Archive for Site News

His Name Is My Name Too

I miss the days of Bobby Valentine’s Mets when a guy just up from the minors was usually shoved into that night’s starting lineup somehow, whether the manager knew he could play or not.

Jack Reinheimer has been up for a couple of days, replacing Luis Guillorme, who was up for a couple of weeks, but it was hard to notice. Reinheimer will debut in No. 72, because that’s what the Mets do. He’ll be the third 72 in team history: The first, Carlos Torres, took the number when the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes in 2015. And before graduating to the more dignified 28, Phillip Evans wore 72 last September.

I just looked up Reinheimer to find out he had brief experience with the Diamondbacks, from whom the Mets acquired Reinheimer on a waiver claim a few weeks ago. He wore No. 76 for them.

He’ll be the 53rd guy to play for the Mets this year, when he plays. If he plays.

In case you missed it, I talked about the origins of this website and its associated stuff in an interview here.

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Buy My New Book!

So I owe a quick update: As we know Corey Oswalt was up., down and now back: He made his MLB debut the other night in No. 55. Gerson Bautista in the meantime has also come and now gone, having left behind a few ineffective relief appearances. Bautista as we know wore the dreaded 46.

The Mets have me worried, and it has little to do with how disappointing Harvey and Matz have been (actually I was expecting that). It’s the hitting, or lack thereof, that’s really been the problem lately. We need to get Cespendes and Bruce going, Conforto needs to start collecting some extra-base hits, we need to play Brandon Nimmo more, which may mean moving Jay Bruce to first base, and we really ought to go get a catcher who can hit.

In personal news, you may know I have written a new book on baseball, but it’s not about numbers, or the Mets.

ONCE UPON A TEAM tells the forgotten true story of the worst team ever to play major league baseball, the Wilmington Quicksteps of 1884. I know, it’s a really obscure topic so you figure, this would never be published if there weren’t a pretty remarkable story there: There’s drinking, contract disputes, arguments, treachery, guys falling down elevator shafts, cuthhroat business decisions, baffling racism and at the center of it all a very good minor league baseball team caught up in crazy circumstances that thrust them briefly and tumultuously into the ranks of the highest levels of the sport where they left behind a virtually unassailable mark for futility.

It’s a story how baseball was played and consumed in 1884, and how much — and how little — has changed. It’s also a cautionary tale about business risk and the high costs of pursuing one’s dreams.

If you’d like a copy it should be in bookstores May 1 and online. Let me know if I can get you an autographed copy!

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You Say It’s Your Birthday

Quick note to point out that today marks the 19th birthday of the Mets by the Numbers project, which went live for the first time on Feb. 22, 1999.

It’s worth pointing out that when I started this project a list of all numbers the Mets ever wore didn’t exist, at least that I knew of, and in its early days was more of a research project than a blog. Today you can click nearly anywhere and find this info so if you still come by I really appreciate it since what you get here is mostly my observations on the team through a uni-number perspective and if I may say so myself, a pretty impressive archive drop-down.

I haven’t planned much for this birthday — maybe we’ll do more for the 20th anniversary — but here are my rankings of the Met-liest 19s in club history:

There have been 35 36 (I was right the first time) different guys who wore 19 for the Mets including several (Roger Cedeno, Lenny Harris, Hawk Taylor and Tim Foli) to have taken it in non-consecutive periods. The below ranking is on Met-liness as judged by me, though I’ll say after 10 or 11 they’re all pretty much in a tie.

Rank Name Notes
1 Bob Ojeda After heartbreaking ’85 division loss to Cardinals, Davey Johnson wanted his own John Tudor — a crafty lefty to break up the hard-throwing starters. Key acquisition for ’86 champs.
2 Anthony Young Provided lesson in dignity and class while absorbing dubious record
3 Ken McKenize Charter member of 19 club, lefty was the only pitcher for the 1962 Mets to have a winning record
4 Jay Bruce Can’t believe he’s already this high
5 Roger Cedeno Terrific 1999, awful upon big-money return
6 Ryan Church Good player whose career was destroyed by concussions. Club’s poor reaction to it helped to spark awareness
7 Lenny Harris Nifty pinch hitter, well-liked by fans and opponents, compiled a record in a Met jersey
8 Tim Foli Would-be shortstop of the 70s couldn’t displace Harrelson or keep emotions in check
9 Ron Gardenhire Would-be shortstop of the 80s slowed by too many hamstring injuries; went on to a good career as manager
10 Heath Bell Heavyset reliever with a weird delivery who rollerbladed to work, felt underappreciated and never let us forget it while becoming a top closer elsewhere
11 Scott Erikson Disaster veteran bolt-on starter who painted his shoes black and insisted on wearing 19. Famous for injuring himself warming up before first scheduled Met start.
12 Johnny Stephenson Lives in infamy as last batter in Jim Bunning’s perfecto
13 Jason Hardtke Switch-hitting bench warrior had some clutch hits and spanned Green/Valentine era
14 Mike Hessman Minor-league HR champ finally got his big-league shot with forgettable Mets of 2010
15 Leo Foster “Bananas” Reserve infielder
16 Daniel Ray Hererra All we had to show for Francisco Rodriguez. Undersized screwballer with a good head of hair
17 Jim Tatum I remember him as one of several guys auditioned to catch prior to Piazza acquisition. Not really a catcher.
18 Zach Lutz Pretty good minor league hitter and high school teammate of Anthony Recker, did little as Met reserve
19 Jim Gosger Journeyman gets credit for presence on, if not not contributions to, 1973 pennant winners
20 Brian Ostrosser Also gets credit for ’73 connection. Canadian infielder. Good bio of him here
21 Kevin Collins Wore 4 different numbers this was his shrt in 1968
22 Tom Hall aka “The Blade” slender reliever from the Big Red Machine
23 Gary Matthews Jr. Career sputtered to an end wearing 19 for the Mets
24 Lino Urdaneta Nabbed for juicing
25 Butch Benton 1st round draft pick catcher who never quite made it
26 Jeff Conine “Mr. Marlin” was a too-little, too-late acquisition to help ’07 Mets
27 Sandy Alomar Jr. Veteran catcher put aside 19 when Conine arrived.
28 Cory Sullivan AAA outfielder wound up with way too much playing time when entire ’09 Mets went on the disabled list
29 Ed Bauta First Met from Cuba (I think?)
30 Hawk Taylor Reserve catcher
31 Johnny Monell Free-swinging catcher had a good spring training once
32 Luis Alvardao Remember his thick mustache and afro, but not him
33 Tommy Moore RHP, September call up in 1972
34 Jeff Gardner September call up in 1991, one of those names who I can’t remember is a pitcher or a position player (he was a infielder)
35 Shawn Hare Reserve outfielder in 1994
36 Bill Spiers I left him off original list
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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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