As pointed out in the comments below, LaTroy Hawkins has broken camp with the Mets wearing not the No. 30 assigned to him during the spring but No. 32. No word on what Jenrry Mejia will wear when he comes off the disabled list because 32 has been his assignment since his ill-fated and premature arrival three long years ago.
Otherwise it looks like the new Mets hit the field Monday in the same jerseys issued to them this spring. Numerically, that's Collin "Slammy" Cowgill in No. 4; Marlon Byrd in No. 6; Brandon Lyon in 34; Greg Burke in 46; Scott Atchison in 50 and Scott Rice in 56. I was rooting for Pedro Feliciano to return in his original jersey but there is still time for that it appears. I'd also have bet on Andrew Brown and Brandon Hicks to have made the squad, at least when camp began but to their credit have rewarded guys like Cowgill and Byrd for winning the jobs offered to them.
I tend to be optimistic in the spring in general (the blowout win on opening day is only helping) but would say I think this Mets team could have a pretty good offense this season just counting on improvements from Davis and Duda and the incremental upgrades from Bay to Byrd and Thole to Buck+ but the starting pitching is way too thin to imagine holding up over the course of a long year (with or without Santana, of whom I hadn't expected much of). The bullpen will be adequate. The defense OK. Overall, underestimated. Let's Go Mets!
Only days until we'll know what numbers the Mets will issue to their new personnel, and there's a lot of it. That includes at least 12 guys on the 40-man roster yet to have been issued a number, and at least a dozen more with spring training invites. And that doesn't include the couple of brand-name goods they may still buy this spring, Brandon Lyon (frequently but not always, 38) and Michael Bourne (most recently, 24 with Atlanta).
Let's start with a few good guesses. Shawn Marcum wore 18 last year with Milwaukee. That gives me an uncomfortable 10-year flashback to Jeff D'Amico, like Marcum a veteran junkball pitcher via Milwaukee, recovering from an injury, wearing 18. But that would require Tim Teufel changes his shirt (could Ruben Tejada surrender 11 in a chain reaction?) Marcum also has some equity in 28, although that belongs to Daniel Murphy. 38 would work as long as they don't issue it to Lyon should he come aboard.
Frank Francisco wore No. 50 throughout his career, but the Mets did not issue that last year and Francisco took 48. We could see him switch this year.
John Buck, acquired in the Dickey deal, wears 14 most frequently but with that retired here could wear 4 or if he dares, 44. Travis D'Arnaud appears to prefer 16. Zach Wheeler, as per his Twitter handle, appears to prefer 45, which is available. Omar Quintanila is back on a minor league deal and could reacquire No. 6, and Josh Satin could take back No. 3, but no guarantees for either. Finally there's the complicated case of Pedro Feliciano, who's worn 55, 39 and 25 in his Met stints. Who knows what they give him this time. His coming back to the Mets without having appeared at all for the Yankees and their arrogant general manager is about the greatest thing ever. I'm less certain he's got anything left, but that's what the invite is for.
The rest of the new guys are more or less unknown quanties and likely to take what's given them.
The following numbers are currently un-issued: 3,4 ,6, 12, 13, 15, 16, 20, 22, 30, 40, 43-47, 50, 55, 56, 58, 60, 61, 63-65, 67-72, 74-99, not to mention 0 and 00.
The following players need assignment, as per the Mets official roster: Pitchers Greg Burke, Gonzalez German, Darrin Gorski, Marcum, Hansel Robles and Wheeler; Catchers Buck, D'Arnaud,and Anthony Recker, infielders Brandon Hicks and Wilfredo Tovar; and outfielder Collin Cowgill.
Nonroster invitees awaiting unis: Pitchers Scot Atchison, Feliciano, LaTroy Hawkins, Aaron Laffey, Cory Mazzoni, Rafael Montero, and Carlos Torres; Catchers Juan Centeno and Landon Powell; Infielders Brian Bixler and Satin; and outfielders Andrew Brown, Marlon Byrd and Matt den Dekker.
See you in St. Lucie!
(Headline influence by Lindsay Buckingham).
That's what we did to and from Hawaii and now I'm back. Mets coaches in the meantime are busy flying into new and kinda weird unis, as you guys were astutely noting below.
Hitting coach Dave Hudgens, whose No. 52 went to new reliever Ramon Ramirez, dropped a digit and is now wearing No. 51. First base coach Tom Goodwin has been assigned No. 26 and bullpen coach Ricky Bones takes 25. Tim Teufel, the new third-base coach, is wearing 18 for some reason (an homage to his tormentor and former teammate Darryl Strawberry?) and in a move generating some controversy, new bench coach Bob Geren becomes the first man assigned Jose Reyes' former No. 7.
Now if were up to me I wouldn't have given away 7 to just anyone -- I was hoping a guy like Reese Havens might be next -- but if you want to look for something significant about Geren there's this: The number with which he has the most equity isn't 7 but 17: That's what he wore as as manager of the A's (and also as a player with the Padres). Considering 17 was also theoretically available for these Mets, its another indication that the organization appears to have turned the corner on Keith Hernandez. That number isn't going anywhere. No. 8 in the meantime is making a return as a jersey patch honoring Gary Carter, as seen above. Looks nice.
Finally a note on Tom Goodwin. As he explains in this article, Goodwin was one of those players who was wearing 42 as a tribute to Jackie Robinson but was not grandfathered in when Bud Selig made a show of retiring his number leaguewide in 1998. Thanks to EdgyDC for unearthing that.
Meantime, batting practice pitcher Eric Langill and bullpen coach Dave Racianello, previously listed as wearing 53 and 54 respectively, have been reassigned 78 and 79, respectively.
With the addition of new reserve shortstop Ronny Cedeno and returning pinch-hitter Scott Hairston -- and the subtraction of bungled phenom Fernando Martinez, who will try again with the Astros -- the Mets say their 40-man roster is whole again and, they say, unlilkely to undergo any further changes before it all begins again.
It's not just the weather making it as though like winter never came. The additions to the team were underwhelming enough and the finances bad enough that nobody bothered having a press event beyond conference calls or a caravan which is all well and good but denied us the introduction of new uni numbers until, I suppose, pitchers and catchers report. Following are guys on the 40 who are awaiting a number assignment:
PITCHERS: Robert Carson, Juerys Familia, Frank Francisco, Jeremy Heffner, Ramon Ramirez, Jon Rauch
INFIELDERS: Ronny Cedeno, Wilmer Flores, Reese Havens
OUTFIELDERS: Juan Lagares, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Cesar Puello, Andres Torres
Including the four non-roster invitees who already have number assignments (Miguel Batista, Daniel Hererra, Valentino Pascucci, Mike Baxter) the following numbers (up to 50) are available to issue: 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 16, 17, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 31, 33, 38, 45, 48, 50.
That's 13 guys and 20 numbers if I counted right. If I include additional non-roster invitees (likely to be issued numbers in the 60s or above anyway) it's 21 guys and 20 numbers. Who will wind up in which?
Let there be no doubt this is a low moment in the history of a franchise with plenty of them to choose from, but you could see it coming. Because the Mets owners are morons who for way too long invested poorly on behalf of themselves and their fans, they can no longer afford to keep one of the best players they'd ever developed. I always thought the best chance of saving Jose Reyes from signing with another franchise was if a new owner pulled a hero act but the Wilpons couldn't even get that right and so that's where we are. Reyes leaves town as the best shortstop the franchise ever had, its most exciting player, and among its most accomplished overall. One can certainly make an argument that he won't be worth what the Marlins are giving him but that's beside the point when a formal offer was never presented because it was so unaffordable. Congratulations, Mets.
All that said, I'm anxious as always to move on and Sandy Alderson yesterday began the process. He traded Angel Pagan to the Giants for an older counterpart, Andres Torres, and a nice looking reliever, Ramon Ramirez. Torres like Pagan had a good season in 2010 but struggled this year, and was well-liked by fans and teammates in San Francisco. He wore No. 56 most recently with the Giants, reminding me of another veteran center fielder acquired as a short term leadoff man, Brian McRae. Ramirez, well-traveled himself, wore 52 in Frisco last season.
He'll be joining a Mets bullpen that will also include new relievers Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, both signed as free agents. Rauch is a shaggy giant whom Keith Hernandez once called a 'Wookie.' He's hung around for years now despite only average results. Francisco has worn No. 50 his entire career: Word was the Mets would "retire" that number for 2012's 50th anniversary, so we'll see what comes of that. Rauch wore 51 early in his career and 60 more recently with the Diamondbacks and Twins.
Once again the Mets have completely screwed up a golden opportunity to do the right thing by their fans, caving in to pressure from the Commissioner's office to eschew wearing the city service agency hats honoring the 9/11 rescuers and victims and instead wearing league-approved gear adorned with a flag, as if that were even in the least bit appropriate given the alternative.
And in typical Met fashion, actors in the drama regardless of their actual degree of blame are scurrying from the scene, leaving those of us who actually care what happened as unsatisfied as ever. R.A. Dickey contends "they" (who?) confiscated the hats worn in pre-game ceremonies; David Wright says they didn't. Josh Thole says the team was threatened with a fine; Joe Torre says they weren't. The Wilpons say nothing.
I suppose I can guess what happened. Bud Selig was overly concerned about bruising the brand and ego of his official apparel provider, and as a result leaned on his debtor/friends, the Wilpons, to toe the line, which they did, never giving a second thought that by doing so they whizzed all over the tradition of their very organization, completely misread fan sentiment, and left anyone and everyone to hang out to dry, just as they did with their stupid stadium, the uniform, the Walter Read flap and dozens of other small crimes against love for this team.
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.
Quick note to acknowledge that Manny Acosta is bringing the high heat from Buffalo, demanding the dreaded No. 46 upon his return to the big squad. Dale Thayer, a recently arrived tomato can who had 46, agreed to a swap and took Acosta's previously assigned 36.
I didn't know this offhand, but Acosta is a former 46 with Atlanta. I guess this indicates he was always first in line for 46 following the departure of Oliver Perez.
OK Holmes (Sherlock, that is), time for another Met Mystery, courtesy of the following exerpted note from MBTN reader David:
At a baseball card show last month, a man approached me with an interesting photo that appears to be from a legends game. He asked if I knew anything about it. I was able to identify some of the participants (Earl Weaver, Don Zimmer, Lou Brock, etc) but really want to place the location and date. Since I didn't have a scanner I took several pictures on my phone. You can see the (larger) picture here.
Crazy as it sounds I think one of the keys to unlocking this mystery is the Met in the lower left. Close up is here. He doesn't seem tough to identify - older, wearing glasses. His number is partially obstructed but it appears that it would have to be #7. However, no #7 that I find lines up with this man. It isn't Ed Kranepool and many of the others are easily eliminated based on skin color, hair color, and so on. I simply cannot find a match for this man. I thought maybe it could be a seventy number, like 74 or something, but that number appears too far to the man's left for there to be another number after it.
Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. I know that #11 is Wayne Garrett thanks to your great site.
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As I told David privately, the photo is a little too blurry to identify anything for sure, but with young and old players in home and road uniforms, what looks like a minor-league setting (maybe Florida, note the ads on the fence) some kind of Old-Timers exhibition seems likely. The Mystery Met in the corner bears some resemblance to Mike Cubbage, no, but given the weird jersey sleeve-stripes, it could be anybody. There is one (Stearns?!?) or maybe two more Mets in that shot as well, not to mention some guys dressed in what look to be softball jerseys. Weird pic at any rate. Can you help identify the time, place and players in this shot? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks!
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Ike Davis, who looked like a veteran the day he stepped on the field for the Mets -- barely a year ago -- is looking like a veteran off the field too, exhibiting all the bushy-tailed bounceback of a 44-year-old, not the 24-year-old he is. News today is that its another three weeks in a boot and plenty of Geritol for Old Ike before we see him again.
The team we have out there today is barely hanging on: It's a real credit to Terry Collins that they've managed to not get killed out there most nights, much less put a few wins together. But it's not the kind of thing that's likely to last, and when the team's only living power hitter misses a couple of months with a bruise, that's bad.
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.