April 30, 2002 - Al Leiter beats the Arizona Diamondbacks and becomes the first Major League pitcher to defeat all 30 teams.
August 17, 2002 - The Mets celebrate their 40th anniversary by having the fans select the "All Amazin' Team". The team, which was announced prior to the game against the Dodgers, was comprised of manager Gil Hodges, first baseman Keith Hernandez, second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, shortstop Buddy Harrelson, third baseman Howard Johnson, catcher Mike Piazza, outfielders Mookie Wilson, Lenny Dykstra and Darryl Strawberry, pinch-hitters Rusty Staub and Ed Kranepool, righthanded starter Tom Seaver, lefthanded starter Jerry Koosman, righthanded reliever Roger McDowell and lefthanded reliever John Franco. Also on that night, Mike Piazza hits a two-run home run in the seventh inning that is the 328th of his career, moving him past Johnny Bench for second place on the all-time list for homers by a catcher. Piazza's blast also makes him the National League leader for home runs as a catcher.
August 2002 - The Mets go 0-13 at Shea for the month. They became the third team in Major League history to go winless at home during a calendar month with a minimum of 10 decisions. The 1969 Seattle Pilots went 0-13 in August and the 1996 Detroit Tigers were 0-16 in September.
Sept. 3, 2002 - The Mets drop the first game of a doubleheader to the Marlins, establishing a new National League record with their 15th consecutive home defeat. The Boston Braves held the previous mark with 14 straight losses at home in 1911.
Sept. 5, 2002 - Armando Benitez earns his 30th save against Florida, becoming the first Met in franchise history to record three consecutive seasons with 30 or more saves.
Sept. 7, 2002 - Mets manager Bobby Valentine is named the recipient of the prestigious Branch Rickey Award, which honors individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their community and are strong role models for others. He is the first non-player to be honored with the award.
Oct. 1, 2002 - After six-plus years with the Mets, Bobby Valentine is relieved of duties as manager.
Oct. 28, 2002 - Art Howe is hired as the 17th manager in franchise history.
April 11-14, 2003 - The Mets played their first ever series in Puerto Rico against the Montreal Expos.
April 20, 2003 - John Franco returns from Tommy John surgery and appears in his 1000th Major League game in the second game of a double-header with the Brewers.
April 22, 2003 - Mike Piazza cracks his 350th home run against the Houston Astros.
June 15, 2003 - Jose Reyes becomes the second player in Mets history to have his first Major League home run be a grand slam and becomes the youngest player (20 years, 4 days) in the league to hit a grand slam since Tony Conigliaro in 1964.
August 15, 2003 - Tom Glavine gets his 250th win against the Colorado Rockies.
August 28, 2003 - Jose Reyes becomes the youngest player in Major League history to hit a home run from both sides of the plate against the Atlanta Braves.
September 24, 2003 - Hall of Fame radio announcer Bob Murphy announced his last game after 42 legendary years of service for the Mets.
The Mets were plagued by injuries throught the 2003 season and finished in last place for the 2nd season in a row. In Art Howe's first year at the helm, the Mets led the NL with 506 games started by rookies. One of the bright spots of the year was the play of rookie Ty Wigginton who set Mets rookie records in doubles (36), hits (146), extra base hits (53), and at-bats (573).
A revamped group of Mets, highlighted by the additions of Kaz Matsui and Mike Cameron, began the season strong under Art Howe, fighting for first place in the National League East through the middle of July despite Jose Reyes missing nearly three months with a hamstring problem. Tom Glavine and Al Leiter were the Major League ERA leaders for much of the first half and it appeared as if New York was going to give the Braves a run for the divisional crown. But injuries to Reyes, Matsui, Glavine, Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd derailed the Mets' run in the second half, eventually costing Howe his job.
Once the Mets recovered from losses in their first five games, their 2005 became a renaissance season. They produced a winning record, 83-79, for the first time since 2001 in Willie Randolph's managerial debut and established themselves as wild card contenders. Losing 15 of 18 games from Aug. 27 through Sept. 15 undermined their chances though.
The '05 Mets were a qualified success in other ways, as well. Pedro Martinez made them an attraction, though they lost 14 of his 31 starts. Tom Glavine executed a remarkable about-face at the All-Star break and again was one of the league's premier pitchers. But his post-break record was 7-6. Before the break, it was 6-7. The acquisition of Carlos Beltran excited the Mets market, his play did not. Mike Piazza, in his final Mets season, produced as well as any catcher in the game until early August. But he hardly was the force he had been.
But the emergence of David Wright (.306 average, 27 home runs and 102 RBI), Jose Reyes (99 runs, 60 steals, 17 triples) and Aaron Heilman, who became a formidable force in set-up relief, changed the team's image and outlook. The season was a step in the right direction.
A team with speed, power, left-handed and right-handed balance, the league's best bullpen and the ability to score early and to win close games dominated the league and became the first Mets division champion since 1988. The '06 Mets had four players finish in the top 13 in Most Valuable Player voting. But late-season injuries to Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez undermined their pitching in the post season, and despite a breath-taking catch by Endy Chavez in Game 7 of the NLCS, their season ended without a World Series appearance.
The Mets began the season as if they intended another runaway. But June brought more challenge than they could handle, and they never fully recovered, losing 57 of their last 112 games. Still, they led the division by seven games with 17 remaining. But 12 losses -- the 12th coming on the season's final day -- denied them postseason entree. Though ultimately disappointing, the season had its moments, including Tom Glavine becoming the 23nd 300-game winner in history, beating the Cubs at Wrigley Field Aug. 5, 2007. After the season, David Wright won a Gold Glove and, a Silver Slugger Award and placed fourth in the MVP balloting.
Because of another improbable 11th-hour slide, the Mets' '08 proved to be more of a sequel than a season. Now it is permanently linked to its predecessor. A 3 1/2-game lead with 17 games remaining evaporated despite brilliant and gallant pitching by Johan Santana, and the Mets again missed the playoffs by one game. They suffered 10 losses in those 17 games, the 10th coming in the season's final game -- again against the Marlins at Shea Stadium. The team's shortfall in the first months prompted the dismissal of Willie Randolph and appointment of Jerry Manuel. The emergence of David Wright as one of the game's brightest stars continued. He won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award for the second time and placed seventh in the MVP balloting. The final game was followed by stirring ceremonies commemorating the Mets' 45-year run at Shea. The stadium's final images were of Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza, dressed in Mets caps and uniform shirts, moving toward Shea's center field gate, all done in the shadow of Citi Field, the site of the club's future, designed to evoke memories of Brooklyn's baseball past.
Armed with a new and accomplished closer, whose acquisition addressed the team's greatest need, and playing in a sparkling new ballpark, the Mets had visions of playing into late October 2009. But the season crashed down on them. It was broken beyond repair before it was half over and -- as happened to many Mets -- assigned to the disabled list. Their 70-92 record in Jerry Manuel's first full season as the Mets' manager left the team in fourth place, 16 games from third place, 23 from first and 11 from last.
Because of various physical problems, neither Jose Reyes nor Carlos Delgado played beyond May 20, and Carlos Beltran was unavailable from June 22 through Sept. 7. Johan Santana's season, brilliant through May, ended on Aug. 20, and J.J. Putz's ended on June 4. Both pitchers required elbow surgery. Moreover, John Maine and the unreliable Oliver Perez missed extended portions of the season because of injuries. David Wright and Luis Castillo were the only players to start more than 100 games, and Mike Pelfrey was the only pitcher to start more than 30 games.
Those able to perform didn't fare well. There wasn't much for Francisco Rodriguez to save, and he struggled at times. With the dimensions of Citi Field playing a part, Wright hit 10 home runs, 19 fewer than his four-year average and two fewer than team leader Daniel Murphy. Castillo produced a renaissance season, but his decisive misplay in the ninth inning against the Yankees on June 12 -- he dropped a routine popup -- became the defining moment of the season.
Castillo's reaction to that play and Jeff Francoeur's to the unassisted game-ending triple play his line drive produced against the Phillies on Aug. 23 were more readily associated with the Mets' season than the two plays that created the most smiles -- Gary Sheffield's 500th career home run against the Brewers on April 17 and Murphy's remarkable behind-the-back flip at first base against the Dodgers in July.
Heading into the 2010 season believing their hitting would be stellar and their pitching might be suspect, the Mets, for a time, defied all expectations. Thanks to a tremendous start to the season from Mike Pelfrey, a strong rookie campaign from Jon Niese and some surprising contributions from R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi, the Mets stayed in contention throughout the first half of the year on the strength of their pitching -- and despite some consistently inadequate hitting. Other than David Wright, who bounced back to his career offensive norms, Angel Pagan, and rookies Ike Davis and Josh Thole, the Mets could not muster any sort of sustained offense throughout the season. Compounding their issues was the absence of Carlos Beltran, who missed the first half of the season recovering from knee surgery and contributed little after he returned. In late July, the Mets suffered through a 2-9 West Coast trip and never came close to recovering, rapidly tumbling from playoff contention to fourth place in the division. Season-ending injuries to Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez did not help things, nor did a chronic oblique problem for shortstop Jose Reyes. The bubble burst. And the Mets finished the season where most expected them to, in fourth. They simply took a circuitous route to get there.
Another surprising first half melted into another disappointment in 2011 for the Mets, who remained in contention into July. But another spate of serious injuries -- this time to David Wright, Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy -- undermined the Mets, as did the midseason trades of Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez. Not helping matters was the fact that Johan Santana's rehab from left shoulder surgery took months longer than originally anticipated, knocking out the Mets' best pitcher for the entirety of the season.
Without Santana, the Mets spent most of the early summer holding things together with Scotch tape, a consistent starting rotation and ample heaps of Jose Reyes, who submitted arguably the best individual half-season in franchise history. But Reyes also struggled with injuries down the stretch, despite rebounding to win the batting title with a controversial bunt single on the final day of the season. It was his last act as a Met. Two months later, Reyes signed with the Marlins, further distancing the Mets from their more successful incarnations of the recent past.
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