Archive for Met Mysteries

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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Yeah We Tease Him A Lot

Never a bad thing to have a versatile switch-hitter around camp, even if he sticks around only long enough to fill spring training boxscores and gets selected off waivers by the Blue Jays after a single big-league at-bat.

Yes we’re talking about Ty Kelly, who just like last year has been invited to camp as a non-roster minor leaguer. He’s a hustler, he can get on base, he strikes a bit too much, he looks like a regular guy.

Ty Kelly was issued 55 as a 2016 Met, then switched to 56 after the Mets reacquired Kelly Johnson that year. After Kelly was claimed off waivers No. 56 went to Tyler Pill. Turns out this week that Pill, who had a smattering of OK and not-OK appearances last year before elbow surgery is now a minor-league free agent, so 56 is available again.

In other news, Chasen Bradford was cut from the 40 to make room for Adrian Gonzalez and was claimed by the Mariners, surrendering No. 46.

The Mets are due soon to set a numerical roster for Spring Training, where there are about 17 guys due to be issued numbers.

Thanks to friends at the Queens Baseball Convention for having me out to provide a little uni-number perspective last week. At the event special guest Chris Flexen expressed his support for remaining in No. 64 despite perhaps preferring 27 or 33 but deferring those assignments to respective incumbents Juerys Familia and Matt Harvey.

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Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown

Jay Bruce wasn’t gone long enough to even reissue his number 19, but speculation as to his uni is the least of my questions this morning.

It seems more than possible that given the shaky defense as constructed and a potentially crowded outfield again the Mets signed Bruce to a three-year contract not to patrol right field but to play first base, and that their extra outfielder (Nimmo or Lagares); and Dominic Smith, the young first baseman with a tenuous hold on his job, could be their on their ways out. I’m just making this up, but could two of them go in a trade for someone else’s center fielder? That would seem to make sense from a number of angles, and if that center fielder in question happens to be Andrew McCutcheon, well that’s convenient too in that he and Smith both rock No. 22.

I’m as excited as the next guy about feeding the big-league club with our own seedlings but Major League first basemen are especially hard things to develop in captivity. Maybe it’s been done before but you wouldn’t want to bet on a first baseman who may or may not be capable of contributing at the big-league level and also compete — just think about how long it took Lucas Duda to establish himself, and even then…

The other question the Mets need to ask themselves is if Smith works out, how good can he be? There’s little doubt the guy is capable of good on-base percentage and line drive hitting — there are worse skills to have and I’m not suggesting the Mets couldn’t use that — but if it all adds up to a career like James Loney and not like, say, Joey Votto, is it worth the investment? We’re more assured to have another young guy in the lineup everyday in Rosario anyway, and if we manage to hang onto Brandon Nimmo, we’ll get the seeming skill set of Smith anyhow.

 

If Sandy Alderson is thinking along with me, he just signed his regular first baseman and will very shortly be sending Smith to Pittsburgh in a Uni Swap. Perhaps Nimmo or (my preference) Lagares go along with him, but one of those two also gets moved shortly, if not in a Pirates deal to a loser in the Lorenzo Cain sweepstakes.

Oh, and welcome back, Jay. Thoughts?

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Got Wilk?

Amazin.

The Mets this morning announced that Matt Harvey has been suspended and so this afternoon’s game will be started by Adam Wilk, up from AAA Las Vegas. Wilk is wearing No. 35.

While fans are speculating the strategically placed dildo was to blame I’m sure there’s more to it than that. For one thing that would indicate there’s a team rule against placing dildoes in lockers. For another it overlooks the pattern of sketchy Harvey nightlife, which I’m sure at some level explains this. I also trust it’ll be sussed out soon.

What a whack team we root for.

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Rule of Thumb

They said they’d call up Amed Rosario based on the severity of Asdrubal Cabrera’s thumb injury as though anyone who saw what happened could be convinced we’ll see No. 13 again before the All-Star Break.

I suppose as I write this (6:43 am on a Sunday? what’s wrong with me?) there’s a possibility they’d leave Jose Reyes at short and collect Gavin Cecchini instead, although I’ve been secretly rooting for Cecchini to take Neil Walker’s place. I don’t want to say I saw this coming but, geez. Walker has always been terribly miscast as a middle-of-the-order hitter and it has to burn the Mets everyday that he’s paid like one. Like Granderson, and like Cabrera even, I think Walker’s days as a productive everyday major leaguer at near an end but that, given the right state of mind, they’d all be excellent or at least pretty good reserves.

Anyway, I predict today will be the last Neil Walker-related stadium giveaway ever, and perhaps, the first of Rosario’s career. Maybe not though. Maybe the right move is not to interfere with the temperamental Reyes now that he’s finally got himself going and wait for him to reveal he can’t hack it over the long haul before starting up the Rosario era.

I admired the Mets’ restraint of giving Rosario 61 in Spring Training but he looks forecast for a single digit.

In the meantime it’s been good to see the club hitting for the first time this year.

 

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Tic Tac Toe

During Sunday’s victory over the Braves, an unusual and perceptive notice popped up in my feed. In the bottom of the first inning, Jay Bruce reached on an error, Neil Walker singled and Lucas Duda followed with a base-on-balls, setting up the following bases-loaded situation as described here by TJ:

Not to speak for Elias Sports, but I’d bet it is. I’ve played around a little bit trying to determine whether the Mets ever had an all-ascending uni number starting lineup (haven’t found one yet) and I can recall lots of notable sequential teammates but this question never occurred to me and figuring out would be a task, which is why I’m opening it up to you guys out there.

My first thought on this matter was the possibility of the 16-17-18 combo of Gooden on third, Hernandez on second and Strawberry on first, which had lots of opportunity to happen. Their teammates on the ’86 champs Wally Backman, Kevin Mitchell and Gary Carter, had a whole season of opportunity to pull this one off too, but also hard to envision a scenario where Backman stops at third. Foster-Gooden-Hernanez 15-17 would be a less likely scenario but I don’t want to rule it out yet.

Looking further into the likely possibilities would also require an examination of the 1969 World Champs, who had Agee, Jones and Clendenon stacked up 20-22 (Tim Foli, No. 19 in 1970-71, could be another engine in this train). Back when numbers were lower and retirements fewer we can envision scenarios of Ashburn on first, Throneberry at second and Bouchee or Harkness on 3rd, but I got no idea.

Anyone brave enough to dive into this please speak up!

Following is my list of notable Mets teammates wearing consecutive numbers, though by no means an exhaustive list of all possibilities over the years:

6 numbers:
1986: Foster 15, Gooden 16, Hernandez 17, Strawberry 18, Ojeda 19, Johnson 20
1987–88: Aguilera 15, Gooden 16, Hernandez 17, Strawberry 18, Ojeda 19, Johnson 20
1989: Darling 15, Gooden 16, Hernandez 17, Strawberry 18, Ojeda 19, Johnson 20

5 numbers:
1989: Gooden 16, Hernandez 17, Strawberry 18, Ojeda 19, Johnson 20

3 numbers:
1968–71: Seaver 41, Taylor 42, McAndrew 43
1969–71: Agee 20, Jones 21, Clendenon 22
1975–77: Kingman 26, Swan 27, Milner 28
1986: Backman 6, Mitchell 7, Carter 8
1992: Gooden 16, Cone 17, Saberhagen 18
2015-17: Matz 32, Harvey 33, Syndergaard 34
2016-17: Bruce 19, Walker 20, Duda 21

*

 

Goodbye and good luck to Ty Kelly, the reserve we were discussing below, and who was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays yesterday. This Ty was no Cobb, but I liked having on the team.

 

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