Archive for Site News

I’m 18 and I like it

It’s crazy and just about as accomplished but Mets By The Numbers has now had a career as long as Ed Kranepool: Eighteen years.

The site went “live” for the first time on Feb. 22, 1999. It wasn’t a “blog” then as such a thing didn’t really exist, but a website with a “home page” that was updated as needed, with stuff deleted as time permitted, which I guess is one reason why the earliest front-page updates I can find for it date only to the failed Barry Larkin trade of 2000, although I uncovered an early cry for help archived from October of 1999.

Anyway, we’re as pleased to be 18 as the protagonist in the Alice Cooper song, or Darryl Strawberry in 1983, or maybe, Darryl Hamilton in 1999. Fun Fact: 100% of the Mets’ Darryls have worn No. 18. Darrells (Ceciliani, Sutherland) are another story entirely.

Real quickly, the most Metly 18s in club history:

1 Darryl Strawberry: I used to wonder what it was about Yankee fans who grew up the 1950s and 60s that made them so obsessive about Mickey Mantle and then I met Strawberry and became one of them. He can still be a Daaaryl sometimes but he meant a lot.

2 Joel Youngblood: Terrific athlete who never found a home on the field. Darryl’s predecessor.

3 Art Howe: Luckless and dull caretaker of a manager astonishingly described as having “lit up the room” in an interview to replace Bobby Valentine. Right, Fred.

4. Felix Mantilla: Arguably the best player on the 1962 Mets which sounds like a kind of feint praise.

5. Moises Alou: Incredible hitter when healthy, never healthy.

6. Marlon Anderson: The best of his three numbers was 18, wore it for his famous inside-the-park home run.

7. Benny Ayala: Home run in first at-bat, of course

8. Bret Saberhagen: He’d have more success wearing 17.

9. Takashi Kashiwada: First Japan-born Met. I associate him with a photo playing in the “ice cream man” white hat.

10. Jeff McKnight. Because, Jeff McKnight.

 

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Let the Banners Be Unfurled

65Hey guys I’m back from a week off during which I was witness to Robert Gsellman’s heroic major league debut which also marked the first appearance of a No. 65 in team history.

50Gso far, gso gsood for Gsellman, but we’re going to need his contributions beginning today in the finale against Philly not to mention a few other guys suddenly thrown into the deep end — remember Rafael Montero? He made a brief appearance in May and is being recalled from Class AA to make Monday’s start opposite Jose Fernandez in Miami. Seth Lugo goes Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday’s starters are listed TBA and TBA, respectively. Yikes.

It’s all about the offense for the time being, but with Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker still battling lingering injuries and Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson both struggling, who knows how sustainable this latest run can be. The Mets have 33 games left beginning today (8 with Philly; 7 with Miami; 6 with Atlanta and Washington; and 3 each with Cincy and Minnesota). Could the SHaMs pull a Rush and go 21-12? That could do it.

36Thanks by the way to reader Jimmy who pointed out the database and latest edition of the MBTN book overlooked the phantom Met, Al Reyes, the ex-Tampa closer who appeared on the roster in September on 2008 but never appeared in a game before being released later that month. Reyes, as we noted then, was assigned 36 but somehow was unable to even get a turn as a reliever on that squad. I have tried very hard to get September of 2008 out of my mind — the frenzied destruction of Shea amid a second-straight choke that marked the true beginning of a rotten stretch of baseball and team stewardship that lasted for five long years.

Thanks Jimmy! We’ll reluctantly update the database.

Go Mets…

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Here Come the SHaMs!

That’s the Second-Half Mets, who are going to need to be considerably better than their first-half counterparts if they want to turn this year into something.

I’m not saying they can’t do that, and I’m definitely not saying I’m not rooting for it, but based on what we saw in the first half, I have my doubts.

21I’d have felt better had the team managed to pierce the 10-games-over-.500 barrier but we only approached it several times before settling back into that 80-something win pace. Nobody seems to be acknowledging the biggest loss for the club was big Lucas Duda, who allowed guys like Neil Walker to bat 6th or 7th instead of 4th or 5th. Duda is a mysterious creature. Do we even know how he broke his back? Is his return even a possibility? I’m skeptical of a strong back half without him or someone as terrifying.

20I like Walker enough, but he’s not a middle-of-the-order guy and he hasn’t been much of a force since April. The Mets have Flores, Hererra, Reyes, Reynolds and Cecchini as potential middle infielders. The Mets have no doubt gotten the better of the Niese-Walker swap so far but you wonder, with the Pirates potentially losing an infielder (Kang) and the Mets a starting pitcher, whether they’d shake hands, swap apartments again and pretend it never happened. Niese has been awful, but throw in a prospect, Pittsburgh, and maybe you have a deal. While you’re at it, would you be interested in a reunion with Antonio Bastardo?

Michael Conforto plummeted even more dramatically than Walker but appears to be regaining his stroke in AAA. His return to form would be a considerable boost. Jose Reyes’ return seems to have interrupted Brandon Nimmo’s shot at becoming the leadoff hitter we were looking for anyway. Referring to my recent failed campaign to outfit Travis d’Arnaud in a new number an MBTN reader made a clever suggestion that I might support in helping Conforto to a better second half:

 

I’m all for it, Eric.

33They say it’ll all come down to pitching in the end and I agree. Matt Harvey’s loss, while disappointing, isn’t a setback for the club inasmuch as he wasn’t doing nearly enough to help them win when he was out there. Do they trade for a reliable 5th starter type (Niese again!) or trust things to Sean Gilmartin, and Seth Lugo and Logan Verrett? Maybe they aim a little higher and come away with a Jorge De La Rosa or Rich Hill. Maybe the injury to Snydergaard is worse than expected and they unload. I guess we have to wait and see.

Finally, my friend Conor captured this video from the National broadcast over the weekend! Go us!

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We All Follow Lucas Duda

21Thanks everyone for the continued updates as Spring Training gets rolling and the numbers pile up.

I’ve been very busy lately (more on that below) but happened to tune into the Twitter Garbage Fire ignited by Ken Davidoff’s curious piece in the Post yesterday suggesting Lucas Duda was the club’s most “overhated” and underappreciated Met. I have no problem with opinion columnists sharing opinions — particularly provocative ones — but this one simply didn’t ring true and marked the second time this month a Post columnist goofed in delivering supposed insights to the team (see Kernan’s since scrubbed-clean Jerry Blevins piece discussed below). I have a lot of respect for the Post sports but they can’t be misinterpreting fan sentiment and also cover it well.

While objectively there probably are some Mets fans who dislike Duda (some people don’t like puppies either) Davidoff’s search for an angle overlooks the obvious. Duda in fact strikes me as an especially easy player to root for, even among a current squad with plenty to like: He’s darn good to start with, and his seeming discomfort in the spotlight to me makes him come off very much one of us.

@wefollowlucasduda @cgrand3 @jlagares12 @travisdarno @mcuddy5_3_23 @jeurys27

A video posted by Wilmer Flores (@catire_4) on

Some of you may know this, but I’m busy in part because I’m making the final touches on the manuscript for a new-and-improved Mets by the Numbers book, publishing later this year (June 7) by Sports Publishing LLC. Again written with Matt Silverman, MBTN Mach II is more than just an update of the 2008 classic but a thorough and loving re-write with more cool stuff! Not everyone gets to re-write their first book, and I’m very proud of this version, and hope you will consider a few copies for yourself and the Met fan in your life. More news on that to come.

DarlingbookIn the meantime, lots of interesting Met books are on the way this year including Greg Prince’s Amazin’ Again — a lickety-split recap of that terrific 2015 season we just had, Ron Darling’s intriguing Game 7, 1986, Erik Sherman’s Kings of Queens and Matt’s own One-Year Dynasty, all reflections on the 30-year anniversary of that season.

0Dirk Lammers, a journalist who chronicled the Mets’ futile quest for a no-hitter until Johan Santana came along and ruined it all, has applied his deep knowledge of everything no-hitter into a new book, No-Hit Wonders, which I’m proud to say includes an enthusiastic back-cover blurb by yours truly. Dirk has done great work well beyond his service providing the uni-number graphics at this site, and you’ll enjoy that one too.

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Sign Here

Just for fun late Saturday night I whipped up this here banner based on Scott M. X. Turner’s site logo design and on Sunday for the first time ever marched in the Banner Day parade. I probably would not have done this had I not already had tickets to the game, but the Mets somehow knew that and so barely bothered to promote the tradition; I only heard about the event from reading other blogs. The entire thing was like a rumor.

I’m sure the extra labor involved with leading the fans through the stadium’s guts while keeping everything else on schedule — I’m sure it was no easy task — held little appeal for the organization, as did the potential for appearing that they might actually encourage or condone graphic commentary from the peanut gallery. I’m not even sure they let you in with a sign on any other day anymore.

The late Karl Ehrhardt , the “Sign Man” our banner honored, is about as subversive as they come in that respect; part of the appeal of his wry commentary was that it held the potential to shame or embarrass the club or its players when they deserved it: It was a unique means of live commentary practiced today by millions of less clever folks on Twitter. Ehrhardt in a 2006 interview said he felt the organization turned against his schtick upon the changing of team ownership in the 80s: Clearly the Mets still today retain little affection for such Mad Men-era aspects of their organization but I’m glad to have played a small part in keeping it alive. Mets staff by the way were all great. The usher way up near our section 535 seats even let us tape the thing on the railing at gametime.

Today we’re awaiting new of what jersey they will slap on newly arriving relief prospect Akeel Morris, who’s making a flying leap to Flushing from Class A St. Lucie so as to provide extra bullpen depth after a taxing weekend. Morris was assigned 64 during Spring Training this year.

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Alt.Uni.Numbers

16You may have seen in the post below where I thanked my hardworking design team for crafting a new set of graphic numbers that finally got around to ditching the black a few seasons after the Mets actually, finally, blessedly did.

What I didn’t do was upload the images to the proper directory and so what I thought was a whole new set of numbers but didn’t really look like them actually was the same old set of numbers that looked exactly like them. My bad!

Anyhow, I think I may have finally straightened it out and new, brighter, bluer, less blacker numerals ought to be where the darker, shadowy ones used to be. You might need to refresh your page or something to make it happen, I don’t know. You’d figure after 16 years of doing this my skills would improve a little but, you know, I also thought Rey Ordonez could hit better if he just gave it a better try.

54Just for fun I ordered a mock-up of the silvery-gray road numbers they’ve been wearing on the alt-blues — a look I like a lot as it reminds me of young Dwight Gooden — which Dirk whipped up here. What do you think?

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Sweet Little 16

16Can you believe I’m the owner of website that’s now old enough to drive?

Yes, it was this day in 1999 when Mets by the Numbers debuted. It’s had a career as long, and about as useful, as Bud Harrelson’s. This site is so old that when it was launched the Mets still cared about what Dwight Gooden thought.

To celebrate let’s run down a list of the varied and memorable creatures to inhabit the No. 16 jersey, which began as a hot potato but matured into one of Metdom’s revered digits.

sammy-taylorBobby Gene Smith (1962), sometimes referred to as B.G. Smith, was the first man to occupy 16 for New York. An outfielder-third-baseman who’d spent most of his career with St. Louis, Smith was picked from the Phillies in the Expansion Draft, and was destined to become one of the first ex-Mets ever. He was batting .136 (3 for 25) when the Mets traded him to the Cubs for catcher Sammy Taylor, although he has the distinction of collecting the first triple in team history, a two-run stroke off future Met Jack Lamabe in April of ’62.

Smith handed the 16 jersey to Taylor as they crossed paths in the airport, and Taylor (1962-63, photo at left pinched from Paul’s Random Stuff) — one of seven catchers for that 1962 squad — subsequently passed 16 along to Jesse Gonder (1963) when they were swapped for one another in July of ’63. Gonder spent only a week in 16, surrendering it to oufielder Dick Smith upon Smith’s acquisition later that July, and switching to the unoccupied 12.

Smith (1963-64) and the man who followed him in the 16 jersey, Danny Napoleon (1965-66) were typical of the early Mets – both free-swinging minor league sluggers whose power didn’t translate to the big leagues. Following Napoleon were reserves Tommy Reynolds (1967), Kevin Collins (1968) and Queens native Mike Jorgensen (1969-71).

Crouching, choked-up slap-hitter Felix Millan wore No. 16 for 1973, his first year with the Mets. Millan switched to 17 a year later while reserve outfielder Dave Schneck switched into 16.

The Taylor-Gonder uni swap of 1963 would be repeated 13 years later later when another Met catcher, John Stearns (1975-76), took 12 and left his 16 to an outfielder, Lee Mazzilli, ushering in a new era of prosperity for the jersey. Mazz of course would be remembered more for his pants than his shirts, though both were revealingly snug fits.

mazzilliMazzilli (1977-81) was capable switch-hitting outfielder with power, speed, a good batting eye and style at a time when it was difficult to find a Met possessing any one of those qualities. His triumphant performance in 1979 All-Star Game — a home run and RBI walk, the latter off the Yankees Ron Guidry, complete with Mazzilli’s eff-you bat-flip — is remembered fondly by all Met fans to have survived 1979. Among guys wearing No. 16, Maz is still the Mets’ all-time leader in games, hits, home runs, runs, RBI, walks, strikeouts and stolen bases.

By the time Mazzilli arrived for a feel-good Met reunion in 1986, Dwight Gooden had already rewritten 16’s history behind an electrifying right arm. The first pitcher to wear 16 as a Met, Gooden’s spectacular arrival in 1984 and mind-boggling success in 1985 will never likely see an equal. Although arm and drug troubles eventually wore some of the magic away, Gooden’s career was substantial enough that the club was careful not to issue 16 for nearly five years after his departure — and then only to a guy with equity in it, fading phenom Hideo Nomo (1998).

goodenAlthough Gooden was reportedly unhappy with the Nomo issue, several successors in 16 asked for — and received — Doc’s blessing. But a tradition of issuing 16 to veterans on their last legs was only starting then too.

Seafaring outfielder Derek Bell (2000) had long worn No. 16 in other locales as a tribute to Gooden, who preceded him from Tampa to the big leagues and whom Bell considered a hero. Bell would be a kind of Biazzaro Lee Mazzilli, known known not for his shirt but his gigantic, billowing pants.

In 2003, David Cone took 16 in tribute to his former teammate Gooden in a brief and doomed comeback attempt.

Then there was catcher Paul LoDuca (2006-07) who like Mazzilli was Brooklyn born, and grew up as a fan of the Gooden-era Mets, and wore 16 to signify it. LoDuca was a bit of a mess when it was all over but his .290 average as a Met is the best among guys who wore 16.

By the time LoDuca came along, Gooden’s long estrangement from the franchise led to careless reissues including a season of second-choice infielder Doug Mientkiewicz (2005); and nondescript reserve catcher Rob Johnson (2012). In between, prodigal outfielder Angel Pagan (2008-11) was alternately brilliant and brilliantly frustrating; his trade to San Francisco is one of the worst of the Sandy Alderson era.

Most recently, 16 went to last-call veterans Rick Ankeil (2013) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (2014). Most recently its been assigned to Alex Castellanos, a longshot non-roster outfielder who looks likely to spend the season in Las Vegas.

But after 16 years I can say this, you never know with these guys.

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Random Notes at 15

15Middle-infield reserve candidate and local Jersey guy Anthony Seratelli is wearing No. 2. Guess who for. And I was gonna root for the guy. At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old man, I’m already sick of the retirement Victory Lap.

As suspected, Andrew Brown is now hanging around wearing No. 30 and looks like Jose Valverde has taken over 47.

Brown notwithstanding, it’s a little bit weird how the Mets have tended recently to flip the traditional assignments between infielders and outfielders. That could just be an impression and could be explained in part by Murphy and Davis occupying digits in the high-20s (and I have to tell you, I don’t much like that). But some potential starting outfields this year could combine to as little as 10 (Young-den Dekker-Granderson) or more realistically, 16 with Lagares there instead.

I’ll still wager Ike Davis won’t make it to opening day with the Mets, and it may not have anything to do with Stephen Drew. Rather I still believe it makes too much sense not to turn our redundancies at first base, the outfield (Eric Young?) and young pitching (to the extent you can have enough young pitching) into the things we still could use (a shortstop).

backlogo2On this day in 1999, Mets by the Numbers was born. That’s 15 years ago! While the very earliest stuff has been absorbed into Internet heaven you can get a glimpse of our hard-hitting take on the breaking Rick Reed-Matt Lawton trade from 2001 here. Those posts and more are of course all backed up here using the archives tab.

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Count Me In

Oh hi.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to take a whole season off, it’s just that the whole process of moving 14 years of stuff to a new configuration took a while.

15I sort of got stuck halfway.  As I mentioned before, the architecture supporting the MBTN database (that is, the gears generating the who-wore-what-when lists; and how they were set up to display) was in such need of renovation I felt the best thing to do was outsource its placement: So a year ago I donated all of my uni-number data to the Ultimate Mets Database and I have been updating the information there as it comes as always. I think it looks and works great. My friend at the UMDB helped set that up and all I do anymore is plug in the data, which given my level of tech expertise, is the perfect task for me.

Moving the remainder of the content to a more appropriate format was the next hurdle, but the sheer volume of it was intimidating and had the effect of chilling investment in the “old” site: Why contribute to a site that you know is doomed for eventual destruction?

At the same time I was also struggling a bit with defining the purpose of a web site about uni numbers when the “news” aspect of it has been slaughtered by the 24-hour news cycle and the data resides elsewhere. When I started doing this 15 years ago, there wasn’t a reliable source for this kind of information. Today, anyone who needs to know what number the latest Met is wearing knows it hours before I can update, and the context — who was the last guy to have worn this number for the Mets etc etc — is picked clean by Twitterers with gigantic followings, almost always without credit. I’m not mad about this so much: Just feeling a bit less relevant in the grand scheme.

Add to that the Mets’ own irrelevancy, demands of being a dad and having a job, and well, before you knew it I’d missed a whole season. I’m sorry about that, and I’m especially sorry if the abrupt lack of activity led anyone to worry about me or my family: We’re totally OK other than the fact we’re still Mets fans. Thanks for your concern!

So now what? Well, I’d begun having the urge to write about the Mets again and with a few days off around Thanksgiving began the process of transferring old posts to a WordPress format. I did all this manually, which took forever, and I tried to preserve all the comments since that’s where so much action took place. I re-imagined the tags and categories. There’s still some work to be done. It doesn’t look great all the time and some of the links you’ll find no doubt are dodgy, but I left the spam behind and you’re welcome to add to the conversation again.

How’d you guys like 2013? I’m sad that the injuries piled up and served to undo so much of the progress we otherwise made; and disappointed of course that our team’s two biggest problems (first base and shortstop) were things we hadn’t anticipated. That’s baseball.

More to come…

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Big Announcement!

Here’s one offseason move you may have missed: Mets by the Numbers is donating its data to be hosted at the Ultimate Mets Database in a combination of two of the longest-running Mets reference sites on the Internet. Beginning today, you can find all player uniform numbers as well as an all-time numerical roster at the Ultimate Mets Database.

Over the coming weeks, I will redirect the links to player profiles, uni numbers and rosters here to their counterparts at the UMDB, then commence a relaunch of this site only without the bolted-on database. What will stay are years of site updates, essays and the discussion of Mets past and present that have been a part of this site from the beginning. Only the roster and player records are moving — and I’ll still be maintaining that data, only there, not here.

Why now? For one thing, this site was long overdue for a re-engineering (it’s built on a long-outmoded version of the useful but complex and ever-changing CMS Drupal — but I don’t have the time or skill to devote to keeping it up to date. But the best argument for it is that uni number data has always been a natural fit for the UMDB, which until now included just about everything except uni numbers. Moving the info to the UMDB and integrating it with all the other cool data there also allows for new features like scorecards with numbers and truly awesome running tallies of uni-number leaders and stats-by-uni-number — features that I’d only been able to scratch at here. All these links should be functional right now; if you encounter any bugs just let me know.

MBTN and the Ultimate Mets Database go back a long way. Shortly after launching this site, I went to check on some facts when I came across it for the first time. As it turns out, our sites launched within weeks of one another in February of 1999 (that’s more than 14 years ago!!) and we’ve since collaborated on projects through fellow Mets fans at the Crane Pool Forum including the Schaefer Mets Player of the Year project, which recreates the sponsored recap of Met broadcasters of the 1970s. You too should participate in these projects. Trust me when I say this stuff is in good hands over there.

You can still add to the discussion and contact me here; in the meantime look for a re-launch of this site soon. Oh, and opening day in 2 weeks. Let’s Go Mets!!

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