With the retirement of Chipper Jones there is a void that needs to be filled in the role of Mets villain. Who will rise up to become the perennial thorn in the side of the heroic New York Mets?
The Mets need to be heroes and have a serious adventure before a full-fledged villain can be born. Larry Jones's story was an organic one built from the Mets' yearly struggle to claim the National League East title from the Atlanta Braves. September battles for third place don't create enough high-pressure situations to mint a truly epic enemy, but there are some players who have started down the road of self-nomination
Harper has been grabbing media attention since he was drafted in 2010. Writers love to write about him and fans of non-Nationals teams don't seem to think much of him. He set all sorts of records as a teenager and appears destined to be at or near the top of the league in many offensive categories for many years to come, which means he'll be standing in the way of the Mets' success. In 2012 he hit three home runs against the Mets, drove in 11 runs, and slugged .541. On June 5 he capped a 12th-inning come-from-behind rally for the Nationals with a game-winning single off of Elvin Ramirez. On July 17 he tied the game in the bottom of the 10th with a one-out triple off of Tim Byrdak before scoring the winning run on a Pedro Beato wild pitch.
Johnson's name doesn't come up much as a Mets villain, but it should. His numbers against the Mets are good, but more specifically he's the guy that stepped on Johan Santana's foot last year in a play at first that ultimately derailed Santana's season. I don't know if he could have avoided stepping on him, but it sure seems like it from the replays. Santana's season quickly tumbled from that point on, and he admitted to adjusting his delivery as a result of the pain in that foot.
It's probably not fair to blame Johnson entirely for Johan's second half, but it certainly makes Johnson a viable candidate for Mets villain. Mets fans still have a distaste for Matt Cain after he hit David Wright, so why not loathe Johnson for injuring Santana? Johnson's numbers against the Mets are significantly higher than his career line, too. Johnson's career OPS is .752, but against the Mets it's .940 and it's above 1.000 at both Citi Field and Shea Stadium. Admittedly this is a smaller sample size due to Johnson's time in the American League, but depending where Johnson, a free agent, lands this offseason he could continue to be a thorn in the Mets' side going forward.
Another powerful young player in the Mets division, where frequent match-ups create viable breeding grounds for Mets villains, Stanton has the type of power that could have him launching rockets off of Mets relievers for years, or until the Marlins trade him. Stanton led the National League in slugging percentage at .608 this season, and actually hit a tick better than that against the Mets, .611. His .891 OPS includes 10 home runs he's already hit against the Mets before his 23rd birthday. You may recall the walk-off grand slam he hit off Manny Acosta, in relief of Frank Francisco, to cap an 8-4 Marlins win after they trailed 4-2 going to the ninth. On August 8 he hit two home runs off Chris Young on the way to a 13-0 drubbing of the Mets.
Molina is already a villain for what become the last runs ever scored in a postseason game at Shea Stadium, but villains of moments are not what I'm after here, and Molina has not been much of a Met killer outside of that October evening in 2006. He's got a .666 OPS against the Mets in his career with zero home runs. He has only twice as many extra base hits against the Mets in the regular season as the postseason, in seven times as many games.
These are but a few of the many potential candidates to fill Chipper's vacated seat as most-hated opposing player, but because baseball villainy is a very personal classification, I'm sure there are others out there who you guys find just as detestable — or perhaps more so — than the ones I've listed above. As Chipper retired this season it felt like many Mets fans realized how much they loved to hate him, and hopefully there's another rivalry coming in the near future with someone else.