O Positive

Marcus Stroman’s acrimonious departure from the Mets doesn’t necessary mean that No. 0 is going out with him. The Mets this week have signed veteran reliever Adam Ottavino to a 1-year contract.

Ottavino, who’s notable around here for having come though the same Brooklyn little league baseball program my kid plays in, is a former Cardinal, Rockie, Yankee and Red Sock, and has worn 0 — for O, you know — since 2013 so it’s a fair bet that’s what he’ll suit up in here, though the Mets as of this morning hadn’t updated their numerical roster yet.

Stroman, who’s listed in 0 on the Cubs’ roster, by the way, always came off to me as one of those guys who had to invent things to be pissed off about in order to maintain an edge he thought he needed. That’s a really hard demeanor to sustain as a ballplayer and though we missed having clubhouse reporters to pass it along surely something wasn’t right with the chemistry.

In other news, Brad Hand, the 63rd and final Met of last year’s record-smashing player personnel explosion, has gone and signed with the Phillies. Hand wore 52 last season, one of two. The other, Jake Reed, is still on the 40, and still listed in 72 so let’s watch that.

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Welcome Back

So I’m pleased to see the players and owners come to an agreement, doubly so because had it gone on any longer, our little vacation in Arizona timed to the Mets’ series there in April was also under threat.

As you may have heard last night the Mets made a trade for Oakland’s Chris Bassitt, a late blooming All-Star righthander. I can’t recall having ever watched him but the back of his baseball card looks pretty good recently, and he’s a big guy. He wore No. 40 in Oakland that’s been available since Geoff Hartlieb (who?) was selected off waivers by Boston late last year.

To get Bassitt, the Mets coughed up propsect Adam Oller, himself a late bloomer who pitched his way onto the 40-man roster in the minors last season, and JT Ginn, one of the high-drafted pitchers of the Brodie Era, who’d shpown a promising start to his pro career after the requisite elbow surgery they all have to go through.

At any rate, Bassitt looks like a No. 3 in a rotation — deGrom, Scherzer, Bassitt, Walker, Carrasco — that looks great on paper but is a little old and not necessarily the healthiest in the league. I’d be shocked if I’m not here later this week writing about the Big Jeff McNeil Trade, in which we’ll get a pretty good relief pitcher and the red-assed squirrel winds up hitting third for a club that’s not going to contend.

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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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If At First…

The inevitable has become a reality, as they say.

The Mets made it official, reserving July 9 for a pregame ceremony during which they will remove No. 17 from circulation to honor the World Champion first baseman, Gold Glove winner, New Yorker and broadcaster Keith Hernandez.

Those who’ve been around these parts know I’ve always been somewhat of a small-hall guy when it comes to uni number retirement. I’d prefer to see them hang 17 on the back of a young player who looks like he could become something, but when the alternative is Mike Bordick, Jose Lima and David Newhan, it’s best to just leave it be. The club started the momentum by taking 36 out on behalf of Jerry Koosman–a justifiable decision, for sure, but one that came too late to have the meaning it might.

Keith by contrast grew into the honor. His career in New York was simply too short and lacking in meaningful counting stats to justify it alone; further complicating matters was that his similarly short-tenured co-captain, Gary Carter, had similar issues despite arriving at the Hall of Fame. Talented and indispensable teammates from Strawberry to Wilson to Backman to Gooden, made an argument that the best decision would have been to simply remove 86 from the available inventory but that ship has sailed as well.

To me, Hernandez’s honor will be about changing the other club’s bunting strategies, about game-winning RBI’s and about properly aligned racing stripes, but also about post-career Seinfeld appearances and the company he offers those of us sitting at home.

And while the lockout seems certain to threaten a timely start to the 2022 season when and if it begins the Mets will carry a new number on the field with them–60, to mark the anniversary of the team’s first season. The patch looks appropriate if not especially handsome. Let’s hope the team is the other way around.

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Sk11per

Buck Showalter will meet the press this afternoon and show off jersey No. 11, after which the newly named Met manager will likely hide its identity behind a windbreaker for at least the next four years.

In selecting 11, Showalter returns to the uni he wore previously while skippering the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Rangers. He’ll be the first field general to wear 11 for the Mets, sliding between the 10 worn by predecessors Jeff Torborg and Terry Collins, and the 12 of Wee Willie Small Balls Randolph.

When I think of 11 I see Wayne Garrett and Lenny Randle, but let’s not forget Tim Tuefel, Jorge Velandia, Ruben Tejada, Elloitt Maddox, Pepe Mangual, Kevin Pillar, Anderson Hernandez, Gene Woodling, Cory Lidle, Ramon Castro, Roy McMillan, Shane Halter, Ramon Castro, Norichika Aoki or Garry Templeton. How could we? There are many others, most resigned to short-lived tenures as reserve infielders. Lidle was the only pitcher to have suited up in 11.

Behold this newly updated list of Mets Managers By the Number:

Manager Years Number
1. Casey Stengel 1962-65 37
2. Wes Westrum 1965-67 9
3. Salty Parker 1967 54
4. Gil Hodges 1968-71 14
5. Yogi Berra 1972-75 8
6. Roy McMillan 1975 51
7. Joe Frazier 1976-77 55
8. Joe Torre 1977-81 9
9. George Bamberger 1982-83 31
10. Frank Howard 1983 55
11. Davey Johnson 1984-1990 5
12. Bud Harrelson 1990-91 3
13. Mike Cubbage 1991 4
14. Jeff Torborg 1992-93 10
15. Dallas Green 1993-96 46
16. Bobby Valentine 1996-2002 2
17. Art Howe 2003-2004 18
18. Willie Randolph 2005-2008 12
19. Jerry Manuel 2008-2010 53
20. Terry Collins 2011-2017 10
21. Mickey Callaway 2018-2019 36/26*
22. Carlos Beltran 2020** 15
23. Luis Rojas 2020-2021 19
24. Buck Showalter 2022 11

*-Switched to 26 upon announcement of Jerry Koosman retirement, 9/24/19

**-Did not appear in a game.

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The Buck Starts Here

Count me among the majority for once: I was very much behind the Mets’ pursuit of Buck Showalter as manager and was pleased if not terribly surprised to hear the club reeled him in. One thing these recent Mets clubs have been missing is a presence as a manager; we last experienced it in Terry. Plus you can be assured Buck won’t go around many losing games by being out-strategized by the other guy. And if he can light a fire beneath underachievers like McNeil and Smith, that’ll be a bonus.

Buck managed the Yankees and Diamondbacks and Rangers while wearing No. 11; and the Orioles with No. 26, which he wore as a tribute to late predecessor Johnny Oates. No word yet on what Buck will wear under his jacket.

As relayed a few weeks ago, the arrivals of Mark Cahna, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte and Max Scherzer shook things up a little. McNeil is now listed in No. 1, his third issue since 68 and 6. Escobar takes 10, which has gone more than a decade without a player occupant. Marte is taking over No. 6, Cahna gets 19. That belonged most recently to Showalter’s inexperienced predecessor. Scherzer gets 21, which I’ve always kind of liked for a pitcher.

 

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Max Power

Hello from the most active offseason since Omar Minaya reeled in Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez.

You are no doubt in receipt of reports today that the Mets have reached a massive 3-year deal with free agent pitcher Max Scherzer after making successful bids late last week for veterans Starling Marte, Mark Cahna and Eduardo Escobar. And with trades, relief-pitching, depth deals and a new manager still ahead, that’s a mighty heavy workload for newly arrived GM, Billy Eppler.

Scherzer has worn 31 in Washington and in LA, but with Mike Piazza having taken that out of the Mets’ rotation, we’re tentatively anticipating he’ll take it up a notch the 32. That figure belonged most recently to Aaron Loup, who departed to Anaheim on a free-agent deal following Noah Syndergaard, who made the very same move.

Syndergaard’s departure marks the final end to a durable, multipronged trade chain dating back to Tim Bogar, who debuted with the Mets in 1993, was traded to Houston for Luis Lopez, who went to Milwaukee for Bill Pulsipher, who went to Arizona for Lenny Harris, who went to Milwaukee for Jeromy Burnitz, whose trade to Los Angeles yielded Victor Diaz, who was traded to Texas for catcher Mike Nickeas, who was sent to Toronto in the Syndergaard trade.

Noah departs as the Mets’ all-time leader in winning-percentage and strikeouts among Guys Who Wore 34. He was three wins short of Mike Pelfrey for the victory title.

Marte is a sports-car enthusiast (true story: I met his car-dealer at a convention in Las Vegas) who looks to take over center field duties as Brandon Nimmo slides over to left field and Canha takes over in right. Marte has worn No. 6 with Pittsburgh and Miami and No. 2 with Oakland and Arizona. One or both could be available depending on whether change-ofscenery trade candidates Dom Smith and Jeff McNeil survive Eppler’s dealmaking in the weeks ahead. Cahna has worn 20 with Oakland and will need a new issue. Escobar, a switch-hitting infielder who looks likely to take a role similar to Jonathan Villar last season, has worn 5 most often in his career and so encounters a retired number in New York. Scientists project he could wind up in 7 here.

More to come!!

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Beane Counter

So that’s a wrap on a really disappointing 2021 season, and manager Luis Rojas’ career is over. Whatever promise he represented, the record shows Rojas’ clubs missed the playoffs in two of the easiest seasons ever to have made them, and with clubs that looked capable of getting there, especially this year when they’d allegedly shored up the pitching and defense deficiencies that prevented them from succeeding a year before, despite a more-than-adequate offensive attack.

The starting pitching came down to injuries: Sydergaard (2 starts), deGrom (15), Carrasco (12), and Peterson (15) all missed considerable time, combining for just 41 starts between them. The first-line depth guys–Yamamoto (2), Lucchesi (8) and Eickhoff (4)–were awful and/or got injured themselves over a combined 14 starts. Only the free-agent-to-be Marcus Stroman (33), and Taijuan Walker (29) lasted the year; the club was fortunate that Tylor Megill arrived and chipped in 18 starts; and Rich Hill 12. The remainder were divided between relievers who began a series of “bullpen games” (Loup 2, Castro 2, Smith 1, Gsellman 1) and secondary-market depth guys Trevor Williams (3), Robert Stock (2), Tommy Hunter (1), Corey Oswalt (1). That’s 19 starters. Holy moly.

The Defense was bolstered by the arrivals of Lindor and McCann, but played a role in an undercurrent of dysfunction that played out elsewhere. The fist-fight between McNeil and Lindor was the Story of the Year–so much more so than the overanalyzed Thumbgate or Donniegate. It showed fissures in dynamic of the club, the camaraderie of the wholesome and harmonious 2020 club seemed disrupted, and it all attached at some level to the offensive struggles of the principal combatants and their cookie-eating teammates like Smith and Davis. This also led to an odd trade deadline that only further complicated things, not just because of Thumbgate and the benchings, but because by mollifying an unhappy Lindor better options to fix the club went elsewhere, like Kyle Gibson to Philadelphia and Adam Duvall to Atlanta, clubs that in no time at all left the Mets behind.

Dysfunction and a brainpower shortage in the front office contributed to that, leaving the club with the offseason task of rebuilding from the top down.

Billy Beane, whose presence in the 86 Mets ESPN documentary brought him into contemporary focus, is the right guy to get here. He’s got a history with Alderson and the Mets, and a 20 year track record of clean-living and success as a front-office executive in Oakland. He ought to trade himself for Jeff McNeil, and we’ll be on our way. It’ll free up No. 6 for Bob Melvin.

 

 

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Mets Give Hand Job

Couldn’t resist, and sorry.

Brad Hand today became the third guy to wear No. 52 this season; he takes it from Jake Reed, who (I’m pretty sure) is still on the 40-man roster but rehabbing an injury in the minors. Reed took it from Nick Tropeano. Just saying: Joe Pignatano wore 52 for 14 years out in the Shea Bullpen Tomato Garden.

Mr. Hand, whom the Mets reportedly had coveted over the offseason but were unable to secure due to the fact that they didn’t have a GM in place: That GM quickly got himself fired, and the GM they got to replace the GM who got fired did something that’ll probably get him fired too but at least he got Brad Hand, came to the Mets via the Nationals via the Blue Jays via the waiver wire. It’s all very clear.

The powerful database where my number data resides is unhappy: It wants me to assign uniform numbers to the five guys who played in the resumption of last Tuesday’s suspended game who joined the club following its beginning back in April: This is because the stats accrued “belong” to the game initially scheduled. OK, so I backdated Patrick Mazeika, Brandon Drury and Heath Hembree with no issues. Chance Sisco is now ahead of, and also behind, Anthony Banda in progression of Met 77s.

But the Flux Capacitor ran out of plutonium while trying to transport Javier Baez back in time. That’s because his 23 on April 11 belonged then to David Peterson. Should we just pretend the game never started in April? I guess we sorta have to, even if this introduces conflict with the official stat line and secondary data like the the progression of Mets, by the way. Instead of being the 1,148th Met ever if we’re counting along with the calendar, Baez winds up being something like 1,123–and we haven’t won 7 in a row, but 6 (I’m writing this between games of the Sept. 4 double-dip.

Amazin’ still we’ve added this many guys in one year and just keep on adding.

Other options would be to “unassign” Peterson 23 for that one game (fortunately, he didn’t appear but it wasn’t like he wasn’t occupying a jersey) or perhaps, solving these conflicts by creating a special character instead of a number, such as ¥, or ∞, or ≠, to indicate when and where these things happen. This seems like an offseason project, like getting a new GM and trading away Jeff McNeil. What a nutty season.

 

 

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The Sisco Kid

So what’s up with Chance Sisco? During his stay on the 40 man in Syracuse, he was assigned #15, as befits his kinda sorta veteran status. Then he finally makes it back to the majors, and they give him #77? Maybe as a sign of respect to Mazeika?

That’s a great question (from Jim, in the below post) to which I don’t know the answer. But maybe it has something to do with debuting on a West Coast road trip, and also, something to do with the fact that the team simply has too many guys to keep track of anymore. Sisco is the 61st Met of the year and the 40th guy to have joined the organization for the 1st time this year. With the veteran reliever Heath Hembree also on the way, this team is threatening to surpass the all-time mark for debut Mets set all the way back in the team’s debut, 1962 when every Met–45 of them–was a first-time Met by definition.

It’s Tuesday, so we’ll be out at CitiField tonight. Hopefully we see what number they offer Hembree, but we’ll rooting against an appearance, given the recent trajectory of the career that landed him here. Of greater interest is the anticipated paring of Lindor and Baez in the middle infield for the first time. If there’s any kind of catalyst for this club–and it may well be too late, given the Braves have been even hotter than the Mets have been cold–this is it.

There are 38 games to go. The Mets probably need to win 27 or 28 of them.

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