Your City Needs You

47Oh well. When you get down to it I didn’t expect we’d win even 11 straight. And if I’m being truly honest I’m a little surprised we didn’t tailspin at the Wright injury, much less the d’Arnaud one, but even amid the joyousness of the streak it was clear the lineup misses them, win or lose. Get well soon David and Travis: Your city needs you.

And look: It’s not like I’m rooting against Daniel Murphy but how long can any lineup withstand a 5th-place hitter doing what he’s been doing to the Mets? That “don’t worry, he’ll get his 185 hits” line is the kind of thing they say instead of what I’m about to: He’s fortunate that the majority of his would-be job-takers (Reynolds, Herrera, Flores) all bat righthanded. You know who’d be a great second baseman for this team? Chase Utley, that’s who. Would I consider giving the Phillies Syndergaard and Plawecki for him? Yes I would.

One positive Friday if you stuck around long enough was an impressive debut of Hansel Robles, who wore No. 47. He throws high gas. I’m suspicious of Bobby Parnell’s ability to bounce back from neck and elbow surgery in consecutive years and Vic Black in my view still needs to demonstrate he’s going to be worth waiting for. Relievers: In, out, churn. Get injured at your own risk.

*

0Big thanks to my pal Dirk over at No-No Hitters who volunteered his services in replacing the old black-shadowed numerals on the site with new ones. The change is subtle but like on the Mets unis, it’s a big improvement.

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The Magic is Bad

7The Mets are leading the world in costly victories. This is a weird thing to get used to, but that’s twice now this season — really thrice if you count Jenrry Mejia’s disappearing act on opening day — where the Mets came away with a big win at a big cost. Today it was Jerry Blevins and Travis d’Arnaud going down with broken bones within 15 minutes of one another.

13I’m sure the Mets will miss both of them; I feel like personally sending d’Arnaud a get-well card; he was looking like a legitimate All-Star and certainly one of the chief reasons the loss of David Wright to injury hasn’t been the blow I feared it could be. Suddenly though, we’ve got a lineup without him and Wright, and before long using Eric Campbell as your cleanup hitter is going to show.

22I’m confident Kevin Plawecki is a nice hitter but as we saw with d’Arnaud, the ascension is rarely steady. Anyway, Plawecki will be a Met on Tuesday. They’re holding No. 22 for him.

67Blevins was great too, but relief pitching is such a crapshoot. I suppose the Mets now turn to Alex Torres to get out Freddy Freeman next week. Alex and his giant hat might inspire a giggle but the way he’s handled Christian Yelich this weekend was the kind of thing that can make a good impression on a guy like Terry). The guy they’ve recalled in the meantime, Hansel Robles, is a righthander and off to a very good start in Las Vegas (reportedly throws 98 MPH gas). He wore No. 67 in Spring Training: He’d be the first 67 in regular-season history if he retains it but with numbers as common as 30, 32 and 34 sitting around unissued I suppose its anyone’s guess.

Eh, screw it. I say he becomes the first 67 ever.

Speaking of milestones I was reminded by Gordon in the comments section that we’re approaching the 1,000th Met ever, faster than we would have guessed even. Danny Muno., by our and Gordon’s count, was No. 990; Plawecki and Robles should take us to 992 and form there…?

Who’s your guess? And when?

 

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Full Muno

16Well, it happened a week or two later than I’d imagined it might but Daniel Muno made it to the Mets. The reserve infielder was recalled Friday and is expected to be wearing No. 16, which most recently went to another impressive spring training candidate, Alex Castellanos, but was last used in a game that counted by Daisuke Matuszaka last year.

In what was a small surprise the Mets sent down Rafael Montero to make room for Muno. Howie Rose on the broadcast the other night was saying the Mets weren’t terribly happy with Raffy’s pitch selections during his appearances in Atlanta; I want to think perhaps they need to stretch him out again so he can take Dillon Gee’s job when the time comes.

Other than that, and of course the David Wright injury, very little has gone wrong so far for the 2015 Mets who through the first 10 are on pace to win 113 games this year, including all 81 at home. Let’s Go Mets!

(The number assignments by the way are recorded at the Ultimate Mets Database as they happen, or as I get to them).

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Happy Butch Huskey Day!

42retiredBallplayers throughout the Major Leagues this evening will pay tribute to one of the game’s all-time greats when they all don No. 42 in honor of Butch Huskey.

Robert Leon “Butch” Huskey is remembered for being a bridge between cultures — namely, the Dallas Green and Bobby Valentine Eras — and for his accomplishments in the field of inclusion, being included in the starting lineup at several positions including third base, first base, the outfield, and designated hitter. He was literally a giant of the game — aptly surnamed, and listed generously at 244 pounds, Huskey’s presence was felt by teammates and opponents, whether seated alongside them on the team plane, or passing one another in a doorway.

HuskeycardOn a more serious note, Huskey was a nice complimentary player whose selection of No. 42 — following a debut when assigned No. 10 — was no accident and likely influential in calling attention to the import black players had attached to the digits. He was wearing 42 and allowed to be grandfathered into the agreement to retire the number leaguewide in 1997.

That year was also Huskey’s best as a Met: He clubbed 24 home home runs and hit .287 — we’d have signed up for that out of a corner outfielder for years now. Steve Phillips recklessly traded him following the 1998 season for a relief pitcher — Lesli Brea — who himself would be included in a silly Phillips trade, included in a package with Melvin Mora and others for ultimately useless shortstop Mike Bordick. Brea wound up making a handful of ineffective appearances for Baltimore and was later found to have fudged his birth year. Huskey had several years left as a reserve outfielder and DH with the Mariners, Twins Red Sox and Rockies, reappearing in 42 in Seattle and Minnesota.

Happy Butch & Jackie Day!

We also wish you a joyous Larry Elliot Day, a splendid Ron Hodges Day, and most excellent Chuck Taylor Day.

 

 

 

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Welcome to 2015

54This just in: An updated Mets roster now lists newly acquired reliever Alex Torres in 54 and coach Dave Racaniello in 53: This is consistent with Torres’ digits in previous stops in Tampa and San Diego. Also new to the coaching ranks is assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler, wearing the popular No. 6, the roster shows (Thanks Jason for the heads-up). Roessler was wearing 60 until Matt den Dekker’s departure, and would be the first coach to wear the uni. I disapprove of this.

We’re adding them to the sacred scrolls of the all-time Mets numerical roster today as the club takes on the Nationals to begin 2015. Joining Torres for the first time are Jerry Blevins (13); Sean Gilmartin  (36); Micheal Cuddyer (23) and John Mayberry (44); new coaches Roessler (6) and Kevin Long (57); and in new numbers, Travis d’Arnaud (7); Buddy Carlyle (43); coaches Bob Geren (15) and Racaniello (53).

Before we get started: It doesn’t mean anything, and a peek at the archives would reveal I’ve been ready to go to war with less A LOT, but I should just come out and confess I’ve been a Mets fan for something like 40 years and can’t remember a better Spring Training. Let’s Go Mets!

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New From The Leftorium

53New lefties Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres have been issued jerseys No. 13 and 53, respectively, the Mets said Tuesday.

Blevins’ assignment was no surprise as he’s worn that number in previous stos in Oakland and Washington, while Torres takes a vacant number that follows his righthanded namesake’s 52. Bobby Abreu was the last guy to wear 53 for the Mets; before that it was Jeremy Hefner. Josh Satin was the last guy to wear 13 for the Mets.

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Double-Dekker Trade Day

13It was only an hour or so after the news that the Mets had swapped for Alex Torres that it was announced they’d traded Matt den Dekker to Washington for a true lefty specialist, Jerry Blevins. This appeared to put the Torres acquisition in perspective as a more general bullpen depth addition which given the shaky health of Bobby Parnell and Vic Black — not to mention the performance of Jennry Mejia over the last six months (you could look it up, but don’t) — seemed to make sense.

6Despite it reminding me more of Billy Wagner than I want to be reminded, Blevins can step right into the No. 13 jersey which has been unissued since Josh Satin took it off a year ago. Just as significantly, the trade reopens No. 6, to which den Dekker brought relative stability, having held it down since July of 2013. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see No. 6 next on the back of Daniel Muno, the presumptive middle infielder if Daniel Murphy can’t make the squad.

From a baseball point of view I liked den Dekker but it was obvious his opportunity to be significant in New York was receding as Juan Lagares’s star was rising and other than the luxury of a decent reserve in AAA, he’s better off getting a chance to play. As for Blevins, the numbers suggest he’s a terrific lefty-killer and will be called to demonstrate as much vs. Bryce Harper and Freddy Freeman. His arrival makes me wonder how the Nats will manage to retire Granderson or Duda when they need to.

Win-win.

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Breaking Steve Trachsel News

29If you’re not careful you’ll learn something new every day.

Today, for some reason, Steve Trachsel “took over” the @Mets twitter account, fielding questions from fans. And for some reason, I clicked over to read the exchanges, only to come across this interesting bit of Trac-trivia:

How about that? I suppose with 29 also available and Bobby Jones having just departed the Mets could have been more sensible in re-issuing No. 28 so quickly. But I’m impressed Trachsel gave this thing any kind of thought. And it certainly hadn’t occurred to me that jocks would necessarily carry these rivalries from college; or than Cal State-Fresno and Cal State-Fullerton were big rivals, although that makes some sense if you think about it.

As someone who lived through the Steve Trachsel Era, it’s worth pointing out here that despite a ghastly beginning and a truly terrible end, Trax had a pretty good five years as a Met, and remains the undisputed champion pitcher of Mets-who-wore-29, having twice as many wins (66) and more than twice as many losses than the next guy (Frank Viola).

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Monell, Muno and the Mets

19Non-roster invitees seldomly push aside established guys during Spring Training but you wonder how tempted the Mets might be this year.

I’m thinking specifically of the reserve roles in the infield and behind the plate, where it would seem either one of Johnny Monell or Daniel Muno might not be a bad idea, given the unique makeup of the club otherwise.

I didn’t give much thought to Monell when the Mets acquired him as a minor league free agent in November. But his left-handed power and 393/433/750/1.183 line in a handful of Spring at-bats was intriguing enough to make me take a second look, only to discover that he’s a Met Legacy: His father, Johnny Sr., was an outfielder in the Mets system for six years in the 80s, reaching as high as Class AAA Tidewater. Johnny Jr. was also once drafted by the Mets but chose not to sign; his road here included cups of coffee with the Giants and Orioles.

From what I’ve read (and heard) defense isn’t Johnny’s strong suit and his very aggressive approach might not fit with the club’s philosophy, but, look: If he hits 200 points less than he’s doing now, remains a so-so defender, and still provides the occasional thump, you’ve got Anothny Recker, only a left-handed version, and given the Mets’ prevailing righthandedness, that might be a useful thing to have. Can he fake it as an emergency third baseman or outfielder? Maybe then you can carry both.

74The other guy on my mind is Muno, who snuck up on me by virtue of being assigned a Spring Training number (74) 10 digits higher than the one he had last year. Like Monell, Muno is a lefty (actually a switch-hitter) in a pack of righties vying for a backup infield job (Ruben Tejada, Matt Reynolds, Eric Campbell, etc). Daniel Murphy‘s injury could in fact exacerbate that need.

Muno’s also having a solid spring, hitting .400 although in a very small sample, and unlike Monell, is a guy whose approach at the plate is appropriately Sandy: A career .395 OBPer in four minor league seasons, and began to show some power last year with 14 home runs in Las Vegas. Plays three positions. Switch hits. Gets on base. That’s a good guy to have on your team. Trade in that lineman’s number for … how about the vacant No. 1.

Whether either of these guys would be worth risking a Recker or Tejada on simply to have in hand when the bell rings is something for the suits to decide but I would hope they’re thinking about it. I remain pretty bullish on the 2015 Mets.

 

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Jeff McKnight, 1963-2015

McKnightbwJeff McKnight, a two-time Mets utility infielder made semi-famous on these pages for having worn five different uniform numbers for the Mets, passed away Sunday at his home in Bee Branch, Ark., newspapers reported.

McKnight, who’d just turned 52, had been battling leukemia for 10 years, his family said.

I first wrote about Jeff McKnight some 16 years ago, after inadvertently uncovering details revealing he was the first and still the only of the nearly 1,000 players in team history to appear in five different uniform numbers for the Mets.
15While on the one hand his feat is an odd curiosity, five uni numbers is also something else entirely. It’s not the kind of record that a player who is secure in his big-league status can possibly generate, and at the same time, it’s a testament to McKnight’s persistence and versatility, finding a way to be needed even as his teammates were needier.

5As detailed on my article featured here, Jeff McKnight had a long road into Mets history, logging six seasons and nearly 1,800 at-bats as a minor leaguer before getting a freak shot at the majors in 1989 when three Met infielders went down with injuries at once. His stint — then wearing No. 15 — ended as soon as the first one returned and he didn’t even get an invite back in September, becoming a minor-league free agent destined for two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles organization.

7He resurfaced with the Mets three years later, making the 1992 club as a reserve out of spring training wearing No. 5, then spending nearly all of 1993 with the Mets, this time wearing No. 7, since the Mets had subsequently reserved No. 5 for rookie comer Jeromy Burnitz. However, his run as No. 7 came to an end in May when manager Jeff Toborg and his staff were fired — it was the Worst Team Money Could Buy, after all — and McKnight switched to No. 17 when new coach Bobby Wine claimed No. 7.

17In 1994, he made the club again but this time wearing No. 18, as superstar pitcher Bret Saberhagen demanded, and received, 17. Whether McKnight was ever even compensated for his selflessness wasn’t even remarked upon; his was the lot of the 25th man, and he took what was offered.

18McKnight, then at the advanced age of 31 and battling a nagging injury, was sent to minors to rehab but recalled again shortly before the player deadline to strike in August, a move engineered not for McKnight’s benefit but to keep young players demoted to take his place in AAA busy in the event of a strike. The strike would shortly end that season, and McKnight’s career along with it.

Finding out Jeff passed away this evening was something of a shock and a disappointment; I meant to — and should have — reached out to him in person a long time ago, but the trail of my Internet sleuthing invariably went cold. I think I knew he was in Arkansas; and that he worked at a TV station.

I figured I’d always have a chance. I had no idea he was sick. I sometimes wondered if he even knew this site existed. I always hoped that if he’d read my lighthearted tribute he’d understand the respect behind it.

Rest in peace, Jeff.

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