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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 2023!

Horrible weather, horrible offseason, horrible everything. You know what might put some pep in our collective step? Looking back at guys who made their Mets debuts during the horrible 2023 season! Some of these guys have already vanished from memory; others we merely wish we could unremember. Like I said, horrible. But they matriculated in 2023 and so are now proud members of The Holy Books! Or at least guys we’ll grudgingly admit must be counted as such.

Baseball cards of guys who made their Mets debuts in 2023

Here they are in all their dubious glory.

(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.)

(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, here and here.)

For what’s already about the third time, it was a horrible season so let’s get this over with:

Omar Narvaez: A recent and not particularly welcome theme in MetsLand has been the futile quest to find catchers who avoid fates more typically associated with Spinal Tap drummers. Narvaez, once upon a time an All-Star and regarded as a reliable if not scintillating sort, was brought in to keep the seat warm for Francisco Alvarez, or give him more time in the minors, or something along those lines — honestly it wasn’t all that clear, particularly when the Mets also renewed associations with Tomas Nido. It wound up not particularly mattering: Narvaez got hurt, Alvarez took the job, Nido was terrible, and when Narvaez returned he was mostly terrible too. So it went in 2023. 2023 Topps Update card.

Tommy Pham: Pham arrived with a reputation for being intense bordering on dangerously hot-headed and departed having shown us he was the kind of intense the 2023 Mets needed more of. Pham got off to a slow start but even a casual fan could see he was remarkably unlucky, scorching ball after ball right at guys; when his luck finally turned he was a monster, putting up prodigious numbers in June before cooling off and getting flipped to the Diamondbacks, after which we got to watch him on October TV in another uniform. Post-departure he became a go-to quote for the cottage industry of 2023 Mets finger-pointing, calling his former teammates “the least-hardest working group of position players I’ve ever played with.” Before 2023 you probably would have called that “Tommy Pham being Tommy Pham,” now you still might say that, but it would mean something very different. 2023 Topps Update card.

Brooks Raley: A reliever who reinvented himself in Korea before excelling with the Rays, Raley came over to shore up the Mets bullpen and did his job on the field (not an easy task) while also not supplying any chum for a feeding frenzy about players’ personal politics and how those beliefs might or might not be an ideal fit for New York (ditto). If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s proof that things went well. Raley will be back next year and it’s actually a relief (ahem) to think about that. 2023 Topps Update card.

David Robertson: A solid veteran brought in as the primary setup guy, Robertson was thrust into the closer job after Edwin Diaz’s knee exploded and he filled in quite ably, though he was unable to prevent the ripple effect of Diaz’s absence impacting those down the depth chart from him. This is one of the important baseball lessons I learned in 2023: On their own, a closer’s numbers can look a lot smaller in value and so easier to replace than, say, a frontline starter’s, but you have to see a closer as the Jenga piece he is and think about the whole of which he’s the critical part. As with many things about the 2023 Mets, it’s a lesson I would have been happier not learning. Anyway, Robertson got shipped off to Miami, signaling the 2023 teardown had begun, and was weirdly ineffective with his new club, which ought to have made me feel better but didn’t. A 2020 Topps card as a Phillie — given his relative importance to his recent clubs, I can only conclude Robertson has offended someone at Topps.

Tim Locastro: Backing up center field is another roster spot that’s lent itself to tragicomic Spinal Tap drummer stuff of late. Locastro looked as fast as promised, got hit by pitches as promised, and got hurt (back spasms, torn UCL in thumb), which was also as promised once you realized he was the new Travis Jankowski who was the new Kevin Pillar who was the new Keon Broxton and so on and so on. (Welcome to Queens, Harrison Bader! I’m sure things will go great!) Locastro’s first hit as a Met was a home run; unfortunately it came in August. 2023 Syracuse Mets card.

John Curtiss: The Mets signed Curtiss in early 2022 knowing he’d be unavailable all year after Tommy John surgery, which was billed as the kind of savvy investment in the future that clubs with money make. And hey, that still may be true! What’s also true is Curtiss was unmemorable as a Met before he was hurt, and is now a free agent. Oh well. Some minor-league card that’s also a horizontal. I don’t have the energy to get angry about these things anymore.

Dennis Santana: No, not Johan, and no, not Cook. A March waiver claim, he spent the year on the Syracuse shuttle, returning and making you say “Oh yeah that guy” before departing once again. Became a free agent in August and will go to spring training as a Yankee. 2019 Topps card as a Dodger.

Kodai Senga: It wasn’t his fault! Pitched well enough to be intriguing at the beginning of the season and got better and better, baffling hitters with his ghost fork and proving a delight to watch. You could see Senga gain confidence as the year rolled along, and his final start was a gem against the Marlins that put him north of 200 strikeouts for the season, making him only the second Mets rookie to do that. Sure, “rookie” gets an asterisk here, but did you watch games in 2023? We’ll take all the highlights we can get, asterisks be damned. 2023 card from the Mets factory team set.

Denyi Reyes: A hulking reliever, he looked effective in April, got torched by the Braves to begin May and wasn’t seen again until August, returning against the Braves and getting torched again in a game the Mets lost by 18. That seems cruel. There’s always a guy (or two) who departs in the spring and returns when there’s a hint of fall in the air, making you say, “Wait a minute, I thought he was [released/retired/missing/in the witness protection program/dead].” 2023 Syracuse Mets card.

Jimmy Yacabonis: I remember him looking determined on the mound while bad things happened around him. Another one of those “gone in May, back in August” guys, his year was a blur of injuries, demotions, going on and coming off waivers and assorted other Quad-A human-resources hijinks. He’s now a Long Island Duck, which players like to see as the start of something new but is more often the end of something old. At least his name was fun to say — between him and Zach Muckenhirn and Jonathan Arauz the Mets excelled in this underappreciated category. 2019 Topps card from better days as an Oriole.

Jeff Brigham: Gets free ice cream at New England’s JV version of Friendly’s! That’s a nice perk! I made that up; Brigham appeared in 37 games and I basically don’t remember him at all, which might say something about him or about me or about both. Anyway, some old Topps Total card as a Marlin.

Edwin Uceta: At least there’s a reason I don’t remember Edwin Uceta — he pitched three innings in a lone April game in San Francisco, busted his ankle and was never heard from again. Some horrid old Bowman card as a Dodger that should be introduced in graphic design classes as an example of what not to do.

Zach Muckenhirn: I always feel for guys with names that make you realize they get at least one item of mail with a misspelling every goddamn day — the “h” in “Zach” is the tricky part here. Anyway, Muckenhirn didn’t make much of an impression with the Mets before being shipped off to the Mariners in return for Trevor Gott and the mummified corpse of Chris Flexen. 2023 Syracuse Mets card.

Justin Verlander: Hey, it seemed like a good idea. Verlander was old but seemed like he had an intact arm and all the other qualities that had made him a lead-pipe-cinch Hall of Famer, so why not shell out north of $120 million to make him the replacement for Jacob deGrom? But then Verlander got hurt and when he wasn’t hurt he too often looked like a $43 million No. 4 starter. The Mets sent him back to the Astros for a pair of top-flight prospects as part of an intriguing teardown that essentially saw them trade for draft picks; in a sublime bit of baseball irony, he wound up opposing recent teammate Max Scherzer in a key Astros-Rangers showdown during the AL West playoff drive. (I remember the matchup but not how it turned out, because honestly who cares.) Verlander’s NEW YORK (N.L.) lacuna in his HOUSTON (A.L.) service time will baffle future visitors to both Baseball Reference and Cooperstown; we’ll be able to grumblingly assure them that it really happened. 2023 Topps card in a Photoshopped Mets uni, which is perfect.

Dominic Leone: When you travel north along the state road to our summer house in Maine you encounter a wooden sign marking a hard-to-see driveway: THE LEONES. It’s basically unobjectionable but a little too big for its surroundings and always reminds me that I’m not as close to home as I thought I was. 2023 Topps card as a Giant, wearing their fog-shrouded alts.

Josh Walker: Generic-looking guy with generic name apparently pitched for the 2023 Mets. The numbers show he was terrible and then got hurt, so I’m glad I don’t remember more than I do. 2023 Syracuse card.

Gary Sanchez: Defensively-challenged former Yankees catcher arrived in May to further complicate the Mets’ catching situation; the team watched him take six ABs and concluded he wasn’t the answer. Sanchez then became a Padre and hit 19 dingers, because of course he did. 2023 Topps card as a Twin.

Grant Hartwig: Hard-throwing righty reliever looked impressive at first, then a lot less so. He’s a rookie, so cut him some slack. He’s also one of many young Mets pitchers you can argue has been taught to pitch against his own best recipe for success, so don’t be surprised if we cut him loose in 2025 and he’s somebody’s closer a year later. Being a Mets fan is fun! 2023 Syracuse Mets card.

Vinny Nittoli: One of those guys who’s been everywhere (man), Nittoli starts 2024 getting paid by the Oakland A’s, his 10th organization. One of a startling number of Mets who’ve logged recent time with the Tacoma Rainers, whose card he gets in THB. I remember nothing else about him, sorry.

Danny Mendick: A former White Sox utility guy whose career was derailed by a knee injury, Mendick didn’t make the Mets out of spring training and his most notable contribution was getting bombed by the Braves when pressed into service on the mound. Somehow got a 2023 Topps Update card as a Met, which is success of a sort.

T.J. McFarland: Was brought into a game at Citi Field in June with the little ribbon scoreboard identifying him as a righty (no) and billing him as LASTNAME (arguably not incorrect but let’s also go with no). At least they got his number (44) right. 2023 Syracuse Mets.

DJ Stewart: One of the few bright spots on the roster as the season crumbled, Stewart showed some pop and looked a lot better than billed playing right field, which isn’t to say it wasn’t an adventure out there. Took the role of “portly lovable slugger” away from Daniel Vogelbach after Vogelbach stopped being lovable. I will now be a scold and remind you that this augurs exactly zero about Stewart’s future prospects. 2023 Syracuse Mets card; I imagine he’ll at least get one flagship Topps card out of this whole adventure.

Trevor Gott: The Mets acquired Gott from Seattle along with recidivist Met Chris Flexen, whom they made clear from the beginning they had no intention of actually doing anything with beyond paying him to not be a big-league ballplayer. That made Flexen the more useful addition, as Gott was numblingly and reliably horrible to the point that I would make the Edvard Munch face when spotting him in the bullpen and pray that an earthquake, a meteor impact or some other act of actual Gott would keep him from making me even angrier about the fact that we share a planet. He’s now an Oakland Athletic and they can fucking have his Jonah ass. Topps Total card as a Giant.

Jose Quintana: An important part of the rotation assembled for 2023, Quintana needed bone-graft surgery to repair a rib fracture and didn’t report for duty until late July, when the season was lost. He pitched well but got basically zero run support, no surprise as the Mets had become a ragamuffin collection of misfit toys. He’s now our No. 2 starter, which wasn’t exactly the plan. 2024 Topps Heritage card.

Reed Garrett: There are 1,458 innings in a baseball season, it winds up taking a lot of dudes to fill them, and a lot of those dudes are interchangeable right-handed relievers. Anyway, some Norfolk Tides card.

Rafael Ortega: Ortega provided another valuable baseball lesson amid the wreckage of the season, playing a capable center field and showing both speed and a little pop, which gave the Mets a bit of up-tempo when everything was down notes. That was a welcome antidote to the disdain with which I’d greeted his arrival — we should never forget that even the last guy on a late-August big-league roster is a world-class athlete who’s done something extraordinary by coming so far. (Stops, sings “Kumbaya.”) Still, it’s also not wrong to say that if Rafael Ortega is a regular in your starting lineup during the pennant drive you’re almost certainly not a part of said pennant drive. 2020 Topps Card as a Cub.

Jonathan Arauz: He had All-Star hair and was at least useful as a Met third baseman, which was a mercy by the time he showed up. Plus Howie Rose had fun saying his name: air-a-OOOOOOZE. Still, he hit .136. Arauz is only 25, so I wouldn’t write him off quite yet, though if he does something of note it’ll be as a Dodger, and they don’t exactly need help. 2023 Syracuse Mets card.

Phil Bickford: A glum-looking middle reliever, Bickford arrived from the Dodgers in return for cash at the end of July and was OK down the stretch. I struggled to remember even that much. Old Bowman card on which he’s … let’s see … a Brewer?

Abraham Almonte: If you say so. Long-ago Topps Heritage card as a proto-Guardian.

Tyson Miller: The only thing I remember about him is he arrived amid a parade of non-entities and I spent the week growling as I trudged off to eBay to secure another card for The Holy Books. (I’d say somebody’s gotta do it, but nobody does.) Some quick Googling reveals he pitched all of two innings and got a win, which is at least efficient. THB’s pages immortalize Miller as a Nashville Sound; one imagines it will always be thus.

Sam Coonrod: Coonrod generated some intrigue as a potential 2023 bullpen arm, but a lat strain kept him absent until August and he didn’t make much of an impression in a handful of garbage-time appearances. As a Giant he’d generated a kerfuffle with some knee-jerk Bible-thumpery and related nonsense, which at least wasn’t an issue during his Met tenure. I feel vaguely sorry for guys like Coonrod who wind up playing in San Francisco and New York; even in years without a World Series ring, surely they’d be happier as, say, members of the Texas Rangers. Anyway, an old Topps Heritage card as a Giant.

Adam Kolarek: Long-ago Met farmhand came home in the same cash deal that imported Phil Bickford. Kolarek pitched well, although the sample size was very small, and is now a Brave. That’s another thing about the 2023 THB arrivals — I think you can count the number of them who might be 2024 Mets with the fingers God gave you. An Oklahoma City Dodgers card from who knows when.

Ronny Mauricio: It’s tough being a blue-chip Mets prospect. Mauricio was the subject of so many debates about his bat speed vs. his pitch selection that by the time he finally followed Brett Baty and Francisco Alvarez to the parent club, we were already exhausted from fighting about him. When he arrived he did indeed seem inclined to swing at everything, but he also made the kind of contact that reminded you of Buck O’Neil talking about hearing “that sound” a few times in his baseball life. Mauricio’s first big-league hit left the bat at 117.3 MPH, the hardest contact made by a Met all year; his first big-league homer may be landing in Sri Lanka about now. Mauricio blew out his knee in winter ball and may well be lost for the upcoming season, an injury that technically happened in 2023 and so I’m ruling belongs to that Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year. 2023 Syracuse Mets card.

Anthony Kay: All hail the caboose! The last newcomer to the year’s roster is often not a prospect finally getting his shot but a random backup catcher, utility infielder or mop-up guy pressed into service when the big-league club realizes it can’t get through the year without another transaction — previous cabooses have included Tomas Nido, Tim Stauffer and Wilfredo Tovar. Kay was at least an interesting caboose, a Ward Melville High School kid who’d been a mildly intriguing Mets prospect before getting shipped off in the deal for Marcus Stroman. Welcome home! Kay threw the last pitch as a 2023 Mets hurler, ending a not very good appearance against the Phillies, and is now an Oakland minor-leaguer. But at least he avoided the fate of fellow hurler Peyton Battenfield, who made THB as the 13th ghost in Mets history. And thus concludes “At Least He Avoided…: The 2023 Mets in Review.” 2020 Topps card as a Blue Jay.

7 comments to Welcome, THB Class of 2023!

  • eric1973

    Turns out I really liked this, Jason. I have not ever even heard of half these guys, and if you switched around just the names but kept the rest of the text in order, I would still love this piece because I love how you turn a phrase.

  • eric1973

    When I think of Ketel Marte, I feel like I want to reach for a drink, and but then when I think of Sterling Marte, I want to reach for something stronger.

  • eric1973

    “After a Week 13 bye, the Bills were 6-6 and had a 21% chance to make the playoffs and just a 4% chance to win the division, per ESPN Analytics.”

    Lucky for them, Steve Cohen does not own the team, or Allen and Diggs would have been shipped out long ago.

    You know, maybe if we had stayed in it and come up short, some of these FA’s we are losing out on maybe would have seen we had some fight and may have decided to sign up.

  • Harvey

    As usual, loved the THB Class post. I collect at least one card of every Met for every year. That raises some questions about your post. For example, do you as a rule prefer a Met minor league card over a a major league card from a prior year? For example, for Tim LoCastro, I have a 2022 Topps Update as a Yankee and for Rafael Ortega, I have the 2023 Topps card, also a Yankee. Maybe you don’t like Yankee cards, but for DJ Stewart I have a 2022 Topps card as an Oriole. For Tyson Miller, I have an old Topps Update as a Cub and for Denyi Reyes, I have an Old Bowman card as a Red Sox. Of course I also have Mets farm team sets for every year since those began, I believe with the 1975 Tidewater set.

    • Jason Fry

      Oh, I’d say it’s more art than science but it’s not particularly art either.

      I generally try to get as close to the year of matriculation as possible, so I’ll opt for newer minor league cards if I can — bonus if they’re Syracuse Mets, which is basically family. I eschew Yankees if I can and otherwise go by my own whims: a better card (the 2021s are essentially unreadable), not a horizontal, etc. If guys stick around of course you hold out hope for a better card — Drew Smith finally got a Mets card this year!

      Speaking of which, I’m not convinced the Syracuse Mets Denyi Reyes is actually him. Any thoughts?

  • Seth

    Like Eric, I don’t remember half these guys. Some of the other names are giving me a bit of PTSD though. Great post, Jason, good to read you again.

  • Harvey

    I compared that Denyi Reyes Syracuse card with his old Red Sox card. If the Syracuse card is actually him, he must have gotten a skin-lightening treatment.