Carlos Beltran is a future Hall-of-Famer, a Gold Glove center fielder who hit 400 home runs, stole 300 bases, and hit .307/.412/.609 in the postseason. He might wear a Mets cap on his Cooperstown plaque. He played more games with the New York Mets than with any other team. He is objectively a great player.
And yet–would you be more comfortable talking to a stranger about Donald Trump or Carlos Beltran? If you took a Mets fan off the subway and asked them about Carlos Beltran, what would they say? Maybe they would talk about Adam Wainwright’s curveball and Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Maybe they’d say it was a shame the Mets wasted so many of Beltran’s best years, surrounding him, David Wright, and Jose Reyes with mediocre players. Maybe they’d claim Beltran was a clubhouse cancer and #BlameBeltran. He is not universally beloved the way Mike Piazza or Tom Seaver or Mookie Wilson is universally beloved.
I have a new theory about this: Carlos Beltran’s problem was that he lacked an essential Mets-iness. He was, in a word, too competent.
For example, when Beltran had a bone bruise in his right knee in 2009, he ignored the Mets team doctor and had knee surgery, possibly without the team’s permission. The Mets threatened to void Beltran’s contract in a public spat.
Guess who was correct about Carlos Beltran’s knee?
Beltran was. He played eight more seasons on his surgically repaired knee. (Can you think of a better medical strategy than doing the opposite of whatever the Mets doctors tell you? You’d probably live forever.) Beltran knew better. He won Gold Gloves for a team that let Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda run around next to him in the outfield. He was a genius baseball player who loved to swipe third. He was a beloved teammate, but he didn’t always seem to enjoy playing for the Mets. That’s not a criticism. Beltran, wisely, rejected certain aspects of the Mets. There’s a reason the pairing never quite seemed to click.
You know who is a True Met? Ryan Church. He made the final out at Shea Stadium. Very Mets. His most famous moment was missing third base in a game against the Dodgers in 2009, taking the go-ahead run off the board. Very Mets. He suffered a concussion, let the Mets doctors fly him all over the country, and then he had to retire. The Mets! They ruined his career. Church embodied a certain period of Mets baseball. Carlos Beltran is objectively a better player, by a comical margin, but Ryan Church was more Mets. Would Carlos Beltran ever miss a base? Did Carlos Beltran trust the Mets medical staff?
Mike Piazza was objectively great, but he also dyed his hair blonde and once held a press conference to announce he identified as heterosexual. A Scottish band wrote a song about it. Of course he fit in. It goes beyond just talent.
The Mets’ franchise identity is a blend of lovable losers, comic ineptness, great pitching, humor, lost potential, an occasional dark streak, and soul-crushing meltdowns. Daniel Murphy was an excellent Met. Whenever he’d play well, it was amusing, because Murphy has a weirdly small torso and a dinosaur-arm batting stance and had no business playing second base. Johan Santana was objectively a great pitcher, but that worked because the Mets usually have objectively great pitchers–Tom Seaver is the greatest Met of all. Ed Kranepool was not an all-time great, but he is an all-time great Met. The Wilpons are objectively bad owners, because they were bilked out of millions in a Ponzi scheme that financially crippled the franchise for a half-decade, but they’re great Mets owners, because they were bilked out of millions in a Ponzi scheme that financially crippled the franchise for a half-decade. That’s a very Mets thing to happen.
See how this works?
And so, in that tradition, here is a scientific ranking of the Mets current roster, by how Mets each player feels, on a scale of 1-10, from least-to-most Mets. Again, this is scientific, so if you disagree, you are wrong.
Jose Reyes – 11/10: Once beloved. Now? Yuck. A useful bench player at this stage in his career, but this list isn’t about usefulness. It’s about Metsiness.
Tomas Nido – 12/10: Last September, Nido was thrown out trying to go second-to-home on an infield hit, for the final out of the game, with the Mets trailing by eight. He hasn’t played enough, but there’s lots of promise here. Lots of promise.
Amed Rosario – 13/10: The Mets all-time leaders in plate appearances by shortstops, via Fangraphs:
Jose Reyes: 5680 PA
Bud Harrelson: 5083 PA
Rey Ordonez: 3216 PA
Ruben Tejada: 2185 PA
Kevin Elster: 1765 PA
If you sort by WAR, Ruben Tejada jumps to (his rightful place as) the third-best shortstop in Mets history. Ruben Tejada! I love Ruben Tejada. But Ruben Tejada should not be the third-best anything for any franchise. Amed Rosario could grow into an All-Star shortstop, which would be great, but also that would not be a very Mets thing to become.
Robert Gsellman – 14/10: Gsellman is an aggressive gum-chewer, has tattoos, and once told reporters that he didn’t care what his GM thought. There’s bad boy potential here, albeit surly-teenager-in-a-pleather-jacket bad boy potential. He might be a good pitcher. If he went by “Bob,” he’d shoot up these rankings.
Seth Lugo – 14/10: He’s pitching with a partial tear in his UCL, which gives him plenty of Mets potential. Like his career twin Gsellman, too early to make a call.
Juan Lagares – 14/10: His development has stalled after various injuries, but Lagares would still rank near the top if this list were organized by “fun.” It’s not though! This scientific list is about Metsiness, and good fielding is anti-Mets.
Travis d’Arnaud (DL) – 14/10: Played too many games to be a failed prospect in the Fernando Martinez/Lastings Milledge type. The Mets have a long line of great catchers–or like three great catchers–and catchers sometimes bloom late, but time is running out for d’Arnaud.
Paul Sewald – 15/10: Sewald was almost traded for Jason Kipnis last winter, which means a bunch of dudes in the Cleveland front office had a professional meeting about Paul Sewald, the last man in the Mets bullpen, and came to a conclusion about his value. Think about that. How boring must it be to work in a front office?
A.J. Ramos – 15/10: Being traded from the Marlins puts Ramos in the Mets footsteps of Al Leiter, Mike Piazza, and Carlos Delgado. He’s also walked 16 in 25 innings with the Mets, but no one’s noticed because he hasn’t pitched in an important game yet. Lots of potential here.
Jay Bruce – 15/10: The Mets have spend the last three seasons trying to acquire or trade away Jay Bruce, and we’re one Brandon Nimmo hot streak away from that happening again. He has serious lunchpail potential though, because he’s white and looks unathletic most of the time.
Jason Vargas (DL) – 15/10: He was part of that awful J.J. Putz trade that should have barred Omar Minaya from rejoining the Mets ever again. And yet here they both are.
Matt Harvey – 15/10: Says he admires Derek Jeter, has a shoe collection that “a lot of women would be impressed by,” and doesn’t seem to like laughing at himself–these are very Yankee traits. “Mysterious” nosebleeds, arm injuries, and being unable to get out of his own way, however, are extremely Mets traits. Mixed bag here. Harvey seems to be in denial of his Metsiness, which may itself be Metsian? Hardest player to judge here.
Asdrubal Cabrera – 16/10: A useful player I have never once felt excited about. Gains a point for once frosting his tips, a Mets tradition like no other.
Zack Wheeler – 16/10: Arm injuries and a John-Maine-esque inability to put hitters away. Will he put it together? Will he vanish only to reemerge to pitch 30 mediocre relief innings for the Orioles in six years? Only time will tell.
Michael Conforto – 16/10: Nicknamed “Scooter.” No one, including Conforto, knows why. I can’t decide if that’s very Mets.
Noah Syndergaard – 17/10: Thor has the potential to be the best pitcher in baseball, which would be Metsian, but seems just as likely to suffer a career-ending back injury while deadlifting in an attempt to impress a girl, which is also very Mets. Participates in a running online joke about having a sexual relationship with Mrs. Met, who is a human-baseball hybrid married to Mr. Met. I would pay $20 from my own wallet to make that #content stop.
Jacob deGrom – 17/10: The Mets are the franchise of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Dwight Gooden, and I suspect Jacob deGrom will be on that list when his Mets days are done. (Among Mets pitchers, deGrom already ranks eighth in WAR, fourth in ERA, and first in strikeouts-per-nine-innings.) Being a great pitcher is very Mets. But the Mets are also funny and bad, so deGrom loses points for being neither.
Steven Matz – 18/10: From Long Island. Being from Long Island, New Jersey, or Whitestone earns you a minimum of 8.
Adrian Gonzalez – 18/10: Bobby Abreu. Daisuke Matsuzaka. Willie Mays. Duke Snider. Warren Spahn. Rickey Henderson. Roberto Alomar. Orlando Hernandez. I’m forgetting more, I’m sure, but the final stop in a long career? Welcome to the Mets, Adrian Gonzalez.
Yoenis Cespedes – 18/10: An underrated breed of Met: The weirdo. It’s not always obvious because Cespedes rarely gives interviews in English, but he’s in the Turk Wendell, Jimmy Piersall, R.A. Dickey mold. The cigarette-smoking, underhand-throwing, horse-riding, possibly-not-street-legal-car-driving, pig-slaughtering, neon-armband-wearing Yoenis Cespedes has thrived with the Mets precisely because he’s a weirdo. If you read that he bred prize-winning guinea pigs, or was arrested for running an illegal street-racing ring, or was once a professional opera singer, you’d believe it, right?
Jeurys Familia – 18/10: He’s not responsible for the 2015 World Series, when he was charged with three blown saves despite allowing only two runs (one earned), but he’s partially responsible for the 2016 Wild Card loss. A talented closer who makes you nervous in huge spots? He belongs.
Jose Lobaton – 19/10: A no-hit, all-glove third-string catcher is a very Mets thing to be. Anonymity is key for this role though, so the more games Lobaton plays, the lower his score will be. Currently has frosted tips.
Jerry Blevins – 19/10: “Jerry Blevins” is a very Mets name, and lefty-specialist is a very Mets role. He’d be equally at home on a garbage team or a good one, which is also very Mets. He’s also amusing.
Todd Frazier – 20/10: Did you know he’s from Toms River, New Jersey? More lunchpail potential here as well.
Anthony Swarzak (DL) – 20/10: A relief pitcher who may spend his entire Mets career on the DL with minor injuries? The Mets!
Kevin Plawecki (DL) – 20/10:
Brandon Nimmo – 20/10: Seems to have been dropped into this universe from a parallel one where everyone drinks milkshakes at the pharmacy counter, the only curse word is “golly gee,” and all citizens have perfect knowledge of the strike zone. A favorite to take the top spot.
Hansel Robles – 20/10: An eternal optimist who believes every fly ball can be caught as long as you point at it. A true Mets legend. Appreciate him while you can.
David Wright (DL) – 20/10: The Captain. Injuries are very Mets, but David Wright’s injuries are more sad than anything. He was on a Hall of Fame career arc through 2014 and, whether or not he ever escapes the bardo, is statistically the greatest position player in franchise history. He’s 35. No one, possibly including Wright, knows whether he can even throw a baseball after all the shoulder, neck, and back surgeries. If this is indeed a long goodbye, he deserved better–a sentiment that sums up his Mets career.
Wilmer Flores – 21/10: The current paragon of Metsiness. Best known for once being removed from a game because he couldn’t stop crying. Learned English from Friends. Terrible fielder. Wore David Wright’s jersey in an intra-squad game. Just a delight. Carlos Gomez’s failed physical in the summer of 2015 was clearly an act of divine intervention. Flores seems just as likely to miss a base as hit a game-winning home run. May Wilmer Flores play for the Mets forever.