Archive for Useless Milestones

Meet the Mets’ All-Time Top 10 34s

Elbow surgery will cost Noah Syndergaard whatever becomes of this season and quite possibly much of the next, but if he never throws another pitch for the Mets, you can probably already make a rock-solid argument for Thor as the greatest Met ever to wear No. 34.

The big righty needs just four victories to claim the most wins by a Met 34: That title still belongs to Mike Pelfrey and his 50-54 career won-loss record in New York. Fans can dismiss Pelfrey as underperforming their expectations, but when he departed in 2012–ominously enough as a result of early-season Tommy John surgery–Pelfrey had long since vanquished the career marks of most all of his predecessors in the 34 jersey. That’s the way this number has pretty much gone: Set-up men, lightly regarded reserve hitters and as you’ll see below, a few disappointing starters.

Syndergaard in the meantime has racked up a career 47-30 record over five seasons (a team-best .610 winning percentage for guys with more than 10 decisions), and a massive lead in strikeouts with 775 in 716 innings over Pelf’s paltry 506 K’s in 869.1 innings. Both Pelfrey and Syndergaard cut imposing figures on the mound and came armed with good fastballs, but their careers look vastly different.

Best of luck to Syndergaard, who for some reason is getting elective surgery in New York this week. To help him recover, here’s my list of the Top 10 All-Time Met 34s as ranked by my proprietary mix of science and Met-ness:

  1. Syndergaard (2015-present). For what it’s worth, Thor is also 2nd all-time among home runs by guys who wore 34 (6).
  2. Bob Apodaca (1973-1977): An undersized, undrafted righty, Apodaca rode a mean sinkerball and his wits to set-up success for some awful Met clubs. 26 saves and a 2.84 ERA, a post-career stint as a wise Mets’ pitching coach and one of the greatest quotes of all time: After a white-knuckle, opening-day save in his first-ever appearance, Apodaca remarked to the New York Times that shaking Jerry Grote’s hand afterward was the greatest feeling he ever had “except maybe sex.”
  3. Mike Pelfrey (2006-2012) A top draft pick who ultimately shared more in common with the guys at 8 and 9 on this list than the ones above him. I like to re-imagine Pelfrey’s career were he a short reliever. Somehow managed to give up a home run to the first batter ever to appear in an official game at CitiField.
  4. Chico Walker (1992-93) A bargain for the “Worst Team Money Could Buy” Mets, Walker was a versatile role player who mostly on the strength of his 1992 year, grabbed all-time club records for games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, and RBI by guys who wore 34 that still stand today.
  5. Danny Frisella (1968-1972) Righhanded set-up reliever with a terrific forkball had an absolutely dominating season out of the pen in 1971 (8-5, 12 saves, 1.99) and was fairly reliable at other times. Tragically died in dune-buggy accident in 1977 while his career was still going.
  6. Cal Koonce (1967-1970) Yet another heavily-used right-handed set-up reliever, Koonce gets bonus points for his presence if not performance for the 1969 world champs. Was much better in ’68.
  7. Junior Ortiz (1983-84) Have you noticed that reserve catchers who can’t actually hit are invariably described as having a rep for handling pitchers? That’s our Junior, who stopped in on his way to a 13-year career. Wore No. 0 with the Pirates and Twins. Distinctive beard.
  8. Kris Benson (2004-05) Acquired in controversy, discarded in disgrace, and hardly worth all the fuss he caused in between, Benson was an average starting pitcher who fooled everyone into thinking he was a superstar.
  9. Pedro Astacio (2002-03) One of those veteran acquirees who starts off really strong before reminding everyone why he’s a journeyman. Astacio was actually one of the better pitchers in the league in 2002 through August, when he completely lost it.
  10. Blas Minor (1995-96) Occasionally effective right handed setup man, somewhat carelessly traded to Seattle for a minor leaguer after a rough start in ’96.
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More Spring Data

Last week we published the Mets all-time record in Spring games. This week, our special guest data scientist has provided a detailed breakdown of that record including some stuff that the team’s “official” record, as published in its annual media guide, has overlooked.

Kind of interesting, but the Mets have never played the Cactus-Leaguing spring clubs of the Brewers, Rockies, Diamondbacks or Padres. Here’s the data (click to embiggen):

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Mets Spring Training Historical Record

MBTN’s readers are the best readers. One of them, who chooses to remain anonymous, has painstakingly assembled and graciously shared the following staggering bit of overlooked team history, which we will present in two parts. Today, here’s a look at the club’s year-by-year spring training record. Now, few of us put real stock in spring records but it’s not like meaningless and overlooked details have stopped us before.

Excluding ties, the Spring Mets are just a tiny bit better than their regular-season counterparts with a .487 winning percentage to the club’s .481. And hat’s off to the 1988 club, whose performance in Florida set the spring standard. We’ll share more detailed data on spring records soon.

1962 12 15 0 .444 .444
1963 15 12 0 .556 .556
1964 10 17 1 .357 .370
1965 11 15 1 .407 .423
1966 14 10 1 .560 .583
1967 13 13 0 .500 .500
1968 9 18 1 .321 .333
1969 14 10 0 .583 .583
1970 13 12 1 .500 .520
1971 15 12 0 .556 .556
1972 15 8 0 .652 .652
1973 11 13 0 .458 .458
1974 11 13 0 .458 .458
1975 8 18 0 .308 .308
1976 4 11 0 .267 .267
1977 11 14 0 .444 .444
1978 10 15 0 .400 .400
1979 10 13 2 .400 .435
1980 5 11 0 .313 .313
1981 13 13 0 .500 .500
1982 10 14 0 .417 .417
1983 11 12 0 .478 .478
1984 13 11 0 .542 .542
1985 13 12 0 .520 .520
1986 13 13 1 .481 .500
1987 12 14 1 .444 .462
1988 19 10 0 .655 .655
1989 12 18 0 .400 .400
1990 8 5 0 .615 .615
1991 15 14 0 .517 .517
1992 15 15 0 .500 .500
1993 15 14 0 .517 .517
1994 21 13 0 .617 .617
1995 17 20 0 .459 .459
1996 16 12 1 .552 .571
1997 11 14 2 .407 .444
1998 19 11 1 .613 .633
1999 15 16 2 .485 .516
2000 14 12 1 .519 .538
2001 18 10 3 .581 .642
2002 12 19 1 .375 .387
2003 16 14 2 .500 .533
2004 13 20 1 .382 .394
2005 17 11 2 .567 .607
2006 16 14 1 .516 .533
2007 12 21 1 .363 .375
2008 20 11 1 .625 .645
2009 18 15 1 .529 .545
2010 14 16 1 .451 .467
2011 17 15 2 .500 .531
2012 9 20 2 .290 .310
2013 15 15 3 .455 .500
2014 14 16 2 .438 .467
2015 19 12 2 .576 .613
2016 8 17 5 .267 .320
2017 15 17 3 .429 .469
2018 10 18 3 .323 .357
2019 13 16 2 .419 .448
TOTAL 769 810 54 .471 .487
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Street Hassle

I probably should have investigated this before the man was dead, but didn’t realize till just now that Andy Hassler is among those Mets who purportedly have worn another number than the one listed here for him.

Game-worn Hassler jersey

Hassler, a lefty whom the Mets acquired at the ’79 June trade deadline from Boston, and who sadly just died at age 68, wore the number 44 jersey pictured here (found this pic on an online auction site, reportedly it’s game-worn). But the shirt I was looking for would bear No. 50, one of two Mets numbers listed as having been worn by Hassler at the Baseball Reference site (bbr appears to use Jack Looney’s NOW BATTING, NUMBER… as a reference. Neither is precise enough to identify the times and dates worn).

Orosco’s debut, opening day 1979 (Bill Buckner batting!)

While anything is possible, I’m fairly confident Hassler didn’t wear No. 50. For one thing that would have made him the very first position player ever to have been issued a number in the 50s for the Mets (as noted here before, it wasn’t until 1980 that the Mets started goofing around like that, even though Jesse Orosco earlier that year broke the 60s cherry). For another it would counter plenty of memories and photos and rosters showing Hassler wearing 44.

Hassler was a Met only through the end of that 1979 year so pickings are slim. If he did wear 50, it would likely have been in his June 19 debut at Houston (occasionally when the Mets were traveling back then a debut player might be issued a number he wouldn’t wear once the club returned home, like Tom Hall wearing No. 42). Would the ’79 Mets be traveling with a spare No. 50 jersey? Perhaps, were they planning to fire a coach but I don’t see an obvious occasion for it.

Do you know something? Please let me know! I know there are several of these mysteries out there still.

As to Hassler, he was acquired on the same day the Mets picked up Dock Ellis in a separate trade, an admission that the pre-season gamble of going with young guys like Orosco over costlier rejects like Nelson Briles that spring had failed. Hassler was just off having hospitalized once-and-future Met Mike Jorgensen with a ball off the noggin. For the Mets he was a swingman with a good curve but poor control and ultimately allowed to leave as a free agent.


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Carlos Danger

Congratulations to Carlos Beltran who in a move I can barely get my head around is returning to the Mets, as their manager, apparently with Terry Collins as his bench-coaching sidekick.

The move is so unusual on so many levels, and I’m so suspicious of the Mets’ motives generally, that I’m having a hard time getting past downside scenarios and telling myself this was another one of those gigantic Wilponian compromises that reveals the club’s elemental obsession to be praised and its terrifyingly paranoid internal workings.

It’s a move with something for everyone: Fans get a figure they loved; players get a guy who engenders reverential respect; Brodie gets a back-page win and enhances his brand of bold unpredictability; Fred gets a white-haired old baseball man; Jeff gets ticket sales and presumably, cover for budget consciousness; and the press gets lots to write about and a return of not one but two good quotes.

But I still found myself though with lost of worries off the bat. If things go wrong, and they will at times, how will the rookie skipper manage? And if gets really bad, and it might, will the club ever have the juice to fire a guy certain to be elected to the Hall of Fame during his tenure as manager?  Is Terry here as a kind of shadow Xs and Os man and Beltran merely a front–and what happens if they don’t get along? What will the players make of the re-installation of a guy they were told wasn’t good enough to manage them only a few seasons before? And would you trade the new manger for 7 more years of Zack Wheeler?

I realize a lot of these worries have upside too and as expressed below I might personally have been inclined to try a guy with less built-in like Tim Bogar but I’m willing to give it a shot. That, as they say, is why they play the games.

As to the unis, 15 is available for Beltran and 10 most recently belonged to first-base coach Gary Disarcina who may or may be not be back.

And speaking of those who won’t be back and for that matter of center fielders from Puerto Rico, the Mets have made it official they were parting ways with Juan Lagares, who started off better than anyone expected but who also would progress less than might have been hoped. Juan played more games wearing No. 12 than all but John Stearns and Ken Boswell and departs as the uniform’s greatest triple-hitter of all time. Joe Panik (2) and Donnie Hart (68) also became free agents after refusing minor-league assignments.

Other Met free agents are Luis Avilan (43), Brad Brach (29), Rajai Davis (18), Todd Frazier (21), Rene Rivera (44) and Wheeler (45).

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Star Search

Well the season remains frustratingly hopeless, and I’ll shortly be off to Flushing to watch Zack Wheeler (along with returning bullpen stiffs Avilan, Familia and Wilson) audition for the Yankees, but let’s take a moment to celebrate the naming of three deserving All-Stars from this year’s roster.

It needed to be pointed out to me that Jeff McNeil became the first Met All-Star ever to wear the number 6; then again, McNeil is doing lots of things no No. 6 has ever done. And that prompted my pals at the Crane Pool Forum, particularly Faith & Fear’s own Greg Prince, to assemble this handy numerical list of all Met All-Stars, by the number. (correcting the accident of transposing the Cone appearances):

1 Ashburn (two games-1962), L. Johnson
2 Valentine (Mgr)
3 Harrelson (2)
4 Snider
5 D. Johnson (Mgr), Wright (7)
6 McNeil
7 Kranepool, Reyes (4)
8 Berra (Mgr), Carter (4)
9 Hundley (2)
10 Collins (Coach 2x, Mgr)
12 Stearns (4), Darling
13 Alfonzo, Wagner (2)
14 Hodges (Mgr)
15 Grote (2), Beltran (4)
16 Mazzilli, Gooden (4), Lo Duca
17 Hernandez (3), Cone-1992
18 Youngblood, Strawberry (7), Saberhagen
20 H. Johnson (2), Alonso
21 C. Jones
22 Leiter
24 Mays (2)
25 Bonilla (2)
26 Kingman
27 Familia
28 B. Jones, Murphy
29 Viola (2)
30 Conforto
31 Franco, Piazza (7)
32 Matlack (3)
33 Hunt (2), Harvey
34 Syndergaard
35 Reed (2)
36 Koosman (2)
37 Stengel (Coach)
40 Zachry, Colon
41 Seaver (9)
43 Dickey
44 Cone-1988
45 McGraw, Martinez (2)
47 Orosco (2), Glavine (2)
48 deGrom (3)
49 Benitez
50 Fernandez (2)
52 Cespedes
57 Santana
75 Rodriguez

Well, this means the Mets still need an 11, a 19, a 23, a 38, a 39 and a 46 to make the All-Star club.

As to the roster changes, relievers Wilson, Avilan and Familia are up and that means Brooks Pounders, Steven Nogosek and Chris Mazza are down. Along with Carlos Gomez’s recent DFA, that’s a lot of high-uni numbers banished. Also, Luis Guillorme is back, and Chris Flexen is down. Lotsa high numbers out.



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Happy Mo Vaughn Day!

Tonight, ballplayers from Seattle to Miami and everywhere between will reflect upon the corpulent legacy that Mo Vaughn exhibited during his stint with the New York Mets in 2002 and 2003.

Mo Vaughn taught the Mets–and all of baseball really — what it meant to be a big acquisition, and how to face the dying days of one’s career without exerting too much energy. In his honor, ballplayers throughout MLB will don No. 42 — the same digits found on the back of Vaughn’s 3XL jersey.

Maurice Samuel Vaughn was born on Dec. 15, 1967 in Norwalk, Conn. and was drafted in the first round out of Seton Hall University by the Boston Red Sox in 1989. In time, Vaughn became a star first baseman for the Red Sox, winning AL MVP honors in 1995 behind a .300-39-126 season. After two additional top-5 MVP seasons in Boston, the hefty lefty signed a six-year, $80 million contract with the Angels.

In Anaheim, Vaughn piled up the home runs, RBIs and strikeouts like the Carnegie Deli sandwich artists would stack up sliced pastrami, corned beef, turkey and cheese on the Mo-Licious sandwich. But an injury to his his massive biceps requiring surgery cost Vaughn the entire 2001 season, and combined with a deteriorating relationship with the Angels front office, became just the sort of deeply discounted damaged goods the Mets under Steve Phillips could not resist shopping for.

The strenuous offseason remake only require the Mets involve themselves in a three-team 11-player trade shedding Todd Zeile, Benny Agbayani, Glendon Rusch and Lenny Harris (gaining back a poor-man’s Vaughn type in Jeromy Burnitz and the unforgettable Jeff D’Amico); trading another 5 guys to the Cleveland Indians for a past-his-prime Roberto Alomar; sign reserve-level outfielder Roger Cedeno to a 4-year contract; and ship overpaid Kevin Appier to Anaheim for Vaughn.

Led by Big Mo, the totally new and yet older and fatter 2002 Mets were the kind of massive disappointment legends are made of. Two years after making the World Series the club slid to a 75-86, 5th-place finish (for which the club blamed the manager. Of course!). And with a 35-year-old Vaughn back in 2003 (at least until his knees gave way in May) the club crashed through the 90-loss barrier.

On May 2 in Milwaukee, Vaughn started at first base, drew a walk in four plate appearances, and was replaced for defense by Tony Clark. He then went on the DL for knee surgery, never again returning to a Mets or MLB game. He missed his own Bobblehead Night scheduled the following week, but the Mets had more in mind: A rotunda in their new park to honor the man.

Tonight, we remember Big Mo.


I’m only joking as has come to be a tradition this time of year and mean not to take an iota of dignity from the memory of Jackie Robinson, whose influence was importance enough to Mo Vaughn to have beaten baseball to the punch in wearing it on his back. Vaughn was also a pretty good player. Hats off to him! And to Ron Hodges, and to Larry Elliot, and to Chuck Taylor, and to Chuck Taylor’s brother, Ron Taylor! And Butch Huskey and Roger McDowell. But most of all to Jackie Robinson.


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For Pete’s Sake, We’re 20

Today marks the 20th year since the Mets by the Numbers website first went live. We’ll celebrate by wishing best of luck to the Mets’ newest No. 20, Peter Alonso, who by the way asked yesterday that everyone just call him Pete.

It’s too early to tell whether Alonso, or Pete as we call him, will make the opening day squad. I suspect he’s a longshot till May, unless they can make some trades this spring. At any rate he’ll be something of a throwback, becoming the first Mets rookie to debut wearing No. 20 in 15 years.

They used to do it all the time.

1965 Greg Goosen

1974 Ike Hampston

1977 John Pacella

1981 Greg A Harris

1982 Rick Ownbey

1983 Mike Fitzgerald

2003 Prentice Redman


Thanks for checking in with the updates on invited infielders Adeiny Hechavarria (25) and Danny Espinosa (88).

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Keeping Up With The Joneses

Justin Wilson, reportedly on his way to the Mets on a two-year contract, will become the sixth player with the surname Wilson and the ninth overall Wilson in club history, when you include first-name Wilsons (Valdez, Delgado and now Ramos).

The well-traveled lefty reliever, most recently a member of the Cubs, looks like the guy we’ll be turning to when we need to retire Freddy Freeman (and sure, Bryce Harper) and has worn a variety of numbers in his career including the retired 41 and 37, so they’ll likely slot him into some available digit, I’m guessing the 38 or 39 last belonging previous veteran relief washouts Anthony Swarzak and Jerry Blevins, respectively. (An alert reader has pointed out 39 has already gone to Edwin Diaz, so we’re going with 38).

And what about the name? Looks like Met uni-stitchers have applied the WILSON nametag as often as all but four other surnames. Here’s a rundown of the families (excluding first-names, coaches and managers). I last updated this list in the most recent edition of the book and am horrified to learn just now, I appear to have shortchanged the Martinez family by leaving off Teddy; the Smith Boys, along with the Wilsons, have climbed the charts since. (*-yet to appear)

No. of Players Surname Roster
8 Jones Barry, Bobby J., Bobby M., Chris, Cleon, Randy, Ross, Sherman.
8 Johnson Ben, Bob L., Bob W., Howard, Kelly, Lance, Mark, Rob
7 Hernandez Anderson, Keith, Livan, Luis, Manny, Orlando, Roberto
7 Smith Bobby Gene, Charley, Dick, Dominic, Drew, Joe, Pete
6 Wilson Justin*, Mookie, Paul, Preston, Tom, Vance
5 Miller Bob G., Bob L., Dyar, Keith, Larry
5 Taylor Billy, Chuck, Hawk, Ron, Sammy
5 Martinez Fernando, Pedro A, Pedro J., Ramon, Ted
4 Anderson Craig, Jason, Marlon, Rick
4 Bell Derek, Gus, Heath, Jay
4 Marshall Dave, Jim, Mike A., Mike G.
4 Phillips Andy, Jason, Mike, Tony
4 Young Anthony, Chris B., Chris R., Eric
4 Davis Ike, JD*, Kane, Tommy
4 Diaz Carlos, Edwin*, Mario, Victor
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And Turn In Your Jersey Now

Our long national nightmare is over.

No, not that one. You can all vote tomorrow and do your part for that.

I’m talking about the bogarting of No. 6 by coach Pat Roessler.

As I’ve documented numerous times here, Roessler’s occupation of No. 6, which he’s worn now for three years, interfered with a long tradition of the Mets’ No. 6 getting rapidly distributed sand returned to a parade of reserve infielder scrubeenies, third-string catchers and short-lived starters like Ruben Gotay and Gustavo Molina sand Marlon Byrd, for example. The tradition was so strong that only five seasons have been 6-less for the Mets and no player has sustained 6 apart from Wally Backman’s eight-year run for any more than a partial season or two.

Only two players in team history have more than 1,000 at-bats in No. 6, Backman and Timo Perez. Joe Orsulak is third! And with 46 separate issues, it’s still the most frequently-issued in club history.

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