Elbow surgery will cost Noah Syndergaard whatever becomes of this season and quite possibly much of the next, but if he never throws another pitch for the Mets, you can probably already make a rock-solid argument for Thor as the greatest Met ever to wear No. 34.
The big righty needs just four victories to claim the most wins by a Met 34: That title still belongs to Mike Pelfrey and his 50-54 career won-loss record in New York. Fans can dismiss Pelfrey as underperforming their expectations, but when he departed in 2012–ominously enough as a result of early-season Tommy John surgery–Pelfrey had long since vanquished the career marks of most all of his predecessors in the 34 jersey. That’s the way this number has pretty much gone: Set-up men, lightly regarded reserve hitters and as you’ll see below, a few disappointing starters.
Syndergaard in the meantime has racked up a career 47-30 record over five seasons (a team-best .610 winning percentage for guys with more than 10 decisions), and a massive lead in strikeouts with 775 in 716 innings over Pelf’s paltry 506 K’s in 869.1 innings. Both Pelfrey and Syndergaard cut imposing figures on the mound and came armed with good fastballs, but their careers look vastly different.
Best of luck to Syndergaard, who for some reason is getting elective surgery in New York this week. To help him recover, here’s my list of the Top 10 All-Time Met 34s as ranked by my proprietary mix of science and Met-ness:
- Syndergaard (2015-present). For what it’s worth, Thor is also 2nd all-time among home runs by guys who wore 34 (6).
- Bob Apodaca (1973-1977): An undersized, undrafted righty, Apodaca rode a mean sinkerball and his wits to set-up success for some awful Met clubs. 26 saves and a 2.84 ERA, a post-career stint as a wise Mets’ pitching coach and one of the greatest quotes of all time: After a white-knuckle, opening-day save in his first-ever appearance, Apodaca remarked to the New York Times that shaking Jerry Grote’s hand afterward was the greatest feeling he ever had “except maybe sex.”
- Mike Pelfrey (2006-2012) A top draft pick who ultimately shared more in common with the guys at 8 and 9 on this list than the ones above him. I like to re-imagine Pelfrey’s career were he a short reliever. Somehow managed to give up a home run to the first batter ever to appear in an official game at CitiField.
- Chico Walker (1992-93) A bargain for the “Worst Team Money Could Buy” Mets, Walker was a versatile role player who mostly on the strength of his 1992 year, grabbed all-time club records for games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, and RBI by guys who wore 34 that still stand today.
- Danny Frisella (1968-1972) Righhanded set-up reliever with a terrific forkball had an absolutely dominating season out of the pen in 1971 (8-5, 12 saves, 1.99) and was fairly reliable at other times. Tragically died in dune-buggy accident in 1977 while his career was still going.
- Cal Koonce (1967-1970) Yet another heavily-used right-handed set-up reliever, Koonce gets bonus points for his presence if not performance for the 1969 world champs. Was much better in ’68.
- Junior Ortiz (1983-84) Have you noticed that reserve catchers who can’t actually hit are invariably described as having a rep for handling pitchers? That’s our Junior, who stopped in on his way to a 13-year career. Wore No. 0 with the Pirates and Twins. Distinctive beard.
- Kris Benson (2004-05) Acquired in controversy, discarded in disgrace, and hardly worth all the fuss he caused in between, Benson was an average starting pitcher who fooled everyone into thinking he was a superstar.
- Pedro Astacio (2002-03) One of those veteran acquirees who starts off really strong before reminding everyone why he’s a journeyman. Astacio was actually one of the better pitchers in the league in 2002 through August, when he completely lost it.
- Blas Minor (1995-96) Occasionally effective right handed setup man, somewhat carelessly traded to Seattle for a minor leaguer after a rough start in ’96.
I don’t have anything profound or interesting to say about the trainwrecking Mets, their putrid play, their washed-up struggling veterans, their suddenly ineffective manager, their underperforming bullpen, the developing war between the front office and their slow-healing superstar or the appropriate fire in the CitiField lobby, but I can get you caught up with the parade of stiffs help making it all happen after missing a week to a biz trip and other calamities.
Joey Bautista, who passed through on paper during another disaster of a season 14 years ago before collecting 300+ home runs for other teams so the Mets could finish 25 games back with Kris Benson, has come back on — you guessed it — a cheapo deal and is now hitting 3rd in our order and wearing No. 11. I’m with Richard who suggested below that Jay Bruce ought to give Joey Bats his customary No. 19. Jay can try and negotiate with Steven Matz for 32, or just, you know, wear a blank jersey because that would match his contributions so far this year. Get it together, Jay.
The banged-up relief corps has added and subtracted a bunch of stiffs, some of whom we’ve seen before and some whom we may hopefully never see again.
They include: Scott Copeland (who?) who wore 62; and Tim Peterson, given 63; and Chris Flexen, 64. Could Kevin McGowan be far behind? Regardless this past week marks the first time the Mets have suited guys in Nos. 62-65 in the same season, which tells you something. Gerson Bautista whose surrendered home run to Javier Baez will land shortly, I’m told is back in 46, as is Buddy Baumann whose sidewinding, stirrups and No. 77 would all work better were he capable of having a single good outing, but we’re still waiting.
On the injury front we’ve lost Noah Syndergaard and Wilmer Flores, two guys who have been something less than best selves so far but so still better than the ones replacing them. Steven Matz is having his usual scares. Kevin Plawecki came back in time to address the dearth of right-handed bats and lose last night’s game hacking at the first pitch against a gassed tomato can having the night of his life. Phillip Evans and Tomas Nido both came and went again. Hansel Robles and Jose Lobaton — there’s a late-inning battery to inspire, huh? — came back.
Can anyone here play this game?
Updates over a busy few weeks — Cuban defectee Alay Soler makes his Major League debut tonight wearing No. 59. Soler was recalled after Omar Minaya designated a merciful end to the Jose Lima Experiment.Soler becomes only the second Met ever to wear No. 59, and the first since Ed Lynch made his Major League debut, in 1980.
Also today, the Mets traded struggling reliever Jorge Julio to Arizona for ancient ex-YankeeOrlando “El Duque” Hernandez. We assume El Duque will dress in his familiar No. 26 — currently available — when he arrives; until then, the team has recalled Norfolk yo-yo Heath Bell 19. This manuever may well serve to patch up the butt-end of a rotation sore with injuries, and Julio’s brief stay in Flushing won’t likely be missed, but it hardly makes the Kris Benson trade any less mysterious.
In between Lima’s whacking May 20 and Soler’s recall, the Mets enjoyed a phantom appearance from reliever Anderson Garcia, who wasn’t used and summarily returned to Norfolk. Rosters list Garcia as being assigned No. 58 but that hasn’t been eyewitnessed by us at least. Happy to hear from those who might confirm it.
On May 9, Heath Bell 19 was recalled as Fortunato was sent down. Days later, May 12, Bell was sent down as journeyman auditonee Jeremi Gonzalez was recalled. Gonzalez suited up in No. 32.
The Mets made a curious trade Jan. 21, sending Kris Benson 34 and his mouthy wife to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for relieverJorge Julio and pitching prospect John (Lobster) Maine. Whether this move portends a trade forBarry Zito or simply shifts the overpopulation problem from the starting rotation to the bullpen remains to be seen. Julio wore No. 50 last year with the Orioles while Maine in his brief appearances wore 61.
On Jan. 18, the Mets signed former Ham Fighter and Tokyo Giant Yusaku Iriki (You’re So Fine), who looks to compete for the longman job. Iriki wore No. 49 with the Ham Fighters and No. 20 with the Giants, research shows.
We overlooked the late December addition of lefty sidearmer Mike Venafro. He has a minor league contract and spring training invite.
Photos from the Mets Caravan revealed players in new unis including Julio Franco in 23, Paul LoDuca in 16 and Jose Valentin in 18. Newly arrived reliever Jorge Julio was wearing a jersey withno number on it. MBTN reader Rich reports: Chad Bradford appeared in No. 35, Duaner Sanchez in 40, and Mets.com is selling Bret Boone jerseys bearing No. 9.
Additional photos show Xavier Nady wearing No. 10 and Steve Schmoll in the dreaded No. 46.
Two regulars on the shelf from Day 1 return this afternoon when Kris Benson 34 makes his first start and Mike Cameron 44 plays right field. To make room the Mets sent reliever Royce Ring 22 and starter Jae Seo 26 to the minors. Tough break for Seo, who pitched better than both Tom Glavine and Victor Zambrano during his stay. He may be back if either of those two continue to struggle.
Quick corrections to begin the new year: Manny Aybar debuted this afternoon in No. 36; and Felix Heredia wore 49. (Thank you Tom for the update; FU to MSG and Time Warner for not showing it to me). Also, Kris Benson 34 hit the DL, revealing Omar was probably foolish in having traded away Matt Ginter. That means Victor Diaz made the squad, and in a new number this year, 20.Meantime, it appears a move or two is on the near horizon as Benson is expected to miss three weeks and after today’s performance you can bet the pressure will build on Braden Looper. Ugh. We did almost everything else right.
Baseball’s annual swap meet begins later this week. In case you were wondering: Pedro Martinez wears 45; Richie Sexson 11; Carlos Delgado 25; Magglio Ordonez 30 and Carlos Beltran 15.
We neglected to reveal the worst-kept secret in baseball when Kris Benson 34 finally re-signed.
OK, maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe it is! The Mets tonight pulled a series of staggering moves, gutting the farm system in exchange for two pitchers who probably won’t provide the pennant the Wilpons are so hungry for but at best add stability to an aging rotation. Dealing pesos on the dollar, the Mets sent AAA catcher Justin Huber to Kansas City for third base prospect Jose Bautista, then packaged Bautista, jobless infielder Ty Wigginton, and promising righty Matt Peterson to Pittsburgh for Kris Benson, the free-agent to be, and minor-league infielder Jeff Keppinger.
Moments later we learned they’d also paid through the nose for erratic, possibly injured Devil Ray righty Victor Zambrano. All they coughed up in this deal was studly prospect Scott Kazmir and, just for the hell of it, intriguing longshot pitching prospect Joselo Diaz. Along with Zambrano came a cup-of-coffee reliever called Bartolome Fortunato, who was assigned to Norfolk.