Well it took less than a week before the Mets required reinforcements, as righthander Paul Sewald was recalled from AAA Las Vegas following last night’s game and reserve Ty Kelly designated for assignment.
And though we feared that recent history would result in Sewald retaining the ghastly No. 79 he wore during spring training, good sense prevailed and Sewald will suit up in the somewhat less controversial No. 51, last seen on the back of Jim Henderson last year, Jack Leathersich the year before, bullpen predecessors Rick White, Mike Maddux, and Mel Rojas, and a ton of coaches. Fun fact: The only position player ever to appear in a Mets game wearing No. 51 was Lance Johnson in a one-game issue on Mookie Wilson Day in September of 1996 (Mookie, then a coach, and Johnson, then wearing No. 1, switched for the occasion). Johnson had three hits including a triple that day.
For the Mets the move to 13 pitchers would presumably give additional hitting opportunities for little-used bench guys like Michael Conforto and T.J. Rivera, but I’d suspect the move has more to do with the unsteady performance of the low-end bullpen guys like Josh Smoker and Rafael Montero and the fact that there’s just 2 off-days among the next 32. Eventually, I’d like to see Brandon Nimmo get that Ty Kelly role but he’s I guess we have to get through this next batch and see what happens. At any rate, we need to hit more.
Ty never got back to me on my suggestion he switch to No. 11, by the way. I’m telling you right now, it’s harder to DFA a guy wearing 11 than a guy wearing 56. Think of your career, man.
Just goofing off this morning, came across this highlight video featuring two of my favorite Mets thrilling Canadians in 1989. Both Mookie Wilson and Lee Mazzilli would finish their playing careers as Blue Jays, and both are remembered fondly in Toronto for helping the ’89 Jays to the finish line in a tight pennant race. It’s odd to see Mookie wearing any number other than 1, but I agree with Cito Gaston: I’d pay to see him do his stuff.
Here in the present, we’re lucky to once again be encountering an opponent going through a rough stretch, and to our credit, keeping them there. Second halves have not been kind to the Mets lately but this is looking like a team capable of hanging around, especially if they get some right-handed hitting. I remarked below that it was shame to have lost Vinny Rottino for that very reason. I’d have him in the lineup against Kershaw tonight.
Normally I wouldn’t note the addition of September coaches to the staff as official jersey issues except in passing but we’ll make an exception here for Class AA skipper Wally Backman, who beginning today and continuing through the end of the season will assume Mookie Wilson’s duties as first base coach. Wilson departed Metville Saturday as a result of a death in the family.
Backman, you may have noticed, was wearing the appropriate No. 86, and would be the first uniformed staff in a game to wear that number. Buffalo manager Tim Tuefel (who might replace Backman coaching against left-handed managers?) is also in town and wearing No. 81.
Terry Collins, who’s done a pretty good job keeping this team in a winning mindset despite frequent violations of his pledge to “play this game the right way,” has said he’d like to have his staff back again next year, although there’s been speculation that Chip Hale might join Bob Melvin in Oakland. As we said a year ago when Hale was considered for a managerial job with the Mets, his departuire would be leave a palpable void in the third base coaching box, considering some of the clowns who proceeded him. His replacement could be Backman, but maybe not unless the Mets consider a little more security for Collins first.
MBTN readers rock! Check out the photo here from Richard from Dix Hills, who was down at Lake Buena Vista this afternoon and delivered this heartwarming photo of Mookie Wilson back wearing the number God intended for him. As everyone knows, No. 1 has been occupied for more than three years by Luis Castillo, whose departure Friday caused some mixed feeling here. And let’s face it, the idea he had somehow usurped Mookie’s birthright was one of the reasons so few were sad to see him go.
But let’s be fair to Castillo for a change and acknowledge that while he’ll never go down as anyone’s favorite No. 1, he stuck around long enough and accomplished in sufficient enough quantities to rank higher than most others who have shared the No. 1 jersey. Would you believe that as we approach 50 seasons of Mets history, only Mookie has appeared in more games wearing No. 1? Castillo’s.274 career batting average with the Mets trails only Lance Johnson’s .326, Richie Ashburn’s .306 and Mookie’s own .276 among all players to wear No.1 for the Mets. Here’s how it all shakes out among the top No. 1s in Mets history, ranked by games played in the jersey — Vince Coleman’s 1993 wearing No. 11 doesn’t count:
It was never Luis Castillo‘s fault that he was offered a contract that was four times the length it should have been, nor was it his fault that the organization that offered that deal couldn’t or wouldn’t find a better second baseman long after it was clear that it didn’t possess the kind of dynamic offense that could afford to carry an everyday player with such limited usefulness. And even now that we know Castillo has been released, it’s not even clear there’s a vastly superior option to replace him. So even if the Mets are doing the right thing today by cutting Castillo loose, there’s something profoundly sad about the whole thing.
Aside from a creaky first year and one really, really, really bad error, Castillo gave the Mets almost exactly what they should have expected from a slap-hitting, low-power, chubby, aging middle infielder with good on-base skills: Slap hits, little power, declining range and baserunning, and good on-base skills. As for Andy Martino’s provocative piece in the Daily News this morning, I’m glad he’s out there asking those questions, because he’s right about one thing: Fans have a bad habit of assigning character flaws to players whose performance disappoints, and the amount of fan abuse and media attention Castillo drew was way out of proportion to his crimes. He should not have ridden the pine last year so that a player who was so over his head offensively that he’s not even in the conversation as a starter this year could have played, much less while the Mets still had at least a prayer.
I’m sure we’ll see Mookie Wilson back wearing No. 1 again soon.
Terry Collins pretty much spoiled the idea of returning to wear No. 1 once he invoked the name of Jim Leland, but it doesn’t mean Luis Castillo is in the clear yet. Newspapers last week were speculating that Mookie Wilson would be named to fill the vacant first-base coaching job — and maintain the proper quota of 1986 laborers in continuing employ with the Mets as stipulated in a secret contract somewhere.
No seriously, Mookie’s a perfect guy for the job — let’s face it, Mookie’s perfect for about any job — so let’s hope it happens, and happens in his customary No. 1. Though real Mookologists know he wore another number — 51 — during his first tenure as a first-base coach under Bobby Valentine in 1997, accommodating Lance Johnson at least until Johnson was traded to the Cubs that August. The Met Braintrust also intends to name an outside choice as hitting coach, a good idea since the Mets have never really developed any hitters of their own beyond David Wright, who already has a job, and, of course, my close personal friend Darryl Strawberry.
Darryl you might know has a new restaurant out in Douglaston, which was where I ran into him a few weeks ago. Literally: I exited the Men’s room and there he was across the narrow hallway at the entrance to the kitchen. Though I was expecting a destination type place typical of jock establishments, Strawberry’s Sports Grill is really a neighborhood joint on a deadend street across from a LIRR station in bucolic Douglaston, itself resembling a North Shore Nassau County town. It’s loaded with memorabilia from Straw’s career including the Mets locker pictured above but plenty of Yankee stuff from his time there. I guess that’s just a business decision. Times are tough in the restaurant business these days.
The wings were sports-bar acceptable, the “1961” burger was pretty good despite the Yankee affiliation, and the bartender was terrific. But our server was kinda slow and surly if you want to know the truth. Some locals mentioned that the site had been though several incarnations before Darryl took the reigns, and if I weren’t terrified and stammering idiotic things like “Thanks!” over and over again to him during our brief meeting, I’d probably mention it to him — that and get him to remark on the significance of No. 18. I had a chance to touch the man’s shoulder as I turned him for the photo (thanks Greg!) and can report it’s massive and as firm as a car seat.
In summary, Darryl’s not the next hitting coach even though he’s a former 1986er, and you should get a beer and a burger at Strawberry’s while it’s still standing.