Tag Archive for Keith Hernandez

Tic Tac Toe

During Sunday’s victory over the Braves, an unusual and perceptive notice popped up in my feed. In the bottom of the first inning, Jay Bruce reached on an error, Neil Walker singled and Lucas Duda followed with a base-on-balls, setting up the following bases-loaded situation as described here by TJ:

Not to speak for Elias Sports, but I’d bet it is. I’ve played around a little bit trying to determine whether the Mets ever had an all-ascending uni number starting lineup (haven’t found one yet) and I can recall lots of notable sequential teammates but this question never occurred to me and figuring out would be a task, which is why I’m opening it up to you guys out there.

My first thought on this matter was the possibility of the 16-17-18 combo of Gooden on third, Hernandez on second and Strawberry on first, which had lots of opportunity to happen. Their teammates on the ’86 champs Wally Backman, Kevin Mitchell and Gary Carter, had a whole season of opportunity to pull this one off too, but also hard to envision a scenario where Backman stops at third. Foster-Gooden-Hernanez 15-17 would be a less likely scenario but I don’t want to rule it out yet.

Looking further into the likely possibilities would also require an examination of the 1969 World Champs, who had Agee, Jones and Clendenon stacked up 20-22 (Tim Foli, No. 19 in 1970-71, could be another engine in this train). Back when numbers were lower and retirements fewer we can envision scenarios of Ashburn on first, Throneberry at second and Bouchee or Harkness on 3rd, but I got no idea.

Anyone brave enough to dive into this please speak up!

Following is my list of notable Mets teammates wearing consecutive numbers, though by no means an exhaustive list of all possibilities over the years:

6 numbers:
1986: Foster 15, Gooden 16, Hernandez 17, Strawberry 18, Ojeda 19, Johnson 20
1987–88: Aguilera 15, Gooden 16, Hernandez 17, Strawberry 18, Ojeda 19, Johnson 20
1989: Darling 15, Gooden 16, Hernandez 17, Strawberry 18, Ojeda 19, Johnson 20

5 numbers:
1989: Gooden 16, Hernandez 17, Strawberry 18, Ojeda 19, Johnson 20

3 numbers:
1968–71: Seaver 41, Taylor 42, McAndrew 43
1969–71: Agee 20, Jones 21, Clendenon 22
1975–77: Kingman 26, Swan 27, Milner 28
1986: Backman 6, Mitchell 7, Carter 8
1992: Gooden 16, Cone 17, Saberhagen 18
2015-17: Matz 32, Harvey 33, Syndergaard 34
2016-17: Bruce 19, Walker 20, Duda 21

*

 

Goodbye and good luck to Ty Kelly, the reserve we were discussing below, and who was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays yesterday. This Ty was no Cobb, but I liked having on the team.

 

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When there’s nothing to speculate about, speculate

Around here, this time of year often inspires lots of speculation about inbound freight and what to outfit them in, but it was pointed out to me yesterday that other than the 40-man additions noted below, and the re-signing of three of our own free agents (Neil Walker, Rene Rivera, Yoenis Cespedes), there has been a grand total of zero new names on the sacred scrolls since September.

53Well, one new guy if you count incoming third-base/catching coach Glenn Sherlock, who will replace Tim Teufel in an act of mercy. Sherlock by the way wore No. 53 in a similar role with the Diamondbacks, so he feels more like a real coach and less of guy whose main qualification for the role was a job with the Mets in 1986.

Players? There’s been none. No journeyman catchers with spring training invites, no Rule 5 picks, no lefthanded relief pitchers, no veteran bats on make-good comeback contracts, and of course, no Winter-Meeting-Three-Team-Twelve-Player Blockbusters (WMTT12PBs), which on a chilly December morning like this would warm old the hot stove. In the meantime we’ve seen a few Mets go away: Bartolo Colon, Logan Verrett (we’ll never forget how few craps he gave taking No. 35 still warm from Dillon Gee), and Johnny Monell.

Obviously this will change if and when the Mets get around to addressing the Jay Bruce Question; for now I’m pleased that the team hasn’t given him away for nothing and I’m dubious in general that any relief pitcher ought to be fair value for a flawed but legitimate power bat like Bruce.

19And just maybe, they’re holding out on a secret WMTT12PB. Perhaps Bruce can find a home again — in Cincinnati. Trade him, Lucas Duda and Steven Matz for Joey Votto and a reliever? Votto’s the kind of Olerud/Hernandez type bat this club could really use, David Wright can’t be counted on being anymore, and guys like Conforto and Nimmo might not get the chance to be.

Otherwise, we’re a adequately situated and familiar club that will require a lot to go right again in 2017.

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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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One After One After 909

The arrival of Mike Baxter on Monday ended a drought of 71 days without a Met making a debut — the longest such in-season drought since 1988 and the seventh-longest of all time. This gap, between Dale Thayer at 910 and Baxter at 911 follows an April during which 13 Mets made a debut — the most in that category since 2005.

MBTN roster expert Jason E. crunched the numbers and came up with a list of the longest new-Met droughts in history, presented in handy chart form here. How about that pair from 1983?

Gap Year Met No. Name Debut Date
96 Days 1968 163 Al Weis April 15
164 Jim McAndrew July 21
94 Days 1988 402 Mackey Sasser April 10
403 Bob McClure July 14
84 Days 1986 384 Rick Anderson June 9
385 Kevin Elster Sept. 2
80 Days 1983 348 Keith Hernandez June 17
349 Ron Darling Sept. 6
78 Days 1971 188 Charlie Williams April 23
189 Jon Matlack July 11
72 Days 1969 172 Bobby Pfeil June 26
173 Jim Gosger Sept. 7
71 Days 2011 910 Dale Thayer May 28
911 Mike Baxter Aug. 8

 

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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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Sick and Retired

Interesting article I recently came across (not literally) about the Cubs planning to retire No. 31 this summer as a tribute to Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, both of whom wore No. 31 when pitching for the Cubs. In the meantime, they plan to take their time when it comes to Sammy Sosa, whose No. 21 is expected to be issued this year to Milton Bradley.

The article quotes Mark McGwire, the Cubs’ executive vice president for business operations:

“We’ve gotten into a situation where we’ve been really tough about retiring numbers. We actually have an in-house standard of people getting in the Hall of Fame before the organization would even consider retiring his number. There’s some discussion this year because of No. 31 and the unique status of Mr. Maddux and Fergie Jenkins that we may go ahead and do something this summer.

“With Sammy, time has a way of healing a lot of things, and we’ll just see how it works itself out. I don’t think we’ll be escalating our program in that regard.”

I have to say I applaud the Cubs’ rigid standards and suggest that Met fans unhappy about the number of of Mets to have their numbers retired direct their energies not toward making it up with players of the past but rooting for situations where a decision will be an easy one in the future.

I sometimes think the attention around No. 17 gets way out of hand, for instance. Keith knows how he’s got us by the nads and, I think, gets a kick out of tugging them from time to time. I’ve always been indifferent to whole idea of retiring his number, mainly because of the slippery slope that was the 1980s Mets (if you retire 17, so you must 16 and 18, and 8 and 1, and 47 and so on). Hernandez also didn’t fashion a career with the Mets exclusively (in fact may have had more success in a rival’s clothes) and hasn’t (yet) attained a place in the Hall of Fame (though I and a veteran’s committee might be convinced still of that).

17’s route to immortality will be, like 21 in Chicago, dependent some on how the future views Hernandez. His announcing gig — and forthcoming book — no doubt has his popular estimation on the rise and will continue to add to his lagacy, so I wouldn’t be strongly opposed when that day comes but know this: It hasn’t come yet. It’d be a no-brainer otherwise.

* * *

The Mets you have may have seen have inked gangly pitcher Freddy Garcia and outfielder/utilityman Rob Mackowiak to minor league deals and invited them both to spring training. The oft-injured and well-traveled Garcia has worn 34 everywhere he’s played: It will be interesting to see whether Mike Pelfrey has any attachment to it in the event Garcia makes the club. Macklowiak, who seems a threat to Marlon Anderson (lefty, multipurpose player, with a weak bat) will take what he’s given. He’s worn 59 in Pittsburgh, 10 with the White Sox and 12 with Washington.

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They Are What They Is

With the New Orleans Zephyrs swept out of the AAA playoffs over the weekend, representatives of the losers arrived in time to see — and participate — in the worst display of Met baseball since the Art Howe Era.

Soft-tossing righty Brian Lawrence 54 stepped in and registered what we can only hope would be the last outing of his Mets career, coughing up a 4-run lead to Washington. Joe Smith 35 is back, but the velocity he sidearmed with earlier this year apparently didn’t come along with him.Ramon Castro 11 didn’t have the health to stick through short-season games with Brooklyn but is back here anyway. Weak-hitting utilityman David Newhan? Yes, he’s back too, still torturing Keith Hernandez in No. 17.

Perhaps the only interesting returnee from a unicentric standpoint is infielder Anderson Hernandez, who we last saw wearing No. 1 in July. Hernandez was recalled only to discover the Mets had issued No. 1 to Luis Castillo during Hernandez’ stay in New Orleans. No. 4 was hanging in his locker this time around. When he gets into a game, he’ll become the Mets’ 14th 15th player to wear No. 4, and the first since Chris Woodward a year ago Ben Johnson earlier this year. (Props to Gene, below for the correction).

Only time will tell whether this latest stumble is just another stumble or the beginnings of an historic collapse, but you can bet we’ll be here hating ourselves for watching every minute of it!

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