Archive for Useless Milestones

Bye Bye Bart

40As you know by now, Bartolo Colon has signed a 2017 contract with the Braves, where he’ll join fellow new arrival R.A. Dickey as a veteran dynamic duo we may well encounter when the Mets open the 2017 season against Atlanta in April.

Colon can’t be blamed for seeking a regular starting gig as he pursues a few personal milestones: He needs 10 wins to catch Juan Marichal for the all-time lead among Dominican pitchers, and 12 to surpass Dennis Martinez and become the winningest Latin American pitcher of all-time. I speak for all Mets fans wishing him the best of luck most nights, anyway.

I had no idea what to expect of Colon when he arrived as a 40-year-old ostensibly to hold Matt Harvey’s place in the rotation in 2014, and would not have predicted he’d depart three years later having set the all-time mark for wins (44) and strikeouts (415) among guys who wore No. 40 (Pat Zachry was the prior king and still leads this club in losses). Colon was a surprising guy all around, obviously a better athlete than he looked to be and a fun presence who really helped the Mets especially this last year. We’ll miss him!

20That’s the first significant departure of what’s looking to be an interesting offseason for the Mets. At the moment I cannot picture a scenario that doesn’t involve a significant trade or two. Briefly I’m sort of rooting against a return engagement for Neil Walker but can’t see how he’ll turn down that $17 million waiting for him, and if he takes it that’ll put a strain on the budget to re-engage Cespedes, so I suppose if the Mets want Walker they can do so with a compromise kind of multiyear deal, and just maybe, prepare him for a kind of caddy deal where his switch-hittingness becomes valuable for the bench while ushering in Gavin Cecchini who keeps on hitting.

While pursuit of a new deal for Cespedes could be hair raising it could be argued that the club already has the next-best available outfielder of a relatively weak class in Jay Bruce, and so I’m rooting for Sandy and the guys to make hay of this and surprise us.

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Flying High

63Thanks to prompts by MBTN reader Chris, and through the power of
the Ultimate Mets Database, and ultimately, to the health woes of the Mets vaunted starting 5 pitchers, we were indeed able to confirm that the Mets set all kinds of new records for Highest Combined Uni Number Lineup this past month.

First, a bit of context: The “records” we previously discussed here were only as good as the research backing it up, which until now involved diving blindly into thousands of daily lineups by hand with an eye on target-rich environments (the early years for low lineups, Sean Estes starts for high). Because MBTN was and still is the only outlet in the world that bothered to look up such info those records, these treasure hunts were the record, as far as anyone knew.

We can confirm today that our previous high-water mark of 274 (May 30, 2004) has been obliterated by the 2016 Mets several times over. As
Chris mentioned, they hit 278 on Sept. 30, but the new clubhouse leader is a whopping 324, set on Sept. 18 vs. the Twins:

16 DeAza

54 Rivera

52 Cespedes

30 Conforto

55 Johnson

18 d’Arnaud

21 Duda

15 Reynolds

63 Ynoa

It was a big month for big numbers. They hit 287 on Sept. 28, 285 on Sept. 25, etc. etc.

We’ll dig into the lowest numbers in another post soon!

 

 

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Amazin’!

Well, they did it.

21Exactly five weeks ago today (you could look it up!) I posited that in order for the Mets to get into the postseason they’d need to win 21 of their remaining 33 games. That seemed like a longshot if not the impossibility it would have appeared less than two weeks before that, but I’ll be dagnabbed if they didn’t win their 21st on Saturday and clinch the playoffs at the very same time.

You could look it up.

I’m not taking a personal victory lap here — my supposed experience and perspective on uni numbers was proven wrong this year over and over and over again this year — but rather, I’m surprised that of all the expectations of the season this was the one that came true. My general feeling on any season’s prospects is get to 10 games over .500 first, then I can consider the possibility of going all-in. The Mets of course knocked on that door early in the season and then again late, but didn’t reach that plateau to stay until late last week.

10That means we’re as hot as can be headed into Wednesday’s win-or-go-home showdown. And though anything can happen I’m taking some solace in the fact that we were there last season, and even if you argue that was a better club (more starting pitching depth, a better track record in having proven they belonged since April vs. since September) I’m recalling the 2000 club, which by almost any measure was inferior to their 1999 predecessors but who got considerably further in the postseason due in part to the psychic experience of having gotten there the first time. So I’m optimistic. I think Terry Collins deserves Manager of the Year after I slogged him only a few weeks ago.

Meantime I’m checking on Chris’ comment below that the 2016ers have likely surpassed the “record” of the highest-combined-uni starting lineup we’d found prior to this year, the 274 we threw up on April 4, 2012. I’m on it!

 

 

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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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Mackey Sacked

54Back from a short biz-trip to let you know I still don’t know what the Mets are doing with these uni issues, the latest being T.J. Rivera’s recall from Las Vegas and subsequent assignment of No. 54.

I was with everyone else in advocating the Mets issue the recently freed-up No. 2 to Rivera but hadn’t a particularly strong argument for it until my friend Edward at the Crane Pool alerted me to this Daily Snooze profile detailing how Rivera got to the Mets in the first place:

“I told Tommy, ‘I can’t believe nobody drafted T.J. You can’t go wrong with him,'” recalls [Mackey] Sasser, who was a Met from 1988-92 [and Rivera’s college coach at Wallace Community College in Alabama]. “He’s going to make someone a good player.”

2Sasser of course was a notoriously famous No. 2, maybe the jersey’s most memorable character behind manager Bobby Valentine and Marvelous Marv Throneberry, who we now know personally championed an undrafted free agent who reached the majors on the strength of his hitting. That the Mets somehow overlooked this intersection of opportunity (the Dilson Herrera trade) and appropriateness, while going completely off-script and making Rivera the first non-pitcher/non-coach ever to wear 54 isn’t a great signal they’re doing this whole uni-number-issuing thing correctly.

The Mets on the other hand aren’t doing much of anything right lately, culminating in this week’s deserved sweeping at the hands of the awful Arizona Diamondbacks and their fugly uniforms. Terry Collins yesterday made a show of demanding a fresh start from his guys, a move that could prove to be too late to save them or him.

imagesSpeaking of bad teams in fugly uniforms, my travels this week took me to the Twin Cities where I witnessed Target Field for the first time, encountering what for me was an odd site — the homestanding Twins in bright-red home jerseys. The stadium was quite nice, bonus points for locating it within moments of a train station, but the unis bothered me until I realized the none-too-subtle message I’m sure they were meant to deliver. Cheap chic indeed.

 

 

 

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Net Gains

19As you probably know by now the Mets have issued the newly arriving Jay Bruce No. 19 and have allowed Jon Niese to take back the No. 49 he wore in his last go-round with the club.

49Bruce, who is scheduled to start in right field and bat third, will become the 36th guy to wear 19 for the Mets and has an outside shot of overtaking Roger Cedeno as the jersey’s most prolific home run hitter by the end of the year. (Roger had 18 dingers over three seasons as a Met 19).

66Also Tuesday, the Mets placed shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (13) and outfielder Justin Ruggiano (1) on the disabled list, demoted bullpenner Seth Lugo (67) and recalled utilityman Ty Kelly (56) and reliever Josh Edgin (66). Edgin is making his first reappearance in a Mets jersey since September of 2014.

I don’t normally keep track of this stuff, but it is notable the club is adding a combined 190 in combined uni numbers while subtracting just 90 — a net gain of 100 that has to rank as one of the largest one-day swings in club history.

Here’s to more big swings from the new guys.

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Young Men With A Future

Congrats to freshly picked Mets Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay and Peter Alonso, the club’s top three selections in the MLB amateur draft. Photographic evidence from their colleges show them wearing 19, 18 and 20, respectively. The draft continues this afternoon.

55Speaking of new arrivals, Kelly Johnson is expected to join the club in Milwaukee today, but it’s still unclear whose spot he takes on the roster. If it’s Ty Kelly, Johnson could retain the No. 55 he wore in his last go-round with the Mets but it may well be Matt Reynolds, in which case either Kelly, or Kelly, will wind up with their second Mets uni assignment.

64Including coaches and all members of the 40-man roster, available jerseys at the moment include 1, 9, 18, 46, 49, 54, 56, 58, 60, 61 and now 64 — since young pitcher Akeel Morris was sacrificed to Atlanta in the Johnson trade. You might recall Morris was catapulted from Single A to the Mets last summer and got bashed by the Blue Jays in his only appearance.

That incident and the subsequent trade granted Morris entry to an exclusive club of Met pitchers whose career club ERAs exceed their uniform number:

Thanks to my friends at the Ultimate Mets Database and Crane Pool for the background on that stat.

Update: Looks like Ty got whacked and lost his uni number.

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Harvey Hi33tory

33Congrats are in order for Matt Harvey, whose fifth strikeout last night helped him surpass John Maine to become the Mets’ all-time leader in strikeouts by guys who wore 33.

Harvey raced to his current career total of 470 whiffs in just 455.1 innings pitched, a pretty impressive feat for a guy I love to hate.

In other races we’re watching this year, keep an eye on Jacob deGrom as he mounts an assault on Aaron Heilman’s all-time mark of 395 strikeouts by a 48: At his rate, that’ll be sometime in June.

34Harvey, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz in the meantime have quite the battle on their hands for strikeout supremacy, between themselves and their extended numerical families. Matz ‘ Team 32 has the current lead among them at 2,034 career K’s, with Syndergaard’s 34s currently at 1,946; Harvey’s 33s at 1,934 and deGrom’s 48s at 1,909.

It’s possible that all four of these jerseys surpass 16 to move into the top five of all time before the season is over. Not that we need reminding, but these are the good old days.

 

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Mets Feel the Bern

My inaugural trip to CitiField last night was a chilly but special one as I shared the evening with a special guest: Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The Senator may be used to chilly conditions in Vermont but was cranky as the 7:10 game began.

My special guest at tonight's #Mets game: The one and only Bernie Sanders #feelthebern🔥

A video posted by Jon Springer (@jon.springer) on

The Reds taking an early 1-0 lead did little to improve Bernie’s mood, as did other distractions in Flushing.

#BernieSanders unhappy with events in New York #Mets #feelthebern🔥

A video posted by Jon Springer (@jon.springer) on

A nice play by Neil Walker brightened the mood a little, and caused Bernie to reflect on events of the past.

Bernie Sanders impressed with Neil Walker. #Mets

A video posted by Jon Springer (@jon.springer) on

52The Mets were still down in the polls when Yoenis Cespedes thrilled the candidate with a surprise pinch-hit 3-run home run.

Bernie Sanders reacts to #Cespedes home run.

A video posted by Jon Springer (@jon.springer) on

Donald Trump may build a wall, but it takes a champion of the middle class to hit a ball over it, the Senator later explained.

Cespedes: Strong, like a strong middle class. #feelthebern🔥

A video posted by Jon Springer (@jon.springer) on

After an RBI single by David Wright gave the Mets a lead, Addison Reed and Juerys Familia closed it out, as the Reds “felt the Bern” of the Mets’ 5-game winning streak.

Bernie Sanders with the #Mets happy tecap

A video posted by Jon Springer (@jon.springer) on

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Happy Roger McDowell Day

42retiredToday, players throughout Major League Baseball will all wear jersey No. 42 in honor of former bon vivant Mets sinkerballer Roger McDowell, whose groundbreaking comedy props and courageous bullpen mischief broke the Prank Barrier in the 1980s.

Roger Alan McDowell was born on Dec. 21, 1960 in Cincinnati, the youngest of Herb and Ada McDowell’s three children. He attended Cincinnati’s Colerain High School and attended Bowling Green University on a partial baseball scholarship, arriving on campus just as Orel Hershiser, a 17th round draft pick of the Dodgers in 1979, departed.

McDowell was a stalwart of the Falcons’ pitching rotation, earning All Mid-American Conference honors when he was selected by the Mets in the third round of the 1982 draft.

A slender right-hander listed at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, McDowell made his living on essentially one pitch — a sinking fastball he could throw at various speeds, almost always for strikes. McDowell also threw a slider and occasional change-up but the sinker was his featured delivery. “He never shakes me off,” catcher Gary Carter once said. “There’s nothing to shake off, actually. He just throws the one pitch.”

McDowell rose through the ranks of the Mets’ minor league system quickly but an elbow injury suffered at Class AA Jackson in 1983 cost him nearly all of the 1984 season. Rehabbing the injury in the Instructional League, McDowell made a slight adjustment in arm angle and discovered his signature sinker broke even more sharply than the one he threw before the injury.

mcddowellThat impressed manager Davey Johnson enough to usher McDowell onto the opening-day roster in 1985, the second straight year he’d championed a rookie pitcher to the club unexpectedly: He’d done the same with Dwight Gooden a year before.

McDowell earned a win in his debut appearance in the big leagues, throwing a scoreless 11th inning on April 11, 1985 in a game the Mets would win on Danny Heep’s bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 11th, 2-1. After two so-so starts early that year — the only starts among 700 big-league appearances, he emerged as a late inning weapon whose sinker was talk of the league.

“He’s got a wicked sinkerball. I know it, and so do other hitters,” teammate Keith Hernandez said that summer. “They come down to first and talk to me about the kid’s nasty sinker. He is awesome.”

McDowell went 6-5 with 17 saves and a 2.83 ERA in ’85, finishing 6th in Rookie of the Year voting.

Although a New York Times article that summer described McDowell as “a mild-mannered, laid-back, inoffensive and polite young man,” a colorful personality soon emerged. McDowell wore a stylish spiky haircut, blew gigantic pink bubbles while he pitched and by 1986, his mischief became legend.

His specialty was the “Hot foot” — clandestinely securing a book of matches to the spikes of unsuspecting teammates’ shoes and igniting them with a burning cigarette. Coach Bill Robinson was a favorite target. Despite the difficult nature of the stunt: McDowell often needed to crawl beneath the dugout bench undetected — he was never caught in the act.

But burning socks were only part of McDowell’s repertoire:

  • When the Mets honored retiring legend Rusty Staub in a 1986 pre-game ceremony, teammates emerged from the dugout in garish red wigs to greet them, provided by McDowell.
  • Before a game in Los Angeles in 1987, McDowell appeared on the field wearing his uniform upside down, pants stretched over his head and spikes on his hands.
  • He made light of an administrative crackdown on ball-doctoring in 1987 by conspicuously wearing a carpenter’s belt in the bullpen, complete with sandpaper, lubricant, a file and a chisel.
  • He once got the attention of fans around the the visiting bullpen of Dodger Stadium, and threw open a door to reveal teammate Jesse Orscoso on the toilet.
  • After Phillies’ teammate Tommy Greene threw a no-hitter in Montreal in 1991, the pitcher was fooled by a prank phone call from McDowell who pretended to be Canada Prime Minister Brian Mulrooney and had Greene on the line for 20 minutes. “It was a tossup who was fooled more that day, the Expos batters or Greene,” writer Paul Hagen observed.

McDowell backed his humor with results. In 1986 he won 14 games in relief — still a Mets team record — while also notching a team-best 22 saves, one more than lefty counterpart Jesse Orosco. Although they split saves down the middle, Johnson deployed his stoppers differently: While Orosco was a typical one-inning guy, McDowell averaged more than 5 outs per appearance in ’86.

McDowell was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, benefitting from the Mets’ three-run seventh inning rally despite giving two of those runs back in the eighth.

morethangame6Surgery for a hernia cost McDowell the first several weeks of the 1987 season but he returned to lead the club with 25 saves. In 1988 McDowell notched another 16 saves despite losing the closer title to Randy Myers. Though he rarely allowed home runs, Kirk Gibson connected for the game-winning home run off McDowell in Game 4 of the 1988 NLCS.

In a regrettable deal the Mets traded McDowell and teammate Lenny Dykstra to Philadelphia for Juan Samuel in June of 1989. McDowell never wore No. 42 again despite turns with the Dodgers, Rangers, Orioles and White Sox and now, 10 years as the Atlanta Braves pitching coach. The number was subsequently taken out of all of baseball in 1997 to honor his pranking ways.

In all seriousness, it’s not Roger McDowell Day. Or Ron Hodges Day, Larry Elliot Day, Butch Huskey Day or Chuck Taylor Day. But celebrate!

The above info on McDowell was adapted from my biography appearing in the new book, THE 1986 METS: THERE WAS MORE THAN GAME SIX, a quite good SABR book now available in print and download versions. I contributed 4 chapters in all!

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