Tag Archive for Gary Carter

Marcus Down As Undecided

Marcus Stroman, who already made club history by becoming the team’s first pitcher to wear a single-digit uni number, will be making more news soon.

Stroman says will no longer wear the No. 7 he was issued upon his trade to the Mets from Toronto in July, saying that he didn’t feel right playing in the same uni as a childhood idol Jose Reyes.

Obviously we all want Stroman to wear what he’s most comfortable wearing but in the bigger picture I’m wondering whether this notion of respect has gone completely overboard. It has always seemed to me that you could argue just as persuasively that wearing the same number your idol did on the same field would be the ultimate way to pay respect, and that pointedly avoiding a number for that reason in particular, while admirable, is an awfully passive statement in practice.

I’m also left to wonder what this will mean to the newly respect-sensitive Mets and their plans to take an untold batch of jerseys out of circulation in coming years. This began only recently with the deserving but curious announcement they would hang up 36 next year. Who knows if the Mets stay on task with this, but you figure such an approach would have to include Ed Kranepool at some point, a different No. 7.

Until then though, you wonder if the club will now have the stones to issue anybody No. 7 as long as Stroman is on board. Did he inadvertently just mothball No. 7 teamwide? Let’s wait and see.

Let’s also wait and see what Stroman finally settles on. Will he continue to buck tradition and take a single digit? If so there’s but two choices and a similarly wobbly third: Zero is available now; 2 belongs to the free-agent-to-be-but-I’d-sure-love-to-be-back infielder Joe Panik; and then there’s 8, which has gone unissued now for 17 years (!!) as the Mets seemingly make up their minds on Gary Carter’s legacy (If you’re listening Mets, don’t do it. Name the St. Lucie minor league team the Kids instead. Give out a Gary Carter Award every year for the team’s best citizen. Don’t take out numbers for guys with 2 good years on the club and more concrete legacies elsewhere).

Stroman’s Toronto No. 6 belongs now to Jeff McNeil and Stroman said he wouldn’t ask for that. I’ll bet you a beer he’s the next 0.

 

 

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Debate 8

Should Jed Lowrie get No. 8?

Let the debate begin. The Mets surprised the market by adding the veteran infielder on a two-year contract. In addition to figuring out where he’ll fit on an infield with Amed Rosario, Todd Frazier, Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, JD Davis, Peter Alonso, Dominic Smith, Luis Guillorme, Gavin Cecchini and TJ Rivera, they need to give him a jersey.

Lowrie’s been around the league a little, most often wearing No. 8, but also appearing in No. 12 and 4. The Mets quietly removed 8 from the rotation in 2003, when Gary Carter was elected to the Hall of Fame. Though it’s never been officially expressed this way, I think the idea at that time was to hold out and see whether the Kid would “go into the Hall” as a Met. When he (rightly) was enshrined as an Expo, his health issues made the prospect of reissuing 8 distasteful and so in mothballs it has remained ever since.

I think it’s more likely we see another Met 8 than see the club retire the number, and if it’s what Lowrie wants I suppose I have no problem with it. As I’ve expressed here before, I’d prefer it were the Mets to judiciously reissue, give No. 8 to the next good young catcher, but simply to uphold a limbo ban seems like a dumb idea so if Jed wouldn’t prefer to retake No. 4, I say let him have it.

I mentioned JD Davis above but haven’t got to his signing yet here. He’s a right-handed hitting corner infielder who tore it up as an Astros prospect and seems as though he could at the least challenge TJ Rivera to a roster spot, or perhaps replace Todd Frazier. Or maybe even pitch mop-up relief as he’s said to have a big-league arm.

At any rate, it’s a curious deal given the Mets coughed up three decent but young prospects for Davis. Is Brodie Van Wagenen addressing the criticism the Mets’ system is too “bottom heavy” by rebalancing the system with “ready” prspects? Maybe. Is he ridding the system of the Alderson Regime’s prize project? Perhaps. Is he really going to do something different here and reel in Bryce Harper? Probably not.

Davis wore 28 in a brief run in Houston but 26 is his twitter handle and minor-league assignment. That number became available when the Mets dumped Kevin Plawecki on the Indians in exchange for a fringe starting pitcher prospect, Walker Lockett, and a minor league infielder called Sam Haggerty. Lockett never pitched in Cleveland but instead passed through on paper from San Diego, which traded him with the idea they were to lose him in the Rule 5 draft anyhow. Lockett appeared in four games with the Padres last summer wearing No. 62: He’s the Mets’ problem now.

So long to Plawecki a 1st round Alderson draft choice who like his mate Travis D’Arnaud, simply seemed too nice to make it as a real starting catcher in the league; a forced promotion due to injuries probably got his career off to the wrong start anyway, so good luck on the reset in Cleveland.

And bye-bye, David Wright! The Mets gussied it up with a fake promotion to a fake front office job they but released him just the same.

 

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Hey, Joe

Today my friend David passed along this photo on social media. It’s Joe Sambito pitching for the Mets, and he’s wearing No. 38.

This does not jibe with our records — and some others — listing Sambito having worn No. 35 for the entirety of his brief Mets career, which lasted a little more than six weeks in 1985.

Solving this mystery doesn’t appear to be too difficult, but I’m calling on the MBTN readership to pull out the magnifying glasses and take a shot with me, and confirm it best we can.

Here’s what we know about Joe, who by the way, turned 66 years old the other day. He was a Brooklyn-born and Long Island-raised lefty fireballer who established himself as one of the National League’s strongest relief pitchers with the Houston teams of the late 1970s and early 80s before elbow and shoulder problems stalled his career in 1982. He wore 35 for the Astros. By the time 1985 came around Sambito was still struggling to get his stuff back. When the Astros asked the veteran to accept a minor league assignment he refused, becoming a free agent and fielding offers from several clubs before accepting a major-league minimum deal from the Mets.

The picture shows Sambito pitching in a day game at Shea. That helps narrow things considerably, as Sambito appeared in just two of those. The guess here is that this was the first of those games, and also, Sambito’s Mets debut, on April 28 against the Pirates.

That was a memorable day. Not for Joe Sambito, who quietly pitched a scoreless seventh inning in a 4-4 game — but because the game was only getting started then. It lasted 18 innings before Mookie Wilson scored on an error and the Mets walked off with a 5-4 victory. In the in between, 41-year-old Rusty Staub, who entered as a pinch hitter in the 12th inning, spent the next five innings in the outfield, switching corner outfield positions with Clint Hurdle depending on the handedness of the batter in a concession to Le Grand Orange’s failing knees. Despite that, Rusty made a game-saving running catch in the top of the 18th to retire Pirate pinch-hitter Rick Rhoden who hit an opposite-field fly (if you don’t remember Rhoden, he was one of the best hitting pitchers of his era). Reliable Rusty also had a double that could have won the game in the 12th, but the inning died on a Ray Knight double-play and a bases-loaded popout by Gary Carter. I remember that game well, as it helped to cement my image of Davey Johnson as a master strategist.

The starting right fielder in that game was John Christensen, who was double-switched out in the 12th when Staub entered. And until that day, Christensen was wearing 35. Our records show Christensen wore No. 7 from that point on, so likely lost in the excitement of that thriller was news that Christensen set aside 35 for Sambito.

Sambito struggled mightily in 35, by the way, was sent to Tidewater in June, and released by the Tides that August. The Mets would see him next in Game 3 of the 1986 World Series, pitching ineffective relief for Boston.

So that’s our working theory, thanks to this picture: Sambito wearing 38 for 1 game; 35 for his other seven Mets appearances. Anyone have further observations or concluding proof? Let us know. And happy birthday, Joe!

 

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When Eight is Enough

7Who knows how it may affect the club’s sudden momentum but the Mets today are expected to officially add Jose Reyes to the roster, suit him in his customary No. 7 jersey (per Adam Rubin), and lead him off tonight versus the Marlins.

No word yet on a corresponding roster move although it seems likelier to me that infielder Matt Reynolds gets sent down than Alejandro De Aza is released. The latter scenario only happens if there’s a true crush on the 40-man roster, and even then, I think they’d look to trade him. Despite appearances, De Aza’s track record and versatility would indicate he’s not completely without value.

Now, onto the important stuff: With Reyes set to take over 7, it triggers yet another uni change for Travis d’Arnaud, whom I’d have advised to stay put. And while it’s possible we’ll see d’Arnaud move back to 15, especially if Reynolds vacates it, I’m proposing a unique solution to a unique problem:

Take No. 8 out of mothballs.

8The Mets haven’t issued No. 8 since 2002 (coach Matt Galante), a decision that coincided with Gary Carter’s election to baseball’s Hall of Fame. We can presume the club withheld it so as to give itself runway to retirement had Carter gone into the Hall “as a Met” and following that, in deference to his illness and tragic death in 2012. (I want to be clear I feel the first distinction is very silly and unworthy of the weight it seems to carry in the retired number debate).

But with both those events now in the rear-view, I think there’s an argument to reintroduce No. 8 when warranted, and now is that time. You have a promising young catcher basically forced into a switch, and there’s a dearth of dignified numbers out there (just 1, 18, 46 and 49). He drives you crazy with the health issues and the slumps but d’Arnaud deep down is a heck of a hitter, I think, and at any rate wouldn’t embarrass the memory of Carter (or Yogi Berra, also a numerical descendant) any more than the second coming of Jose Reyes might insult the first Reyes era. The Mets in fact gave No. 8 time off between Yogi’s stints as a player (1965-72) and a manager (1975-79), but those periods came to an end too.

I supported the Mets’ good taste and sensitivity while they withheld No. 8 then and now, but the time has come to reintroduce it. Give the Kid No. 8!

*

PS — Quick note to acknowledge the arrival and departure of Seth Lugo and the first No. 67 in club history last week! I missed that traveling last week.

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Gary Carter

8I was a freshman in college the night the Mets traded for Gary Carter. The news so excited me that I goaded one of my roommates to stay up all night and celebrate, which for us meant wandering aimlessly around campus all night until stealing a fresh morning newspaper from a bundle left outside a store on Main Street at first light just to read about it. There was never any doubt that his arrival would transform a promising team into an excellent one, and helpme realize a dream I’d harbored all my life until then. That was the power of Gary Carter.

When I presented Gary Carter with a copy of the Mets by the Numbers book at an event in 2008 his thank-you and his handshake were so warm and sincere I could barely believe he meant them. What an impression he made. Marty Noble writing on MLB.com today presents an obituary as forceful and oddly offputting as the Kid himself. What a character.

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Rooting for Immortality

8The troubling news on Gary Carter’s health is raising anew the question of whether — and when — the Mets will get around to retiring No. 8. Thanks to a tip from MBTN commenter “Gored82” in the below story I clicked over to Mike Silva’s Baseball Digest which was running a poll on fan opinions on the matter. Those readers overwhelmingly approved the idea by a 92% margin, seemingly agreeing with Mike that Carter’s contributions to the 80s success merited the honor even though his tenure was relatively short and his good seasons in a Mets uniform even shorter.

It’s obvious to me the Mets intended to retire No. 8 upon Carter’s enshirement in Cooperstown — they took 8 out of circulation upon his 2003 election — but I suspect they lost their conviction to when Carter went to the Hall “as an Expo” not a Met, and subsequently eschewed an offer to manage the Mets’ farm club in Binghamton. Following that, Carter made remarks in the press that were interpreted as “campaining” for Willie Randolph’s job. Petty squabbles with players? These Mets? In the meantime the re-emergence of Darryl Strawberry and to  a lesser extent, Dwight Gooden into the Mets graces, and the ever-growing legend of Keith Hernandez, who becomes a greater Met personality with every broadcast, made the idea of singling out Carter seem unwise. I would guess that the same poll a few years ago would have produced less dramatic results, although still probably favorable, since in my experience, fans just like to see numbers retired. Immortality is something to root for.

I’ve suggested before the Mets “retire” No. 86 as a tribute to the lot of them. I’ve argued long and hard that they re-issue these numbers to appropriate candidates. But what seems more likely right now is they ultimately resolve this by tackling Hernandez and Carter at once.

I discussed this with Mike on his radio show the other night (I follow Steven Travers discussing his Tom Seaver book). Click here to listen to a replay.

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Is 17 Retired or Just Taking a Break?

17Oftentimes, organizations are best off sticking to their convictions and not giving in to the will of fans, especially when it comes to sensitive stuff like retiring numbers. For the Mets this is an especially vexing dilemma, given that they have so few convictions not to mention so few candidates for number retirement. Fans with opinions, though — they got plenty of those.

I’ve been on record before defending the team’s stinginess when it comes to uni-number retirement. That the Mets are “disrespecting” those players whose numbers aren’t yet retired, or that they lag other teams when it comes to numbers hanging on the walls, are both lousy arguments for taking a jersey out of circulation when the most satisfying remedy lies in the ability to selectively re-issue numbers so as to perpetuate being part of something special. That is, if the Mets were to give No. 17 only to intense, mustachioed, good fielding first basemen; or No. 8 only to charismatic catchers with a flair for the dramatic,  there’d be little argument to the notion that Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter are being dissed or forgotten — and maybe there’d be some pressure on the Mets to actually go out and develop one of them now and again.

All that said, the organization may have turned a corner last year when it comes to No. 17. Perhaps giving into fan indignation and recognizing Hernandez’s growing legend for his post-career contributions to the cause of Met-ness, No. 17 was unissued in 2011. It was the first time in 21 years no Met had worn 17.

Ironically the streak that saw 15 different men wear No. 17 over those 21 years — a streak that for many came to symbolize just  how ignorant the team could be about these things — began with of all things a tribute to Keith Hernandez: David Cone’s switch from No. 44 early in the 1991 season.

From Cone, who wore 17 until his 1992 trade; 17 went to MBTN hero Jeff McKnight, then onto Bret Saberhagen (1994-95), Brett Mayne (1996) and Luis Lopez (1997-99). This century, 17 has gone almost entirely to bums and scrubeenies who spent a season or less in Met-ville : Mike Bordick (2000); Kevin Appier (2001); Satoru Komiyama (2002); Graeme Lloyd and Jason Anderson (2003); Wilson Delgado (2004); Dae-Sung Koo (2005); Jose Lima (2006); David Newhan (2007) and finally, Fernando Tatis, who on July 4, 2010, in the seventh inning of what was to be a 9-5 Mets win, entered the game as a pinch hitter for Chris Carter — Carter was initally called in to pinch hit for the pitcher before Washington provoked Jerry Manuel by bringing in lefty Sean Burnett — and singled. Following the game the Mets placed Tatis on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder sprain from which he never returned.

That was the last time a 17 appeared for the Mets. Is it permanent? Or just taking a well-deserved break?

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Toppermost of the Poppermost

I was in Pittsburgh over the weekend where I attended my first Pirates home game in more than 20 years. To say they improved the stadium since then is an understatement: PNC Park is even nicer than it looks on television. The scale is just right, the atmosphere and views and neighborhood and service are terrific, it doesn’t appear to radically alter the balance of offense and defense in any way, it owes more to history than gimmickry, good seats were affordable and the scoreboard doesn’t come off as an anchor for surrounding ads. In other words, it’s just about everything CitiField is not. And I might be dense but never realized until I sat there what a ripoff of Pittsburgh the “Shea Bridge” is. I know the Mets admired this park and endeavored to use it in some ways to inform their park, but boy did they swing and miss.

Here’s something I liked. Whenever a Pirate batter first came to the plate, the scoreboard graphic introduced him by panning across a “mural” of former Pirates (and Homestead Grays of the Negro League) in period unis, from which the current batter appeared to “step out” from. While I was running downtown the next morning, I came across the actual mural, which I since learned is a billboard-sized reproduction of a painting by a local artist.

You’ll recognize Willie Stagell in the gold jersey and in the shot of a statue outside the stadium I snapped here. The Pirates rightly retired his No. 8 jersey, which brings to mind another contrast getting a lot of sudden attention recently, and that’s a well-intentioned but ultimately wrongheaded campaign for the Mets to retire No. 8 in honor of Gary Carter.

The news about The Kid’s health is heartbreaking and tragic. But it doesn’t make him the Mets’ equivalent of Willie Stargell, much less Tom Seaver, the only Mets player to have been honored with a retired jersey. As argued here before, retiring No. 8 — obviously a topic the Mets have long considered given their reluctance to have issued the jersey since Desi Relaford last wore it in 2002 — would surely require an accompanying retirement of 17 for Keith Hernandez, 16 for Dwight Gooden, 18 for Darryl Strawberry, 1 for Mookie Wilson and perhaps, 5 for Davey Johnson and 50 for Sid Fernandez. That’s before considering what it will say about Jerry Koosman, Bud Harrelson, Ed Kranepool, Howard Johnson, Jerry Grote, Edgardo Alfonzo and other players who played more than Gary Carter’s five years for the Mets, and had more than Gary Carter’s two good years for the Mets.

The Mets have appropriately enshrined Carter in the team’s Hall of Fame, which if they’d only made an effort to promote all these years, could serve as appropriate salve for those determined to interpret a failure to retire a uniform number as an act of disrespect (and to a cancer patient at that). Subjective it may be, but its long been our stance here that retired numbers should be reserved for the true greats and not the Hall of Famers who pass through, no matter how charasmatic (or tragic). Stargell for the Pirates? a No-Brainer. He spent his entire career with the Pirates and is most closely associated with them. The best way to honor Carter — and his teammates — might be a symbolic retirement of the never-worn jersey No. 86, and for them to honor Carter’s memory by issuing No. 8 to the next energetic, powerful catcher who comes along.

Stuff I missed until now: The return of Lucas Duda and No. 77, DJ Carrasco and accompanying reassignments of Nick Evans and Dale Thayer.

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Hu’s the Boss

Interesting update passed along by reader Nick in the comments for the post below: Chin-Lung Hu was assigned No. 17 yesterday, but is listed in No. 25 today. In between, there was some of the typical hand-wringing that accompanies every issue of No. 17 to the Koos, Limas, Lloyds and Appiers of the world, while, by contrast, No. 8 has been mothballed since 2002 in deference to Gary Carter’s enshrinement in Cooperstown.

Could this be a signal that Kevin Kierst, the Mets’ new equipment manager, will take a different route than his disgraced predecessor,Charlie Samuels? It couldn’t hurt if it was.

While I’ve never been a strong advocate of retiring numbers (I think the Mets’ cautious stance on this issue is more or less on the mark) I’d be against retiring 8 while also not retiring 17, particularly as Hernandez’ stature among fans has grown as his broadcasting career has flourished while Carter’s star dimmed amid the feeling that he was a plotting gloryhound with an appetite for a managerial coup. The issue then of course is what to do with 16 and 18, which is why the less-is-more approach is something I’ve always been behind.

That said, the wanton reissuing of 17 — aside from conforming to Met tradition before Hernandez came along — is wrong as well. I’ve long advocated that the Mets save those numbers that might otherwise be retired and issue them to players who would do them proud. I’d put Josh Thole in 8 and Ike Davis in 17 tomorrow. Hu — who like Kelvin Torve assuredly wants no part in a numerical controversy — is scheduled to meet the press tomorrow.

Rafael Arroyo, by the way, was removed from the list of coaches today.

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Fartinez Alert

Never too late, as far as I’m concerned, to vote in the poll predicting Fernando Martinez‘s uniform number. Although the watch was a false alarm last year, with martinez destroying it in AAA Buffalo and Ryan Church the latest Met to be suffering injury (the NY Daily News reports a trip to the disabled list is under consideration, especially while Carlos Beltran nurses a sore knee) it’s possible we could see “Fartinez” as soon as this evening.

Martinez is wearing No. 3 in Buffalo (Alex Cora occupies it here) and had 67 in spring training. The poll — pretty much neglected for months — showed some support for No. 8 perhaps as a backlash for the Mets seeming reluctance to re-issue since Gary Carter‘s election to the Hall of Fame along with Carter’s gauche politicking for the managing job.

Hey, how about that Omir Santos?

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