In an almost unimaginable flash of decisiveness and creativity, the Mets have apparently whacked hitting coach Rick Down and will begin the second half with Rickey Henderson as their hitting coach.
I know! It’s not like the Mets to go with relatively inexperienced braintrust, as evidenced by the piles of potential managerial material with Met bloodlines seeking their big-league opportunities elsewhere (Ron Gardenhire, John Gibbons, John Stearns, Wally Backman, etc.). And it’s not like they offer opportunities to those who leave them on bad terms very freely, as we noticed when Darryl Strawberry finally made it back to town last year. And it’s not like they go around firing guys, though Down ought to absorb at leastr some blame for an offense that has only been good in stretches since last August.
But Rickey is Rickey, nothing if not unique. He got the Mets to break No. 24 out of a limbo that, Kelvin Torve notwithstanding, dated back to Mays’ retirement in 1973. For the Mets in 1999, Henderson had what would be the last great year of his great career.
We’ll be watching to see whether they break 24 out of mothballs again for Rickey, or dress him in a coachy number like Down’s departed 54. Bet its the former.
Welcome back Rickey!
Newly named coach Howard Johnson was spied at Spring Training revealing jersey No. 52 and temporarily ending some wild speculation that he’d finagle his old No. 20 from Shawn Green. The rules of the jersey game clearly pointed to this outcome — coaches don’t take jerseys from players, except when the player happens to be someone like Jeff McKnight. Then, all bets are off.
Thanks to readers Gene and Matt for pointing it out.
Also worth noting: Coach Jerry Manuel is back in No. 53, with spring training invitee Aaron Sele in 35. Manuel, you may recall, was assigned 53 last spring but switched jerseys when Chad Bradford — who’d been assigned 35 — preferred the latter. This restores at least some orderliness on the coaching bench: Sandy Alomar Sr. is still waddling around in No. 2, but the rest of the staff are nice and Rube Walkerly in the 50s — Rick Peterson 51; Hojo 52; Manuel 53; Rick Down 54; Tom Nieto 55; and Guy Conti 56.
Other sightings at Spring Training, as reported by various witnesses: Carlos Gomez in 88 and Fernando Martinez in 67. There have been several photos of recently signed ancient catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. floating around the Met but none in a jersey we’ve seen yet. Let us know if find something.
Marty Noble on the Jose Valentin/Moises Alou “controversy” (I use quotes here because I strongly suspect Valentin has more affection for 22, his number for many years, than for 18,his number for just one. But good Nobling here nonetheless:
Sometime this year, Mets left fielder Moises Alou will receive a bill, the amount of which has yet to be established. It will come from his new teammate, Jose Valentin.“I haven’t decided yet,” Valentin said. “It depends on how well he plays.”
The bill will be compensation for the uniform No. 18, which Valentin surrendered to Alou. Valentin has changed to No. 22 — worn previously by Ray Knight, Donn Clendenon, Kevin McReynolds, Al Leiter and Xavier Nady, among others — to accommodate Alou. Except for his first two games with the Pirates in 1990, when he wore No. 52, Alou has worn No. 18 throughout his career.
Alou’s uncle, Jesus, wore No. 23 with the Mets in 1975.