John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
In a Mets decade that produced two Rookies of the Year, three Cy Young Awards in addition to an All-Star Game starting pitcher, a batting champ, a major-league home run leader and a record-setting post-season home run hitter, you'd think the team in Queens would have more highs to look back on than lows.
Yet it's not even close.
Ineptitude defined the early 2010s, then injuries and insufficient depth, thanks to a spotty farm system, turned two straight years of October baseball into a remarkably short-lived taste of winning.
All of which sets the stage for my All-Decade Team that, fittingly, is full of the type of star power that could have added up to so much more, with better luck and smarter team-building.
First Base: Lucas Duda
Yes, it's tempting to slot Pete Alonso here for his spectacular rookie season, but to be fair, Duda did enough over a handful of seasons, much of them spent playing first base, to get the nod.
During the Mets' brief time as contenders, Duda was their big lefthanded power threat, and solid defensively. Yet typical of the Mets in this decade, he might be best remembered for the horrendous throw to the plate that allowed Eric Hosmer to score the tying run in Game 5 of the World Series, setting the stage for the extra-inning loss.
Second Base: Daniel Murphy
In what turned out to be the most Mets' thing of all in the 2010s, management rewarded Murphy, the guy most responsible for their October success in 2015 with his Babe Ruth-like home-run spree, by deciding he wasn't worth trying to re-sign that winter as a free agent.
And then watched him terrorize Mets' pitching with the rival Nationals for the next three years.
Shortstop: Jose Reyes
Still another case of mismanagement of a star player. Reyes was still in his prime in 2011, leading the NL by hitting .338, including 16 triples, in his final season in Queens. But the Mets weren't contenders so he either should have been given a contract extension or traded for much-needed prospects at the mid-season deadline.
Instead he left as a free agent, and though he wasn't great in Miami, Toronto, or Colorado, he was much better than Ruben Tejada or Wilmer Flores. Meanwhile, Reyes was just good enough in his return to the Mets from 2016-18 to edge out Amed Rosario for this spot.
Third Base: David Wright
Just bad luck here as injuries, most notably spinal stenosis, derailed Wright's career in his early 30s after building a potential Hall of Fame resume in his 20s, and turned his long-term contract into something of an albatross.
Wright put up his best years prior to this decade, in part because the move to Citi Field in 2009 proved a graveyard early on for his right-center power, but Wright was still a very good player, making All-Star teams in 2012 and '13, as well as the team captain and face of the franchise.
Catcher: Travis d'Arnaud
Really no choice here, as nobody else caught enough to make it a debate. So d'Arnaud makes it even though he was a source of disappointment and frustration to the Mets and their fans, failing to live up to the high expectations that came with him from the Blue Jays' organization as part of the R.A. Dickey trade.
Injuries were a big part of it, of course, but d'Arnaud was inconsistent offensively and didn't connect with his pitchers, a point made especially noticeable by the way Jacob deGrom, among others, latched onto Devin Mesoraco in 2018, appreciating his preparation and game-calling.
Left Field: Yoenis Cespedes
Still another case of what could have been. And, who knows, what may still be, if Cespedes' predictions of 40-plus home runs that he made recently to Eduardo Perez is an indication of how motivated he'll be in 2020.
He'll always be the guy who ignited the run to the World Series in 2015, and he was a huge presence in their 2016 wild-card run as well, leaving the Mets little choice but to give him a four-year, $110 million deal. He's barely been seen since then because of injuries, but now he'll be playing for a new contract, and perhaps with a chip on his shoulder as well after having his contract reduced because of whatever caused his broken ankle on his farm in Florida last year.
Center Field: Curtis Granderson
I either had to decide that Granderson played enough center field as a Met to qualify for this spot or go with Juan Lagares, and as great as Lagares' defense was at times, he just never hit enough to warrant such a selection.
Granderson didn't quite live up to expectations coming over from the Yankees in 2014, but he was an important part of the '15 World Series team as the leadoff hitter, putting up an OPS of .821 that included 33 doubles and 26 home runs.
Right Field: Michael Conforto
Instantly beloved by Mets' fans for how he showed up as a rookie during the 2015 and instantly delivered in a pennant race, Conforto showed off a sweet swing that made him look like a superstar in the making. He hasn't quite delivered on that level, in part because of injuries, but he'll only be 27 in March, coming off a personal-best 33-home run season.
Starting Rotation: Jacob deGrom
He might be wishing he'd waited another year to sign that contract extension, after winning a second straight NL Cy Young Award and then seeing Gerrit Cole get $324 million in free agency, as deGrom now seems like a bargain at five years, $137 million. So far, at least, this is the one guy on this all-decade team for whom the Mets are reaping the rewards for being proactive in locking him up.
Starting Rotation: Johan Santana
If not for his no-hitter, there'd be no way to justify including Santana on the all-decade team, as he pitched in only two seasons, 2010 and '12. The no-no against the Cardinals may be tainted, thanks the infamous foul call of a line drive that kicked up chalk, but it was still a hugely meaningful moment for a franchise that had so many near-misses over the years. And it capped a brilliant career for the lefty who won two Cy Young Awards with the Twins.
Starting Rotation: R.A. Dickey
He'll always be one of the more remarkable stories in baseball history, a journeyman-turned-knuckleballer who went on to win the 2012 Cy Young Award. That's enough to justify his spot here, as he gave the Mets two other solid seasons in 2010 and '11. Sandy Alderson's decision to trade Dickey following the Cy Young season proved to be one of his better moves as GM, bringing back Noah Syndergaard and d'Arnaud in a deal with the Blue Jays.
Starting Rotation: Noah Syndergaard
He hasn't pitched to his potential the last couple of seasons, but Syndergaard certainly had his big moments in this decade, whether it was coming out of the pen to help the Mets win Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers; throwing that first pitch over Alcides Escobar's head in Game 3 of the WS and then basically telling the Royals too bad if they didn't like it; and matching zeroes for seven innings against Madison Bumgarner for seven innings in the 2016 wild-card game.
Starting Rotation: Matt Harvey
Zack Wheeler has a better body of work, and his last couple of seasons argue for his selection here, but Harvey was Harvey, so electric upon his arrival in 2012 that his starts earned event status, bringing back memories of Doc Gooden in 1984. He was among the very best pitchers in baseball in 2013, starting the All-Star Game at Citi Field, and came back from Tommy John surgery two years later to play a big role in 2015, famously convincing Terry Collins to let him pitch the ninth inning of WS Game 5 but then failing to get the job done. His immaturity contributed to his stunning crash-and-burn as a Met, but he was really never the same the same after surgery in 2016 for thoracic outlet syndrome.
Closer: Jeurys Familia
Given his struggles the last couple of seasons, it's almost hard to believe how dominant Familia was for a three-year period, the last two as the Mets' closer, racking up 94 saves in 2015-'16.
Unfortunately he'll always be remembered for trying to quick-pitch Alex Gordon in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the World Series, throwing a fat pitch that turned into a game-tying home run. That decision still haunts more than a few Mets' people, as it cost them Game 1 and may well have changed the entire complexion of that series.