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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Top of the Order

So there’s Travis d’Arnaud, aka “Shoeless Aud,” wearing his new No. 7 jersey. Could you also see him in a new lineup position?

7Let me begin by saying I’m generally if not wildly optimistic for the Mets chances this year. I like the additions of Cuddyer and Mayberry. I believe that David Wright could still rebound, and I think Wilmer Flores is a bold choice in a year where offense is going to be hard to find. I think a solid starting staff and bullpen might be constructed just from what *doesn’t* make the opening-day roster this year. That’s all very encouraging.

Where I’m concerned is that they don’t really have an ideal leadoff hitter, and I worry especially that they’ll try to shoehorn Juan Lagares into that role. It’s not that I don’t believe Lagares could ever become a leadoff guy (though I have doubts), it’s that given his low walk rates and seeming luck on balls-in-play (he BABIPped at 340 vs. a league average of 300) I’d prefer he demonstrate whatever nascent leadoff skills he possesses as a 7th or 8th place hitter and let someone generally more qualified garner the extra trips and run-building opportunities that come with the role.

I’m not arguing that Travis d’Arnaud should be a leadoff hitter either, but I might be tempted to try him there sooner than I would Lagares. His walk rate is better and BABIP ought to improve, and his superior extra-base power could get us some early leads in road games, which I’d prefer over whatever advantage you might realize from Lagares’ stolen bases. Actually the club would seem to favor Curtis Granderson (or let’s face it, Kirk Nieuwenhuis) leading off, but I can see the argument for getting Grandy’s bat more in the mix off all those middle-of-the-order righties – yet another consequence of the Mets not having gathered in a lefthanded hitting shortstop over the offseason.

Who leads off for your 2015 Mets?

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Sweet Little 16

16Can you believe I’m the owner of website that’s now old enough to drive?

Yes, it was this day in 1999 when Mets by the Numbers debuted. It’s had a career as long, and about as useful, as Bud Harrelson’s. This site is so old that when it was launched the Mets still cared about what Dwight Gooden thought.

To celebrate let’s run down a list of the varied and memorable creatures to inhabit the No. 16 jersey, which began as a hot potato but matured into one of Metdom’s revered digits.

sammy-taylorBobby Gene Smith (1962), sometimes referred to as B.G. Smith, was the first man to occupy 16 for New York. An outfielder-third-baseman who’d spent most of his career with St. Louis, Smith was picked from the Phillies in the Expansion Draft, and was destined to become one of the first ex-Mets ever. He was batting .136 (3 for 25) when the Mets traded him to the Cubs for catcher Sammy Taylor, although he has the distinction of collecting the first triple in team history, a two-run stroke off future Met Jack Lamabe in April of ’62.

Smith handed the 16 jersey to Taylor as they crossed paths in the airport, and Taylor (1962-63, photo at left pinched from Paul’s Random Stuff) — one of seven catchers for that 1962 squad — subsequently passed 16 along to Jesse Gonder (1963) when they were swapped for one another in July of ’63. Gonder spent only a week in 16, surrendering it to oufielder Dick Smith upon Smith’s acquisition later that July, and switching to the unoccupied 12.

Smith (1963-64) and the man who followed him in the 16 jersey, Danny Napoleon (1965-66) were typical of the early Mets – both free-swinging minor league sluggers whose power didn’t translate to the big leagues. Following Napoleon were reserves Tommy Reynolds (1967), Kevin Collins (1968) and Queens native Mike Jorgensen (1969-71).

Crouching, choked-up slap-hitter Felix Millan wore No. 16 for 1973, his first year with the Mets. Millan switched to 17 a year later while reserve outfielder Dave Schneck switched into 16.

The Taylor-Gonder uni swap of 1963 would be repeated 13 years later later when another Met catcher, John Stearns (1975-76), took 12 and left his 16 to an outfielder, Lee Mazzilli, ushering in a new era of prosperity for the jersey. Mazz of course would be remembered more for his pants than his shirts, though both were revealingly snug fits.

mazzilliMazzilli (1977-81) was capable switch-hitting outfielder with power, speed, a good batting eye and style at a time when it was difficult to find a Met possessing any one of those qualities. His triumphant performance in 1979 All-Star Game — a home run and RBI walk, the latter off the Yankees Ron Guidry, complete with Mazzilli’s eff-you bat-flip — is remembered fondly by all Met fans to have survived 1979. Among guys wearing No. 16, Maz is still the Mets’ all-time leader in games, hits, home runs, runs, RBI, walks, strikeouts and stolen bases.

By the time Mazzilli arrived for a feel-good Met reunion in 1986, Dwight Gooden had already rewritten 16’s history behind an electrifying right arm. The first pitcher to wear 16 as a Met, Gooden’s spectacular arrival in 1984 and mind-boggling success in 1985 will never likely see an equal. Although arm and drug troubles eventually wore some of the magic away, Gooden’s career was substantial enough that the club was careful not to issue 16 for nearly five years after his departure — and then only to a guy with equity in it, fading phenom Hideo Nomo (1998).

goodenAlthough Gooden was reportedly unhappy with the Nomo issue, several successors in 16 asked for — and received — Doc’s blessing. But a tradition of issuing 16 to veterans on their last legs was only starting then too.

Seafaring outfielder Derek Bell (2000) had long worn No. 16 in other locales as a tribute to Gooden, who preceded him from Tampa to the big leagues and whom Bell considered a hero. Bell would be a kind of Biazzaro Lee Mazzilli, known known not for his shirt but his gigantic, billowing pants.

In 2003, David Cone took 16 in tribute to his former teammate Gooden in a brief and doomed comeback attempt.

Then there was catcher Paul LoDuca (2006-07) who like Mazzilli was Brooklyn born, and grew up as a fan of the Gooden-era Mets, and wore 16 to signify it. LoDuca was a bit of a mess when it was all over but his .290 average as a Met is the best among guys who wore 16.

By the time LoDuca came along, Gooden’s long estrangement from the franchise led to careless reissues including a season of second-choice infielder Doug Mientkiewicz (2005); and nondescript reserve catcher Rob Johnson (2012). In between, prodigal outfielder Angel Pagan (2008-11) was alternately brilliant and brilliantly frustrating; his trade to San Francisco is one of the worst of the Sandy Alderson era.

Most recently, 16 went to last-call veterans Rick Ankeil (2013) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (2014). Most recently its been assigned to Alex Castellanos, a longshot non-roster outfielder who looks likely to spend the season in Las Vegas.

But after 16 years I can say this, you never know with these guys.

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2015 Mets Numerical Roster

Here’s what the roster looks like now that numbers were published on the Mets’ site today.  New assignments in bold. I included the reserved and/or returning occupants of 2014’s vacant numbers in parentheses where appropriate.

No. 2014 occupant(s) 2015 assignment
0 Omar Quintanilla vacant
1 Chris Young vacant
2 Dilson Hererra Hererra
3 Curtis Granderson Granderson
4 Wilmer Flores Flores
5 David Wright Wright
6 Matt den Dekker den Dekker
7 Bob Geren Travis d’Arnaud
8 Vacant Vacant
9 Kirk Nieuwenhuis Nieuwenhuis
10 Terry Collins Collins
11 Ruben Tejada Tejada
12 Juan Lagares Lagares
13 Josh Satin vacant
14 Retired Retired
15 Travis d’Arnaud Bob Geren
16 Daisuke Matsuzaka Alex Castellanos
17 Vacant Vacant
18 Tim Teufel Teufel
19 Vacant (Zach Lutz) Johnny Monell
20 Anthony Recker Recker
21 Lucas Duda Duda
22 Eric Young Kevin Plawecki
23 Taylor Teagarden Michael Cuddyer
24 Vacant Vacant
25 Ricky Bones Bones
26 Tom Goodwin Goodwin
27 Jeurys Familia Familia
28 Daniel Murphy Murphy
29 Ike Davis, Eric Campbell Campbell
30 Andrew Brown Brandon Allen
31 Vacant Vacant
32 John Lannan Steven Matz
33 Vacant (Matt Harvey) Harvey
34 Vacant Noah Syndergaard
35 Dillon Gee Gee
36 Juan Centano Sean Gilmartin
37 Retired Retired
38 Vic Black Black
39 Bobby Parnell Parnell
40 Bartolo Colon Colon
41 Retired Retired
42 Retired Retired
43 Vacant Buddy Carlyle
44 Kyle Farnsworth, Buddy Carlyle John Mayberry Jr.
45 Zack Wheeler Wheeler
46 Vacant Zach Thornton
47 Jose Valverde Cory Mazzoni
48 Jacob deGrom deGrom
49 Jon Niese Niese
50 Rafael Montero Montero
51 Dave Hudgens Jack Leathersich
52 Carlos Torres Torres
53 Bobby Abreu Vacant
54 Dave Racaniello Racaniello
55 Vacant (Noah Syndergaard) Matt Reynolds
56 Scott Rice Rice
57 Lamar Johnson Kevin Long
58 Jennry Mejia Mejia
59 Dan Warthen Warthen
60 Vacant (Brandon Allen) Pat Roessler
61 Dana Eveland Vacant
62 Erik Goeddel Goeddel
63 Vacant Gabriel Ynoa
64 Vacant (Danny Muno) Akeel Morris
65 Vacant (Cesar Puello) Puello
66 Josh Edgin Edgin
67 Vacant Hansel Robles
68 Dario Alvarez Alvarez
69 Vacant Vacant
70 Wilfredo Tovar Tovar
71 Gonzalez Germen Xorge Carillo
72 Vacant Gavin Cecchini
73 Vacant Jon Velasquez
74 Vacant Daniel Muno
75 Vacant (Cory Mazzoni) Tyler Pill
76 Vacant (Chase Bradford) Bradford
77 Vacant (Brandon Nimmo) Nimmo
78 Vacant Vacant
79 Vacant Matt Bowman
80 Vacant Cody Satterwhite
81 Vacant (Jack Leathersich) vacant
82 Vacant vacant
83-99 Vacant Vacant
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Now You Tell Us

Thank goodness I’m not paying attention at work today.

The d’Arnaud-to-7 story is old news already and although the Mets are insisting it goes down this way I still have doubts it’ll go down like this when the bell rings:

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 1.19.00 PM

 

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Is Travis d’Arnaud changing his shirt?

7Twitter caught fire this morning with reports that Travis d’Arnaud was changing his uniform number, from 15 to 7. While I haven’t seen official confirmation yet, it appears the source is an especially revealing e-commerce site: The team’s own order-your-own-‘official’-jersey offer (only $267.99!!).

51The drop-down has plenty more to say that’s not yet on the official roster page, including assignments for newcomers John Mayberry Jr. (44); Sean Gilmartin (36); Jack Leathersich (51); Steven Matz (32); and Noah Syndergaard (34). A few other guys on the 40-man are listed in 00, which we’ll assume are unassigned still — Akeel Morris and Gabriel Ynoa. (Leathersich is also listed in 00, while Hansel Robles isn’t listed at all. Neither are the gaggle of NRIs who typically get Spring assignments in the 60s, 70s and 80s).

15We may be jumping the gun on at least some of the actual assignments. If d’Arnaud is indeed changing to 7, we’d presume Mayberry would take the vacant 15, which he wore for several years with the Phillies, rather than 44, which technically still belongs to 2014 Met and 2015 non-roster invitee Buddy Carlyle. The switch to 7 would also require that bench coach Bob Geren changes into something else, not that that’s a big deal. We’ve also heard, from a reader, that incoming hitting coach Kevin Long will wear No. 30, but still have no confirmation of that.

The move to 7 will reignite a battle for the all-time lead in hits by a single uniform number: Though 7 and occupants Ed Kranepool and Jose Reyes maintains its longtime, all-time lead, Team 5 led by David Wright as of the end of last season had pulled to within 3 hits.

Typically we’re at the time of year when such info drops officially so we expect to see the roster populate soon and answer — at least for now — the burning questions.

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