Archive for Met Mysteries

Coming Up Rojas

Since our last update you must be well aware the Mets were secondary effect victims of the Houston cheating scandal and so beat Carlos Beltran out of town like a bat into a trash can. As you know I wasn’t exactly on board with Beltran to start with, so while it all looks wobbly for the Mets the pivot to Luis Rojas probably isn’t all bad. I could see a small danger in providing a rookie skipper so little time to prepare for his first Spring Training–I tend to believe that smooth springs are a sign, if not the only sign, of good things ahead–and am aware of how poor starts in both his years were among the things that doomed Mickey Callaway’s clubs so count me as cautiously optimistic.

Rojas has good lineage–he’s among 10 children of Felipe Alou (he’s a product of his 3rd of his four wives, making him a half-brother of one-time Met Moises Alou, a nephew of one-time Met Jesus Alou, and a half-cousin of one-time Met Mel Rojas, himself a half-brother to Felipe, Jesus and Matty). “Alou” was Felipe’s mother’s last name and was “assigned” that when his father’s surname Rojas was lost in translation, yet passed along to Luis. Mel took his father’s name as he was born of a different mother than the Alou siblings. Got that?

Now, what number will he wear? Rojas in previous outings with the Mets has worn No. 60 as a guest coach and last year, a “quality control” coach. A look at the developing Mets roster would suggest however that 60 is assigned currently to both Rojas and assistant pitching coach Jeremy Accardo. We’ll figure it all out soon I hope.

Speaking now of the roster, that’s also coming into play… a little. In addition to Rojas coaches Jeremy Hefner, Tony DeFrancesco and Hensely Muelens have yet to be assigned, as have new 40-man arrivals Stephen Gonsalves, Jordan Humpheys, Thomas Szapuki, Ali Sanchez and Andres Gimenez, so I’ll stop short of publishing a full spring roster quite yet.

But I am noting the following new assignments: Jake Marisnick in 16; Rick Porcello in 22, conflicting for the moment with Dom Smith; and Michael Wacha in 45. Hopefully they they figure it all out by Spring Training.

*

Do you collect scorecards? I’m teaming up with a longtime MBTN benefactor to inventory our source materials (for me, all pre-1999 as this site has kept track since then). The collection, inspired in part by the Andy Hassler mystery mentioned below, has already turned up some very interesting new wrinkles which I’ll share with you all soon, one of them about the newest Met Hall of Famer, Jon Matlack. If you have old scorecards and want to help, do me a big solid and shoot the roster page, note the date to the best of your ability and send it in!

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Street Hassle

I probably should have investigated this before the man was dead, but didn’t realize till just now that Andy Hassler is among those Mets who purportedly have worn another number than the one listed here for him.

Game-worn Hassler jersey

Hassler, a lefty whom the Mets acquired at the ’79 June trade deadline from Boston, and who sadly just died at age 68, wore the number 44 jersey pictured here (found this pic on an online auction site, reportedly it’s game-worn). But the shirt I was looking for would bear No. 50, one of two Mets numbers listed as having been worn by Hassler at the Baseball Reference site (bbr appears to use Jack Looney’s NOW BATTING, NUMBER… as a reference. Neither is precise enough to identify the times and dates worn).

Orosco’s debut, opening day 1979 (Bill Buckner batting!)

While anything is possible, I’m fairly confident Hassler didn’t wear No. 50. For one thing that would have made him the very first position player ever to have been issued a number in the 50s for the Mets (as noted here before, it wasn’t until 1980 that the Mets started goofing around like that, even though Jesse Orosco earlier that year broke the 60s cherry). For another it would counter plenty of memories and photos and rosters showing Hassler wearing 44.

Hassler was a Met only through the end of that 1979 year so pickings are slim. If he did wear 50, it would likely have been in his June 19 debut at Houston (occasionally when the Mets were traveling back then a debut player might be issued a number he wouldn’t wear once the club returned home, like Tom Hall wearing No. 42). Would the ’79 Mets be traveling with a spare No. 50 jersey? Perhaps, were they planning to fire a coach but I don’t see an obvious occasion for it.

Do you know something? Please let me know! I know there are several of these mysteries out there still.

As to Hassler, he was acquired on the same day the Mets picked up Dock Ellis in a separate trade, an admission that the pre-season gamble of going with young guys like Orosco over costlier rejects like Nelson Briles that spring had failed. Hassler was just off having hospitalized once-and-future Met Mike Jorgensen with a ball off the noggin. For the Mets he was a swingman with a good curve but poor control and ultimately allowed to leave as a free agent.

 

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Addition By Subtraction

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately! Among other things, the MBTN Headquarters building moved to Queens from Brooklyn after 15 years. Like Carlos Beltran, this is a return engagement in the boro: MBTN, now approaching its 21st birthday was born in Manhattan and moved to Queens shortly thereafter, decamping for Brooklyn in 2004.

Also, how can I say this? It hasn’t been a very inspiring offseason yet, unless you are a fan of addition by subtraction. By this I mean the Wilpons and not Zack Wheeler. Five years by my estimation is way too many (for the Wilpons, not Zack Wheeler). That, and the silly chatter on ugly black uniforms, idiotic threats of trading Brandon Nimmo for Starling Marte, and the latest Yoenis Cespedes kerfluffle… So far, yuck.

I’ll miss Zack Wheeler, who departs New York as the Mets’ all-time strikeout king among guys who wore #45 (and 12th among wearers of any Met uniform). He was second to Tug McGraw in win s and innings; and second to Mark Carreon in hits, doubles, runs, home runs, and RBI. He was a good player and I especially don’t like that he wound up in Philly.

To replace him, the Mets have signed two down-on-their-luck veterans, both of whom believe they’re going to be starters, begging the question as to who’ll be the odd man out among the returnees. I could probably get behind Steven Matz going the bullpen but not sure if that’s what the club has in mind. Perhaps they’ll copy other clubs and do “bullpen games.” The new guys are Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.

As relayed in the comments by MBTN reader Richard, Wacha wore No. 52 with the Cardinals, which is not available if Yoenis Cespeds overcomes whatever foolish activity he took up while rehabbing and cost himself millions. Wacha wore No. 38 at Texas A&M, but that’s taken by Justin Wilson.  I’m pencilling him in to wear 45. Shudder.

Porcello wore No. 22 on the Red Sox and prior to that, Nos. 21 and 48 with the Tigers. Richard relayed: “My guess is he takes #21 since Todd Frazier won’t return. He could also take #22 if Dom Smith is traded.” I’m on board with 21 myself seeing as Porcello also replaces Frazier as the obligatory resident New Jersey guy, and I don’t want to trade Dom Smith. I almost wanna trade Alonso instead: Bigger reward, worse glove, even a little older, and I think it’s going to be hard to match the magnificence of his 2019 year (Alonso, not Smith). No way though will the Mets have the stones to try that.

In the outfield the Mets have added ex-Astros speedster Jake Marisnick, who looks as though he’ll take over Juan Lagares’ role as the right-handed hitting, glove-first, pinch-running, late-inning-defensing center fielder. Marisnick wore No. 6 in Houston; with Jeff McNeil occupying that now let’s pencil in Jake as No. 12.

A bunch of other guys have also arrived, re-upped and departed. Brad Brach is back (No. 29) after a handful of decent bullpen appearances last year. New to the 40-man roster and looking for uni assignments are pitchers Stephen Gonsalves, who wore No. 59 in a couple of appearances with the Twins two years ago; and minor-leaguers Jordan Humpheys and Thomas Szapucki; catcher Ali Sanchez and infield prospect Andres Gimenez.

We can also cut official ties with Lagares (12); Wheeler (45); Kevin Kaczmarski (16); Aaron Altherr (23); Drew Gagnon (47); Chris Flexen (64) and Chris Mazza (74). Another 40-man cut is coming when they add Porcello.

New coaches? We have them too. Jeremy Hefner (remember him?) wore the coachly No. 53 as a Met back in 2014; he could take that over from departing first-base coach Glenn Sherlock. We’ve also added Hensley Meulens as the bench coach. Meulens wore No. 31 (I think) in the same role for the Giants last year and so would need a new assignment, as will new first-base coach Tony DeFrancesco. The remarkable Phil Regan (No. 58) is out as pitching coach.

We’ll build a winter roster soon! Much still to do though.

 

 

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Str0man

We got one right for a change. Pitcher Marcus Stroman revealed in a tweet that he would wear the rarely-issued No. 0 jersey in 2020, switching from the 7 he’d originally selected but preferred not to wear because he felt it would interfere with memory of Jose Reyes.

We covered the dubious reasoning below and even correctly predicted his new landing spot but wish Marcus the best of luck in his new jersey and hope that in addition to becoming the 1st, 2nd and now 3rd Met pitcher ever to wear a single-digit uni number he makes other team history as well. Among Zeros, he joins Terry McDaniel (1991), Rey Ordonez (1996-97) and most recently, Omar Quintanilla (2014).

In other matters for someone not entirely comfortable with the selection of a new manager, the news that Carlos Beltran reportedly played a role in the creation of Houston’s cheat scheme is a mixed message at best. If they knew it must have been a factor in the decision to hire him. If they didn’t, it’s a black eye for Carlos before making a spring training lineup. Same old Mets?

We’ll see what Chief Brodie does in his second visit to the Hot Stove in the weeks ahead but between us I’d be pleased were we to retain Zack Wheeler then figure out what to do next. It’s been signaled that the Mets are shopping for a real center fielder, which to me seems like a pretty good idea, while upgrading the defense behind the plate would also help.

Keeping an open mind and terrified as usual.

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Playing Bogar

The Mets appear to be narrowing the list of managerial candidates to succeed Mickey Callaway, with second interviews reportedly granted to Joe Girardi, Carlos Beltran, Eduardo Perez, Luis Rojas and Tim Bogar.

While the buzz until very recently would have Girardi as the favorite, reports indicate he may even have stronger internal support in Philadelphia, where the ex-Yankee and Marlin skipper has also interviewed.

Count me among those suspicious of Beltran, whom I liked enough as a player but whose history with the club for all its success wasn’t terrific, particularly in the realm of communication, and despite how seemingly easy it’s been for reporters to find folks to say all the right things about him. The other argument I’ve heard for Beltran is this idea that he’s the only man alive who could possibly get Yoenis Cespedes to contribute. I simply don’t believe that on its face.

Speaking of fanciful notions there are perspective-challenged fans out there  threatening mutiny if Girardi doesn’t come aboard; I’m sure the fact he’s been hired twice and interviewed by two clubs this time around speaks for his general acceptability for the role but it’s never as though there’s only one possibility. If the Phillies want him so bad, make him rich.

I don’t have much of an opinion of Eduardo Perez as a guy or a broadcaster, and all I can say about Luis Rojas is that the organization thinks highly of him, given how frequently he’s appeared in the dugout wearing weird numbers over the years.

And that brings us to Tim Bogar.

Tim Bogar? Why not?

He’ll be coming to the organization with the pixie dust of the Houston Washington juggernaut. His “experience” managing a big-league club is limited to 22 games– he was interim skipper for the 2014 Rangers following the firing of Ron Washington in 2014 and Texas went 14-8 under him (.636 winning percentage-a 103-win pace!!), but he’s a three-time minor league manager of the year and is well-thought of enough to have been in the employ as coach of good big-league teams like the Astros and Red Sox. Bogar also has front-office experience, serving his ex-Met teammate Jerry DiPoto when DiPoto GM’ed the Angels.

Though DiPoto’s reign in Anaheim ended amid friction with manager Mike Scioscia, DiPoto reappeared in Seattle and sent for Bogar who was named bench coach to Scott Servias. So one could argue Bogar has experience helping Robinson Cano have a productive year.

Finally, Bogar for all his seeming lack of sex appeal, is a Met–drafted by the club in 1987, and eventually making it to New York as a righthanded hitting, noodle-bat utility player/”emergency catcher” who lasted the entire Dallas Green era and the beginnings of the Bobby Valentine one, before being traded during spring training in 1997. (Interesting to note that as a coach in Boston, Bogar was said to have not gotten along with Valentine there either). Bogar you may remember wore No. 23 as a Met but surrendered that jersey in 1996 when the club acquired Bernard Gilkey and wore 11 that year.

But even Bogar’s trade–to Houston for Luis Lopez–paid ongoing dividends for the club as that deal was the seed in a still-flourishing trade tree that yielded Noah Syndergaard. Let’s follow it:

In 1997 Bogar was traded to Houston for Luis Lopez, who was traded in 2000 to Milwaukee for Bill Pulsipher, who was traded to Arizona later that year for Lenny Harris, who was swapped in 2001 to Milwaukee for Jeromy Burnitz, whose 2003 trade to Los Angeles yielded Victor Diaz, who in 2006 was traded for catcher Mike Nickeas. Nickeas remarkably lasted long enough in the organization to make the Mets in 2010 and was included in the earthshattering R.A. Dickey trade to Toronto in 2012, a deal yielding Travis d’Arnaud (whose branch died upon his release this year) and Noah Syndergaard.

Tim Bogar for manager!

Title inspiration by the magnificent skinny-tie new waving power poppers Any Trouble (1980):

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Marcus Down As Undecided

Marcus Stroman, who already made club history by becoming the team’s first pitcher to wear a single-digit uni number, will be making more news soon.

Stroman says will no longer wear the No. 7 he was issued upon his trade to the Mets from Toronto in July, saying that he didn’t feel right playing in the same uni as a childhood idol Jose Reyes.

Obviously we all want Stroman to wear what he’s most comfortable wearing but in the bigger picture I’m wondering whether this notion of respect has gone completely overboard. It has always seemed to me that you could argue just as persuasively that wearing the same number your idol did on the same field would be the ultimate way to pay respect, and that pointedly avoiding a number for that reason in particular, while admirable, is an awfully passive statement in practice.

I’m also left to wonder what this will mean to the newly respect-sensitive Mets and their plans to take an untold batch of jerseys out of circulation in coming years. This began only recently with the deserving but curious announcement they would hang up 36 next year. Who knows if the Mets stay on task with this, but you figure such an approach would have to include Ed Kranepool at some point, a different No. 7.

Until then though, you wonder if the club will now have the stones to issue anybody No. 7 as long as Stroman is on board. Did he inadvertently just mothball No. 7 teamwide? Let’s wait and see.

Let’s also wait and see what Stroman finally settles on. Will he continue to buck tradition and take a single digit? If so there’s but two choices and a similarly wobbly third: Zero is available now; 2 belongs to the free-agent-to-be-but-I’d-sure-love-to-be-back infielder Joe Panik; and then there’s 8, which has gone unissued now for 17 years (!!) as the Mets seemingly make up their minds on Gary Carter’s legacy (If you’re listening Mets, don’t do it. Name the St. Lucie minor league team the Kids instead. Give out a Gary Carter Award every year for the team’s best citizen. Don’t take out numbers for guys with 2 good years on the club and more concrete legacies elsewhere).

Stroman’s Toronto No. 6 belongs now to Jeff McNeil and Stroman said he wouldn’t ask for that. I’ll bet you a beer he’s the next 0.

 

 

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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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Full House

The Mets uniform assignments as they arrive at Spring Training are below. There’s been some significant shuffling, with Jeff McNeil dropping 62 digits; new assignments for guys like Luis Guillorme; and a few returning guys resuming previous numerical identities like Gavin Cecchini, Dilson Herrera and Juerys Familia.

A few of the new guys we were wondering about got assignments (Keon Broxton, JD Davis, Justin Wilson, etc) and the Mets seem to be at least trying to restore order to the universe, getting their coaching staff largely in the 50s where they belong and dressing their just-in-camp-for-the-catching-equipment guys in the 70s. Clip and save!

Because you can never have enough infielders Danny Espinosa has been invited to camp and doesn’t yet appear to be have been assigned a number — 25 is a good guess as its the only available between 1 and 69!

Number Name Notes
1 Amed Rosario, SS
2 Gavin Cecchini, INF NRI
3 Tomas Nido, C
4 Jed Lowrie, INF Was Wilmer Flores
5 vacant Was David Wright
6 Jeff McNeil, INF-OF Was coach Pat Roessler
7 Gregor Blanco, OF NRI; was Jose Reyes
8 Vacant Unassigned (Gary Carter)
9 Brandon Nimmo, OF
10 Gary DiSarcina 3rd base coach
11 Rajai Davis, OF NRI; Was Jose Bautista
12 Juan Lagares, OF
13 Luis Guillorme, INF Was Asbrubal Cabrera
14 Retired Gil Hodges
15 Tim Tebow, OF NRI; was Luis Guillorme
16 Dilson Hererra, 2B NRI; Was Austin Jackson
17 Vacant unassigned (Keith Hernandez)
18 Travis d’Arnaud, C
19 TJ Rivera, INF-OF Was Jay Bruce
20 Peter Alonso, 1B Was coach Ruben Amaro
21 Todd Frazier, 3B
22 Dominic Smith, 1B-OF
23 Keon Broxton, OF was Matt den Dekker
24 Robinson Cano, 2B Was unassigned (Willie Mays)
25 unassigned Was coach Ricky Bones
26 Arquimedes Caminero, P NRI; was Kevin Plawecki
27 Jeurys Familia, P
28 JD Davis, INF was Phillip Evans
29 Devin Mesoraco, C NRI
30 Michael Conforto, OF
31 Retired Mike Piazza
32 Steven Matz, P
33 Kyle Dowdy, P Was Matt Harvey
34 Noah Syndergaard, P
35 Jacob Rhame, P
36 Mickey Callaway manager
37 Retired Casey Stengel
38 Justin Wilson, P was Anthony Swarzak
39 Edwin Diaz, P Was Jerry Blevins
40 Wilson Ramos, C Was Jason Vargas
41 Retired Tom Seaver
42 Retired Jackie Robinson
43 Luis Avilan, P NRI; was Jamie Callahan
44 Jason Vargas, P was AJ Ramos
45 Zack Wheeler,P
46 Hector Santiago, P NRI; was Gerson Bautista
47 Drew Gagnon, P
48 Jacob deGrom, P
49 Tyler Bashlor, P
50 Jim Riggleman bench coach; was Rafael Montero
51 Paul Sewald, P
52 Yoenis Cespedes, OF
53 Glenn Sherlock 1st base coach
54 Chili Davis hitting coach; was TJ Rivera
55 Corey Oswalt, P
56 Tom Slater Assistant hitting coach
57 Dave Racianello Bullpen catcher
58 Dave Eiland Pitching coach
59 Chuck Hernandez bullpen coach; was Jose Lobaton
60 Luis Rojas “quality control coach”; was PJ Conlon
61 Walker Lockett, P was Bobby Wahl
62 Drew Smith, P
63 Tim Peterson, P
64 Chris Flexen, P
65 Robert Gsellman, P
66 Franklyn Kilome, P was Ty Kelly
67 Seth Lugo, P
68 Rymer Liriano, OF NRI; Was Jeff McNeil
69 Vacant
70 Eric Hanhold, P
71 Ryan O’Rourke, P NRI
72 Andres Gimenez, SS NRI; was Jack Reinheimer
73 Daniel Zamora, P
74 Ali Sanchez, C NRI
75 Colton Plaia, C NRI
76 Patrick Mazeika, C NRI
77 David Peterson, P NRI; Was Buddy Baumann
78 Eric Langill Bullpen catcher
79 Anthony Kay, P NRI
80 PJ Conlon, P NRI
81 Corey Taylor, P NRI
82 Joshua Torres, P NRI
83 Stephen Villines, P NRI
84 Ryder Ryan, P NRI
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Debate 8

Should Jed Lowrie get No. 8?

Let the debate begin. The Mets surprised the market by adding the veteran infielder on a two-year contract. In addition to figuring out where he’ll fit on an infield with Amed Rosario, Todd Frazier, Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, JD Davis, Peter Alonso, Dominic Smith, Luis Guillorme, Gavin Cecchini and TJ Rivera, they need to give him a jersey.

Lowrie’s been around the league a little, most often wearing No. 8, but also appearing in No. 12 and 4. The Mets quietly removed 8 from the rotation in 2003, when Gary Carter was elected to the Hall of Fame. Though it’s never been officially expressed this way, I think the idea at that time was to hold out and see whether the Kid would “go into the Hall” as a Met. When he (rightly) was enshrined as an Expo, his health issues made the prospect of reissuing 8 distasteful and so in mothballs it has remained ever since.

I think it’s more likely we see another Met 8 than see the club retire the number, and if it’s what Lowrie wants I suppose I have no problem with it. As I’ve expressed here before, I’d prefer it were the Mets to judiciously reissue, give No. 8 to the next good young catcher, but simply to uphold a limbo ban seems like a dumb idea so if Jed wouldn’t prefer to retake No. 4, I say let him have it.

I mentioned JD Davis above but haven’t got to his signing yet here. He’s a right-handed hitting corner infielder who tore it up as an Astros prospect and seems as though he could at the least challenge TJ Rivera to a roster spot, or perhaps replace Todd Frazier. Or maybe even pitch mop-up relief as he’s said to have a big-league arm.

At any rate, it’s a curious deal given the Mets coughed up three decent but young prospects for Davis. Is Brodie Van Wagenen addressing the criticism the Mets’ system is too “bottom heavy” by rebalancing the system with “ready” prspects? Maybe. Is he ridding the system of the Alderson Regime’s prize project? Perhaps. Is he really going to do something different here and reel in Bryce Harper? Probably not.

Davis wore 28 in a brief run in Houston but 26 is his twitter handle and minor-league assignment. That number became available when the Mets dumped Kevin Plawecki on the Indians in exchange for a fringe starting pitcher prospect, Walker Lockett, and a minor league infielder called Sam Haggerty. Lockett never pitched in Cleveland but instead passed through on paper from San Diego, which traded him with the idea they were to lose him in the Rule 5 draft anyhow. Lockett appeared in four games with the Padres last summer wearing No. 62: He’s the Mets’ problem now.

So long to Plawecki a 1st round Alderson draft choice who like his mate Travis D’Arnaud, simply seemed too nice to make it as a real starting catcher in the league; a forced promotion due to injuries probably got his career off to the wrong start anyway, so good luck on the reset in Cleveland.

And bye-bye, David Wright! The Mets gussied it up with a fake promotion to a fake front office job they but released him just the same.

 

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Is This Scott Holman?

Regarding the discussion below, is the guy on the far left Scott Holman? That jacket could say “28.” The capture is from an 86 Mets vid I found here.

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