin Ruf: Well, that was a disaster. Ruf was bizarrely hapless after coming over for the Giants for a package built around J.D. Davis, hitting (if that’s the word) an anemic .152 with nary a homer and ending the season followed around by a chorus of weary boos. He’s still on the roster and pencilled in to be the other half of the DH platoon with Vogelbach for 2023, a plan that looked good on paper in 2022 but now seems DOA for all the obvious reasons. And yet there Ruf sits in previews and projections, a stubborn reminder that there’s work left to be done. 2022 Topps card as a Giant.

Michael Perez: In 2022, May was the start of Rosterpalooza, a bewildering injury-driven stretch that saw the Mets’ roster filled with callups and waiver-wire claims — Jake Hager! Cameron Maybin! Mason Williams! 2022 saw a mini-Rosterpalooza in August, as the Mets dealt with injuries to the bullpen and infield by importing guys you’d forgotten about or never heard of in the first place. Perez, a Pirates’ castoff, was brought in as a backup catcher and provided one memorable moment, a two-run single against the Phillies that started the Mets’ comeback in their wild 10-9 win on Aug. 21. Perez had no plate appearances the next day or any other but is still sort of around, signed to the kind of minor-league deal catchers can sign until their knees and other abused body parts wave a final white flag. Topps Heritage card as a Pirate.

Deven Marrero: A backup infielder who no longer bothers to unpack his bags when changing organizations, Marrero played briefly in August while the Mets struggled replace Luis Guillorme and Eduardo Escobar, adding six hitless ABs to his nomad’s ledger. One of those guys you’ll miss in a couple of years when playing one of those Sporcle roster quizzes. Hell, I’d probably miss him if I played one right now. A minor-league card on which he’s a (checking) Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

R.J. Alvarez: Not R.A. Dickey and not Francisco Alvarez and not Robert Gsellman, though he kind of looked like him. My first sight of Alvarez was on a restaurant TV while we were vacationing on Long Beach Island, and I thought, “uh-oh, that’s supposed to be Taijuan Walker.” Nope, Walker was hurt and Alvarez proceeded to give up three earned runs in two and a third, the lone appearance he’d make as a Met. Uh-oh indeed. Syracuse Mets card.

Brett Baty: As the summer flew by, Mets fans started clamoring for the club to bring up Baty, who’d torched Double-A and was spanking Triple-A. And why not, since the accursed Braves had resurrected their seemingly flatlined season by summoning Michael Harris II, followed by Spencer Strider and Vaughn Grissom? (All three are now signed to team-friendly 50-year contracts.) The Mets finally gave the people what they wanted and called up Baty for the finale of a Braves series in which they’d dropped the first two. With his parents watching from the White Flight Stadium stands, Baty connected for a two-run homer on his first-ever big-league swing. Pinch-me moments are only moments, alas: Baty’s first big-league go-round was cut short by a thumb injury and inevitably less successful before that happened, with the game occasionally looking a little fast for him in the field. But it was a beginning to make you dream on what could come next. 2023 Topps Pro Debut card.

Sam Clay: The First Guy I Don’t Remember usually comes way before this point, so I’m not embarrassed. The record indicates Clay pitched the final inning of a blowout Mets win in the first game of a doubleheader, so I’m doubly not embarrassed. By then I was probably asleep on the couch with a book open but face-down on my chest, gently rising and falling. A minor-league card in which Clay is a Pensacola Blue Wahoo, whatever the fuck that’s supposed to be.

Yolmer Sanchez: See Deven Marrero. Minor-league card as a Worcester Red Sock, which at least is a semi-recognizable entity. Does anyone remember that Matt Reynolds was a 2022 Met? That was kinda weird.

Rob Zastryzny: This doesn’t reflect well on me, but I remember him because I was like, “there’s no fucking way I’ll ever spell that right.” Pitched a lone inning for the Mets and was then claimed off waivers by the Angels. Godspeed, uhh … Rob. Syracuse Mets card.

Jose Butto: An unfortunate byproduct of how THB Class of XXXX works is that it captures young players for posterity in their first go-rounds, and many of those young players aren’t ready for prime time or are still evolving. Butto was called up from Double-A and thrown to the wolves in Philadelphia, and the kindest thing one can say about his four-inning start and 15.75 ERA is we all thought it would go worse. (That was the 10-9 game the Mets won, so ha!) Butto has a fighting chance to become a mid-rotation starter, but in these annals he’ll always be the deer-in-the-headlights kid who spent a shaky 90 minutes learning tough lessons in the cauldron of Citizens Bank Park. But then baseball has no shortage of ways to teach you that the universe is unfair. Card as a Binghamton Rumble Pony. I know the derivation of that team nickname, but it’s still dopey.

Nate Fisher: There are one-game-and-done guys you forget about, and one-game-and-done guys who become cult heroes. The Mets turned to Fisher, an emergency call-up most of us didn’t realize was on the roster, in the middle of the same wild game against the Phillies that’s woven through so many of these capsule biographies. He held the fort with three scoreless innings, during which the Mets came back to tie the game courtesy of the first of Mark Canha’s homers. And yes, in 2021 he’d been out of baseball, working at the First National Bank of Omaha and coaching Little League. (He was a commercial lending analyst and not a teller or something, but he really was working at a bank.) Fisher was DFA’ed the day after his heroic stand, returned to Syracuse and will be a non-roster invitee for the White Sox in a couple of weeks. Should you spot him in an Arizona bar, he better not pay for his own beer. Binghamton Rumble Ponies card.

Terrance Gore: The Herb Washington of our era, Gore made his debut as a Met sporting one career RBI and three World Series rings. Furthered his unlikely legend with a trio of steals for the Mets; a fourth ring, alas, wasn’t in the cards. Gore is a free agent and an odds-on bet to show up on some contender’s roster next September, maybe even ours. 2020 Topps card as a Dodger. Yep, he’s got a ring with them.

Bryce Montes de Oca: A gigantic reliever with an injury history that would make Rasputin quail, Montes de Oca was a September call-up — which is a victory in itself — and contributed 3 1/3 so-so innings before (wait for it) getting hurt. He could stay healthy, harness his superb stuff and spend the next decade on big-league rosters, or he could never be heard from again. All things are possible, my child. Binghamton Rumble Ponies card.

Alex Claudio: I’m drawing a blank, though I do know he’s not Antonio Santos, a spring-training invitee who never reappeared. While we’re on that subject, pour one out for 2022 ghosts Gosuke Katoh, Kramer Robertson and Connor Grey, with an extra pour-out for Grey, who provisionally joins Billy Cotton and Terrel Hansen as players to appear on a Mets roster and never get into a major-league game. Grey is still in the organization, so keep your fingers crossed. Syracuse Mets card.

Mark Vientos: Another clamored-for prospect, Vientos replaced Starling Marte after his fateful HBP and acquitted himself unremarkably in his first big-league stint, with his first big-league homer as a highlight. His future is uncertain: He has no business playing the field, might be a sell-high trading chip, but the Mets need a righty DH … let me know how it all turned out come April. Syracuse Mets card.

Francisco Alvarez: Only a year ago I was watching Alvarez as a Brooklyn Cyclone and raving about him, telling anyone who’d listen that he played with a confidence bordering on swagger that drew your eye, and oh how the ball exploded off his bat. Alvarez torched Double-A alongside Brett Baty, held his own in Triple-A and was summoned for the end-of-September showdown with the Braves. It was a lot to ask and Alvarez didn’t deliver in that first series, though I was impressed that he gave away few ABs and noted he’d hit in some lousy luck. Back at Citi Field against the Nationals, he got a 12-3 curveball from Carl Edwards Jr.  and sent it 439 feet into the night, striking a very accomplished post-launch pose before starting his trot. The near-term is unclear — occasional catcher, DH, more Triple-A seasoning — but oh boy is the medium-term wonderful to think about. Topps Pro Debut card.

7 comments to Welcome, THB Class of 2022!

  • Scott M

    God , the Ottavino writeup was worth the price of admission alone – especially the part about him resembling a gun fighter in a Sergio Leone western.

  • eric1973

    Fun read, Jason.
    The way you turn a phrase makes it especially enjoyable.

  • Seth

    How you remembered some of these names is beyond me! Although I do remember that Matt Reynolds was up to bat once or twice. But I guess he didn’t rate getting his own entry.

  • open the gates

    Jason, this is one of my favorite recurring posts of the year, and you didn’t disappoint. By the way, Seth, Matt Reynolds was a recidivist, and I don’t think Jason does recidivists in his THB post, although it may be a fun topic for another day (hint hint…).

  • Seth

    Is the ghost runner still going to haunt us in 2023? I haven’t found any definitive info.

  • Bruce From Forest Hills

    Every year, one of your best articles! Pitchers and catchers must almost be here.

  • eric1973

    Rob Manfred can take his new MLB Schedule and shove it up his ass. Mets opponents in SEP littered with Seattle, Minnesota, Arizona, and Cincinnati, and 6 games against the boring Marlins.

    Teams should be playing their own divisional opponents, of course.