Hey everyone, get your resumes together: The Mets need a new equipment guy.
As you may have read, the Mets confirmed today that Charlie Samuels has been suspended indefinitely after the team became aware that authorities were after him in connection with an illegal gambling ring.
Samuels had served as Met equipment manager for 27 years; needless to say he’s a figure whose influence on my little project here commands a good deal of respect. If you wanted to know why this player was issued that number; or why that other guy changed numbers; or what the deal was with those revolting black unis, he was the man to talk to. Only, he didn’t talk much: Through Mets officials, Charlie declined numerous requests over the years to be interviewed for this site and for the Mets By The Numbers book. As Jay Horwitz, the Mets director of public relations, told me the last time I asked, “He just doesn’t like doing that kind of stuff.” Occurs to me now I didn’t even know what he looked like.
And so it went: The study of uni numbers became something of a hunt: There was mystery and power in the clubhouse, and Charlie Samuels was careful with it. His name would pop up periodically, often in Marty Noble’s stories about who was lockering next to whom, and there was that bet he had with Mike Piazza’s dad: The Piazzas challenged him to lose weight (was it 50 pounds?) with a reward of a new car. I don’t recall whether he succeeded or not.
There also is an undercurrent of the clubhouse being a place where secrets and access were fiercely protected, and where the edges could get all jocky and scummy. It was Samuels who hired confessed steroid distributor Kirk Radomski. Rodamski has described his job with the Mets as looking out for and protecting athletes. “I did a lot of things for guys — things they didn’t want [their] wives to know or anyone to know. That is part of being in the clubhouse,” he told ESPN. Samuels it would appear may also have been involved in an enterprise better kept secret, and its difficult not to wonder who might else could be involved.
Speaking of secrets, I was surprised to read Adam Rubin’s remarks in a recent Internet chat saying that he’d switched gears and now finds the prospect of Wally Backman as the next Mets’ manager to be a considerable longshot. Rubin called this a near certainty months before. “I just think the Mets know things that are not circulated and don’t feel comfortable,” he said, though he declined to provide detail or even suggest knowledge of what those “things” were. This in some sense however was my concern over Backman, that he might embarrass the organization in some way, and why I have suspected the Mets would ultimately go with an experienced but malleable guy like Lee Mazzilli. In the meantime I find it hard to believe that there’s been 11 managerial hirings and/or re-signings this offseason and Bobby Valentine is still looking for work. Could it still happen?
Finally, goodbye and good luck to Joaquin Arias, who came over in the Jeff Francoeur trade and was claimed on waivers by Cleveland today. His departure closes the book on one-time prized prospect Lastings Milledge. Oh, Omar.