The moment to have celebrated Wayne Garrett seemed to have come and went without my having mentioned it here, so Happy Belated Wayne Garrett/Nigel Tufnel Day everyone.
Garrett is probably the most prominent Mets No. 11 of all time, having lasted eight seasons in New York despite the Mets’ constant efforts to find someone else to do his job. Garrett was a Rule 5 pick from the Braves organization who got his chance with the Mets as a rookie platoonmate for veteran third baseman Ed Charles for the 1969 World Champions. Garrett was a fine fielder with a good batting eye who was cursed with “warning track power” — a flaw that prompted the Mets to try and replace him over and over again, beginning in 1970 (Joe Foy), 1971 (Bob Aspromonte) and 1972 (Jim Fregosi). None of them ever worked out, and by 1973, when Garrett acquired the third-base job by default and went on to have perhaps his best year in the majors, it was already becoming clear that had the Mets only believed in him a litte, they might not have what even today are still considered two of the dumbest trades they’d ever made.
Despite developing few standouts, it seems as though there’s always been an No. 11 around. The Mets in fact have had a No. 11 on the field in all but four of their seasons (1967, 1968, 1997 and 2002) and went a stretch between 1991 (Tim Teufel) and 2000 (Jorge Velandia) when the jersey was worn by 13 men, none for more than a single year.
Then again, we may be standing today at the cusp of a lengthy assignment for Ruben Tejada, who tried on the 11 jersey for the first time as a 20-year-old in 2010 and looks increasingly destined to succeed Jose Reyes as the Mets’ next shortstop. We’ll see though.