The Corey Hotline

The opponents are doing us the favor of being quite beatable every night but that’s not to take anything away from the Mets who after worrying me with half-assed play and blah results in Spring Training have won an unprecedented 9 of their first 10. Guys are returning from injury early. Hansel Robles and Robert Gsellman are getting big outs. Asdrubal Cabrera looks happy. Adrian Gonzalez has a few hits in his bat still.

The biggest disappointment of the young season was yesterday’s demotion of Brandon Nimmo, but that was a “good” problem of having no place to play him every day. The move accompanied a brief callup for AAA pitcher Corey Oswalt, but Oswalt was sent down again so that Zack Wheeler could make tonight’s start. Oswalt was issued the same No. 55 he had this spring.

As everyone knows, feel-good opening-day roster-maker Phillip Evans was demoted to make room for the early-arriving Michael Conforto, and Robles took the place of injured reliever Anthony Swarzak.

I shant say another word for fear of messing this up.

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Rusty Staub, 1944-2018

Terrible news to pass along on Opening Day, but beloved Met icon Rusty Staub, who powered the 1973 champions before a second act as a veteran pinch-hitter launched their glory run in the 80s, reportedly passed away early this morning in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. at age 73.

For those of us who can remember seeing him play when he was young(-ish), Staub was a terrific all-around player, combining power, a keen batting eye, and a strong arm in the outfield. He was acquired by the Mets from Montreal in a fateful trade on the eve of the 1972 season. He was the first member of the Mets to drive in 100 runs in a season (105 in 1975); a rugged hero of the 1973 team remembered for sacrificing his shoulder in a violent collision with a wall, but soldiered on to a terrific postseason despite having to throw underhanded. He was a real gamer.

A cheap front-office skittish about 10-and-5 rights and Staub’s history as a tough contract negotiator foolishly dealt him to Detroit prior to the 1976 season, but when reacquired as a free-agent in 1981, Staub provided a dangerous reserve bat, was a strong advocate for players at a dangerous time to be one, and a warm presence that helped to steel the eventual 1986 World Champions.

Staub by then had become a beloved figure in New York, famous for his restaurants and charitable endeavors including establishing a fund to support the families of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty. Staub was also an active Mets alumni. He was named to the team’s Hall of Fame in 1986.

Rusty preferred to wear No. 10, but wore No. 4 in 1972 and 1973 in deference to reserve catcher Duffy Dyer, who had that number when Staub first arrived.

Like a lot of New Yorkers, I met Rusty personally on a few occasions. The most memorable was a 1983 sports banquet sponsored by a New York cartoonists society to which my dad belonged. As part of the door prizes they gave us kids attending packs of baseball cards, which I opened to discover the Topps “Super Vet” pictured here. That gave me the confidence to approach the big man at the head table, only to be told “I don’t sign baseball cards.”

It took some time to unpack this but it turns out Rusty was just as hard licencing his image to card publishers as he was selling his talents to baseball teams, which is what got him traded so often. A dispute with Topps resulted in the company not issuing Staub cards in either of the  1972 or 1973 sets. Dave Murray writes about that incident — and another horrifying baseball card story on Rusty — here.

Let’s hope the Mets can tastefully and respectfully remember their dignified and principled star this year. Would an orange armband suffice?

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Let’s Go

A long and strange offseason is finally ending and the Mets, ready or not, are on the schedule for the first of at least 162 times in 2018.

Though we had a pretty good idea of the 22 guys who’d be making the cut all along, let’s all tip our caps to Phillip Evans, who claimed the last position-player spot available despite having been removed from the 40-man roster over the winter. Phil is also taking a dignified number along with that spot, moving from the stupid 72 to the distinguished company of Met 28s, home of Daniel Murphy, John “The Hammer” Milner, Bobby Jones, Sherman “Roadblock” Jones and Carlton Willey. Way to go, Phil.

Not so lucky was Zack Wheeler, who lost out on a rotation slot and will start the season in AAA despite the challenge Steven Matz gave to lose it for him. Matz worries me, you guys. He’s one of the reasons I’m a bit nervous over the prospects of this club, the others being the general lack of excitement in the lineup: Other than Amed Rosario, and maybe, Brandon Nimmo, there’s just not a whole lot to dream on here. Reliable, professional, competent up and down, absolutely, and that’s not a bad thing to be generally. But its not as though Todd Frazier’s about to stop doing all that striking-out, or Cespedes will have a better few months than he did during his magical 2015 arrival, or Adrian Gonzalez will really ever be Adrian Gonzalez ever again, so I’m naturally tempering expectations. They could be pretty competent offensively, and they might be less. They probably can’t be more.

The pitching might be good, my doubts about Matz notwithstanding, so I guess that’s where you place the hope: Competent offense, good pitching. You gotta believe.

With that, let’s welcome Anthony Swarzak (38), Todd Frazier (21), Adrian Gonzalez (23), along with Mickey Callaway (36), Dave Eiland (58), Gary Disarcina (10), Ruben Amaro Jr. (20) to the all-time numerical roster, along with Philip Evans and bullpen catcher Dave Racianello to new numbers (Racianello takes 57; he was in 54 last year): The new data will populate following Thursday’s opener. Let’s Go Mets!

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Non Smelly Kelly

The Mets are having a terrible Spring Training. Not scoring, not fielding particularly well and beyond a few individual efforts you have to squint to see the good. The clear-eyed observation would indicate this is a team destined to strike out a lot and hit into a million double plays with a new manager who’s yet to really distinguish himself. That they will require good pitching and good health goes without saying. Now, all that could change when the games start to count, but all things being equal I’d have hoped to see more from them so far.

Who’s been having a good spring? Ty Kelly, that’s who (well, he’s hitting .206 but he’s got 6 walks, that’s a lot better than Jose Reyes and Juan Lagares). I like Ty now, I liked him the first time around, and I’m glad to see they finally took my advice and dressed him in the No. 11 that matches his twitter handle and the LL’s in his last name.

Ty probably won’t make the opening day roster and if he does, something else went wrong but I hope he can find a role as the season goes along. He switch hits, which is great; he doesn’t embarrass the club at any position, which is also good; he can draw a walk, which I’m afraid this club may desperately need, and I think he possesses a clutch gene, even if I don’t believe such a thing exists.

With all that, Kelly could be the kind of bench guy that all good clubs need and seem to rise and fall along with the fortunes of the team they play for, which is to say if the Mets have a good year, and Ty Kelly is part of it, it could be the kind of year that has us mentally comparing him to Matt Franco or late-career Rusty Staub and ends with an appearance as the costumed Santa Claus at the holiday party.

Happy St. Patty’s Day to Ty Kelly, Kelly Stinnett, Kelly Johnson, Kelly Shoppach and all you Irish Mets.

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You Say It’s Your Birthday

Quick note to point out that today marks the 19th birthday of the Mets by the Numbers project, which went live for the first time on Feb. 22, 1999.

It’s worth pointing out that when I started this project a list of all numbers the Mets ever wore didn’t exist, at least that I knew of, and in its early days was more of a research project than a blog. Today you can click nearly anywhere and find this info so if you still come by I really appreciate it since what you get here is mostly my observations on the team through a uni-number perspective and if I may say so myself, a pretty impressive archive drop-down.

I haven’t planned much for this birthday — maybe we’ll do more for the 20th anniversary — but here are my rankings of the Met-liest 19s in club history:

There have been 35 36 (I was right the first time) different guys who wore 19 for the Mets including several (Roger Cedeno, Lenny Harris, Hawk Taylor and Tim Foli) to have taken it in non-consecutive periods. The below ranking is on Met-liness as judged by me, though I’ll say after 10 or 11 they’re all pretty much in a tie.

Rank Name Notes
1 Bob Ojeda After heartbreaking ’85 division loss to Cardinals, Davey Johnson wanted his own John Tudor — a crafty lefty to break up the hard-throwing starters. Key acquisition for ’86 champs.
2 Anthony Young Provided lesson in dignity and class while absorbing dubious record
3 Ken McKenize Charter member of 19 club, lefty was the only pitcher for the 1962 Mets to have a winning record
4 Jay Bruce Can’t believe he’s already this high
5 Roger Cedeno Terrific 1999, awful upon big-money return
6 Ryan Church Good player whose career was destroyed by concussions. Club’s poor reaction to it helped to spark awareness
7 Lenny Harris Nifty pinch hitter, well-liked by fans and opponents, compiled a record in a Met jersey
8 Tim Foli Would-be shortstop of the 70s couldn’t displace Harrelson or keep emotions in check
9 Ron Gardenhire Would-be shortstop of the 80s slowed by too many hamstring injuries; went on to a good career as manager
10 Heath Bell Heavyset reliever with a weird delivery who rollerbladed to work, felt underappreciated and never let us forget it while becoming a top closer elsewhere
11 Scott Erikson Disaster veteran bolt-on starter who painted his shoes black and insisted on wearing 19. Famous for injuring himself warming up before first scheduled Met start.
12 Johnny Stephenson Lives in infamy as last batter in Jim Bunning’s perfecto
13 Jason Hardtke Switch-hitting bench warrior had some clutch hits and spanned Green/Valentine era
14 Mike Hessman Minor-league HR champ finally got his big-league shot with forgettable Mets of 2010
15 Leo Foster “Bananas” Reserve infielder
16 Daniel Ray Hererra All we had to show for Francisco Rodriguez. Undersized screwballer with a good head of hair
17 Jim Tatum I remember him as one of several guys auditioned to catch prior to Piazza acquisition. Not really a catcher.
18 Zach Lutz Pretty good minor league hitter and high school teammate of Anthony Recker, did little as Met reserve
19 Jim Gosger Journeyman gets credit for presence on, if not not contributions to, 1973 pennant winners
20 Brian Ostrosser Also gets credit for ’73 connection. Canadian infielder. Good bio of him here
21 Kevin Collins Wore 4 different numbers this was his shrt in 1968
22 Tom Hall aka “The Blade” slender reliever from the Big Red Machine
23 Gary Matthews Jr. Career sputtered to an end wearing 19 for the Mets
24 Lino Urdaneta Nabbed for juicing
25 Butch Benton 1st round draft pick catcher who never quite made it
26 Jeff Conine “Mr. Marlin” was a too-little, too-late acquisition to help ’07 Mets
27 Sandy Alomar Jr. Veteran catcher put aside 19 when Conine arrived.
28 Cory Sullivan AAA outfielder wound up with way too much playing time when entire ’09 Mets went on the disabled list
29 Ed Bauta First Met from Cuba (I think?)
30 Hawk Taylor Reserve catcher
31 Johnny Monell Free-swinging catcher had a good spring training once
32 Luis Alvardao Remember his thick mustache and afro, but not him
33 Tommy Moore RHP, September call up in 1972
34 Jeff Gardner September call up in 1991, one of those names who I can’t remember is a pitcher or a position player (he was a infielder)
35 Shawn Hare Reserve outfielder in 1994
36 Bill Spiers I left him off original list
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2018 Mets Spring Training Numerical Roster

Clip and save!

Number Name Notes
1 Amed Rosario
2 Gavin Checchini
3 vacant Was Curtis Granderson
4 Wilmer Flores
5 David Wright
6 Pat Roessler
7 Jose Reyes
8 Vacant Uunassigned (Gary Carter)
9 Brandon Nimmo
10 Gary DiSarcina bench coach; was Terry Collins
11 Ty Kelly NRI; Was Nori Aoki
12 Juan Lagares
13 Asdrubal Cabrera
14 Retired Gil Hodges
15 Vacant was Matt Reynolds
16 Matt den Dekker NRI
17 Vacant unassigned (Keith Hernandez)
18 Travis d’Arnaud
19 Jay Bruce
20 Ruben Amaro Jr. 1st base coach
21 Todd Frazier
22 Dominic Smith
23 Adrian Gonzalez was Dick Scott
24 Vacant unassigned (Willie Mays)
25 Ricky Bones Bullpen coach
26 Kevin Plawecki
27 Jeurys Familia
28 Vacant was Travis Taijeron
29 Vacant was Tommy Milone
30 Michael Conforto
31 Retired Mike Piazza
32 Steven Matz
33 Matt Harvey
34 Noah Syndergaard
35 Jacob Rhame
36 Mickey Callaway manager
37 Retired Casey Stengel
38 Anthony Swarzak was Dan Warthen
39 Jerry Blevins
40 Jason Vargas
41 Retired Tom Seaver
42 Retired Jackie Robinson
43 Jamie Callahan
44 AJ Ramos
45 Zack Wheeler
46 Vacant was Chasen Bradford
47 Hansel Robles
48 Jacob deGrom
49 Vacant was Josh Smoker
50 Rafael Montero
51 Paul Sewald
52 Yoenis Cespedes
53 Glenn Sherlock Third base coach
54 TJ Rivera
55 Corey Oswalt thanks Jim A.
56 Tom Slater Assistant hitting coach; was Tyler Pill
57 Dave Racianello Bullpen catcher
58 Dave Eiland Pitching coach
59 Jose Lobaton NRI
60 Luis Guillorme
61 Kevin McGowan?
62 Tyler Bashlor was Erik Goeddel
63 Gerson Bautista
64 Chris Flexen
65 Robert Gsellman
66 Vacant was Josh Edgin
67 Seth Lugo
68 Marcos Molina
69 Vacant
70 Patrick Mazieka NRI
71 Zach Borenstein NRI
72 Phillip Evans NRI
73 Matt Purke NRI
74 Peter Alonso NRI
75 David Thompson NRI
76 Kevin Kaczmarski NRI
77 Tomas Nido
78 Eric Langill Bullpen catcher
79 Adonis Uceta NRI
80 PJ Conlon NRI
81 Corey Taylor NRI
82 Drew Smith NRI
83 Tim Tebow NRI
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Reporting for Duty

I was traveling for work and missed the reliable and alert Matt B passing along the following comment:

10 – Gary DiSarcina
20 – Ruben Amaro Jr.
21 – Todd Frazier
23 – Adrian Gonzalez
36 – Mickey Callaway
38 – Anthony Swarzak
56 – Tom Slater
58 – Dave Eiland
59 – Jose Lobaton
83 – Tim Tebow

Little we hadn’t guessed already except for the Swarzak reveal. All these years, all those guys, and I still think No. 38 is Skip Lockwood (and Buzz Capra) which I suppose is better than thinking of Victor Zambrano and Vic Black. Dan Warthen was the last guy to wear it. The Mets still haven’t published an official roster yet so I’ll fill in the blanks when they do that or when I take my next trip — to Florida in a couple of weeks to see some Spring Training games for the first time in a while.

There may still be a few more guys showing up. The Mets resigned Matt den Dekker to a minor league deal. You might recall he wore No. 6 in his previous tour of duty, that belongs now to hitting coach Pat Roessler. Yesterday came more indication the Mets are looking at Jason Vargas, the lefty given away when Omar Minaya uselessly moved heaven and earth to acquire JJ Putz. Vargas wore 43 in his last tour.

 

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The Hard Facts About 15

The following is a guest post from longtime friend of MBTN, Edward “Bunt the first Two” Hoyt:

“They got rid of Reynolds.”

>”Well, they designated him for assignment. He may yet survive.”

“I liked him.”

> “Well, I did too. I guess he was just the most expendable and the least claim-able guy on the roster to their estimation. A lot of people’s estimation, I would guess. To tell you the truth, this isn’t a big surprise to the fellers at the Crane Pool.”

“Eff the stupid Crane Pool! It’s not fair!”

> “Son, I’m going to look past that first sentence of yours. About the other part, well, I’m your father, and I guess that means that I’m supposed to have accumulated a lifetime’s worth of wisdom. But I suppose you’re starting to realize that I don’t know a helluva lot, and apart from the whole playing-in-traffic thing, I’m not all that wiser than you, and pretty soon I won’t be fooling your sister either. But there’s one thing I DO know. I know it as well as I do anything. And the sooner you know it too, the better.”

“What’s that?”

> “The minute — and I mean the very minute — that Matt Reynolds decided it was OK to keep wearing 15 after Tim Tebow joined the organization, it was over. He was a walking dead man.”

“Holy shit!”

> “What idiot thinks he can wear Tebow’s number? For fuck’s sake, it’s Florida.”

“Wow! You’re smart, Daddy.”

> “Don’t tell your mother about the F-bombs. Did you do your homework?”

“Yup.”

> “Well, I’m gonna have to trust you on that. Good night.”

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The Todd Squad

As you know by now the Mets took advantage of a buyer’s market and signed Todd Frazier to a cheapo 2-year contract to complete the infield. The signing also acknowledges the unlikelihood that David Wright make a miraculous return to form, exposing my own overinvestment in denial.

Frazier most certainly will take over the vacant and dignified No. 21 last worn by Lucas Duda and previously by Carlos Delgado and Cleon Jones. Two of the Mets’ previous Todds (Zeile and Hundley) wore No. 9 at one point in their Met tenures, though Jackson Todd wore No. 30.

(Update: Alert readers of social media reminded me this initial post overlooked Todds Pratt and Haney, initally, mea maxima culpa) .

I guess I like Frazier a little better than were they to engage Neil Walker again, but I’m concerned about all the outmaking, and somewhat dismayed that the seemingly collusive market, as much as its brought opportunity to the Mets is headed for a big ugly correction in the next CBA. Teams are onto the fact that guys are worth less as they age, even as the free agency system provides for them to earn more. The Mets it seems to me need guys who get on base and score every bit as much as those who can drive them in, which is why I’m a big proponent of Brandon Zimmo.

Jose Reyes has also come back, that was no small surprise. Most definitely he will wear 7 again. I was watching that number to see whether Travis d’Arnaud would claim it back. He changes numbers like batting stances.

Mets should be posting that spring roster any day now.

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Yeah We Tease Him A Lot

Never a bad thing to have a versatile switch-hitter around camp, even if he sticks around only long enough to fill spring training boxscores and gets selected off waivers by the Blue Jays after a single big-league at-bat.

Yes we’re talking about Ty Kelly, who just like last year has been invited to camp as a non-roster minor leaguer. He’s a hustler, he can get on base, he strikes a bit too much, he looks like a regular guy.

Ty Kelly was issued 55 as a 2016 Met, then switched to 56 after the Mets reacquired Kelly Johnson that year. After Kelly was claimed off waivers No. 56 went to Tyler Pill. Turns out this week that Pill, who had a smattering of OK and not-OK appearances last year before elbow surgery is now a minor-league free agent, so 56 is available again.

In other news, Chasen Bradford was cut from the 40 to make room for Adrian Gonzalez and was claimed by the Mariners, surrendering No. 46.

The Mets are due soon to set a numerical roster for Spring Training, where there are about 17 guys due to be issued numbers.

Thanks to friends at the Queens Baseball Convention for having me out to provide a little uni-number perspective last week. At the event special guest Chris Flexen expressed his support for remaining in No. 64 despite perhaps preferring 27 or 33 but deferring those assignments to respective incumbents Juerys Familia and Matt Harvey.

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