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Rickey & Willie

The Mets’ announcement on Old Timer’s Day that they’d retire Willie Mays‘ No. 24 addressed another long-neglected historical oversight of the Wilpon Era. That there was an Old Timer’s Day at all erased a bit of Fred-dom as well.

Both were solid hits with the fanbase, though the Mets as a brand might have gone a step further had they retired 24 for Joan Payson–or Willie AND Joan Payson–as I don’t believe any club has retired a number for a woman before.

For me personally, it was fortuitous timing as I’d just finished reading RICKEY: THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL, a bio written by ESPN’s Howard Bryant. I read a fair amount of baseball books and I thought this one was outstanding as Bryant writes powerfully about an enigmatic subject he argued was often misunderstood, mocked and degraded even as destroyed one all-time baseball record after another and forced his way into the innermost circle of baseball’s greatest all-time players, including Willie Mays.

When Henderson became a Met at age 40 in 1999, he was issued No. 24 for the first time since it belonged to Kelvin Torve and, it was emphasized at the time, with the blessing of Mays. What Bryant’s book revealed was that Mays was the reason Henderson had the odd distinction of batting righthanded and throwing lefthanded: Though a natural lefty, he simply imitated how Mays hit, and Mays was the reason Henderson was best-associated with the No. 24. Bryant also reveals that Rickey actually preferred No. 35 as “his” number–over his 25-year career with nine different teams, including four separate stints with Oakland–he’d worn 35 in Oakland, Seattle and Red Sox.

When the Mets acquired Henderson as a free agent over the 1998-99 offseason, 35 belonged to Rick Reed.

Henderson was born Rickey Nelson Henley in an Oldsmobile in Chicago on Christmas Day of 1958. His father John Henley soon separated from Rickey’s mother Bobbie who relocated to her hometown in Arkansas then moved with the Great Migration of Southern Blacks to Oakland–a destination of thousands of Black families that became the cradle of dozens of accomplished professional athletes with whom Henderson played with as children in the 1960s and 1970s (Mike Norris, Shooty Babitt, Lloyd Moseby, Gary Pettis, Glenn Burke, Dave Stewart and many others). Rickey took the last name Henderson after Bobbie remarried, and grew up determined to play football for the Oakland Raiders but was persuaded by Bobbie and a local scout, Jim Guinn, that baseball was the safer path. Because of his great ability in sports, Rickey was indifferently educated and hadn’t learned to read by the time he first turned pro.

Rickey is quoted, but sparingly—he’d never been trustful or particularly open with writers—but the book seems driven by input from Rickey’s wife, Pamela, who’d been his sweetheart since she was 14. Dozens of players, managers, writers and fans are interviewed, including Sandy Alderson, Rickey’s GM for much of Rickey’s stay career in Oakland and today is the Mets’ president who summed up how baseball viewed Rickey while predictably using the word “optics.”

In Alderson’s view, even the most astute baseball men … seemed preoccupied with the Rickey optics—the delivery, the flash, the personality, the whispers, the moods. Their inability to see through all that thus diminished his obvious ability in their eyes, partly because of their own prejudices, and partly because Rickey made the optics impossible to ignore. Rickey was a great player but, because of his moods and temperament, he was not quite a leading man. When it came to Rickey, baseball men focused on what he wasn’t often more than on what he was.

Although admired by fans for peculiarities that became urban legend (including the facetious John Olerud story, addressed within) Rickey was not a “class clown who reveled in what he did not know,” Bryant asserts. “He was a ferociously competitive, goal-driven athlete.” He never remembered names because that was difficult for him but his determination was such that he never forgot a perceived slight, whether it was money and respect (salary arbitration players who made more money than him, like Jose Canseco, or endorsement deals) or in competition with pitchers or catchers who prevented him from stealing bases) or writers (“The press wanted it have it both ways with Rickey: they wanted him to cultivate and trust them while they simultaneously mocked him,” Bryant writes).

Rickey became as Met only months before this site was launched. At the time  my enduring impression of Rickey was that shared by many white guys who’d seen his career form afar: He was a buffoon who diminished his own stolen-base record by declaring he was “the greatest” on the same day Nolan Ryan pitched his seventh no-hitter and reacted with “class.” On that day, May 1, 1991, I was putting together the sports page for a small daily newspaper and had my own aspirations to one day be a big leaguer in that field. I was certain then I was right and would have said then race hadn’t a thing to do with it. I was wrong about that, and Bryant’s book reminded me so. So did a resplendent season in 1999, perhaps Rickey’s best late-career year.

Here’s something else I’d forgotten about Rickey, he was a Mets’ coach in 2007.

Go buy Howard Bryant’s book.

 

 

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23 for 22

Hi everyone. If I had to guess I’d say this stupid lockout will get resolved by the end of this week, players wisely won’t go for a salary cap, the game will further deteriorate behind a universal DH rule and the real issues that need solving from the fan standpoint– the fact that baseball moves too slowly–won’t be addressed at all.

On a brighter note, it’s our 23rd birthday today. I’ve said this before but there’s hardly another website out there that’s been focused on the Mets as long as we have here. I’m totally available for media interviews.

On 2/2/22, let’s tip our cap to Al Leiter, whose exclusion from the Mets Hall of Fame is just baffling.

 

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Clip & Save: 2021 Mets Spring Roster

Well here it is, the Mets released a spring training roster.

As always this is subject to change but addresses a few mysteries and might be useful if you happen to be on your way to Florida next week (not me– hiding in the basement still).

I missed the obvious that Jonathan Villar might take over No. 1, and can report out friend Gene was right when he pegged Albert Almora taking over No. 4. Not weird that David Peterson abandons 77 but kinda weird he settles on Brian Schneider’s number 23 as both a player a coach: Watch for a potential switch there. NRI Jerry Blevins gets 26 which would be his third number with the Mets after previous appearances in 13 and 39. As noted Robert Gsellman gets a new number — 44 — while moving for Trevor May, and maybe new opportunity as word comes down that the borrowed time on Seth Lugo’s elbow has expired.

We’re also surprised to see Jordan Yamamoto assigned 45 and not 50, Miguel Castro or no. Sam Williams inheriting Yoenis Cespedes’ 52; Aaron Loup in Matz’ old shirt. Tip of the cap to Marcel Renteria, possessor of the highest number in camp at 97.

NRIs in italics:

Number Name Notes
0 Marcus Stroman, P
1 Jonathan Villar, INF was Amed Rosario
2 Dom Smith, IB-OF
3 Tomas Nido, C
4 Albert Almora Jr., OF
5 vacant Unassigned (David Wright)
6 Jeff McNeil, INF-OF
7 vacant
8 Vacant Unassigned (Gary Carter)
9 Brandon Nimmo, OF
10 Gary DiSarcina, CH 3rd base coach
11 Brandon Drury, INF-OF was Tony DeFranceco
12 Francisco Lindor, SS
13 Luis Guillorme, INF
14 Retired Gil Hodges
15 Guillermo Heredia
16 Jose Martinez, INF-OF
17 Vacant unassigned (Keith Hernandez)
18 Jose Peraza, INF
19 Luis Rojas, MGR
20 Pete Alonso, 1B
21 Mallex Smith, OF
22 Brian Schneider, CH moved from 23; was Rick Porcello
23 David Peterson, P moved from 77; was Brian Schneider
24 Vacant was Robinson Cano (suspended)
25 Ricky Bones, CH bullpen coach
26 Jerry Blevins, P
27 Jeurys Familia, P
28 JD Davis, INF-OF
29 vacant was Brad Brach
30 Michael Conforto, OF
31 Retired Mike Piazza
32 Aaron Loup, P was Steven Matz
33 James McCann, C
34 Noah Syndergaard, P
35 Trevor Hildenberger, P
36 Retired Jerry Koosman
37 Retired Casey Stengel
38 Arodys Vizcaino, P was Justin Wilson
39 Edwin Diaz, P
40 Jacob Barmes, P was Wilson Ramos
41 Retired Tom Seaver
42 Retired Jackie Robinson
43 Jerad Eichoff, P
44 Robert Gsellman, P moved from 65; was Rene Rivera
45 Jordan Yamamoto, P was Michael Wacha
46 Stephen Tarpley, P
47 Joey Luchessi, P was Chesen Shreeve
48 Jacob deGrom, P
49 Jeremy Accardo, CH assistant pitching coach
50 Miguel Castro, P
51 Tony Tarasco, CH first base coach, was Paul Sewald
52 Sam McWilliams, P was Yoenis Cespedes
53 Jeremy Hefner, CH pitching coach
54 Chili Davis, CH hitting coach
55 vacant was Corey Oswalt
56 Tom Slater, CH Assistant hitting coach
57 Dave Racianello, CH Bullpen catcher
58 Dave Jauss, CH Bench coach
59 Carlos Carrasco, P
60 Bruce Maxwell, C was Andres Gimenez
61 Sean Reid-Foley, P
62 Drew Smith, P
63 Thomas Szapucki, P
64 Yennsy Diaz, P
65 Trevor May, P was Robert Gsellman
66 Franklyn Kilome, P
67 Seth Lugo, P
68 Dellin Betances, P
69 Vacant
70 vacant was Ali Sanchez
71 Oscar De La Cruz, P
72 Wilfredo Tovar, INF
73 Daniel Zamora, P
74 David Rodriguez, C
75 Harol Gonzalez, P
76 Patrick Mazeika, C
77 Khalil Lee, OF was David Peterson
78 Eric Langill, CH Bullpen catcher
79 Ricky Meinhold, CH assistant pitching coach
80 Rafael Fernandez, CH BP pitcher
81 Johneshwy Fargas, OF
82 Jared Robinson, P
83 Tom Windle, P
84 vacant
85 Tim Tebow, OF
86 Jake Hager, INF
87 Mark Vientos, INF
88 Ryley Gilliam, P
89 Drew Furgeson, OF
90 Nick Meyer, C
91 Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF
92 Tylor Megill, P
93 Matt Allen, P
94 Ronny Mauricio, INF
95 Francisco Alvarez, C
96 Brett Baty, INF
97 Marcel Renteria, P
98 vacant
99 vacant
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Terrific

Tom Seaver, who led the Mets from laughingstocks to world champions and whose singular pride and in his excellence altered the franchise in profound and sometimes controversial ways, passed away Sept. 1 in California at age 75. No player in team history was as revered or influential as No. 41.

What strikes me about Seaver wasn’t just his remarkable ability but the dedication to that ability. He took a pride in craftsmanship and professionalism as few players did and was mindful and protective of what it meant to be excellent. No player took more pride in being among those selected as Hall of Famers. Seaver was better than most other ballplayers and knew it, worked hard to be sure it stayed that way, and wanted very much to be among others who shared that sentiment. That determination and pride would occasionally land him in controversy, clashing with two generations of club management inadequately prepared to deal with such a player and ultimately altering both the trajectory of Seaver’s career and the franchise’s very fortunes. I wrote about that unusual dynamic here.

So long, Tom Terrific.

 

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Clip n Save 2020 Spring Roster

Like Steve Cohen I was desperately hoping that 5-year transition period was some kind of joke but it turns out the joke’s on us. Cohen would been the wealthiest owner in the entire game and they screwed that up. How will the Wilpons top that?

Thanks all for the updates on the “bulldog edition” 2020 spring training roster. Here’s a new one with your corrections, additions and changes. Kinda cool that they remember Jeremy Hefner’s previous identity. Max Moroff, a longshot infield non-roster invitee, appears not to have been assigned a number yet, but could slot in at 7 or 33. Just as likely, Tim Tebow will appear in 15 and Moroff can have his assigned 85. (Update: Moroff is in uniform at 33)

By the way our partner site that hosts our number database was down briefly for repairs. We have a few tweaks to make still on the coach personnel which is why I keep forgetting the Mickey Callaway switch. We’ll be up to date soon!

Number Name Notes
0 Marcus Stroman, P was 7
1 Amed Rosario, SS
2 Dom Smith, IB-OF was 22
3 Tomas Nido, C
4 Jed Lowrie, INF
5 vacant Unassigned (David Wright)
6 Jeff McNeil, INF-OF
7 vacant was Marcus Stroman
8 Vacant Unassigned (Gary Carter)
9 Brandon Nimmo, OF
10 Gary DiSarcina, CH 3rd base coach
11 Tony DeFrancesco, CH 1st base coach
12 Eduardo Nunez, INF NRI
13 Luis Guillorme, INF
14 Retired Gil Hodges
15 Vacant
16 Jake Marisnick, OF
17 Vacant unassigned (Keith Hernandez)
18 Ryan Cordell, OF NRI
19 Luis Rojas, MGR
20 Pete Alonso, 1B
21 Matt Adams, 1B NRI
22 Rick Porcello, P was Dom Smith
23 Brian Schneider, CH quality control coach
24 Robinson Cano, 2B
25 Ricky Bones, CH bullpen coach
26 Jarrett Parker, OF NRI
27 Jeurys Familia, P
28 JD Davis, INF-OF
29 Brad Brach, P
30 Michael Conforto, OF
31 Retired Mike Piazza
32 Steven Matz, P
33 Max Moroff, INF NRI
34 Noah Syndergaard, P
35 Jacob Rhame, P
36 Retiring Jerry Koosman
37 Retired Casey Stengel
38 Justin Wilson, P
39 Edwin Diaz, P
40 Wilson Ramos, C
41 Retired Tom Seaver
42 Retired Jackie Robinson
43 Erasmo Ramirez, P NRI
44 Rene Rivera, C NRI
45 Michael Wacha,P
46 Pedro Payano, P NRI
47 Chasen Shreeve, P NRI
48 Jacob deGrom, P
49 Tyler Bashlor, P
50 Jeremy Accordo, CH assistant pitching coach
51 Paul Sewald, P
52 Yoenis Cespedes, OF
53 Jeremy Hefner, CH pitching coach
54 Chili Davis, CH hitting coach
55 Corey Oswalt, P
56 Tom Slater, CH Assistant hitting coach
57 Dave Racianello, CH Bullpen catcher
58 Hensley Muelens, CH Bench coach
59 Steven Gonsalves, P
60 Andres Gimenez, INF NRI
61 Walker Lockett, P
62 Drew Smith, P
63 Thomas Szapucki, P
64 Jordan Humphreys, P
65 Robert Gsellman, P
66 Franklyn Kilome, P
67 Seth Lugo, P
68 Dellin Betances, P
69 Vacant
70 Ali Sanchez, C
71 Nick Rumbelow, P NRI
72 Steven Nogosek, P NRI
73 Daniel Zamora, P
74 David Rodriguez, C NRI
75 Austin Bossart, C NRI
76 Patrick Mazeika, C NRI
77 David Peterson, P NRI
78 Eric Langill, CH Bullpen catcher
79 Adonis Uceta, P NRI
80 Francisco Rios, P NRI
81 Johneshwy Fargas, OF NRI
82 Matt Blackham, P NRI
83 Ryley Gilliam, P NRI
84 Kevin Smith, P NRI
85 Tim Tebow, OF bet he turns up in 15?
86 Jake Hager, INF NRI
87-99 ???
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Now It’s Time To Say Goodbye to All Our Company

As often the case I have mixed feelings about the departure of a Mets manager. I think Mickey Callaway tried his best, but he wasn’t served well by his lack of experience, the departure of what few champions he had in the front office, and a tendency to look unprepared, say dumb things and give back advantages, but I wondered if by the end of this last fun and furious run — the SHaMs went from 10-under to 10-over .500, that’s a 90-some win clip over the course of a long year — if he wasn’t finally getting the hang of it. Perhaps Mickey might now go off to some place like Pittsburgh or Kansas City and use the hard lessons he absorbed Queens to become something more than an average manager.

Jim Riggelman, hired as bench coach just in case Mickey sent up a better not properly listed on his lineup card, was naturally let go as well, freeing up the No. 50 I hardly remember even seeing this year.

This will give us all plenty to speculate about in coming days and weeks but my early sense is that the Mets, as usual, will abruptly overcorrect and hire an experienced guy, making sure they make a show of what they learned the last time they signed a rookie skipper.

Who do you like? I think there’s some bad stuff hanging around Buck Showalter, but hasn’t the guy demonstrated he can win? Joe Girardi won’t screw up at Mickey’s pace but will he infect this seemingly fun-loving group with his sense of dread? And is there something to this buzz around Luis Rojas and his magnificent control of quality? Stay tuned.

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You Kooz, You Lose

The Mets do a lot of curious things, frequently for all the wrong reasons, but today’s out-of-the-blue announcement that they’re retiring No. 36 in honor of Jerry Koosman, 40 years after he left the team, is curiouser than most, and is sure to have consequences that’ll ripple through our uni-verse for some time.

Jeff Wilpon in an announcement today said the club’s Hall of Fame committee, whoever they are, made the recommendation, but appeared to acknowledge that taking uniforms out of circulation was primarily a thing the fans wanted to see and would became the way the Mets suddenly do things from now on, so it can expected they’ll cave to the even louder fan drumbeat and similarly take out the jerseys of Hernandez, Strawberry, Carter, Gooden, Wright, Kranepool and who knows how many more with similar honors in the years ahead.

I have nothing against Jerry Koosman, who was was my Mom’s favorite Met and compares favorably with lefties from other organizations who’ve had their numbers retired, like Ron Guidry, for example, but again it’s a head scratcher inasmuch I’ve received literally hundreds of emails and comments over the years about number retirement and none of them clamor for the Kooz.

Personally I’ve always been uneasy about the precedent of retiring numbers and find the “fans want it” defense weak. I’d prefer they re-issue the good ones. Mickey Callaway of all people talked about what an honor it was to have worn 36 but sitting there in his new number 26, also confessed he didn’t care what number he wore, as long as it didn’t belong to a player. On message as always!

Congrats Kooz. Goodbye 36.

 

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Travis-ty

Even though we prepared for it below we never said a proper goodbye to Travis d’Aranud, who as you may know since his release has been drifting across the country, trying new batting stances along the way. The erstwhile prospect was picked up his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers, dressed in No. 72, and had a single pinch hitting appearance until yesterday when he was shipped to Tampa Bay, where he’s something of their version of Devin Mesoraco, acquired because the starter and the backup were hurt. Not sure what number d’Arnaud will appear in, but it’ll be against the Yankees so we’ll wish him better luck than normal.

Speaking of Rays the Mets picked up one of theirs the other night as Wilmer Font showed up, worse No. 68, and pitched okay for a few innings in a disheartening Mets loss. Font is the third 68 in Mets history: You might recall 2019 NL MVP Jeff McNeil wore it last year for the Mets; before that, it was lefty reliever Dario Alvarez.

Next up is the pending Mets debut of Jed Lowrie, issued No. 4. We’re also anticipating a potential reunion with Carlos Gomez who’s hitting well in AAA while Keon Broxton is not up here. Stay tuned!

Update: Travis wearing 37 in Tampa and… making plays!

 

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Hech of a Move

The Mets today recalled AAA shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and sent reserve first baseman Dom Smith to Syracuse. Tough break for Smith who’s been terrific even as a bench player but he could probably use the action with Pete Alonso getting established as the starter and the club in need of real reserve shortstop. Beyond that, Hechavarria is off to a strong start himself and had one of those promote-me-or-release-me deals kicking in.

Interestingly Hechavarria has been issued No. 11. He wore 25 during spring training while fellow veteran striver Rajai Davis (since released ) wore 11. Hechavarria is a former 11 wearer with the Rays.

I had to look the up the last 11 in a Mets uni. I’d basically already forgotten Jose Bautista was ever a part of the org.

In other news Ryan O’Rourke was recalled the other day when Jeurys Familia (general stinkiness) was put on the 10-day “IL.” O’Rourke retained his inappropriate No. 71 he wore this spring, becoming only the second player in club history to wear 71. The first and last: Germen Gonzalez Gonzalez German in 2013-14.

The O’Rourke recall by the way marked the first “new Met” introduced since the season began in late March: Roster historian Jason checked in to remark that April 2019 was the first April since 1974 to include no new Met debuts. You could look it up.

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Broxbuster Trade

So I thought I’d stop talking about hockey for a minute and inform our audience that the Mets have gone and traded for centerfielder Keon Broxton of the Brewers.

Broxton is one of those guys who combine speed, power and strikeouts but brings a highlight-reel kind of glove. He bats righthanded, so if they think he’s a starter (and maybe he’s not), it’s likely this move is another signal that Juan Lagares is on his way out of town. That bit is okay by my thinking; Lagares never really showed the kind of bat consistency we needed and I’m a little skeptical his glovework holds up given his foot injury; some centerfielders just don’t age well. Plus, Lagares was always a Sandy Alderson-Paul DePodesta kind of project and it’s pretty clear those guys could be on their way out. Bobby Wahl, the “headliner” in the Juerys Familia trade last season, is one of three guys the Mets coughed up for Broxton: Minor leaguers Adam Hill and Felix Valerio were the others.

Broxton, who lost a regular gig when the Brewers acquired Lorenzo Cain last season, wore No. 23 in Milwaukee which is available now that the Mets have released Matt den Dekker, who wore it most recently. Wahl surrenders No. 61.

In other news the Mets have signed a bunch of vaguely familiar guys to minor league deals. Veteran lefty swingman Hector Santiago (a 53 with the White Sox and Angels) walks too many guys and also gives up a lot of home runs but was once an pity-choice All-Star for the Angels. There’s Arquimedes Caminero (65 tons of American Pride), a high-heat reliever whose already collected 4 different numbers for three different teams. Rymer Liriano, Gregor Blanco and Rajai Davis can fight out the reps at Syracuse; all three are probably disappointed to see Broxton arriving.

We should see an updated roster in a month or so; but alter reader Jim noted there’s an unofficial (and probably inaccurate) roster up at SNY. Interesting to see Rule 5 draftee Kyle Dowdy listed in 89 Familia is not going to wear 32.

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