Archive for Uni Controversies

Spring Has Sprung

So you may as well junk the post below, it contained little that wasn’t contradicted by the numerical roster dropped today by the club. Here’s your Spring roster, countdown style, or count up, if you prefer.

The news here as I see it is Luis Severino taking over Drew Smith‘s No. 40, forcing Smith into 33 and membership in the three-number club. (He was also 62 you may recall). Also noting that our friend Dr. Grant Hartwig has moved down in the world, from 93 all the way to 56. Sean Manaea takes 59, Adrian Houser 35 and Harrison Bader 44.

Looks like this year they tried to move the coaches to the 60s and those that didn’t are double-booked with a player.

It’s all below, hopefully without massive errors. NRIs in italics, coaches in blue.

Number Name Notes
0 Adam Ottavino, P
1 Jeff McNeil, INF-OF
2 Omar Narvaez, C
3 Tomas Nido, C
4 Francisco Alvarez, C
5 Unassigned (David Wright)
6 Starling Marte, OF
7
8 Unassigned (Gary Carter)
9 Brandon Nimmo, OF
10 Ronny Mauricio, INF
11 Jose Iglesias, INF 
12 Francisco Lindor, SS
13 Joey Wendle, INF
14 Retired Gil Hodges
15 Tyrone Taylor, OF
16
17 Retired Keith Hernandez
18
19 Shintaro Fujinami, P
20 Pete Alonso, 1B
21 Ben Gamel, OF
22 Brett Baty, 3B
23 David Peterson, P
24 Retired Willie Mays
25 Brooks Raley, P
26 Ji Man Choi, IB/DH
27 Mark Vientos, 3B
28 Carlos Mendoza, manager
29 DJ Stewart, OF
30 Jake Diekman, P
31 Retired Mike Piazza
32 Max Kranick, P
33 Drew Smith, P new number (was 40)
34 Kodai Senga, P
35 Adrian Houser, P
36 Retired Jerry Koosman
37 Retired Casey Stengel
38 Tylor Megill, P
39 Edwin Diaz, P
40 Luis Severino, P
41 Retired Tom Seaver
42 Retired Jackie Robinson
43 Trayce Thompson, OF
44 Harrison Bader, OF
45 Cole Sulser, P
46 Johan Ramirez, P
47 Joey Lucchesi, P
48
49 Yacksel Rios, P
50 Phil Bickford, P
51 Michael Tonkin, P 
52 Jorge Lopez, P
53 Chad Smith, P
54 Austin Adams, P
55 Kyle Crick, P
56 Grant Hartwig, P New number (was 93)
57 Taylor Kohlwey, OF
58 Rylan Bannon, INF 
59 Sean Manaea, P
60 Jeremy Barnes, hitting coach
61 Eric Chavez, hitting coach
62 Jose Quintana, P
63 Glenn Sherlock, catching & strategy coach
64 Mike Sarbaugh, 3rd base coach
65 Jeremy Hefner, pitching coach
66 Antoan Richardson, 1st base coach
67 Jose Rosado, bullpen coach
68 John Gibbons, bench coach 
69
70 Jose Butto, P
71 Sean Reid-Foley, P
72 Alex Ramirez, OF
73 Luisangel Acuna, INF
74 Zack Short, INF
75 Reed Garrett, P
76 Aaron Meyers, BP pitcher
77 Dave Racaniello, bullpen catcher
78 Eric Langill, bullpen catcher
79 Danny Barnes, strategy coach
80
81 Danny Young, P
82 Austin Allen, C
83 Yolmer Sanchez, INF
84
85
86
87
88 Cam Robinson, P
89 Drew Gilbert, OF
90 Jett Williams, INF
91 Josh Walker, P
92 Eric Orze, P
93 Dominic Hamel, P
94 Nate Lavender, P
95 Kevin Parada, C
96 Christian Scott, P
97 Mike Vasil, P
98 Hayden Senger, C
99
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Super Bowling

Hi, did you know the Mets begin camp this week? It’s been awhile since the last update… I kept waiting for them to get a guy I’d heard of but little luck in that department.

My Super Bowl Sunday read on the ’24 Mets is that they will have a hard time keeping up with the pitching of Atlanta or Philadelphia but hopefully can hit with them, portending lots of 7-6 victories. If they’re in it still come July then they go get the starters they need.

So who are these guys? And what number are they gonna wear? Here’s an early breakdown of the 40-man roster with little help from the Mets’ roster pages.

Tyrone Taylor appears to be issued No. 15. He’s the speedy reserve outfielder we picked up from Milwaukee along with pitcher Adrian Houser, for Coleman Crow, one of the guys we got from the Angels in the Eduardo Escobar trade. I’m getting a Collin Cowgill vibe from Tyrone, hopefully his results are better.

As for Houser, he’s among a bunch of guys–three-fifths of the projected starting rotation–waiting to be assigned uniform numbers. Houser wore 37 in Milwaukee so he’s looking at a change. Taylor was 15 there.

Free-agent infielder Joey Wendle is shown with 18, his number with Miami. Give the Mets’ plans to retire 18 for Darryl Strawberry this summer, it’s a good bet this doesn’t last.

The Mets will be the 9th team for journeyman lefty sidearmer Jake Diekman, who appears to be bound for No. 35. He signed a 1-year+option deal with the Mets.

You know the roster is unreliable when there’s huge swaths of unclaimed digits but two guys assigned the same number. That’s what’s going on with No. 48 where two free agents–outfielder Harrison Bader and reliever Jorge Lopez— both have a claim. Lopez wore 48 with Minnesota and Baltimore. Bader wore 48 with St. Louis. Either guy would be the Mets first 48 since Jacob deGrom.

Free agent reliever Michael Tonkin is listed in 59. I suppose he’s the Mets’ answer to losing Luis Guillorme to the Braves.

Rounding out the 40-man roster but without assigned numbers are starting pitchers Houser, Sean Manaea and Luis Severino; former Pittsburgh reliever Max Kranick; infielder Zack Short; and reliever Yohan Ramirez. They are all new  to the Mets this year. Youngsters Alex Ramirez and Luisangel Acuna will also be assigned numbers too.

Manaea has worn 55 most often in his career and that would appear to be available here. Severino was 40 with the Yankees; that belongs to Drew Smith now.

Finally there’s free agent reliever Shintaro Fujinami. The Mets haven’t even made his signing official a week+ after the news got out but I’m hoping he joins so as to have a No. 11 on the mound. When he joins there will be a guy whacked. I’d reckon one of Reed Garrett, Grant Hartwig or Josh Walker but who knows.

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Switcheroo

Then oftentimes unreliable winter Mets roster has been updated.

Headlining the data is a change for Drew Smith, who appears to be surrendering No. 62 to new arrival Jose Quintana and moving to No. 40 vacated recently by Chris Bassitt. Quintana we noted has been a 62 for most of his career.

Another controversy appears to have worked out by giving Tommy Pham 28, with Darin Ruf now listed in the 33 made available by James McCann‘s departure.

Then there’s a few guys who hadn’t been listed with numbers now having them. Lefty Brooks Raley is 25; that number belonged most recently to Tyler Naquin. Omar Narvaez is taking the 2 formerly with Dom Smith. (Dom appears to be going back to No. 22 with Washington, if their roster is to be trusted).

Then there’s info on a few guys who appear to be retaining whatever they wore last year and shouldn’t necessarily be trusted. Pitcher Jeff Brigham is 43, same as he was in Florida; the number is vacant so we’ll go with it. But I doubt Danny Mendick keeps to No. 20 he’s listed in, so you gotta take this info with a grain of salt until camp opens.

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We are Pham-i-lee

Catching up on recent Mets news, the club signed outlaw/outfielder Tommy Pham to a one-year deal and lists him wearing No. 28, which is unfortunate for Darin Ruf who’s the incumbent reserve outfielder/DH who also wears 28. Pham’s been a bit of an inconsistent performer who’s been moved around a bit; I thought he might have been a candidate to acquire last summer when he played for the Reds, but he wound up going to Boston instead.

Pham’s worn 28 with St. Louis, San Diego and Cincinnati so in the rare event he and Ruf both make the club I’d guess Pham takes 28.

You can probably search the archives of this site and find me advocating to move Jeff McKnight McNeil, who seemed at times unhappy and miscast, but I’m pleased to have been proven wrong. He signed a four-year extension this week that’ll keep him in blue and orange through age 35 and heightens the chance he, along with Brandon Nimmo, will be long tenured one-team-only Mets.

Barring injuries, Nimmo will no doubt overtake Todd Hundley as the club’s most prolific No. 9 of all time–he’s still about 1 season’s worth of games and at-bats behind Hundley and already leads all 9s in on-base percentage and runs scored.

McNeil’s shot at uni number immortality would seem to be the best three-numbered Met of all time. Ron Darling probably holds that title today.

 

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Feliz Narváez

Despite being handed a seemingly critical role for the 2023 Mets, Omar Narváez hasn’t gotten the try-on-the-jersey-for-the-cameras business yet.

Thanks in part to the merciful jettisoning of James McCann, the Venezuelan vet will presumably be our starting catcher most nights while serving as a sensei to a young Venezuelan catcher, Francisco Alvarez. Longtime reader Stu below brought up the question of what Narváez would wear; he was 10 the last three seasons in Milwaukee, but spent three years wearing 38 for the White Sox and one year in Seattle wearing 22.

As I tend do when these questions come in I check to see what guidance the Mets’ official roster would provide and the answer is often inconclusive. But in this case it’s also weird. The roster page lists Narváez as 10, as it does Eduardo Escobar who wore it last year and remains a Met for now. But when I click down on Escobar, look what comes up:

 

 

I’d like to think the Mets have folks working hard as me making this accurate but I’m sure some AI software glitch is to blame. I don’t think the Mets are giving away 5 ever again.

As to Narváez it looks like the available numbers are 2, 7, 15, 16, 18, 25, 29, 30, 33, 40, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, before we get into the 50s. Alvarez may want one of those lower numbers himself. It’d be cool if Narváez gets 15, and Alvarez takes 16, while Escobar stays in 10.

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Would You Dare?

Japan’s Kodai Senga is reportedly en route to Flushing as you know, and he’ll be wearing a different number than the 41 he rocked while a member of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. I think there’s a good shot he winds up wearing 18, a number traditionally associated with Ace pitchers in Japan, and happens to be available since Nick Plummer departed.

One other available number comes to mind: 48. Do you think the Mets ought to mothball Jacob deGrom‘s number, or give it away? deGrom is a special case of his class of pitchers. Steven Matz‘s 32, Matt Harvey‘s 33 and Noah Syndergaard‘s 34 all found their way onto other guys’ backs pretty rapidly. Me, I’d be okay if the Mets reissued 48 but would feel better were it for an organization comer and not some reliever who bounces between Syracuse and New York.

Is there an appropriate period of time before you’d issue it again? One full season seems appropriate. By then at least the Rangers will have won the World Series.

Thoughts?

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Zimmo!

I couldn’t be happier the Mets were able to retain Brandon Nimmo, who was something of a small superstar last year and a rare centerfield commodity on the market. His 8-year deal would practically assure he stays a Met throughout his career even if he’s destined to wind up in left field.

The Mets also added veteran reliever David Robertson to a 1-year deal, shoring up a bullpen that appears to be losing Trevor May, Seth Lugo and maybe also Adam Ottavino though it doesn’t appear that any of those palookas have a deal with someone else yet. But Trevor Williams just signed with Washington. Drew Smith will be back.

The new bullpen will have a bunch of new faces. There’s John Curtiss who was signed last offseason, spent 2022 recovering from elbow surgery, and still hasn’t been assigned a number.

Also on the 40 are brief visitors from last season Bryce Montes de Oca (63), Yoan Lopez (44), and Stephen Nogosek (85). Plus new guys awaiting number assignments: Jeff Brigham, Zach Greene (pinched from the Yankees in Rule 5), Stephen Ridings (waiver claim from the Yankees); Brooks Raley (trade with Tampa Bay), Tayler Saucedo (waiver claim from Toronto), and William Woods (waiver claim from Atlanta).

Elieser Hernandez might fulfill the Trevor Williams role. He came over with Brigham from the Marlins in a skirt-Rule-5 trade that cost the Mets fancypants prospect Jake Magnum.

The Mets already list Robertson as No. 30–that’s been his figure for most of his career and supersedes what we were discussing below about Raley taking 30. As pointed out in the below comments, Raley is now listed in 43, most recently belonging to unforgettable infielder Yolmer Sanchez.

 

 

 

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The Replacements

Here’s a quick exchange with friend of MBTN Dave on Twitter.

I confess to being somewhat ignorant of the 11-year career of Jose Quintana other than his involvement in a big trade between the White Sox (where he was an All-Star in 2016) and the Cubs, who coughed up the then big prospect Eloy Jimenez to get him. He’s a lefty from Columbia who’s worn 62 or 63 throughout his career which included subsequent stops with the Angels, Giants, Pirates and most recently, the 2022 Cardinals where he wore 62 and 63, not certain in which order. Here’s a fun fact: He was originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Mets. Now he’s essentially Taijuan Walker‘s replacement. I liked Walker, now he’s a Philly. Diabolical.

So let’s say Quintana keeps 62, and Drew Smith changes to something he prefers.

The Mets you may have seen made another deal, coughing up a lefty minor leaguer Keyshawn Eskew to the Rays for lefty reliever Brooks Raley. Raley who wore 30 last year with the Rays — but neglected to wear a pride patch and didn’t bother to get vaxxed — looks to be this year’s Joely Rodriguez. Joely wore 30 too.

I gotta say I’m not too excited about this guy.

 

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The Amazin’ Rise, the Sudden Fall, and the Painful Revenge of Johnny Lewis

Twenty-four was a meaningful number in New York long before the Mets came along.

Once they did, there were six Mets who played in 24 before Willie Mays, and three since. We’ve addressed the first two of the latter group already in Kelvin Torve and Rickey Henderson. Today is for the most Mays-ish of the former group, Johnny Lewis.

Like Mays, Johnny Joe Lewis was born in Alabama. Also like Mays, he was considered something of a five-tool player, hitting for power and average, throwing well, and running well. And while keeping things in perspective for the atrocious Met clubs he’d played for, Lewis was the Mets’ own Willie Mays in 1965, leading the club with 2.4 Win Shares according to Baseball Reference, and was the top scorer in a separate ranking of the ’65 club according to the Crane Pool Forum.

Lewis came to the Mets along with lefty Gordie Richardson in a December 1964 trade with St. Louis for pitcher Tracey Stallard and infielder Elio Chacon.

In his first season as a regular player in his career, the 25-year-old Lewis hit .245 with 15 home runs, 45 RBI and led the Mets in runs scored, walks, and on-base percentage. His 106 OPS+ was the only “plus” on the club that year but for rookie Ron Swoboda (103). Lewis was a lefthanded batter whom Casey Stengel often batted first, third or fourth in the order. Lewis split time in center field and in right, where he showed off a power arm.

On April 15 at Shea against Houston, Lewis caught a Jimmy Wynn fly ball with runners on first and third, and gunned down Walt Bond at the plate. Catcher Chris Cannizzaro then fired to second where Roy McMillan slapped a tag on the advancing Bob Aspromonte to complete a triple play. The game was won 5-4 on a walkoff 10th inning home run by Bobby Klaus.

Bill Gallo, New York Daily News

Bill Gallo’s Daily News cartoon said it best. Though Lewis and the Mets were on their way to their best start in their short history, they’d be buried by 47 games by the end of the year, and Lewis’ own fortunes would turn as well. As he slumped in August, the Mets had Lewis outfitted with eyeglasses; and by 1966, they were were tinkering with his batting stance.

According to John Stahl’s SABR bio, Lewis felt that manager Wes Westrum, who replaced Stengel late in 1965, may have had it in for him.

 “I had more homers and runs batted in than the Mets’ four other outfielders,” he said. “I only played when someone was hurt but I was always in there against the top pitchers. If (manager Wes Westrum) had something against me, or if I had done something wrong, I’d understand. I must say I didn’t get a fair shake by the Mets. But I’ll give them 100 percent.”

Lewis hit just .193 in 1966 when he was farmed out midseason. By the time he’d resurfaced in 1967, the Mets had given away his uniform number 24 to newly arrived third baseman Ed Charles. Charles however gave it back to Lewis when he was called up in May. (Charles took the No. 5 belonging previously to Sandy Alomar (Sr.) who was sent down when Lewis was recalled). When Lewis was sent back to Class AAA in June of ’67, his big-league playing career was over and the Mets were still looking for their Mays.

Lewis was not done with baseball, however, nor with ex-Mets. Cardinals GM Bing Devine, who crossed paths with Lewis in the Mets’ organization, named Lewis the Cardinals’ first-ever Black field coach in 1973. Lewis subsequently became Whitey Herzog‘s Cardinals’ hitting coach from 1985 through 1989. Lewis wore 48 in that treacherous stint, however, as 24 belonged to Herzog.

 

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The Legend of Kelvin Torve and the Say-Hey Kid

Art: Superba Graphics

Below is a reprint of an interview with Kelvin Torve I’d done nearly 13 years ago and first published here. In light of the Willie Mays announcement yesterday it’s just as relevant but I want to note here the phrase I used in the headline then, “Accidental 24” I’ve come to believe was more of a clandestine experiment than a goof. I’ll have more to say about the Willie Mays situation soon.

Kelvin Torve was a journeyman ballplayer whose brief career with the Mets is remembered as much for his uniform as for his game. But his moment in history reveals much.

A 10-year minor-league veteran when called up to the Mets to replace an injured Kevin Elster in August of 1990, Torve became the unwitting victim of a procedural screw-up that gave him temporary custody of a uniform number that was supposed to have been kept under guard for one of the team’s immortals. For reasons unexplained to this day they gave him No. 24, a uniform that hadn’t been issued to a player since Willie Mays finished his career with the Mets in 1973.

Joan Payson, the Mets’ original owner and unabashed fan of the Say Hey Kid dating from his career with the New York Giants, had promised Mays the Mets wouldn’t issue No. 24 following his retirement. The succeeding Met ownership, however, never got around to officially retiring the number, leaving 24 in an uncomfortable state of limbo just waiting for a situation like Torve’s to arise. (They should retire it in honor of Mrs. Payson, is what they ought to do). Embarrassed as public outcry grew, the Mets shortly re-fitted the South Dakota native in No. 39.

Torve, who today [as of February 2018] works as a salesman for a packaging company and teaches at youth baseball clinics around his Davidson, N.C., home, for his part remains a good sport about his accidental casting in a freaky Met episode. In the following interview, parts of which were conducted for, and included in, the Mets by the Numbers book, Torve discusses his career including his moment as an overnight sensation in Willie Mays’ clothes.

Tell me about your career leading up to the Mets.
I was drafted by the Giants and played four years with them. I was traded to the Orioles and played three years with them, making it all the way to AAA. Signed as a free agent with the Twins and played two years with them, mostly in AAA and part of 1988 with the Twins in Minnesota. After that, I spent two years with the Mets.

When you played, were you mostly an outfielder or a first baseman?
Mostly, I was a first baseman. I dabbled in the outfield, mostly if there was a chance to get another first baseman who hit lefthanded into the game. I also went to Instructional League with the Twins to learn how to catch, but that lasted about six weeks, and I was never to darken the doors of catcherdom again.

I guess that was not all that unusual for a player like yourself who was in the game for a long time and trying to be as useful as you can be.
Right. And I appreciated the Twins for giving me that opportunity. I learned a lot, but it didn’t work out. The ultimate goal would have been for me to be a third catcher with somebody, be a pinch hitter, play outfield and first base and in an absolute emergency go back there and put on the catching gear.

In your minor league career, you were a pretty good hitter [.303/.392/.453 in AAA Tidewater in 1990].
I hit well enough to be employed for 13 years. I was a good AAA hitter and had one good year in the big leagues with the Mets. My bat was what kept me in the game. I had a few opportunities but when you’re a minor leaguer for as long as I was you really have to make a splash immediately if you want to stay. The first year with the Mets, I did, and I got quite a few at-bats. The second year, I think I had only 8 at-bats. I hit the ball hard but didn’t get the breaks. That’s the way it goes.

You were a first baseman who didn’t hit many home runs.
That was the knock on me. I was a first baseman who didn’t hit enough home runs. But the Mets at that time had a guy at first base, Dave Magadan, who didn’t hit many home runs either. They at least had the foresight to challenge that stereotype. In baseball, like in a lot of careers I suppose, if you get a label like that, it’s hard to lose.

I wonder if you can set the scene for me. You’re called to the Mets in 1990 and issued a jersey for the first time. What do you recall about it?
24Nothing out of the ordinary. I just got there and saw a locker with my uni in it, No. 24. I didn’t give a second thought to it. I don’t know who assigned the number, it might have been Charlie Samuels but I’m not sure. I guess they didn’t give much thought either.

They didn’t ask you if you had a preference?
Oh, no.

So you’re in a situation where they take what they give you.
Yes. I had spent a long time in the minors. I was just happy to be there. I would have taken two-point-four if they’d asked me to.

When do you become aware that there’s some kind of outcry?
When I was called up we had a homestand with the Phillies and I think, the Cubs. Then we went on the road, to California, and while we were out there Charlie came up to me and said, “Listen, we made a mistake with your number. Some people have been calling in and writing in. So we’d like to change your number.”

I just said, “Shoot, that’s fine with me.” I didn’t want to be a pain about it. And I guess they wanted to keep it low-key, not make a big deal about it. So I just started wearing No. 39 from that point on.

Did you have any preference as to what number you would have wanted?
Not really. I’d played so long in legion ball and college and the minor leagues. I think I’d worn every number there was. I didn’t have any preference at all.

Did you hear anything from the fans, or pick up on it, while you were at Shea?
No, I didn’t. That’s not to say they weren’t yelling at me – just that I didn’t hear anything. The first time I was aware of it we were on the road and Charlie came up to me in the locker room and told me that’s Willie Mays’s number, so we have to change it. And I said, that’s fine.

I looked it up, and you were batting better than .500 in the No. 24 jersey.
Hopefully I did OK in it, because I know Willie Mays did it proud as well.

You played briefly with the Mets again in 1991, then to Japan, correct?
Two years, I played for the Orix Blue Wave. It was a good time. I’m nostalgic when I look back on that time, but while you’re over there it can be frustrating the way they play the game. It’s different than in the United States, and you’re a long way from home. But after leaving Japan, reflecting on it, I realize how much I did enjoy my time there, what it a blessing it was.

I was a teammate of Ichiro over there. When I was there he was a rookie. He was so young he rode his bicycle to the games!

Could you tell at the time he would accomplish as much as he has?
Yes, though back then nobody from Japan was coming to the United States. Watching him play you would say, it’s too bad they don’t because this kid could play in the big leagues. He was 18 at the time and the only thing he couldn’t do well then was throw, and he’s obviously gotten a lot better throwing since then. You could tell he was going to be really good.

What about your time with the Mets do you remember most?
I recall it as a good time because I was in the big leagues. My first at-bat, I got hit by a pitch. My second at-bat, I hit a double that knocked in a few runs [pinch-hitting in a contentious game featuring a Phillies-Mets brawl]. The morning after that I get a call that there’s some policemen waiting to see me in the lobby of the hotel.

Turns out a sports talk radio show had talked about me getting called up, being a kid from the prairie in South Dakota, and being in the big city for the first time. These New York City cops heard that and showed up at my hotel and gave me an escort to the ballpark! They said, we hear you might need help. It was all good natured. I got to be good friends with one of those cops and his family, a guy by the name of Al Weinman. We kept up with Al for years after that.

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