Stepping Out of A Hole

Well, what do you know.

Mickey Callaway hasn’t been fired and the Mets have started winning again. Those things no doubt will change at some point, maybe soon, but let’s enjoy it now while we can.

The injuries are slowly piling up, for example. Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes might never get here. Conforto is concussed, Nimmo is out with a sore neck and Cano might have hurt himself hustling. New Mets hero Rajai Davis is here and wearing No. 18; interesting inasmuch he was issued 11 in Spring Training, but that went to Adeiny Hechavarria. And with Seth Lugo joining Justin Wilson and Luis Avilan on the shelf, Hector Santiago arrived. He’ll be wearing No. 33.

Along the way we can close the book on Keon Broxton, traded to Baltimore for draft money yesterday, and perhaps on Paul Sewald, one of those organization relievers whose champions, if he had them, left the building a while ago.

Poor Sewald. Of the six pitchers who wore No. 51 in team history none have seen more action than Sewald’s 107 games and 128.2 innings, but all of them have at least as many wins, which is to say zero. He departs as the losingest pitcher (13) without a win in Mets history.

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M-I-C Ya Real Soon

Well it sure looks like it’s all over for Mickey Callaway, whose club seems to have abandoned him in his hour of need. When Jeff called an emergency meeting after the last crappy road trip, you, me, and all 25 guys in the locker room knew it was either play better or Mickey walks the plank. And so he’ll go.

I tuned into Thursday afternoon’s game and was reminded it was a day just like that one last year, a year and week and change, weekday afternoon game in May, when Mickey’s signature moment of unpreparedness–the batting-out-of-order game–gave us a true look at what we were dealing with. Mickey made a great first impression; I think his attempts to paint the picture of things how he wanted them to be, instead of telling us how they were, was too obvious at times; and for a second year in a row he’s proven not to have what it takes to pull a club out of a spin.

Of course the old and underperforming club he has is on a rookie GM who’s also made a bunch of dumb mistakes and already looks like a fool for his confidence in them. “Come get us.” Please.

Knowing the Mets pattern of solving last year’s problems this year count on them to make a show of Callaway’s inexperience and hire the most experienced guy they can. This process will take place while Jim Riggleman gets the “interim” tag, hopefully not for more than a few weeks. What a mess.

This when the big story in our world should be Carlos Gomez’s surprise arrival in No. 91. Yes that’s the first issue of that number in Mets history and apparently refers to a bible verse favored by the erstwhile outfielder and not to his fondness for Butch Goring, evidently a remark by Howie Rose.

We’ll deal with the Craig Swan 46 stuff in another post soon.

 

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Travis-ty

Even though we prepared for it below we never said a proper goodbye to Travis d’Aranud, who as you may know since his release has been drifting across the country, trying new batting stances along the way. The erstwhile prospect was picked up his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers, dressed in No. 72, and had a single pinch hitting appearance until yesterday when he was shipped to Tampa Bay, where he’s something of their version of Devin Mesoraco, acquired because the starter and the backup were hurt. Not sure what number d’Arnaud will appear in, but it’ll be against the Yankees so we’ll wish him better luck than normal.

Speaking of Rays the Mets picked up one of theirs the other night as Wilmer Font showed up, worse No. 68, and pitched okay for a few innings in a disheartening Mets loss. Font is the third 68 in Mets history: You might recall 2019 NL MVP Jeff McNeil wore it last year for the Mets; before that, it was lefty reliever Dario Alvarez.

Next up is the pending Mets debut of Jed Lowrie, issued No. 4. We’re also anticipating a potential reunion with Carlos Gomez who’s hitting well in AAA while Keon Broxton is not up here. Stay tuned!

Update: Travis wearing 37 in Tampa and… making plays!

 

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Hech of a Move

The Mets today recalled AAA shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and sent reserve first baseman Dom Smith to Syracuse. Tough break for Smith who’s been terrific even as a bench player but he could probably use the action with Pete Alonso getting established as the starter and the club in need of real reserve shortstop. Beyond that, Hechavarria is off to a strong start himself and had one of those promote-me-or-release-me deals kicking in.

Interestingly Hechavarria has been issued No. 11. He wore 25 during spring training while fellow veteran striver Rajai Davis (since released ) wore 11. Hechavarria is a former 11 wearer with the Rays.

I had to look the up the last 11 in a Mets uni. I’d basically already forgotten Jose Bautista was ever a part of the org.

In other news Ryan O’Rourke was recalled the other day when Jeurys Familia (general stinkiness) was put on the 10-day “IL.” O’Rourke retained his inappropriate No. 71 he wore this spring, becoming only the second player in club history to wear 71. The first and last: Germen Gonzalez Gonzalez German in 2013-14.

The O’Rourke recall by the way marked the first “new Met” introduced since the season began in late March: Roster historian Jason checked in to remark that April 2019 was the first April since 1974 to include no new Met debuts. You could look it up.

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Groovy Tuesday

New Mets are here including Daniel Zamora (still wearing 73) and Todd Frazier (still wearing 21), and Luis Guillorme (still wearing 13); taking the places of the still-ineffective Chris Flexen, the injured Justin Wilson and Paul Sewald, same as he ever was.

That the Mets added more hitters than pitchers on a night that Steven Matz started was somewhat remarkable though I suppose if Amed Rosario is feeling better that won’t last for long. But generally speaking, I like our chances better with a big bench than a big bullpen. The latter just seems to emanate from a point of view of doubt and failure; the former gives you options that could make the difference in needing to go as deep. It may not have ultimately mattered last night but it was good when we got Arietta out of there just by showing them the hitters left on the bench. More offensive options make a manager look good; fewer hitters and more relievers force them to make passive decisions and infect their club with a sense of dread.

Tonight is my 2019 Maiden Voyage to CitiField, where I’ll be for pretty much every home Tuesday game this season. Tuesday was a rough day of the week last season, when I also sat there and had to watch, and the club isn’t exactly off to a flying start on Tuesdays this year: Other than a win in Miami, the Mets have surrendered 14 runs on consecutive Tuesdays and are averaging 11 opponent tallies.

Uh, let’s go Mets.

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Intervention

Scoring six runs and staggering to the finish every night is probably better than scoring 2 runs and staggering to the finish so on balance it’s pretty good start to the new year. But before we crown Brodie Van Wagenen for his genius consider the guys really making stuff happen were already in the organization, we’re short on pitching and have veteran infielders on the way to replace guys who are actually getting things done and if like me you worry about things, Robbie Cano, his three-hit Friday night notwithstanding, looks more like Robbie Alomar than Jackie Robinson so far. Combined with some sketchy decisionmaking by Mickey Calloway, the Mets are a barely disguised wreck with a pretty good offense, as I discuss with my friend Brian Joura in this week’s Mets360 podcast. Hopefully they get better. Hopefully the pitching improves with better weather.

Catching up on the first batch of transactions, Travis d’Arnaud is back, replacing the over-his-head Tomas Nido. It would have been cool to see him return in No. 7 rather than the 18 he was moved to when the Mets reacquired Jose Reyes. You might recall d’Arnaud came up wearing 15, then switched to 7 once undeserving coach Bob Geren gave it up. Then, the Mets reacquired Jose Reyes and d’Arnaud was on the move again.

7 is available again — Gregor Blanco wore it in spring training and maintains it in Syracuse–but d’Arnaud maintained at the time he switched from 15 that 7 was his preferred number and for what it’s worth, his play in that jersey was considerably better than min either of the other numbers.

Yeah, I know, it’s too late to save Travis d’Arnaud’s career but just to illustrate:

Number Dates AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG
15 8/17/13-9/28/14 484 52 113 25 3 14 46 .233 .299 .384
7 4/6/15-7/4/16 321 38 86 17 1 13 49 .268 .336 .449
18 7/5/16-present 546 62 129 23 1 19 69 .236 .290 .386

You know what though? It’s not too late to save Chris Flexen. The chunky righty showed some promise amid ugly results in his first go-round in 2017, then got fatter and less effective last year, eventually requiring knee surgery. Over the offseason, Flexen addressed his expanded waistline and true to the cliche reported to camp in the “best shape of his life.”

Flexen in an address to Mets fans early in 2018 said he was happy with 64 but also expressed admiration for 27 and 33. The latter has been nominally available since another fat pitcher with an 7-ish ERA, Matt Harvey, was released. Rule 5er Kyle Dowdy wore it this spring before getting swiped by Texas in a procedural transaction.

Flexen as you may know is slated to debut today now that Jacob deGrom is getting his elbow examined and is out at least a week. The Mets should do the right thing, give him 33, and reserve 64 to guys like Elmer Dessens.

Other guys who came, and some who went, include Drew Gagnon (47), Paul Sewald (51) and now, Jacob Rhame (35) and Corey Oswalt (55).

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Happy Mo Vaughn Day!

Tonight, ballplayers from Seattle to Miami and everywhere between will reflect upon the corpulent legacy that Mo Vaughn exhibited during his stint with the New York Mets in 2002 and 2003.

Mo Vaughn taught the Mets–and all of baseball really — what it meant to be a big acquisition, and how to face the dying days of one’s career without exerting too much energy. In his honor, ballplayers throughout MLB will don No. 42 — the same digits found on the back of Vaughn’s 3XL jersey.

Maurice Samuel Vaughn was born on Dec. 15, 1967 in Norwalk, Conn. and was drafted in the first round out of Seton Hall University by the Boston Red Sox in 1989. In time, Vaughn became a star first baseman for the Red Sox, winning AL MVP honors in 1995 behind a .300-39-126 season. After two additional top-5 MVP seasons in Boston, the hefty lefty signed a six-year, $80 million contract with the Angels.

In Anaheim, Vaughn piled up the home runs, RBIs and strikeouts like the Carnegie Deli sandwich artists would stack up sliced pastrami, corned beef, turkey and cheese on the Mo-Licious sandwich. But an injury to his his massive biceps requiring surgery cost Vaughn the entire 2001 season, and combined with a deteriorating relationship with the Angels front office, became just the sort of deeply discounted damaged goods the Mets under Steve Phillips could not resist shopping for.

The strenuous offseason remake only require the Mets involve themselves in a three-team 11-player trade shedding Todd Zeile, Benny Agbayani, Glendon Rusch and Lenny Harris (gaining back a poor-man’s Vaughn type in Jeromy Burnitz and the unforgettable Jeff D’Amico); trading another 5 guys to the Cleveland Indians for a past-his-prime Roberto Alomar; sign reserve-level outfielder Roger Cedeno to a 4-year contract; and ship overpaid Kevin Appier to Anaheim for Vaughn.

Led by Big Mo, the totally new and yet older and fatter 2002 Mets were the kind of massive disappointment legends are made of. Two years after making the World Series the club slid to a 75-86, 5th-place finish (for which the club blamed the manager. Of course!). And with a 35-year-old Vaughn back in 2003 (at least until his knees gave way in May) the club crashed through the 90-loss barrier.

On May 2 in Milwaukee, Vaughn started at first base, drew a walk in four plate appearances, and was replaced for defense by Tony Clark. He then went on the DL for knee surgery, never again returning to a Mets or MLB game. He missed his own Bobblehead Night scheduled the following week, but the Mets had more in mind: A rotunda in their new park to honor the man.

Tonight, we remember Big Mo.

*

I’m only joking as has come to be a tradition this time of year and mean not to take an iota of dignity from the memory of Jackie Robinson, whose influence was importance enough to Mo Vaughn to have beaten baseball to the punch in wearing it on his back. Vaughn was also a pretty good player. Hats off to him! And to Ron Hodges, and to Larry Elliot, and to Chuck Taylor, and to Chuck Taylor’s brother, Ron Taylor! And Butch Huskey and Roger McDowell. But most of all to Jackie Robinson.

 

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Play Ball!

So when the Mets take the field this afternoon in Washington (and I kill myself missing it due to work commitments), we expect to enter the following names and numbers onto the Mighty Scroll:

Pete Alonso (20); Keon Broxton (23); Robinson Cano (24); JD Davis (28); Justin Wilson (38); Edwin Diaz (39); Wilson Ramos (40); and Luis Avilan (43), along with new coaches Jim Riggleman (50); Chili Davis (54); Chick Hernandez (59) and Luis Rojas (60)

Luis Guillorme (13), Jeff McNeil (6) and Jason Vargas (44) get new numbers.

That’s 15 changes if I counted em all up right, so there’s surely there will be a new feel to the club this year. I have my doubts as to whether an 85-loss team can turn it around as dramatically as the Mets expect to and with four teams all going for it in the East this year it’s going to end up disappointingly for some of them, but competition ought to be what it’s about, I’m grateful they haven’t sat this one out, and I’m very happy that baseball is back as a companion and all you guys for a 20th go-round.

LGM, YGB yada yada yada

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Marty Noble

Marty Noble’s appreciation for baseball, and what it meant for fans like him, carried through to his writing in a way that no one else who wrote about the Mets ever quite achieved.

He wrote with a sense of historical perspective and an eye for detail, telling stories that others in his position simply would not or could not. He was a dogged reporter and a skillful writer whose musings on the seemingly unimportant minutia of the game — who occupied who’s old locker, and the progression of uniform numbers — took on more depth every time he wrote about them, becoming one of the chief inspirations for the creation of this project.

I was fortunate to have met Marty on a few occasions–first to solicit a blurb for the Mets by the Numbers book–and also in a number of lengthy phone conversations over the years that loaned his perspective on the team and its players for this and other writing projects. This included a dynamite interview I published in three parts 11 years ago, and for an event in Manhattan that none among the small number of us attending fans will ever forget. While Marty wrote about uniform numbers in passing, and I do so more overtly, he completely understood what I was doing here and I will be forever grateful and humbled for his support.

Marty Noble passed away this week at age 70 and with him went a giant chronicler of Mets history. He was a Bronx-born Yankees fan who covered baseball for the Bergen Record in the 70s, Newsday for 24 years beginning in 1981 and finally MLB.com. He was opinionated and competitive, occasionally making the others on the beat look bad, and generating just the right amount of fear and respect from the subjects he wrote about. He brought a bit of himself to everything on the page including his last published piece, an astonishingly deep and heartfelt profile of Tom Seaver, another complicated legend who is also departing.

Thanks Marty for everything!

Here’s a few more appreciations of Marty from Mark HerrmannGreg Prince, Rich Countinho, Pete Caldera and Anthony DiComo.

 

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Choice Cuts

So our old friend Carlos Gomez is in camp wearing No. 85, which happened to be the lowest number available, although roster cuts and reassignments should free up additional space as opening day nears. Already there’s been 13 reassignments and yesterday news came that TJ Rivera had been cut and also released.

This is not a big surprise as Rivera was a one-tool longshot before he missed a year with an injury, but his release frees up No. 19 if anyone wants it. I assume it won’t be long before Dilson Hererra is reassigned and coughs up No. 16; then there’s Gregor Blanco (7) and Rajai Davis (11) who suddenly look more vulnerable now that Gomez is back. In case you’ve forgotten Gomez wore No. 27 in his first appearances as a Met back in 2007. His return suggests to me that Omar Minaya is possibly making the personnel decisions again and just relying on Brodie Van Wagenen to say the right things to the press about them. That’s not a good feeling.

Among pitchers, keep an eye on No. 26, where nonroster invitee Arquimedes Caminero has a 16.20 ERA so far (in a really small sample) but appears to need to beat out one or more better-performing counterparts like Hector Santiago (46), Luis Avilan (43) and Rule 5er Kyle Dowdy (33) who’s going to get every chance despite a Camineroesque ERA so far this spring.

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