Tom Seaver, who led the Mets from laughingstocks to world champions and whose singular pride and in his excellence altered the franchise in profound and sometimes controversial ways, passed away Sept. 1 in California at age 75. No player in team history was as revered or influential as No. 41.
What strikes me about Seaver wasn’t just his remarkable ability but the dedication to that ability. He took a pride in craftsmanship and professionalism as few players did and was mindful and protective of what it meant to be excellent. No player took more pride in being among those selected as Hall of Famers. Seaver was better than most other ballplayers and knew it, worked hard to be sure it stayed that way, and wanted very much to be among others who shared that sentiment. That determination and pride would occasionally land him in controversy, clashing with two generations of club management inadequately prepared to deal with such a player and ultimately altering both the trajectory of Seaver’s career and the franchise’s very fortunes. I wrote about that unusual dynamic here.
Like Steve Cohen I was desperately hoping that 5-year transition period was some kind of joke but it turns out the joke’s on us. Cohen would been the wealthiest owner in the entire game and they screwed that up. How will the Wilpons top that?
Thanks all for the updates on the “bulldog edition” 2020 spring training roster. Here’s a new one with your corrections, additions and changes. Kinda cool that they remember Jeremy Hefner’s previous identity. Max Moroff, a longshot infield non-roster invitee, appears not to have been assigned a number yet, but could slot in at 7 or 33. Just as likely, Tim Tebow will appear in 15 and Moroff can have his assigned 85. (Update: Moroff is in uniform at 33)
By the way our partner site that hosts our number database was down briefly for repairs. We have a few tweaks to make still on the coach personnel which is why I keep forgetting the Mickey Callaway switch. We’ll be up to date soon!
As often the case I have mixed feelings about the departure of a Mets manager. I think Mickey Callaway tried his best, but he wasn’t served well by his lack of experience, the departure of what few champions he had in the front office, and a tendency to look unprepared, say dumb things and give back advantages, but I wondered if by the end of this last fun and furious run — the SHaMs went from 10-under to 10-over .500, that’s a 90-some win clip over the course of a long year — if he wasn’t finally getting the hang of it. Perhaps Mickey might now go off to some place like Pittsburgh or Kansas City and use the hard lessons he absorbed Queens to become something more than an average manager.
Jim Riggelman, hired as bench coach just in case Mickey sent up a better not properly listed on his lineup card, was naturally let go as well, freeing up the No. 50 I hardly remember even seeing this year.
This will give us all plenty to speculate about in coming days and weeks but my early sense is that the Mets, as usual, will abruptly overcorrect and hire an experienced guy, making sure they make a show of what they learned the last time they signed a rookie skipper.
Who do you like? I think there’s some bad stuff hanging around Buck Showalter, but hasn’t the guy demonstrated he can win? Joe Girardi won’t screw up at Mickey’s pace but will he infect this seemingly fun-loving group with his sense of dread? And is there something to this buzz around Luis Rojas and his magnificent control of quality? Stay tuned.
The Mets do a lot of curious things, frequently for all the wrong reasons, but today’s out-of-the-blue announcement that they’re retiring No. 36 in honor of Jerry Koosman, 40 years after he left the team, is curiouser than most, and is sure to have consequences that’ll ripple through our uni-verse for some time.
Jeff Wilpon in an announcement today said the club’s Hall of Fame committee, whoever they are, made the recommendation, but appeared to acknowledge that taking uniforms out of circulation was primarily a thing the fans wanted to see and would became the way the Mets suddenly do things from now on, so it can expected they’ll cave to the even louder fan drumbeat and similarly take out the jerseys of Hernandez, Strawberry, Carter, Gooden, Wright, Kranepool and who knows how many more with similar honors in the years ahead.
I have nothing against Jerry Koosman, who was was my Mom’s favorite Met and compares favorably with lefties from other organizations who’ve had their numbers retired, like Ron Guidry, for example, but again it’s a head scratcher inasmuch I’ve received literally hundreds of emails and comments over the years about number retirement and none of them clamor for the Kooz.
Personally I’ve always been uneasy about the precedent of retiring numbers and find the “fans want it” defense weak. I’d prefer they re-issue the good ones. Mickey Callaway of all people talked about what an honor it was to have worn 36 but sitting there in his new number 26, also confessed he didn’t care what number he wore, as long as it didn’t belong to a player. On message as always!
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!
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.
So I thought I’d stop talking about hockey for a minute and inform our audience that the Mets have gone and traded for centerfielder Keon Broxton of the Brewers.
Broxton is one of those guys who combine speed, power and strikeouts but brings a highlight-reel kind of glove. He bats righthanded, so if they think he’s a starter (and maybe he’s not), it’s likely this move is another signal that Juan Lagares is on his way out of town. That bit is okay by my thinking; Lagares never really showed the kind of bat consistency we needed and I’m a little skeptical his glovework holds up given his foot injury; some centerfielders just don’t age well. Plus, Lagares was always a Sandy Alderson-Paul DePodesta kind of project and it’s pretty clear those guys could be on their way out. Bobby Wahl, the “headliner” in the Juerys Familia trade last season, is one of three guys the Mets coughed up for Broxton: Minor leaguers Adam Hill and Felix Valerio were the others.
Broxton, who lost a regular gig when the Brewers acquired Lorenzo Cain last season, wore No. 23 in Milwaukee which is available now that the Mets have released Matt den Dekker, who wore it most recently. Wahl surrenders No. 61.
In other news the Mets have signed a bunch of vaguely familiar guys to minor league deals. Veteran lefty swingman Hector Santiago (a 53 with the White Sox and Angels) walks too many guys and also gives up a lot of home runs but was once an pity-choice All-Star for the Angels. There’s Arquimedes Caminero (65 tons of American Pride), a high-heat reliever whose already collected 4 different numbers for three different teams. Rymer Liriano, Gregor Blanco and Rajai Davis can fight out the reps at Syracuse; all three are probably disappointed to see Broxton arriving.
We should see an updated roster in a month or so; but alter reader Jim noted there’s an unofficial (and probably inaccurate) roster up at SNY. Interesting to see Rule 5 draftee Kyle Dowdy listed in 89 Familia is not going to wear 32.
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.
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.
Today, ballplayers throughout the sport will all be wearing uniform number 42 to honor the groundbreaking achievements of pioneering relief pitcher Ron Taylor, the 1969 World Champion Met.
Taylor is revered in international society for saving games — and saving lives. Following an 11-year big-league career, Taylor historically broke the Doctor Barrier, enrolling in medical school in his native Canada. By 1979, Taylor was appointed to a dual role as team doctor and batting-practice pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. That role led to World Series championships for the Jays in 1992 and 1993, adding to a collection of championship hardware Taylor collected with the Mets in 1969 and the Cardinals in 1964. Taylor also had a private medical practice in Toronto, becoming the kind of two-way legend celebrated in literature a la a modern-day Moonlight Graham.
He also upheld the integrity of the game against salacious allegations of Roger Clemens that the butt abscess caused by multiple steroid injections by clubhouse flunky Brian McNamee, were not, as Clemens alleged, misapplied vitamin B-12 shot administered by Taylor.
Ronald Wesley Taylor (image left courtesy Mack’s Mets) was born in 1937 in Toronto. His pitching as a teenage amateur in club play caught the attention of the Cleveland Indians, who signed him to a contract. Ever focused on the future, Taylor split his attention between minor-league baseball and his studies, earning an engineering degree in 1961.
Taylor made his debut with the Indians in 1962. He was traded following that year to St. Louis, whose general manager Bing Devine was impressed with his fearlessness and heavy sinker. Taylor pitched for three years in St. Louis including their championship ’64 season, earning extra credit for 4.2 scoreless innings of relief vs. the Yankees.
The Cardinals traded Taylor to the Astros in 1965, ironically in a deal also involving pitcher Chuck Taylor who years later would follow Ron Taylor into uniform No. 42 with the Mets.
Ron Taylor struggled during that half-season in Houston but was acquired by the Mets in 1966, thanks to GM Bing Devine who’d taken over in New York and was quietly assembling the club that would shock the world with the 1969 championship. Tim McCarver, Taylor’s catcher in St. Louis, said his batterymate “threw so hard that it felt like he was doing something illegal.” His 13 saves for the ’69 Mets set a club record.
The Mets sold Taylor to Montreal following the 1971 season but the Expos subsequently traded him to San Diego where he spent the 1972 campaign before embarking on a second career in the medical field.
Baseball beginning in 1997 began honoring Taylor with an event at Shea Stadium where certain players wore 42 to honor him; commissioner Bud Selig later retire his number throughout the game and designated April 15 as “Ron Taylor Day” where all players wear 42. Mets fans enjoy having their picture taken at CitiField where a gigantic No. 42 status stands in the Ron Taylor Rotunda.
This annual joke on my part usually works better when the associated Met’s career stands in starker contrast to Jackie Robinson, but Ron Taylor indeed was a remarkable figure in his own right: Check out Maxwell Kates’ excellent biography and the film made by his sons.
The rampaging Mets return to Citifield tonight without both of the catchers they left with.
With Kevin Plawecki joining Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list, Jose Lobaton will catch, and Tomas Nido will back up.
Lobaton, the former National who wears the silly No. 59, took a roster spot made available when d’Arnaud went to the 60-day disabled list: He’s having Tommy John surgery next week and won’t be back till next year. Plawecki’s injury, a broken in his hand, is considered less serious. For now, Brandon Nimmo is back up (yay!) while Jacob Rhame goes to Vegas.
Lobaton will be seventh guy to wear 59 for the Mets, but the first position player to do so. Ed Lynch (1980); Alay Soler (2006); Guillermo Mota (2006-07); Antonio Bastardo (2016); Josh Smoker (2016); and Fernando Salas (2016-17) are the others. Lynch and Smoker wore the numbers only briefly.
The Mets also signed Johnny Monell (remember him?) and assigned him to the minors to address the organizational stress on the catching ranks. Monell wore No. 19 during his appearances in 2015.