Happy Larry Elliot Day

42It’s a special day across the Major Leagues today: The annual celebration of greatness and human spirit demonstrated when players from all 30 teams suit up in No. 42 to honor the contributions of Mets outfielder Larry Elliot in 1964.

Fans needn’t be reminded of Elliot’s historical significance but he was the first player in Mets history to wear No. 42, buttoning the flannel for the first time shortly after he was purchased from the Pittsburgh Pirates on a conditional deal during the 1963-64 offseason. Recalled abruptly from the Buffalo roster when unhappy Duke Snider was traded away as the ’64 campaign began, Elliot was employed in a strict in a center field platoon with Jim Hickman. He launched 9 home runs over 80 games in ’64, including becoming the first Met to hit home runs in four straight games. That stretch in late July actually included five home runs in 6 days, the last being a thrilling three-run, pinch-hit blast off the Braves’ Bobby Tiefenauer highlighting a 7-run 7th inning that surely would have held up if the Met bullpen hadn’t surrendered 8 runs in the final two innings and stumbled into a heartbreaking 15-10 loss. And who could forget Larry being carried off the field on a stretcher after taking a throw into the head from Phillies’ infielder Ruben Amaro Sr. while breaking up a double play, suffering “severe contusions of the neck and base of the skull,” The Sporting News reported.

61-536BkIn all seriousness, Elliot was hardly what went wrong for the dreadful 1964 Mets (101 OPS+, 1.0 WAR in half a season despite a shaky glove) — and has a (minor) connection to another famous 42 whose memory might also be celebrated today. For reasons that aren’t immediately apparent, Elliot spent all of 1965 and ’66 in the minor leagues before resurfacing with the 1967 Mets, this time wearing No. 17. In early May, the Mets would deal him to Kansas City for veteran third baseman Ed Charles, whose story of drawing childhood inspiration from Jackie Robinson would be included in the film 42. Elliot would retire from baseball following the 1969 season and become a phys-ed teacher and well-regarded coach near his native San Diego.

Happy Larry Elliot Day, everyone.

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Right Back Atcha, Banny

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Natera

New assistant hitting coach Luis Natera was spotted wearing No. 60 prior to Monday’s harrowing debut. Natera has appeared on these pages before: Back in 2008, he was issued No. 64 (unofficially) when he served as a coaching version of a September callup from Class AA Binghamton.

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Happy New Year

citifield1One of the reasons I’ve been hesitant to update my outlook on 2014 here is that I was absolutely convinced that as soon as I would I’d have to re-do it all because there would be a trade consummated before opening day. Not just a trade, but a TRADE: You know, one of those transactions that as Met fans we remember where we were when it was announced (I was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike when they traded Dykstra. In Union Square meeting my wife for a drink when they traded Kazmir. Throwing a fit in the kitchen for Seaver and Kingman). Where was I when they announced the big Ike Davis/Ruben Tejada/Whomever for Whomever trade on 2014? I wasn’t anywhere. It didn’t happen.

“How could it not have?” is the question I’m taking with me into the 2014 regular season. Granted it’s better than last year when I was asking “Shaun Marcum? Seriously?” but I mean, geez. Talk about a seeming unmet opportunity. Talk about unanswered questions!

I’m going to presume a deal didn’t get done not because the Mets didn’t sincerely desire one but because Sandy Alderson balked at the asking price for guys the Mets could certainly use (Didi Gregorius and Nick Franklin for example) and that, as usual, Ike Davis screwed up all our plans by being unavailable. I decided at some point last season that if I were running the Mets I wouldn’t give Ike Davis another shot at being the difference between a good team and a bad team but here we are. I know, the alternatives aren’t great. I’m just surprised and I guess disappointed. Ike sure has gotten away with a lot.

In the big picture it’s somewhat disheartening to realize that which went wrong for the Mets last season were not just the kinds of things that had been counted on but also, were legacy Met prospects inherited from the Omar era (Davis, Tejada, Jon Niese, who worries me quite a bit). To that we may want to add Bobby Parnell, whose sketchy recovery from neck surgery (neck surgery?) already appears to be exposing a shaky bullpen.

14Other than that though? I’m kind of excited. Accompanying my concern is an undercurrent of optimism resulting from a farm system that at least appears to have turned the corner with regard to analyst opinion. Prospects for the first time in a decade include a few guys who can hit, which is awfully good to know. I feel like the aggressive way the Mets went after Chris Young reveals they saw something worth exploiting in a Marlon Byrd-like way. Granderson is a nice player. There’s guys on the bench who can hit doubles and home runs (Andrew Brown, Anthony Recker, Lucas Duda, Josh Satin) and/or are useful when they aren’t starting (Eric Young). I’m not yet sold on Travis d’Arnaud yet but it’s not like he’s Rod Barajas or Brian Schneider.

The challenge I think for the organization as a whole is to consolidate those gains they’ve made in the lineup, keep the young prospects coming (the starting depth is a real improvement from last year already even without Matt Harvey) and try to act, and play, and market itself in accordance with a team that expects to win 90 games on merit, and not the club willing to cut any and all corners to get by until things improve and say they want to win 90 games because it sounds good, even if they happen to be both of those things at this very moment. And though the Big Trade I’ve been expecting hasn’t happened (yet) this team and my expectations remain subject to change.

And with that, we welcome the following players to the Mets All-Time Numerical Roster:

Chris Young 1

Curtis Granderson 3

John Lannan 32

Bartolo Colon 40

Jose Valverde 47

And wearing new numbers: Andrew Brown in 30 and Omar Quintanilla in 0.

The roster pages at Ultimate Mets Database will be updated as players accrue statistics. Let’s Go Mets!

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Not for Nothing

Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal today makes note of the 13 ballplayers known to have worn No. 0 — and perhaps the 14th, Mets reserve shortstop Omar Quintanilla.

0My first reaction upon seeing that article was to think there must have been more than 13 so far but it checks out at least according to Baseball-Reference.com. Amazinly, two players wore No. 0 as Mets — Terry McDaniel in 1991 and Rey Ordonez in 1996-97 — while Junior Ortiz went on to wear 0 in his post Mets career (Junior was a rare No. 34 position player in orange and blue). There’s actually been more 00s in baseball history than 0s — 19 overall. That group includes Tony Clark, who wore it for the Mets in 2003 — at least until it was pointed out that he was sharing a number that otherwise belonged to Mr. Met.

Clark initially took 00 upon joining the Mets as a late-arriving free agent during 2003′s spring training. With jerseys already assigned, the veteran said he preferred taking 00 to the selections in the 80s that were otherwise available then. Ironically, when Clark switched — to No. 52 — he became the first Met player to appear wearing that number too. Former Met reliever Rick White — a 51 in New York — wore 00 later in his career.

00As for Quintanilla, he explains that like Clark he preferred a number more befitting to his stature and experience — modest as it may be — when he rejoined the team this winter on a minor league contract after seeing his most recent assignment, No. 3, issued to newly arrived free agent Curtis Granderson. What Diamond’s article fails to mention is that the uni switch was the second in as many deals for Quintanilla, who saw his 2012 assignment  of No. 6 issued to Kelly Shoppach and then Marlon Byrd while he was away with Baltimore.

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Random Notes at 15

15Middle-infield reserve candidate and local Jersey guy Anthony Seratelli is wearing No. 2. Guess who for. And I was gonna root for the guy. At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old man, I’m already sick of the retirement Victory Lap.

As suspected, Andrew Brown is now hanging around wearing No. 30 and looks like Jose Valverde has taken over 47.

Brown notwithstanding, it’s a little bit weird how the Mets have tended recently to flip the traditional assignments between infielders and outfielders. That could just be an impression and could be explained in part by Murphy and Davis occupying digits in the high-20s (and I have to tell you, I don’t much like that). But some potential starting outfields this year could combine to as little as 10 (Young-den Dekker-Granderson) or more realistically, 16 with Lagares there instead.

I’ll still wager Ike Davis won’t make it to opening day with the Mets, and it may not have anything to do with Stephen Drew. Rather I still believe it makes too much sense not to turn our redundancies at first base, the outfield (Eric Young?) and young pitching (to the extent you can have enough young pitching) into the things we still could use (a shortstop).

backlogo2On this day in 1999, Mets by the Numbers was born. That’s 15 years ago! While the very earliest stuff has been absorbed into Internet heaven you can get a glimpse of our hard-hitting take on the breaking Rick Reed-Matt Lawton trade from 2001 here. Those posts and more are of course all backed up here using the archives tab.

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Meet This Year’s Special Guest Veteran Closer

47The Mets on Wednesday announced Jose Valverde as the second candidate to become this year’s Special Guest Veteran Closer, a role played a year ago by Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins and the year before by Jason Isringhausen.

Valverde at one time was a heck of a closer for Detroit, but became something of a gasbag by 2012. One of his competitors in Mets camp is the mookish Kyle Farnsworth, himself a former 100-mph freak but more recently the kind of guy teams reach for when they’re unsure of the health of their closer. I guess the Mets sort of qualify.

Farnsworth has been issued No. 44, which is the number I recall him wearing back when he was a phenom with the Cubs. No word yet on Valverde’s digits though he’s most often worn 47. That number currently belongs to Andrew Brown, whose own path to a job this year appears difficult, especially if Josh Satin really learns how to play the outfield.

Purely as a matter of taste I’d prefer the demonstrative Valverde over the combustible Farnsworth but history suggests we stand a pretty good chance of seeing both, or neither. Let’s see how it goes.

 

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Number Up

Here’s what the roster looks like now that numbers were published on the Mets’ site today. Notable is Chris Young in No. 1. Taylor Teagarden in 23. Omar Quintanila takes No. 0, as both 3 and 6, his previous numbers, are already occupied. Bartolo Colon, as expected, in 40. John Lannan in 32, Noah Syndergaard in 55. Looks like all coaches and Jennry Mejia retain their assignments. New assignments in bold

No. 2013 occupant(s) 2014 assignment
0 Vacant Omar Quintanilla
1 Jordany Valdespin Chris Young
2 Justin Turner Anthony Seratelli
3 Omar Quintanilla Curtis Granderson
4 Collin Cowgill, Wilmer Flores Flores
5 David Wright Wright
6 Marlon Byrd, Matt den Dekker den Dekker
7 Bob Geren Geren
8 Vacant Vacant
9 Kirk Nieuwenhuis Nieuwenhuis
10 Terry Collins Collins
11 Ruben Tejada Tejada
12 Juan Lagares Lagares
13 Josh Satin Satin
14 Retired Retired
15 Travis d’Arnaud d’Arnaud
16 Rick Ankeil, Daisuke Matsuzaka Matsuzaka
17 Vacant Vacant
18 Tim Teufel Teufel
19 Zach Lutz Lutz
20 Anthony Recker Recker
21 Lucas Duda Duda
22 Eric Young Young
23 Mike Baxter Taylor Teagarden
24 Vacant Vacant
25 Ricky Bones Bones
26 Tom Goodwin Goodwin
27 Jeurys Familia Familia
28 Daniel Murphy Murphy
29 Ike Davis Davis
30 David Aardsma Vacant
31 Vacant Vacant
32 LaTroy Hawkins John Lannan
33 Matt Harvey Harvey
34 Brandon Lyon Joel Carreno
35 Dillon Gee Gee
36 Collin McHugh, Juan Centano Centano
37 Retired Retired
38 Shawn Marcum, Vic Black Black
39 Bobby Parnell Parnell
40 Tim Byrdak Bartolo Colon
41 Retired Retired
42 Retired Retired
43 Sean Henn Ryan Reid
44 John Buck, Aaron Harang Kyle Farnsworth
45 Zack Wheeler Wheeler
46 Greg Burke Jeff Walters
47 Aaron Laffey, Andrew Brown Brown
48 Frank Francisco Jacob deGrom
49 Jon Niese Niese
50 Scott Atchison Rafael Montero
51 Dave Hudgens Hudgens
52 Carlos Torres Torres
53 Jeremy Hefner Hefner
54 Vacant Vacant
55 Pedro Feliciano Noah Syndergaard
56 Scott Rice Rice
57 Johan Santana Vacant
58 Jennry Mejia Mejia
59 Dan Warthen Warthen
60 Vacant Brandon Allen
61 Vacantr Miguel Socolovich
62 Vacant Erik Goeddel
63 Vacant Steven Matz
64 Vacant Daniel Muno
65 Vacant Cesar Puello
66 Josh Edgin Edgin
67 Vacant Dustin Lawley
68 Vacant Eric Campbell
69 Vacant Vacant
70 Wilfredo Tovar Tovar
71 Gonzalez Germen Germen
72 Vacant Kevin Plawecki
73 Robert Carson Adam Kolarek
74 Vacant Cory Vaughn
75 Vacant Cory Mazzoni
76 Vacant Chase Bradford
77 Vacant Brandon Nimmo
78 Vacant Vacant
79 Vacant John Church
80 Vacant Logan Verrett
81 Vacant Jack Leathersich
82 Vacant Matt Clark
83-99 Vacant Vacant
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Ralph

When I moved to the Philadelphia area to attend college in the 1980s, I became an admirer of Jayson Stark’s whimsical Sunday baseball column in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Rumblings & Grumblings. Stark’s tracking of oddball statistics (“last guy to get a hit”) and goofy stories in retrospect were an inspiration to my own approach to baseball writing. But the part where he’d include a weekly “Kinerism” featuring a mangled phrase or goof made by the Mets’ venerable announcer and Hall of Fame slugger never sat right with me.

To read it, you’d think Ralph Kiner was either a clown on the order of Bob Uecker or a dumb drunken unaware jock-turned-broadcaster like Rick Sutcliffe, but Ralph of course wasn’t either of those things: He was extraordinarily knowledgeable about baseball, could hold your attention when the game got close, and could make you laugh with a story about Branch Rickey. And his screw-ups to me never seemed out of proportion to the sheer volume of his work: the man called Mets games for 50 years after all. There may not ever be anyone with more to say about them.

So while you trudge through the dozens of #kinerisms you’ll be sure to come across today (many of which are already splintering into urban legend territory: I’ve seen Ralph “quoted” wishing mothers and fathers a Happy Birthday today) please also see pieces by the terrific Marty Noble at mlb.com and the Daily News’ Gary Myers who express the admiration people held for Ralph, and the fact that when he did screw up, he did it with self-effacing humor and class. RIP Ralph!

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Tweet It Out Loud

 

In case you didn’t hear, that’s hot Mets pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard on the Twitter this afternoon. And we’re happy to report that if 34 is what he wants, it’s currently available. That’s not to say he’ll necessarily get it, although with a relative dearth of established big-leaguers accompanying Syndergaard to camp this year it could certainly happen.

Thirty four is perhaps known best as Mike Pelfrey’s number, though for some reason I also flash on nondescript reliever Tom Martin. Also Jim McAndrew. Also Junior Ortiz.

Following is a list of minor leaguers, 40-man adds, and other assorted newbies expected to be in big-league camp this year and seeking a new uni assignment:
PITCHERS (40 man)
Bartolo Colon
Jacob deGrom
Eric Goeddel
Steven “Meet the” Matz
Ryan Reid
Jeff Walters
PITCHERS (NRI)
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Joel Carreno
Miguel Socolovich
Jack Leathersich
Adam Kolarek
Chasen Bradford
John Church
Jeremy Hefner
Rafael Montero
Syndergaard
Cory Mazzoni
Logan Verrett

CATCHERS (NRI)
Taylor Teagarden
Kevin Plawecki

INFIELDERS (NRI)
Brandon Allen
Eric Campbell
Anthony Seratelli
Daniel Muno

OUTFIELDERS (40 Man)
Chris Young
OUTFIELDERS (NRI)
Dustin Lawley
Cory Vaughn
Brandon Nimmo

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