Front Office Fred-anigans

Well here we are days or even hours away from a new leader in Metland and the team can’t decide whether they need a grandfatherly caretaker, an egghead disruptor, or an agent fluent in corporate buzzspeak.

But that’s the Mets all over. And it’s not just that they don’t know, it’s that they don’t know why they don’t know, and so whomever they ultimately wind up hiring they’ll have hired for all the wrong reasons. I’ve said here many times and in many ways but the Mets don’t solve problems, they make a show of trying to look as though they do. And the problems they try and solve are almost entirely of their own making, because they’re so incompetent.

Take for example the case for Bob Melvin cited in the Snooze article linked above. If the Mets decide what they need is a people-manager who’ll put out infighting it’s only because Fred assured that outcome when he went behind his GM’s back to secure himself a right-hand man in Omar Minaya and the manager he tried to depose as special assistants. Of course it had bad results.

Or if you believe the Mets are analytically illiterate and in need of Yale grad like Chaim Bloom, that’s probably because they haven’t sprung for a staff in the first place, despite having one of the best minds in the game in charge. Jeff’s remark that it was Sandy Alderson who insisted upon the lack of front-office brainpower has got to be one of the cheapest shots he’s ever taken, but hiring an “analytics guy” would be the best defense against that charge, so there’s your case for Bloom.

I don’t know a whole lot about how an agent like Brodie Van Wagenen got this far, but you can guess from the Mets’ point of view it’s an end-around on a renegotiation of the Cespedes contract, and on the brighter side, an avenue to keeping deGrom locked up. Perhaps then the message they’d send with this hire is that they’re getting smart on money finally after being rich-dumb and poor-dumb.

I’ve gotten really cynical, you might say.

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Thanks, David!

David is perfect. He may be the perfect player in every way there is. I was around Carter and Carter did a lot of the things David did, but you got the idea that Carter did those things because he wanted people to think he was a nice guy. David does it because he is a good guy. It’s astonishing.

Marty Noble, here

For a guy who who started and is now ending a 16-year career that has taken place completely within the MBTN Era I didn’t write a whole lot about David Wright. That’s sort of the nature of covering an aspect of the game that tracks things that change and move on: I spilled more electronic ink, proportionately anyway, on guys like Nick Evans and Bartolome Fortunato and Travis d’Arnaud, whose Met careers are a jagged line. Or on the comings and goings and stylings of Wright’s predecessor in the No. 5 jersey, Tsuyoshi Shinjo.

David Wright on the other hand was such a straight line it was hard to take notice. It was clear after a certain period of time he’d likely be the last of the Mets ever to wear No. 5, as deserving as any of the players to be given the “retirement” business.

Looking over the archives I came across mention that Wright wore No. 72 in 2004 Spring Training while teammate Prentice Redman was issued No. 5. Charlie Samuels gave Wright No. 5 so as to align him spiritually with George Brett. But in no time he was such a steady presence I was only writing about non-David Wright things. There were plenty who wrote more.

So if I didn’t say it then, let me say it now. THANKS, DAVID WRIGHT. You’re the best.

My dad painted the portrait below.

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Mets Score Empty Netter

Well anyone with interest knows this already — I was vacationing! — but the promotion of Eric Hanhold from AAA and his appearance the other night wearing No. 70 marked the arrival of the 55th Met of 2018, breaking a 51-year-old record of 54 Mets used in 1967.

That club, by the way, had 55 guys on the active big-league roster but one of them — a young fireballer named Nolan Ryan — didn’t make an appearance.

Do you guys follow hockey? I never really did till recently, I think a midlife crisis of some kind forced me to confront my childhood and I realized I’d been walking around with a dormant NY Islanders gene. Perhaps if the Mets were better, or if I could still pretend I cared about the NFL, I wouldn’t have noticed it.

Anyway, I was struck this morning by an article suggesting the new general manager of the Islanders just went and assigned a bunch of guys new uni numbers without their input — at least four guys, young guys but with some equity like Anthony Beauvillier (72 to 18), Adam Pelech (50 to 3), Scott Mayfield (42 to 24) and Josh Ho-Sang, whose 66 was already attracting attention, now skating in 26. All the numbers, you’ll notice, went down. And there’s no more 91 wearing the C.

While a unilateral change of that magnitude is unlikely to occur in baseball it might be an interesting move for whoever general-manages the Mets next season to execute a similar reordering, just to send a message that the kind of unprecedented revolving-door roster the Mets had in 2018 — and the results that accompanied it — could be a part of the change they seek. To the extent the Mets approach to uni numbers sends a message currently, it’s either “we don’t care that much” and/or “we lack a true identity” and/or “these guys aren’t for real.”

 

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News to New York: Drop Dead

I’m sorry to have witnessed the decline of the New York Daily News, which has taken an economic beating, was sold on the cheap to even cheaper owners, who subsequently gutted the rest of the staff who hadn’t already been whacked, and now intends to exist as a virtual brand. Yeah, that’ll work.

July 23, 1964: The NL pennant race

A million years ago, I used to deliver the Daily News on my bicycle, and a million years before that, my dad contributed political and sports cartoons they published. Back then, the Snooze was considered a conservative counterbalance to the liberal New York Post, if you can believe that, but I don’t know if the News can even retain the gravitas to go toe-to-toe with a rival anymore, which is especially saddening because one of the things that made both papers great was the energy inherent in the battle, especially when it came to the back covers.

Before smart phone game apps ruined my life and I needed something to do on the subway, the Snooze was my go-to. I liked Jim Farber’s music columns, the fact that they had two columns every day on what was on local radio (another basically dead medium) and the grossly exaggerated but true-rung strain of New York populism that carried through its coverage, especially on stories like the Willie Randolph firing which generated a week of fabulously overblown “COWARDS IN THE NIGHT” headlines. The Post generally had the better sports columnists — I always preferred the smart and hustling Joel Sherman to the News’ Bill Madden — but News had the city’s best beat reporters until Adam Rubin gave it up.

And now, it’s nothing. The News’ recent whacking seems to have resulted in Mets’ beater Kristie Ackert moving over to cover the Yankees.

Anyway, RIP News. But leave it to MBTN readers to find a silver lining. I heard recently from Jason E. who noted that while the future is bleak, those who wish to sign in can now find a treasure trove of archived copy online (that’s how I discoverd my Dad’s cartoon above). He sent along the following clip, which might be the first article ever written about Mets uni numbers: January 14, 1962. Too bad Billy Loes never made the club, huh? Was a conflict between Cookie Lavagetto and Hobie Landrith the origin of Met coaches wearing numbers in the 50s? Check it out!

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Zamora The Same

Thaks for the image, @DaveMetsDugout

Today the Mets announced another swap of would-be relief candidates, sending the newly arrived Bobby Wahl to the disabled list and promoting lefty Daniel Zamora. Naturally they gave Zamora No. 73.

Zamora comes to the Mets from Class AA Binghamton, where he’s been having a good year. He’s a Stony Brook product we acquired over the offseason for Josh Smoker, and becomes the 4th Mets 73 ever, the first since Robert Carson. All by the way have been lefties: Kenny Rogers, Ricardo Rincon, and Carson. Should Zamora enter a game, he’ll be 54th Met this season, matching the 1967 club record.

That’s all I got.

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His Name Is My Name Too

I miss the days of Bobby Valentine’s Mets when a guy just up from the minors was usually shoved into that night’s starting lineup somehow, whether the manager knew he could play or not.

Jack Reinheimer has been up for a couple of days, replacing Luis Guillorme, who was up for a couple of weeks, but it was hard to notice. Reinheimer will debut in No. 72, because that’s what the Mets do. He’ll be the third 72 in team history: The first, Carlos Torres, took the number when the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes in 2015. And before graduating to the more dignified 28, Phillip Evans wore 72 last September.

I just looked up Reinheimer to find out he had brief experience with the Diamondbacks, from whom the Mets acquired Reinheimer on a waiver claim a few weeks ago. He wore No. 76 for them.

He’ll be the 53rd guy to play for the Mets this year, when he plays. If he plays.

In case you missed it, I talked about the origins of this website and its associated stuff in an interview here.

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25 or 6 to 4

And you thought batting-out-of-order was embarrassing.

In addition to setting any number of dubious marks for margin-of-defeat, and beyond the gruesome repudiation of the decision not to have sent Steven Matz to some other club during the few weeks over a long career he remotely resembled a reliable starter, and ignoring the cold reality that last year’s trade deadline acquiree Jacob Rhame was among those comically unable to stop the bleeding, the Mets made a bit of uni history last night when Jose Reyes pitched the 8th inning.

The putrid effort marked the appearance of the lowest uniform number ever to appear on the mound for the Mets (7) and only the second time a single-digit pitcher threw an inning for the Mets. You have to go back to May 17, 2001, when Desi Relaford chucked a scoreless inning of relief in a 15-3 loss to the Padres.

This friggin team.

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Sellular Service

Asdrubal Cabrera, the rarest kind of Met free agent signing who turned out to be better than anyone bargained for, is off to the Phillies for a minor league pitcher. Oh yeah, and Juerys Familia has been traded to Oakland.

Sell, sell, sell.

For a guy I never really wanted to have on the team in the first place, and was certain would explode any second, Cabrera surprised me as much as any Mets player I can remember in recent times. I wonder if there’s time for Jerry Blevins to take back the No. 13 he surrendered to Cabrera upon his signing a few years back (Blevins as also testing free-agent waters at that time).

This may not matter in the end if any contenders can be convinced Blevins had anything left. That’s a guy they stuck with too long.

Meantime everyone’s all excited that Jeff McNeil is here finally but what the heck, 68? They had lots of time to think about this. Get the man a dignified number already, what is he a bullpen catcher? He’s an infielder! Give him No. 6! Give it up, Roessler! You’re interfering with history, man!

What else? Jason Vargas is back, Corey Oswalt is back down. That’s no bueno, and not really in line with the idea of the future teams that cough up their closer and best hitter in July are supposed to be doing. Austin Jackson was signed as a free agent, they gave him the same No. 16 that belonged to Kevin Kaczmarski earlier this year, and send Mat den Dekker down. It was a crime to see den Dekker in 23.

There have been an awful lot of Mets this year. The addition of Jackson (the 1,063rd Met of all time, doncha know) makes it 51 so far, and the trade deadline (Mesoraco, Blevins, Wheeler?) is still three days away. The team record of 54, set in 1967, is in real danger.

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Bring on the SHaMs

So as I write this, the Mets will end the so-called first half of the year either 14 games under .500 or 16 games deep (and maybe if we get rained out, 15). Any one is a farce and speaks to a truly dreadful year in which we learned that young players don’t always perform well and older guys don’t stay healthy, first-year managers make lots of mistakes, and the destabilizing effect of a meddlesome and accountability-free front office in the throes of crisis, completely unprepared for a succession.

Actually we learned every one of those things before, but thanks for the reminder, Mets.

Now here’s the punchline: I’d been slow to catch up to this week’s comings and goings in part because I was too busy going to Mets games.

Last Sunday’s nice weather tempted us to head out as a family only to see a near no-hitter. My regular Tuesday night game with my brother was nearly a repeat but notable because I did to recognize the day’s starting pitcher when I saw it listed and I’m a guy who makes it his business to be on top of that kind of stuff. Then on Friday it was the annual outing with scattered former work colleagues. That one turned out nice, with a big assist from an exceedingly sloppy Washington club.

So meet Drew Gagnon. He nearly got five innings in, had a little bit of bad luck, but when it was over took an 11.57 ERA back to Las Vegas where he’s got to be wondering whether he’ll ever a shot at big-leaguedom again. Gagnon was issued No. 47, which we last saw on Hansel Robles.

Matt den Dekker is also back in action. I liked seeing this addition as the guy could always go and get in center field, and that’s what he’s been doing. He’s wearing 23 now, and not the 6 he used to in his first go-round, since 6 remains tragically bogarted by hitting coach Pat Roessler, and the No. 16 he was wearing in Spring Training had been relegated to since-demoted outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski. 23 belonged last to Adrian Gonzalez.

The Mets are racing toward a record number of players on the roster in a single year — an active trade deadline could nearly assure it — but thus far have only re-issued numbers three times (23, 47 and 62), believe it or not. That’s in part because of their willingness to just keep going higher. That’s one thing to watch as the SHaMs (Second-HAlf Mets) get underway.

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Hey, Joe

Today my friend David passed along this photo on social media. It’s Joe Sambito pitching for the Mets, and he’s wearing No. 38.

This does not jibe with our records — and some others — listing Sambito having worn No. 35 for the entirety of his brief Mets career, which lasted a little more than six weeks in 1985.

Solving this mystery doesn’t appear to be too difficult, but I’m calling on the MBTN readership to pull out the magnifying glasses and take a shot with me, and confirm it best we can.

Here’s what we know about Joe, who by the way, turned 66 years old the other day. He was a Brooklyn-born and Long Island-raised lefty fireballer who established himself as one of the National League’s strongest relief pitchers with the Houston teams of the late 1970s and early 80s before elbow and shoulder problems stalled his career in 1982. He wore 35 for the Astros. By the time 1985 came around Sambito was still struggling to get his stuff back. When the Astros asked the veteran to accept a minor league assignment he refused, becoming a free agent and fielding offers from several clubs before accepting a major-league minimum deal from the Mets.

The picture shows Sambito pitching in a day game at Shea. That helps narrow things considerably, as Sambito appeared in just two of those. The guess here is that this was the first of those games, and also, Sambito’s Mets debut, on April 28 against the Pirates.

That was a memorable day. Not for Joe Sambito, who quietly pitched a scoreless seventh inning in a 4-4 game — but because the game was only getting started then. It lasted 18 innings before Mookie Wilson scored on an error and the Mets walked off with a 5-4 victory. In the in between, 41-year-old Rusty Staub, who entered as a pinch hitter in the 12th inning, spent the next five innings in the outfield, switching corner outfield positions with Clint Hurdle depending on the handedness of the batter in a concession to Le Grand Orange’s failing knees. Despite that, Rusty made a game-saving running catch in the top of the 18th to retire Pirate pinch-hitter Rick Rhoden who hit an opposite-field fly (if you don’t remember Rhoden, he was one of the best hitting pitchers of his era). Reliable Rusty also had a double that could have won the game in the 12th, but the inning died on a Ray Knight double-play and a bases-loaded popout by Gary Carter. I remember that game well, as it helped to cement my image of Davey Johnson as a master strategist.

The starting right fielder in that game was John Christensen, who was double-switched out in the 12th when Staub entered. And until that day, Christensen was wearing 35. Our records show Christensen wore No. 7 from that point on, so likely lost in the excitement of that thriller was news that Christensen set aside 35 for Sambito.

Sambito struggled mightily in 35, by the way, was sent to Tidewater in June, and released by the Tides that August. The Mets would see him next in Game 3 of the 1986 World Series, pitching ineffective relief for Boston.

So that’s our working theory, thanks to this picture: Sambito wearing 38 for 1 game; 35 for his other seven Mets appearances. Anyone have further observations or concluding proof? Let us know. And happy birthday, Joe!

 

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