Back from a short biz-trip to let you know I still don’t know what the Mets are doing with these uni issues, the latest being T.J. Rivera’s recall from Las Vegas and subsequent assignment of No. 54.
I was with everyone else in advocating the Mets issue the recently freed-up No. 2 to Rivera but hadn’t a particularly strong argument for it until my friend Edward at the Crane Pool alerted me to this Daily Snooze profile detailing how Rivera got to the Mets in the first place:
“I told Tommy, ‘I can’t believe nobody drafted T.J. You can’t go wrong with him,'” recalls [Mackey] Sasser, who was a Met from 1988-92 [and Rivera’s college coach at Wallace Community College in Alabama]. “He’s going to make someone a good player.”
Sasser of course was a notoriously famous No. 2, maybe the jersey’s most memorable character behind manager Bobby Valentine and Marvelous Marv Throneberry, who we now know personally championed an undrafted free agent who reached the majors on the strength of his hitting. That the Mets somehow overlooked this intersection of opportunity (the Dilson Herrera trade) and appropriateness, while going completely off-script and making Rivera the first non-pitcher/non-coach ever to wear 54 isn’t a great signal they’re doing this whole uni-number-issuing thing correctly.
The Mets on the other hand aren’t doing much of anything right lately, culminating in this week’s deserved sweeping at the hands of the awful Arizona Diamondbacks and their fugly uniforms. Terry Collins yesterday made a show of demanding a fresh start from his guys, a move that could prove to be too late to save them or him.
Speaking of bad teams in fugly uniforms, my travels this week took me to the Twin Cities where I witnessed Target Field for the first time, encountering what for me was an odd site — the homestanding Twins in bright-red home jerseys. The stadium was quite nice, bonus points for locating it within moments of a train station, but the unis bothered me until I realized the none-too-subtle message I’m sure they were meant to deliver. Cheap chic indeed.
Goodbye and good luck to Nick Evans, the blinking reserve infielder whose eight different trips in and out of the No. 6 jersey over the last four seasons embodied its heritage as the most frequently issued number in team history. Evans was up and down so many times his number was issued to not one, not two but three different players who served entirely within his tenure: Abraham Nunez, Trot Nixon and Ramon Martinez. I have trouble believeing any of them were ever Mets.
Evans, who was released by the Mets for the millionth time following the season, accepted free agency at last and promptly signed a minor-league deal with the Pirates for whom he stands at least a slim chance of going all Heath Bell on us. I’ll remember a smashing Saturday debut in Colorado that might have saved Willie Randolph’s job for a few weeks at least but few other highlights until a modest garbage-time showing this year. His absense leaves a void in the No. 6 heritage that surely will be filled by a scrub we haven’t met yet.
If No. 6 has a counterpart on the pitching side, No. 38 would be a contender. It last belonged to lefty Chris Capuano who parlayed his irritating mediocrity in Metville into a 2-year deal with the Dodgers. I never much understood the regard for Capuano whose 5th-inning crooked numbers arrived like clockwork and guaranteed the bullpen took a beating every night he worked, and, we were reminded, he never missed a start.
That kind of reliability, hopefully with a little more success, will have to be bought anew, perhaps at the Winter Meetings beginning this weekend in Dallas.
Finally you may have seen Bobby Valentine trying on the No. 25 jersey as the new manager of the Red Sox. It’s great to see him back.
Realized the other day that I can’t remember a period during which I’ve had any less idea about what happens next with the Mets as I do right at this moment. And it’s a strange feeling.
We were all pretty certain that Jerry Manuel wasn’t coming back, and fairly sure Omar would go too, but even back then you were assured by the press that Wally Backman would be next in line, given the Mets’ financial situation, and that maybe for budgetary purposes and tradition they hand it over to John Ricco and a team of bickering advisors but that doesn’t seem all that likely anymore. For one, there’s the idea out there that Sandy Alderson can take the GM job if he wants it, and that would mean neither Backman (who might be fun) nor Bobby Valentine (good and fun!) would be his choice to mange. Well who then? Joe Torre?
And will it matter anyway, now that we’ve seen the accounts of Jon Daniels’ inability to hide interest in the gig? Or will Rick Hahn’s Wolverine background carry the day? If you asked me two weeks ago I’d have said Terry Ryan gets the GM chair. Maybe not now.
Today (Friday the 15th, if anyone asks) my bizarre hunch is that Alderson gets the GM job and names Wally Backman the manager … of Class AA Binghamton. Lee Mazzilli in an upset gets the Mets’ managing job and his No. 13 back. Sorry, Mike Nickeas, that’s just how I see it, today.
What do you guys think?
Father’s Day is coming up, and since you already got Dear Old Dad the handy book version of Mets by the Numbers(you did, didn’t you?), and you know how much fun that was, don’t be stumped for a follow-up. My friend and co-author for that work, Matthew Silverman, is out with a fresh take on 100 Things Mets Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die (Triumph, 2010).
This revised and updated copy, which tells the story of the Mets in 100 bite-sized chunks, is loaded with fresh picks at the scabs of recent seasons (the Shea closing ceremony, a Molina vs. Scioscia debate) amid essential pieces on Met trivia, Met stories and Met activity, from Buckner to Benson (Anna, of course). You can find it your local bookstore, or on-line, or get a copy personally inscribed by the busiest Mets writer on the web at MetSilverman.com.
Had a great time over the weekend down in Baltimore where the Mets finally did what they’re supposed to do to a struggling team: Kick ’em while they’re down. The city was filthy with Met fans including a duo I spotted Sunday wearing jerseys bearing the names and numbers of Kelly Stinnett and Dave Telgheder. (In their 1995 versions: 33 and 40, respectively). I don’t know why I didn’t shoot a photo of these guys or at least say hi, but if you’re out there: I tip my hat to you.
Not that a team whose history would produce such fans ought to be taking pity on anyone, but it was kind of sad to see Baltimore so beaten down as a baseball town. I was a Marylander when that park opened and you couldn’t buy a seat weeks in advance: Here they were badly outnumbered by the enemy and the place was half-empty. If there was a franchise that cried out for the kind of jolt Bobby Valentine could provide, this is it. Then again, the Angelos-led organization fumbled away a previous great leader in Davey Johnson.
We recently got an inquiry from a reader who asked about the circumstances around Met coaches Bobby Valentine and Bill Robinson switching uniform numbers before the 1985 season.
You might recall that in 1984, Robinson, then in his first season as the Mets hitting and first-base coach, was wearing No. 26 while Valentine was issued No. 22 until the Mets traded for Ray Knight late in the season. Valentine at that point switched to 28 to allow Knight to wear his customary 22.
By the beginning of 1985, Valentine gave up 28 for No. 2and Robinson moved into 28, a jersey he’d wear for the next five years. No. 26 wasn’t issued agin until Terry Leach arrived in July.
A little bit of research explains Robinson’s preference for 28: He’d worn that number as a player for the best years of his career with the Pirates. It was available with the Mets in ’84 but not until Scott Holman was released at the end of spring training. Holman’s subsequent re-signing as a minor leaguer may have kept the number in near-term mothballs.
Anyone with memories of this situation- – or even why Valentine seemed to prefer No. 2 — is welcome to chime in. Thanks as always for the questions!