If At First…

The inevitable has become a reality, as they say.

The Mets made it official, reserving July 9 for a pregame ceremony during which they will remove No. 17 from circulation to honor the World Champion first baseman, Gold Glove winner, New Yorker and broadcaster Keith Hernandez.

Those who’ve been around these parts know I’ve always been somewhat of a small-hall guy when it comes to uni number retirement. I’d prefer to see them hang 17 on the back of a young player who looks like he could become something, but when the alternative is Mike Bordick, Jose Lima and David Newhan, it’s best to just leave it be. The club started the momentum by taking 36 out on behalf of Jerry Koosman–a justifiable decision, for sure, but one that came too late to have the meaning it might.

Keith by contrast grew into the honor. His career in New York was simply too short and lacking in meaningful counting stats to justify it alone; further complicating matters was that his similarly short-tenured co-captain, Gary Carter, had similar issues despite arriving at the Hall of Fame. Talented and indispensable teammates from Strawberry to Wilson to Backman to Gooden, made an argument that the best decision would have been to simply remove 86 from the available inventory but that ship has sailed as well.

To me, Hernandez’s honor will be about changing the other club’s bunting strategies, about game-winning RBI’s and about properly aligned racing stripes, but also about post-career Seinfeld appearances and the company he offers those of us sitting at home.

And while the lockout seems certain to threaten a timely start to the 2022 season when and if it begins the Mets will carry a new number on the field with them–60, to mark the anniversary of the team’s first season. The patch looks appropriate if not especially handsome. Let’s hope the team is the other way around.

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