Is 17 Retired or Just Taking a Break?

17Oftentimes, organizations are best off sticking to their convictions and not giving in to the will of fans, especially when it comes to sensitive stuff like retiring numbers. For the Mets this is an especially vexing dilemma, given that they have so few convictions not to mention so few candidates for number retirement. Fans with opinions, though — they got plenty of those.

I’ve been on record before defending the team’s stinginess when it comes to uni-number retirement. That the Mets are “disrespecting” those players whose numbers aren’t yet retired, or that they lag other teams when it comes to numbers hanging on the walls, are both lousy arguments for taking a jersey out of circulation when the most satisfying remedy lies in the ability to selectively re-issue numbers so as to perpetuate being part of something special. That is, if the Mets were to give No. 17 only to intense, mustachioed, good fielding first basemen; or No. 8 only to charismatic catchers with a flair for the dramatic,  there’d be little argument to the notion that Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter are being dissed or forgotten — and maybe there’d be some pressure on the Mets to actually go out and develop one of them now and again.

All that said, the organization may have turned a corner last year when it comes to No. 17. Perhaps giving into fan indignation and recognizing Hernandez’s growing legend for his post-career contributions to the cause of Met-ness, No. 17 was unissued in 2011. It was the first time in 21 years no Met had worn 17.

Ironically the streak that saw 15 different men wear No. 17 over those 21 years — a streak that for many came to symbolize just  how ignorant the team could be about these things — began with of all things a tribute to Keith Hernandez: David Cone’s switch from No. 44 early in the 1991 season.

From Cone, who wore 17 until his 1992 trade; 17 went to MBTN hero Jeff McKnight, then onto Bret Saberhagen (1994-95), Brett Mayne (1996) and Luis Lopez (1997-99). This century, 17 has gone almost entirely to bums and scrubeenies who spent a season or less in Met-ville : Mike Bordick (2000); Kevin Appier (2001); Satoru Komiyama (2002); Graeme Lloyd and Jason Anderson (2003); Wilson Delgado (2004); Dae-Sung Koo (2005); Jose Lima (2006); David Newhan (2007) and finally, Fernando Tatis, who on July 4, 2010, in the seventh inning of what was to be a 9-5 Mets win, entered the game as a pinch hitter for Chris Carter — Carter was initally called in to pinch hit for the pitcher before Washington provoked Jerry Manuel by bringing in lefty Sean Burnett — and singled. Following the game the Mets placed Tatis on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder sprain from which he never returned.

That was the last time a 17 appeared for the Mets. Is it permanent? Or just taking a well-deserved break?

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One comment

  1. Jon Springer says:

    Submitted by Matt B on Thu, 01/19/2012 – 6:17am.
    2011 was the first year in a long time without Charlie Samuels as the clubhouse manager. Maybe the new guy figured out that #17 should not be given out!

    Submitted by EdgyDC on Thu, 01/19/2012 – 9:58am.
    Point well taken. Kevin Kierst certainly doesn’t have as much juice to institute his own policy unilaterally, or stand up to the agendae of big shots.

    I imagine there’s potential for good and bad in there.

    Brandon Nimmo

    Submitted by George (not verified) on Thu, 01/19/2012 – 5:07pm.
    Brandon Nimmo wore a batting practice jersey with 17 on it when he visited Citi Field back in September. You can see it on the team Facebook page.

    Vote in Silva’s poll

    Submitted by gored82 on Fri, 01/20/2012 – 11:48pm.
    If you have an opinion on whether 8 should be retired for Gary Carter, whose health is heading downhill, be sure to vote in the poll over on Mike Silva’s NY Baseball Digest…

    Submitted by Jon Springer on Sat, 01/21/2012 – 9:06am.
    Thanks for the update on Nimmo, I think he might have been wearing his age! My thoughts on Carter as complicated as ever.


    Submitted by metsfaninparadise (not verified) on Wed, 01/25/2012 – 8:38pm.
    The reason the Mets have had so few numbers retired is the same reason Jorge Posada would be their all-time leader in HR & RBI. They don’t have stars, especially offensive ones, play their entire careers as a Met. It’s hard to say a guy’s number should be retired of he was only here 5 or 6 years, even if his numbers rank him as a “Met great.” If he’s not a “GREAT great,” he doesn’t deserve that honor. Exceptions might be someone whose value went beyond the numbers. I’m a Keith partisan, but I think the entire team from that period acknowledges the difference his field-generalship and winning attitude made int he fortunes of the team. Besides, he DID win Gold Gloves, a World Series, and ranked very high in MVP voting for most of the years he was here, things that also are taken into consideration when assessing a “HOF” career, either team or overall. Piazza might have had better numbers as a Dodger earlier in his career (actually, Posada led Piazza in RBI almost every year they were both in NY-you could look it up!) but he reached the World Series as a Met, which contributed to his national profile (see Clemente, 1971). There may be other examples, but I think Keith is a slam-dunk and Piazza is a good candidate. Carter? Definitely not by the numbers (does anyone remember how many months it took him to get HR #300?).

    Submitted by EdgyDC on Thu, 02/02/2012 – 1:08pm.
    So, looks like Matt den Dekker has his eye on the ol’ one-seven. Could get interesting.

    Submitted by LIVEfrom718 (not verified) on Tue, 03/06/2012 – 4:24pm.
    I could’ve swore that Ramon Castro wore 17 for part of a season while he was on the Mets. I remember Gary and Ron commenting on it during the game.

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