Archive for Met Mysteries

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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Revisiting Kingman’s Revisiting

Got a message from longtime reader Dave who asked in so many words, “What was Dave Kingman doing wearing No. 5 during spring training in 1981?”

It’s a good question and one we have addressed before here, but I should mention a few things about that: One, we did it 10 years ago. Did you know this site is nearing its 20th birthday? I still run it, still make the rules, and there’s none against reinvestigations. I actually like taking advantage of the archives (check out the impressive dropdown on the left!) and don’t do it enough. Ask me anything!

Two, what we hashed out was mostly in the comments section, which has been cut and pasted from a couple generations of the web site since and is kind of hard to find or read.

Three, my access to historical data has gotten much better since then as evidenced by what I was able to find looking it over again:

So that’s Dave upon his arrival at St. Petersburg on March 3, 1981, days after the Mets completed a trade bringing Kong back to blue-and-orange for the first time since departing in the Midnight Massacre of 1977. There’s great stuff in there about his handing out monogrammed pens to writers as a signal of his willingness to rehab his image as a reporter-hater. In five years Kingman would be outed for sending a gift-wrapped live rat to Susan Fornoff, who then covered Kingman’s Oakland A’s for the Sacramento Bee. Nothing changes, even when it does, including the uni number!

Anyway, Kingman ironically arrived in a trade for Steve Henderson, who turned out to be the best of all we’d gathered on that bloody 1977 night, if you don’t count Bobby Valentine’s managerial career (Valentine as you know arrived for Kingman along with Paul Siebert; Henderson came in the booty for Tom Seaver). But yep, looks like they initially just did a straight-up Uni Swap, Hendoo for Kong.

The Mets between Kingman’s departure and rearrival had issued 26 to pitchers Mike Bruhert (1978); Ray Burris (1979) and in late 1980, rookie callup Scott Holman. Holman was back training with the Mets when the Kingman deal was done.

Holman was considered something of a hot pitching prospect at the time but was already battling shoulder problems that would plague him for the duration of his career. He was also only 22 and a longshot to make the big club; he’d be reassigned to minor league camp March 25 and spend the entire 1981 season with AA Jackson, freeing up 26 for the Konger before regular-season play began.

Holman eventually made it back to New York in September of 1982, rejoining Kingman and the Mets wearing No. 28, which he also wore through 1983 with the big club. Holman ran out of minor-league options by 1984 but re-signed with AAA Tidewater; that freed up 28, ironically enough, for Bobby Valentine, who had retired but was rejoining the Mets as a third-base coach. Holman signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs in 1985 and spent the year in Class AAA Iowa. But here’s another new thing I learned researching this: Some Mets fans spied a job-seeking Holman working out with the 1986 Mets during spring training, saying he’s briefly visible in a highlight VHS tape I have but cannot play, perhaps that’s out there on YouTube somewhere, if you see it and can identify what Holman’s wearing, let me know!

Kingman would be released by the Mets following the 1983 season and was off to his rat-infested tenure in Oakland.

And that… is the rest of the story.

 

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Hey, Joe

Today my friend David passed along this photo on social media. It’s Joe Sambito pitching for the Mets, and he’s wearing No. 38.

This does not jibe with our records — and some others — listing Sambito having worn No. 35 for the entirety of his brief Mets career, which lasted a little more than six weeks in 1985.

Solving this mystery doesn’t appear to be too difficult, but I’m calling on the MBTN readership to pull out the magnifying glasses and take a shot with me, and confirm it best we can.

Here’s what we know about Joe, who by the way, turned 66 years old the other day. He was a Brooklyn-born and Long Island-raised lefty fireballer who established himself as one of the National League’s strongest relief pitchers with the Houston teams of the late 1970s and early 80s before elbow and shoulder problems stalled his career in 1982. He wore 35 for the Astros. By the time 1985 came around Sambito was still struggling to get his stuff back. When the Astros asked the veteran to accept a minor league assignment he refused, becoming a free agent and fielding offers from several clubs before accepting a major-league minimum deal from the Mets.

The picture shows Sambito pitching in a day game at Shea. That helps narrow things considerably, as Sambito appeared in just two of those. The guess here is that this was the first of those games, and also, Sambito’s Mets debut, on April 28 against the Pirates.

That was a memorable day. Not for Joe Sambito, who quietly pitched a scoreless seventh inning in a 4-4 game — but because the game was only getting started then. It lasted 18 innings before Mookie Wilson scored on an error and the Mets walked off with a 5-4 victory. In the in between, 41-year-old Rusty Staub, who entered as a pinch hitter in the 12th inning, spent the next five innings in the outfield, switching corner outfield positions with Clint Hurdle depending on the handedness of the batter in a concession to Le Grand Orange’s failing knees. Despite that, Rusty made a game-saving running catch in the top of the 18th to retire Pirate pinch-hitter Rick Rhoden who hit an opposite-field fly (if you don’t remember Rhoden, he was one of the best hitting pitchers of his era). Reliable Rusty also had a double that could have won the game in the 12th, but the inning died on a Ray Knight double-play and a bases-loaded popout by Gary Carter. I remember that game well, as it helped to cement my image of Davey Johnson as a master strategist.

The starting right fielder in that game was John Christensen, who was double-switched out in the 12th when Staub entered. And until that day, Christensen was wearing 35. Our records show Christensen wore No. 7 from that point on, so likely lost in the excitement of that thriller was news that Christensen set aside 35 for Sambito.

Sambito struggled mightily in 35, by the way, was sent to Tidewater in June, and released by the Tides that August. The Mets would see him next in Game 3 of the 1986 World Series, pitching ineffective relief for Boston.

So that’s our working theory, thanks to this picture: Sambito wearing 38 for 1 game; 35 for his other seven Mets appearances. Anyone have further observations or concluding proof? Let us know. And happy birthday, Joe!

 

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Triple Play

So the time has come to move on from Adrian Gonzalez, who more or less did what was expected of him, providing the Mets with evidence of a long but steadily declining career while giving prospects like Dominic Smith and Peter Alonso a little more time to bake in the oven. I said it before the Mets would be lucky if either of those prospects crafts a career nearly as good as the one Gonzalez had, and if weren’t for the fact that Yoenis Cespedes will be missing even more time than expected we might be seeing Jay Bruce as the new first baseman beginning tonight.

Instead Dom Smith gets a new chance and hopefully he runs with the opportunity this time. You may remember Dom as having worn No. 22 last year and very briefly this year.

Coming up along with him is the switch-hitting utility player Ty Kelly, whom I like and have advocated for previously. Sure he’s not not exactly lighting the world on fire in Vegas, and he won’t up here, but he’s understanding of his role and oozes with regular-guy appeal that I want to think will help light up a morose clubhouse where there’s a failure virus infecting half the lineup.

What number will Ty wear? The Mets haven’t said. He’s previously worn 55, 56 then 55 again and upon his return to the organization this spring was issued No. 11 — a designation I’d argued for in the past. The Mets in the meantime issued 11 to Jose Bautista. He’s sort of out of uniform himself, preferring No. 19.

So here’s my suggestion. Let’s get Jay Bruce out his slump, Jose Bautista back in familiar clothing and Ty Kelly into his preferred No. 11 with a three-way trade putting Kelly in 11, and Bautista in 19 while Bruce moves to occupy the No. 23 left behind by Gonzalez. For Bruce it could mix up the mojo while also reflecting a spin on the 32 he wore previously with the Reds.

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Red Menace

So maybe it’s all connected, and P.J. Conlon got No. 60 instead of No. 29 because the Mets were secretly working on a Matt Harvey-for-Devin-Mesorasco deal all along, and had a guy already stitching a 29 jersey with his name on it. Until last night, when he made his Mets debut as a pinch hitter, Mesorasco had worn 39 for the Reds.

Anyway, Mesorasco, like Harvey, is a former top draft pick who’d become somewhat worthless for their clubs but still have contracts to play out. It practically goes without saying that Tomas Nido, whom Mesorasco pinch-hit for last night, will go back to the minor leagues and work on his game.

There more to this as well. Todd Frazier is on the disabled list with a hamstring and it’s widely speculated that Luis Guillorme will be up. That’s significant inasmuch as Guillorme — not Conlon — wore No. 60 in Spring Training. Conlon by the way was swapped out for Corey Oswalt following his appearance.

Here’s my thought, with Guillorme due to arrive and Nido likely in for a long spell of seasoning, let’s put Guillorme in the newly available No. 3, which befits his middle-infielder profile and isn’t far off from his Las Vegas No. 13 jersey.

Finally we’d like to wish chubby Matt Harvey all the luck he has coming with the last-place club and lifeless downtown he deserves in Cincinnati. He might not even get No. 33 there, as Jesse Winker wears it, and he has a promising future.

 

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St. Patrick

Unless you’re talking about winning, there is much to digest since our last update.

I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for Matt Harvey, who was a dingbat ever since pulling up to his first Spring Training in an Escalade and becoming Mike Francesca’s favorite player. Never learned the difference between actually working on his craft and bullshit bravado and undermined his teammates over and over again.

His polar opposite, Jacob deGrom, in the meantime is taking a seven-day break on the disabled list necessitating tonight’s Mets debut for P.J. Conlon. The Ireland-born righty wore No. 80 during Spring Training but the club hasn’t announced a jersey for him yet. I’d like to remind them that 33 is very available.

PJ’s Twitter handle and Las Vegas number was 29. That’s available now, and was last worn by Tommy Milone, another Irish Met.

You don’t need me to tell you this but the Mets look just awful: Michael Conforto is slumping like he did back in 16; and the team is following the pattern of the ’15 group but coming apart on the heels of a big winning streak that included a Travis d’Arnaud injury. It’s pretty plain the Mets desperately need a more capable catcher than Jose Lobaton or Tomas Nido – the latter wearing No. 3 these days.

Oh, and Cespedes is hurt. Go Mets!

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Reporting for Duty

I was traveling for work and missed the reliable and alert Matt B passing along the following comment:

10 – Gary DiSarcina
20 – Ruben Amaro Jr.
21 – Todd Frazier
23 – Adrian Gonzalez
36 – Mickey Callaway
38 – Anthony Swarzak
56 – Tom Slater
58 – Dave Eiland
59 – Jose Lobaton
83 – Tim Tebow

Little we hadn’t guessed already except for the Swarzak reveal. All these years, all those guys, and I still think No. 38 is Skip Lockwood (and Buzz Capra) which I suppose is better than thinking of Victor Zambrano and Vic Black. Dan Warthen was the last guy to wear it. The Mets still haven’t published an official roster yet so I’ll fill in the blanks when they do that or when I take my next trip — to Florida in a couple of weeks to see some Spring Training games for the first time in a while.

There may still be a few more guys showing up. The Mets resigned Matt den Dekker to a minor league deal. You might recall he wore No. 6 in his previous tour of duty, that belongs now to hitting coach Pat Roessler. Yesterday came more indication the Mets are looking at Jason Vargas, the lefty given away when Omar Minaya uselessly moved heaven and earth to acquire JJ Putz. Vargas wore 43 in his last tour.

 

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