Archive for Useless Milestones

And Justice for All

60I’m just as shocked and saddened by the twin tragedies of Game 2 as anyone, and even hearing that Chase Utley is to be suspended for being such an asshole isn’t real justice and calls to mind the way another embarrassment to sportsmanship, Roger Clemens, was disciplined way too long after the crime was committed and in part to obscure how irresponsible and incompetent game and league officials were to let them get away with it in the first place.

That’s the part that really bothers me, and of course it’s imparted a dark edge to this series that needn’t have been there. I’m a little leery of getting into a jock-revenge scenario — you may recall such shenanigans basically cost the Mets home field advantage in this series — but if I’m Corey Seager I wouldn’t get too comfortable in there.

The upshot is the Mets will be without Ruben Tejada for the rest of the postseason and apparently are taking the unusual step of promoting Matt Reynolds to the big leagues for the first time, and making the just-as-weird decision to issue him uniform No. 60, according to reports. Reynolds would only the 3rd Met to wear 60 and the first position player to do so: Flop relief imports Scott Schoeneweis and Jon Rauch were the first two.

Reynolds would provide the Mets with a legit shortstop glove, but a potentially explosive double-play combo with No. 55, Kelly Johnson. That’s a far cry from previous playoff keystone combos of say, Santana (3) and Backman (6), Harrelson (3) and Millan (16), or Reyes (7) and Valentin (18).

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Meet the Most

16I’m only trying to stay out of the way and let the Mets do what they will, but ought to note two new additions to the roster, our old friend Dilson Herrera and pitcher Tim Stauffer. As discussed in comments below, Herrera was issued No. 16, which technically became available upon Danny Muno’s removal from the 40-man roster when Addison Reed climbed aboard.

54Stauffer is a former 1st round pick of the Padres whose journeyman career most recently saw him released by Minnesota this summer and signed to a minor league deal with the Mets. Stauffer, presumably up in case the Mets need a Carlos Torres-type relief appearance while Carlos Torres rests a sore calf, was issued No. 54, last seen on the back of another un-40ed Met, Alex Torres.

These additions are notable in that they’ve brought the Mets active roster to include 38 men, tying the all-time record (with 1967) for Most Guys in the Clubhouse at Once. Amazin’!

 

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52 Pickup


Well. How great was that?

52This had to have been the wildest and most stressful Mets Trade Deadline ever (yes, and I was there in ’77!) and these guys are still hanging in there. The latest as you know is that fake-traded emotional erstwhile utility infielder Wilmer Flores just made the Nationals cry, and they’re about to face a Met lineup bolstered by newly acquired slugger Yoenis Cespedes. 

Cespedes is expected to take his customary No. 52 — his digits in all three of his first stops so far in a whirlwind tour of the Majors — while Carlos Torres, Friday’s deserving winning pitcher, is set to become the first ever wearer of the 72 jersey.

72Torres departs as the third and by far most distinguished member of the 52 Club: His predecessors are Tony Clark (following his switch from 00 in 2003) and forgettable reliever Ramon Ramirez, who was acquired in Sandy Alderson’s worst trade. Tonight, that seems like a long time ago.

 

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Take a Number

55No sooner had I suspected Sandy would deal than he dealt: Two longshot minor league pitchers to the Braves for veteran journeymen Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. While the pundits figure out what that means to a lineup desperate to corral them (bench Flores? Duda?! Trade Murphy? … yes to all three?!?) a still larger challenge could be figuring out where they’ll fit within the confines of a decreasing supply of viable uni numbers.

44Assuming every man on the 40-man roster retains their assignment, and coaches and existing players don’t switch, and the mothballed numbers (8, 17, 24) remain in limbo the available choices are 0, 00, 44, 46, 55-57, 60-61, 63, 65, and 67-99. That’s not a whole lot of variety!  (44 by the way was just torn from the back of disappointing alleged lefty-masher John Mayberry Jr., who was released to make roster space for the incoming duo).

The histories of Uribe and Johnson give us little to go on: I associate Uribe with No. 5 from his time with the Giants; and Johnson, I have no idea. The Mets will be his 9th team in a 10-year career. If it’s up to me I outfit them in 0 and 00, though I don’t know if that will fly with Mr. Met. More like, I predict one of then (Uribe) takes the No. 6 currently belonging to assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler, Johnson takes 44, and Roessler moves to something like 55. Or maybe Uribe takes 55? What’s your prediction?

Kelly Johnson, by the way, will be the 8th Johnson (and 3rd Kelly) in Mets history, tying the Jones boys (Barry, Bobby J, Bobby M, Chris, Cleon, Randy, Ross and Roadblock) for the all-time Mets surname record. The Johnsons now include Kelly, Ben, Bob L, Bob W, Howard, Lance, Mark and Rob, not to mention the manager Davey.

Los Siete Hernandezes (Anderson, Keith, Livan, Luis, Manny, Orlando and Roberto) are third.

 

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Breaking Steve Trachsel News

29If you’re not careful you’ll learn something new every day.

Today, for some reason, Steve Trachsel “took over” the @Mets twitter account, fielding questions from fans. And for some reason, I clicked over to read the exchanges, only to come across this interesting bit of Trac-trivia:

How about that? I suppose with 29 also available and Bobby Jones having just departed the Mets could have been more sensible in re-issuing No. 28 so quickly. But I’m impressed Trachsel gave this thing any kind of thought. And it certainly hadn’t occurred to me that jocks would necessarily carry these rivalries from college; or than Cal State-Fresno and Cal State-Fullerton were big rivals, although that makes some sense if you think about it.

As someone who lived through the Steve Trachsel Era, it’s worth pointing out here that despite a ghastly beginning and a truly terrible end, Trax had a pretty good five years as a Met, and remains the undisputed champion pitcher of Mets-who-wore-29, having twice as many wins (66) and more than twice as many losses than the next guy (Frank Viola).

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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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Is Travis d’Arnaud changing his shirt?

7Twitter caught fire this morning with reports that Travis d’Arnaud was changing his uniform number, from 15 to 7. While I haven’t seen official confirmation yet, it appears the source is an especially revealing e-commerce site: The team’s own order-your-own-‘official’-jersey offer (only $267.99!!).

51The drop-down has plenty more to say that’s not yet on the official roster page, including assignments for newcomers John Mayberry Jr. (44); Sean Gilmartin (36); Jack Leathersich (51); Steven Matz (32); and Noah Syndergaard (34). A few other guys on the 40-man are listed in 00, which we’ll assume are unassigned still — Akeel Morris and Gabriel Ynoa. (Leathersich is also listed in 00, while Hansel Robles isn’t listed at all. Neither are the gaggle of NRIs who typically get Spring assignments in the 60s, 70s and 80s).

15We may be jumping the gun on at least some of the actual assignments. If d’Arnaud is indeed changing to 7, we’d presume Mayberry would take the vacant 15, which he wore for several years with the Phillies, rather than 44, which technically still belongs to 2014 Met and 2015 non-roster invitee Buddy Carlyle. The switch to 7 would also require that bench coach Bob Geren changes into something else, not that that’s a big deal. We’ve also heard, from a reader, that incoming hitting coach Kevin Long will wear No. 30, but still have no confirmation of that.

The move to 7 will reignite a battle for the all-time lead in hits by a single uniform number: Though 7 and occupants Ed Kranepool and Jose Reyes maintains its longtime, all-time lead, Team 5 led by David Wright as of the end of last season had pulled to within 3 hits.

Typically we’re at the time of year when such info drops officially so we expect to see the roster populate soon and answer — at least for now — the burning questions.

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Here’s Why the Mets Got So High

I’ve mentioned this in passing a few times before but it bears repeating: We are living in a Golden Age for unique uni number distributions in Metland.

68Not since 1979-80 — when six first-time jerseys were issued — have first-time numbers arrived with the same velocity as they have in the five years since Kevin Kierst was named to succeed Charlie Samuels as the Mets’ equipment manager in 2010. And when you consider additional factors — Kirest’s willingness to reissue rare jerseys; Samuels’ final year in 2009; and the relatively swift corrections we’d see with the 1979 and 1980 issues — we are experiencing more freshness in the number game than any time since the club’s first 34 jerseys were issued in 1962. For a team going on its 53rd birthday, and approaching its 1,000th player, that’s remarkable.

70Let’s take a closer look. When Dario Alvarez took the mound for his Major League debut Sept. 3, he also became the first player in team history to wear No. 68 in a game. Two of his teammates — Wilfredo Tovar and Germen Gonzalez, respectively — trotted out the 70 and 71 jerseys for the first time a year prior. In 2012, it was Josh Edgin in 66; in 2011, Chris Schwinden (63) and DJ Carrasco (77) broke the cherries on their numbers.

73Joining those six are a second group of ballplayers who while not first-time wearers of their numbers, turned up nonetheless in infrequently issued ones: Jack Egbert and Dana Eveland (who each wore 61); Omar Quintanilla, who this year became only the third player in team history to be issued No. 0;Robert Carson, the third 73 in team history (and the first not have equity in the number); and Jenrry Mejia, just the fourth 58.

57Because we’ve seen players like Mejia, Edgin, Gonzalez and Carson carry their weird numbers over multiple seasons, I’d argue this era is far more significant than the aforementioned shenanigans of 1979 and 80. The unusual activity then was confined mainly to September of 1980 when minor league callups Luis Rosado, Ed Lynch, and Hubie Brooks got first-time issues of 57, 59 and 62 respectively, while fellow callup Mario Ramirez got the second-ever 61. (Pitcher Dyar Miller, who had arrived in July of 1980, also got 56 for the first time).

Hard to say exactly what happened that year but it’s a good guess these were leftover Spring jerseys. What’s telling is that in future appearances, these issues were all withdrawn. Brooks took 39 then 7; Lynch yo-yo-ed between levels for the next few years and collected three more numbers. Rosado and Ramirez never made it back.

61The 1979 first-time issues were for Neil Allen — the team’s first 46 — and Jesse Orosco, whose 1979 arrival coincided with sudden budget-driven veteran releases near the end of Spring Training resulting in the team’s first-ever No. 61. Jesse, of course, would be outfitted in the more traditional 47 the next time he turned up.

64While its easy to point to Kierst’s appointment as a line between the “tradtional” Met number range and what we have to start considering to be the New Normal, I’ll point to an issue in the final hours of Samuels’ 27-year reign — Elmer Dessens‘ No. 64 — as the Big Bang of the of the new era. The 60s would soon be in full swing; and the 70s dawning.

Why? That too is a good question. The effects of having taken a few numbers out of the rotation — 31 hasn’t been issued since Mike Piazza left town in 2005 and Kierst has quietly mothballed 17 — would explain some. And coaches taking numbers associated with their playing careers — and not the orderly 51-55 they wore in days of yore — matters too. But I suspect the main reason is the emergence of a new numerical designation for relief pitchers, an evolution that follows (by a few decades at least) the specialization of the role itself.

This makes sense. In the 1960s and 70s during which the Mets forged their numerical identity, relief pitchers were primarily starters with sore arms and/or less stuff than their teammates. And at least some starters — Roger Craig for one — were the club’s best relief pitchers too. Distinguishing between the roles back then, never mind the numbers, was barely necessary. Today, the Mets appear to be acknowledging that relief pitchers are a different breed deserving of distinct numerical territory, one they’ve roughly carved out beyond the 50s where the coaches used to be, and away from the 30s and 40s that appear to more exclusive to the starting staff.

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68 and Clear

68Reports out there this morning say newly imported lefty reliever Dario Alvarez will wear No. 68, becoming the first man in team history to wear that uni.

As noted in the below post, Erik Goeddel retains his 40-man assignment in No. 62, while Josh Satin (13) and Juan Centeno (36) retain the digits they had in previous appearances this year.

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Happy Larry Elliot Day

42It’s a special day across the Major Leagues today: The annual celebration of greatness and human spirit demonstrated when players from all 30 teams suit up in No. 42 to honor the contributions of Mets outfielder Larry Elliot in 1964.

Fans needn’t be reminded of Elliot’s historical significance but he was the first player in Mets history to wear No. 42, buttoning the flannel for the first time shortly after he was purchased from the Pittsburgh Pirates on a conditional deal during the 1963-64 offseason. Recalled abruptly from the Buffalo roster when unhappy Duke Snider was traded away as the ’64 campaign began, Elliot was employed in a strict in a center field platoon with Jim Hickman. He launched 9 home runs over 80 games in ’64, including becoming the first Met to hit home runs in four straight games. That stretch in late July actually included five home runs in 6 days, the last being a thrilling three-run, pinch-hit blast off the Braves’ Bobby Tiefenauer highlighting a 7-run 7th inning that surely would have held up if the Met bullpen hadn’t surrendered 8 runs in the final two innings and stumbled into a heartbreaking 15-10 loss. And who could forget Larry being carried off the field on a stretcher after taking a throw into the head from Phillies’ infielder Ruben Amaro Sr. while breaking up a double play, suffering “severe contusions of the neck and base of the skull,” The Sporting News reported.

61-536BkIn all seriousness, Elliot was hardly what went wrong for the dreadful 1964 Mets (101 OPS+, 1.0 WAR in half a season despite a shaky glove) — and has a (minor) connection to another famous 42 whose memory might also be celebrated today. For reasons that aren’t immediately apparent, Elliot spent all of 1965 and ’66 in the minor leagues before resurfacing with the 1967 Mets, this time wearing No. 17. In early May, the Mets would deal him to Kansas City for veteran third baseman Ed Charles, whose story of drawing childhood inspiration from Jackie Robinson would be included in the film 42. Elliot would retire from baseball following the 1969 season and become a phys-ed teacher and well-regarded coach near his native San Diego.

Happy Larry Elliot Day, everyone.

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