Here’s Why the Mets Got So High

I’ve mentioned this in passing a few times before but it bears repeating: We are living in a Golden Age for unique uni number distributions in Metland.

68Not since 1979-80 — when six first-time jerseys were issued — have first-time numbers arrived with the same velocity as they have in the five years since Kevin Kierst was named to succeed Charlie Samuels as the Mets’ equipment manager in 2010. And when you consider additional factors — Kirest’s willingness to reissue rare jerseys; Samuels’ final year in 2009; and the relatively swift corrections we’d see with the 1979 and 1980 issues — we are experiencing more freshness in the number game than any time since the club’s first 34 jerseys were issued in 1962. For a team going on its 53rd birthday, and approaching its 1,000th player, that’s remarkable.

70Let’s take a closer look. When Dario Alvarez took the mound for his Major League debut Sept. 3, he also became the first player in team history to wear No. 68 in a game. Two of his teammates — Wilfredo Tovar and Germen Gonzalez, respectively — trotted out the 70 and 71 jerseys for the first time a year prior. In 2012, it was Josh Edgin in 66; in 2011, Chris Schwinden (63) and DJ Carrasco (77) broke the cherries on their numbers.

73Joining those six are a second group of ballplayers who while not first-time wearers of their numbers, turned up nonetheless in infrequently issued ones: Jack Egbert and Dana Eveland (who each wore 61); Omar Quintanilla, who this year became only the third player in team history to be issued No. 0;Robert Carson, the third 73 in team history (and the first not have equity in the number); and Jenrry Mejia, just the fourth 58.

57Because we’ve seen players like Mejia, Edgin, Gonzalez and Carson carry their weird numbers over multiple seasons, I’d argue this era is far more significant than the aforementioned shenanigans of 1979 and 80. The unusual activity then was confined mainly to September of 1980 when minor league callups Luis Rosado, Ed Lynch, and Hubie Brooks got first-time issues of 57, 58 and 62 respectively, while fellow callup Mario Ramirez got the second-ever 61. (Pitcher Dyar Miller, who had arrived in July of 1980, also got 56 for the first time).

Hard to say exactly what happened that year but it’s a good guess these were leftover Spring jerseys. What’s telling is that in future appearances, these issues were all withdrawn. Brooks took 39 then 7; Lynch yo-yo-ed between levels for the next few years and collected three more numbers. Rosado and Ramirez never made it back.

61The 1979 first-time issues were for Neil Allen — the team’s first 46 — and Jesse Orosco, whose 1979 arrival coincided with sudden budget-driven veteran releases near the end of Spring Training resulting in the team’s first-ever No. 61. Jesse, of course, would be outfitted in the more traditional 47 the next time he turned up.

64While its easy to point to Kierst’s appointment as a line between the “tradtional” Met number range and what we have to start considering to be the New Normal, I’ll point to an issue in the final hours of Samuels’ 27-year reign — Elmer Dessens‘ No. 64 — as the Big Bang of the of the new era. The 60s would soon be in full swing; and the 70s dawning.

Why? That too is a good question. The effects of having taken a few numbers out of the rotation — 31 hasn’t been issued since Mike Piazza left town in 2005 and Kierst has quietly mothballed 17 — would explain some. And coaches taking numbers associated with their playing careers — and not the orderly 51-55 they wore in days of yore — matters too. But I suspect the main reason is the emergence of a new numerical designation for relief pitchers, an evolution that follows (by a few decades at least) the specialization of the role itself.

This makes sense. In the 1960s and 70s during which the Mets forged their numerical identity, relief pitchers were primarily starters with sore arms and/or less stuff than their teammates. And at least some starters — Roger Craig for one — were the club’s best relief pitchers too. Distinguishing between the roles back then, never mind the numbers, was barely necessary. Today, the Mets appear to be acknowledging that relief pitchers are a different breed deserving of distinct numerical territory, one they’ve roughly carved out beyond the 50s where the coaches used to be, and away from the 30s and 40s that appear to more exclusive to the starting staff.

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Rockie Horror Pitcher Show

2If the Mets really want Troy Tulowitzski, he ought to be theirs. And if the reports we’ve seen out there are any indication, I don’t think the hold-up ought to be whether or not Noah Syndergaard is included in such a deal, but rather, about how much of that $100+ million Tulo’s got coming to him will the Rockies be willing to kick in to get as much as Syndergaard back. There’s no deal otherwise.

You only have to look at the motivation with which the Dodgers coughed up Matt Kemp to the Padres to get an idea. Los Angeles gave away $32 million to make that deal happen, coming away only with a glove-first catcher and two decent pitching prospects.

The Rockies arguably are even more up against it, given they play in a division with the defending World Series champion and now two more going-for-it-now teams in San Diego and the Dodgers. They reportedly heard “crickets” about Tulo at the Winter Meetings. I wouldn’t underestimate their desire to get something done, and the Mets for once have the cannon fodder to make it happen, if the price is right for them. I’d be very willing to look into this.

That’s one possibility, anyway. I’ve thought for some time now that a leadoff type shortstop, in a non-Tulowitzski sense, is what the Mets need, with Flores going over to second base and Daniel Murphy moving on to another club. In fact, Murphy probably goes in either of my shortstop scenarios, since subtracting his salary would probably make sense if the expense of a Tulowtzski is added, and the Mets have runway at second base with Flores and Herrera easy enough to add in. Either way, they’re not done yet, I don’t think.

19Thanks to Gene and Howie for keeping me on toes here. I think adding John Mayberry Jr. was great for the Mets (righthanded bench power, versatile outfielder) and I go with Gene’s prediction that he winds up wearing No. 19.

Tulowitzski would be one of those guys who triggers a number change, though I don’t imagine be any trouble to reassign Hererra No. 1. According to the legwork by Howie below, 1, 8, 13, 16, 17, 19, 22, 24, 30, 31, 32, 34, 36, 43, 44, 46, 47, 53, 57, 60, 61, 62, 64, 67, 69 and 71-99 are available. We’ll see some of those numbers populated by recent 40-man roster additions (including the presumed 34 Syndergaard) and other spring training invitees soon enough. Happy holidays!

 

 

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23 Skidoo!

Oh for the days I used to be the first person to report on this (and one of the only to care). Hey guess what! Cuddyer will wear No. 23!
23When I think of 23, I think of Doug Flynn, the slick fielding infielder who arrived in the Tom Seaver trade. Flynn was never any kind of hitter but could turn the pivot, and lasted longer than any other occupant of the number, amassing more appearances, turns at bat, and overall hits (an even 500) than any other 23.

But perhaps a better parallel to Cuddyer was the mercurial Bernard Gilkey, himself a veteran right-handed hitting corner outfielder when he joined the Mets in 1996. Gilkey famously went on to have one of the best single seasons of any Met — 23 or not — and probably the best debut season for a new arrival in team history. His marks for home runs (52), RBI (223), doubles (90), stolen bases (29) and runs scored (226) easily top his peers in 23, and most were accumulated during that freaky ’96 year. His marks would eclipse those of Joe Christopher, the Virgin Islands-born standout of the 1962-65 Mets. Along with Ron Hunt, Christopher in 1964 was the first Met regular to hit. 300 in a season.

The less said about Brian Schneider, the better. Most recently, 23 belonged to briefly visiting reserve catcher Taylor Teagarden, whom I believe is again a minor league free agent looking for a AAA catching job and a spring training invite.

Only four pitchers have worn 23 for the Mets; the noteworthiest being Pat Mahomes, the versatile swingman of Bobby Valentine’s teams. Mahomes was a magical 8-0 in 1999, almost entirely in long relief bailout situations.

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Qualify This

5Thrilled to see today that the Mets went and signed veteran stickman Michael Cuddyer, who, given the usual caveats about age and injury and old outfielders signed by the Mets, is almost exactly what the club needed: That is, a good righthanded hitter who can play a corner outfield slot and first base, with the bonus of being a FOD (Friend of David). He’s the new Moises Alou!

Seriously, the news that Colorado had extended a Qualifying Offer cooled expectations to a point where I was working hard to convince myself that Allen Craig or Michael Morse — poor men’s Michael Cuddyers, at best — were worth a shot, or maybe saying the hell with it and overpromoting Brandon Nimmo was going to be the plan. But I’m glad this worked out, and with a price that’s none too steep given the potential to make a difference.

Cuddyer you should know wore No. 3 these last few years in Colorado but that’s because Carlos Gonzalez occupied the No. 5 Cuddy rocked all those years in Minnesota. He not about to take either digit in NYC, but we could make a case for 55, or maybe, No. 1 if fans can forget about the doomed Chris Yound experiment.

47The Mets in the weeks leading up to this signing prumed the 40-man roster and lost a few misnumbered guys along the way. Little doubt I liked Andrew Brown more than Terry Collins ever did, but he’s been claimed by the Athletics. Catcher Juan Centeno in the meantime is taking his weird No. 36 to Milwaukee.

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Observing A Lot Just By Watching

70So I was away in Europe the last week of the season and so completely missed the surprise re-emergence of good old No. 70, Wilfredo Tovar. I also missed the decisive sweep of the Braves that helped us to not only spoil whatever playoff hopes they had left to but catch them in the standings, and Lucas Duda’s heroic capture of the 30-home run mark, and Bobby Abreu’s feel-good retirement, and Sandy Alderson’s new contract. On the positive side, I missed all the incessant Jeter hype.

I further forgot to investigate the suggestion below that at least while David Wright remained active the Mets were running Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 out there on a regular basis, maybe for the first time ever. I didn’t note that the best career ERA ever recorded by a No. 48 now belongs to Jacob deGrom, a deserving Rookie of the Year candidate.

I guess the message of this season might be, It Wasn’t All Bad If You Were Actually Paying Attention. Sure the next step will require a club that makes a lot fewer execution errors than this one did, while scoring a bunch more runs, but its not unrealistic to expect a few good decisions this winter and the continued evolution of the emerging core could accomplish that.

28Nobody asked me, but my guess is that we’ve seen the last of both Dillon Gee and Daniel Murphy. Gee, who had a poor year and a lengthy injury this season, probably doesn’t have enough talent to fit into the staff next season. Everyone loves Murphy, but given his rising price and the fact that we’ve got some Flores and then Herrera waiting, it only makes sense to move on. Perhaps he goes in that big trade for that  outfielder and/or shortstop and/or leadoff hitter this club needs. Stay tuned.

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68 and Clear

68Reports out there this morning say newly imported lefty reliever Dario Alvarez will wear No. 68, becoming the first man in team history to wear that uni.

As noted in the below post, Erik Goeddel retains his 40-man assignment in No. 62, while Josh Satin (13) and Juan Centeno (36) retain the digits they had in previous appearances this year.

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This is the Night of the Expanding Man

62The Mets headed to Miami Sunday night and expect to meet four teammates there Monday, the first day active rosters expand. Rejoining the team for the first time since his awful start to the 2014 season earned him a summer in Las Vegas, Josh Satin is finally resurfacing, as is catcher Juan Centeno, whom we also saw earlier this season. Satin, we expect, will retake the No. 13 he left behind while Centeno wore 36 earlier this season. Both numbers are still available.

In the meantime, AAA pitcher Erik Goeddel and obscure lefty relief prospect Dario Alvarez are also expected to join the club. Goeddel was already on the 40 and is said to possess good if wild stuff, as his whiff and walk figures in Vegas would respectively indicate. His 40-man assignment is 62, last worn by relief prospect Elvin Ramirez in 2012.

Alvarez, whose contract is newly purchased from Class AA Binghamton, would appear to have earned this opportunity on the basis of his lefthandedness, particularly in light of Josh Edgin’s recent elbow woes. 34, 43 and 46 are available.

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Mookie Dilson?

Hi, I’ve come back from the dead to speculate on the surprise promotion of young second-sacker prospect Dilson Hererra, who evidently is on the way to Citifield Friday to sub for the injured Daniel Murphy and hopefully make this punchless and too-often fun-less team worth watching again.

1I stuck with them this year, I really did, but there’s been little to update you with on the number front. Herrera’s promotion in fact will be the first new addition of a new player to the big-league squad in 70 games (since Taylor Teagarden on June 10, according to figures from my friend Greg).

Herrera, whom we received only a year ago in the Marlon Byrd Trade (or was it John Buck? Both at once? It’s been so long) was among the youngest players in Class AA this season, so a shot at second base in the bigs is quite the opportunity. One would think, with money tight, a successful trial could make Daniel Murphy even more of a longshot to return in 2015. He’s owed an arbitration bump at minimum this offseason but stands to reason he’d take a multiyear deal now if the Mets would only offer.

They probably won’t. That’s baseball.

As astutely pointed out in the below post’s comments, Hererra could inherit either No. 1 (most recently belonging to Chris Young) or 2 (Justin Turner in 2013) upon his arrival.

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Ham and Egbert

61Not clear as of this writing who will be demoted when journeyman lefty Dana Eveland arrives for today’s Mets-Phillies but it may as well be fellow traveler Buddy Carlyle who rescued an incompent Mets team Saturday with a win and 3 vital innings of relief work.

Carlyle wore No. 44, a quick reissue of the jersey Kyle Farnsworth fouled for the club. Eveland is said to be issued No. 61, a jersey last seen on the back of Jack Egbert, who might be the most forgettable Met all of all time.

44These Mets are driving me nuts. We know they don’t possess the most explosive offense in the league, but jeez, the pitching has been borderline great and the bullpen pieces appear to be in place after a lot of tinkering. So why do they struggle? Idiotic baserunning by the likes of Daniel Murphy and easy pop-ups clanking off Chris Young’s glove in the outfield. Philly is a flat-out awful team. It wouldn’t take 14 innings or more to beat them if the Mets could only be counted on to avoid these preventable execution errors. Not sure how Terry is dealing with this, but I’d bench Murph today and act like he won’t go tomorrow until he gets the message.

Let’s Go Mets and stuff.

 

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Hit or Miss

Another rough stretch, another few victims, another media crisis, more angry fans in a panic.

51So it goes for the Mets, who unexpectedly whacked hitting coach Dave Hudgens — and predictably cashiered gasbag reliever Jose Valverde — following a disheartening Memorial Day debacle. It wasn’t long after Hudgens took leave that his opinions concerning the effect of fans booing and criticisms from team broadcasters were speeding around the circuit, and he followed that up this afternoon by remarking on the team’s “purse strings” — a fresh serving of red meat for stimulated fans who’d somehow convinced themselves that Sandy Alderson hasn’t been deftly splitting hairs for years now when he’s asked about financial constraints governing the ongoing turnaround.

57That all the issues — the booing, the Keith, the money, the hitting, the bullpen — are at some level related is the story of the season so far and the burden the Mets are dragging around everywhere. And there was certainly a whiff of Wilponian sneakiness to the Hudgens affair. He was quite obviously one of Sandy’s pet hirings, and replaced by a guy, Lamar Johnson, who’d been hanging around Mettown for a decade. On the other hand, maybe parting with Hudgens was Sandy’s offering to the bloodlusters — dopes in the press eager to link the offensive struggles to the organizational hitting strategy as part of an ongoing effort to bring down Sabermetics and prove the Earth is flat — and an acknowledgement that despite the process, the results called for a change.

So Lamar Johnson is here, the first No. 57 since Johan Santana — and Hudgens has turned in No. 51. Valverde has turned in 47. Elsewhere we’ve seen the return of Matt den Dekker in No. 6 and Josh Edgin in 66, and Vic Black, still No. 38.

 

 

 

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