Tag Archive for Angel Pagan

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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They Cut Our Legs Out

7Let there be no doubt this is a low moment in the history of a franchise with plenty of them to choose from, but you could see it coming. Because the Mets owners are morons who for way too long invested poorly on behalf of themselves and their fans, they can no longer afford to keep one of the best players they’d ever developed. I always thought the best chance of saving Jose Reyes from signing with another franchise was if a new owner pulled a hero act but the Wilpons couldn’t even get that right and so that’s where we are. Reyes leaves town as the best shortstop the franchise ever had, its most exciting player, and among its most accomplished overall. One can certainly make an argument that he won’t be worth what the Marlins are giving him but that’s beside the point when a formal offer was never presented because it was so unaffordable. Congratulations, Mets.

All that said, I’m anxious as always to move on and Sandy Alderson yesterday began the process. He traded Angel Pagan to the Giants for an older counterpart, Andres Torres, and a nice looking reliever, Ramon Ramirez. Torres like Pagan had a good season in 2010 but struggled this year, and was well-liked by fans and teammates in San Francisco. He wore No. 56 most recently with the Giants, reminding me of another veteran center fielder acquired as a short term leadoff man,Brian McRae. Ramirez, well-traveled himself, wore 52 in Frisco last season.

He’ll be joining a Mets bullpen that will also include new relievers Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, both signed as free agents. Rauch is a shaggy giant whom Keith Hernandez once called a ‘Wookie.’ He’s hung around for years now despite only average results. Francisco has worn No. 50 his entire career: Word was the Mets would “retire” that number for 2012’s 50th anniversary, so we’ll see what comes of that. Rauch wore 51 early in his career and 60 more recently with the Diamondbacks and Twins.

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Thayer He Goes Again

46The Mets today recalled a guy I never heard of, Dale Thayer, from Class AAA Buffalo and designated Pat Misch for assigmnent. Thayer is a 30-year-old righthanded journeyman reliever (is there any other kind?) who appeared briefly with Tampa Bay in 2009 and 2010. He signed as a minor league free agent with the Mets in February and was doing a pretty nice job with the Bisons (25 Ks in 26 innings, 4 saves and a 2-0 record). The Mets have assigned him the dreaded No. 46, last occupied by our friend Oliver Perez.

Also tonight, the Mets welcome back Angel Pagan, and hopefully, his bat too. His return means Fernando Martinez heads back to Buffalo.

Phillies for three. Ready or not!

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WTF Jerry

No shame in losing to Giants ace Tim Lincecum, but the way the Mets did it Thursday night should make you nuts. Their best shot to score, in the 5th inning, evaporated when Jerry Manuel asked pitcher R.A. Dickey to bunt with one out and runners on first and third — without sending the runner from third base. Dickey’s sacrifice was successful only in advancing the runner from first to second, but in the meantime costing the Mets half of their remaining shots to drive in a run, and all of them by way of an out. When Angel Pagan followed with a fly ball, a rally that started with two men on and nobody out amounted to nothing.

Dickey — whom I suspect was asked to bunt at least partly in punishment for failing to get one down earlier — worked seven strong innings before Manuel managed to use his three best non-closing relievers in the 8th to double a 1-0 deficit. Way to go.

I’m officially declaring No. 17 up for grabs again: Fernando Tatis was moved to the 60-day disabled list after shoulder surgery.

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Not Half Bad

A strong effort from Johan Santana and (in my opinion anyway) first-half MVP Angel Pagan helped the Mets salvage the final game of the “first half” today, and allow them to reach the break at 48-40, and four games out. Make no mistake they will need a better second half to reach the postseason but given all the uncertainty, and how badly they’ve looked at times, I think they pretty much deserve to be where they are right now and you have to be satisfied with it. Their ability to improve depends in large part on whether Carlos Beltran is ready to resume his usual game. The Mets following the victory Sunday recalled No. 15 and he’ll apparently be in uniform and batting cleanup on Thursday when the season resumes in San Francisco. Jesus Feliciano, who oughta be proud of what he accomplished, was sent down to make room.

Don’t forget today — Monday, July 12, is Amazin’ All-Star Monday at Two Boots at Grand Central Station, where Greg Prince and I will co-host an evening of Met-centric discussion with Howard Megdal, author, journalist and self-professed candidate for Mets general manager; and Marty Noble, Mets beat writer for more than 30 years at the Bergen Record, Newsday and MLB.com. Details at the Facebook invite here.

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Angel’s in the Outfield

16This team already has that quality of looking terrific when it wins and ghastly when it loses, which I guess is a good sign because it indicates an expectation of victory accompanies us most nights, and so managing my own moods as they proceed through a long season is going to be challenging at times.

What I like about this team however has been on display this weekend in San Francisco, where a guy who replaced Marlon Anderson on the bench can sub in, legitimately, at cleanup, while the choice of which guy to back up at first base or at short in a pinch isn’t an automatic crippling. And where a rookie can go from capably filling in for Sean Green to capably replacing JJ Putz on consecutive nights. They’re still a little too sloppy for my liking but what’s not to like about beating up on Tim Lincecum, Randy Johnson and Brian Wilson: No slouches there.

As you probably noticed they’ve done it without Carlos Delgado who’s going to be out for a long stretch, probably. They finally got around to disabling him today only to call the forgotten man, Angel Pagan, who last played for the Mets more than a year ago, and on Saturday was still wearing No. 16.

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Almost Like Homemade

So this is turning out to be a better week than it looked like it might be back on Tuesday, what with an impressive debut starts from Mike Pelfrey and Nelson Figueroa; the first Metly appearance and contribution from Raul Casanova; and a continued MVP bid from Angel Pagan. There’s something satisfying knowing that all these guys are one-time products of the maligned Mets farm system.

Great job, wrong size jerseyFigueroa’s victory last night marked the first appearance of the dreaded black unis all season (not to mention the first call for a tailor to get Figueroa’s jersey to fit right. Looked like a size 44 wearing a 52). Correct me if I’m wrong, but we’ve yet to see pinstripes and/or the gorgeous all-blue Mets cap yet. Speaking as a neighbor of hundreds of young hipsters, the latter is becoming the new trucker cap around here: I’ll try and gather photographic evidence and show you in a future post.

Nice to see the Mets honor Shea (that’s my wife’s maiden name, doncha know?) but leave it to the incomparable Paul Lukas to point out they did so while introducing unnecessary black dropshadows to the logo and accompanying retired numbers.

* Thanks to Eric Simon of Amazin’ Avenue (and his readers) for the enthusiastic book review he published recently. See also a nice note from author, reviewer and Yankee fanatic Harvey Frommer. And Mark Lelinwalla of the NY Daily News did a short peice on the book’s creation in The Score column last week.

* I’ll be at two great independent bookstores next week to sign and discuss the book: On Wednesday, Bookends in Ridgewood, N.J.; and Thursday at Word Books in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

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The Mystery Six

OK, so now that Johan Santana is in the fold and will presumably slip on a No. 57jersey at a press event sometime next week, there’s still the matter of the other new guys and what they’ll turn up in when spring training begins later this month.

What new guys? Well, those indicated by the “–” symbol alongside their names on themets.com 40-man roster: Pitchers Ruddy Lugo; Steven Register, Brian Stokes and Matt Wise; and outfielders Ryan Church and Angel Pagan. Catcher Brian Schneider is also indicated with a double-en-space, but we’re reasonably sure he’s headed for the No. 23 jersey photographed below and Marlon Anderson will change into something new.

2005 Caravan. Hello Bartolome Fortunato!

Normally at this time of year the Mets do their fans the courtesy of scheduling a Winter Caravan in which their guys visit sick kids in the hospital and hit tourist landmarks for photo-ops while wearing their newly-assigned jerseys, but perhaps because of the relative lack of good news to share until very recently, they called it off this year. They didn’t have one last year either and they set an attendance record. Go figure.

 

Anyhow, none of the pitchers but for maybe Wise has enough number-equity than to take what they’re assigned this spring and it may not be pretty. Register, a longshot Rule 5 reliever, may follow the suit of last year’s counterpart Mitch Wylie and show up in 59. We’ll predict low 60s in fact for all the pitchers but Wise whom we predict ought to scoop up the available 38. Stokes (41 last year for Tampa Bay) and Lugo (45 for Oakland) will obviously be shopping for new digits in the event they make the squad.

And until just recently I would have pegged the lack of a press conference welcoming Ryan Church to the fold as evidence of their preparedness to flip him away in a trade but now I suppose it’s safe to present him with the 19 jersey he wore with Washington most recently. Pagan, No. 29 in Chicago last year, will likely have to give that up for incumbent Jorge Sosa. He could be a 9, maybe.

Know different? Say so below.

**

Thanks for the welcome from Mike’s Mets.

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