Addition By Subtraction

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately! Among other things, the MBTN Headquarters building moved to Queens from Brooklyn after 15 years. Like Carlos Beltran, this is a return engagement in the boro: MBTN, now approaching its 21st birthday was born in Manhattan and moved to Queens shortly thereafter, decamping for Brooklyn in 2004.

Also, how can I say this? It hasn’t been a very inspiring offseason yet, unless you are a fan of addition by subtraction. By this I mean the Wilpons and not Zack Wheeler. Five years by my estimation is way too many (for the Wilpons, not Zack Wheeler). That, and the silly chatter on ugly black uniforms, idiotic threats of trading Brandon Nimmo for Starling Marte, and the latest Yoenis Cespedes kerfluffle… So far, yuck.

I’ll miss Zack Wheeler, who departs New York as the Mets’ all-time strikeout king among guys who wore #45 (and 12th among wearers of any Met uniform). He was second to Tug McGraw in win s and innings; and second to Mark Carreon in hits, doubles, runs, home runs, and RBI. He was a good player and I especially don’t like that he wound up in Philly.

To replace him, the Mets have signed two down-on-their-luck veterans, both of whom believe they’re going to be starters, begging the question as to who’ll be the odd man out among the returnees. I could probably get behind Steven Matz going the bullpen but not sure if that’s what the club has in mind. Perhaps they’ll copy other clubs and do “bullpen games.” The new guys are Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.

As relayed in the comments by MBTN reader Richard, Wacha wore No. 52 with the Cardinals, which is not available if Yoenis Cespeds overcomes whatever foolish activity he took up while rehabbing and cost himself millions. Wacha wore No. 38 at Texas A&M, but that’s taken by Justin Wilson.  I’m pencilling him in to wear 45. Shudder.

Porcello wore No. 22 on the Red Sox and prior to that, Nos. 21 and 48 with the Tigers. Richard relayed: “My guess is he takes #21 since Todd Frazier won’t return. He could also take #22 if Dom Smith is traded.” I’m on board with 21 myself seeing as Porcello also replaces Frazier as the obligatory resident New Jersey guy, and I don’t want to trade Dom Smith. I almost wanna trade Alonso instead: Bigger reward, worse glove, even a little older, and I think it’s going to be hard to match the magnificence of his 2019 year (Alonso, not Smith). No way though will the Mets have the stones to try that.

In the outfield the Mets have added ex-Astros speedster Jake Marisnick, who looks as though he’ll take over Juan Lagares’ role as the right-handed hitting, glove-first, pinch-running, late-inning-defensing center fielder. Marisnick wore No. 6 in Houston; with Jeff McNeil occupying that now let’s pencil in Jake as No. 12.

A bunch of other guys have also arrived, re-upped and departed. Brad Brach is back (No. 29) after a handful of decent bullpen appearances last year. New to the 40-man roster and looking for uni assignments are pitchers Stephen Gonsalves, who wore No. 59 in a couple of appearances with the Twins two years ago; and minor-leaguers Jordan Humpheys and Thomas Szapucki; catcher Ali Sanchez and infield prospect Andres Gimenez.

We can also cut official ties with Lagares (12); Wheeler (45); Kevin Kaczmarski (16); Aaron Altherr (23); Drew Gagnon (47); Chris Flexen (64) and Chris Mazza (74). Another 40-man cut is coming when they add Porcello.

New coaches? We have them too. Jeremy Hefner (remember him?) wore the coachly No. 53 as a Met back in 2014; he could take that over from departing first-base coach Glenn Sherlock. We’ve also added Hensley Meulens as the bench coach. Meulens wore No. 31 (I think) in the same role for the Giants last year and so would need a new assignment, as will new first-base coach Tony DeFrancesco. The remarkable Phil Regan (No. 58) is out as pitching coach.

We’ll build a winter roster soon! Much still to do though.

 

 

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Str0man

We got one right for a change. Pitcher Marcus Stroman revealed in a tweet that he would wear the rarely-issued No. 0 jersey in 2020, switching from the 7 he’d originally selected but preferred not to wear because he felt it would interfere with memory of Jose Reyes.

We covered the dubious reasoning below and even correctly predicted his new landing spot but wish Marcus the best of luck in his new jersey and hope that in addition to becoming the 1st, 2nd and now 3rd Met pitcher ever to wear a single-digit uni number he makes other team history as well. Among Zeros, he joins Terry McDaniel (1991), Rey Ordonez (1996-97) and most recently, Omar Quintanilla (2014).

In other matters for someone not entirely comfortable with the selection of a new manager, the news that Carlos Beltran reportedly played a role in the creation of Houston’s cheat scheme is a mixed message at best. If they knew it must have been a factor in the decision to hire him. If they didn’t, it’s a black eye for Carlos before making a spring training lineup. Same old Mets?

We’ll see what Chief Brodie does in his second visit to the Hot Stove in the weeks ahead but between us I’d be pleased were we to retain Zack Wheeler then figure out what to do next. It’s been signaled that the Mets are shopping for a real center fielder, which to me seems like a pretty good idea, while upgrading the defense behind the plate would also help.

Keeping an open mind and terrified as usual.

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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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Playing Bogar

The Mets appear to be narrowing the list of managerial candidates to succeed Mickey Callaway, with second interviews reportedly granted to Joe Girardi, Carlos Beltran, Eduardo Perez, Luis Rojas and Tim Bogar.

While the buzz until very recently would have Girardi as the favorite, reports indicate he may even have stronger internal support in Philadelphia, where the ex-Yankee and Marlin skipper has also interviewed.

Count me among those suspicious of Beltran, whom I liked enough as a player but whose history with the club for all its success wasn’t terrific, particularly in the realm of communication, and despite how seemingly easy it’s been for reporters to find folks to say all the right things about him. The other argument I’ve heard for Beltran is this idea that he’s the only man alive who could possibly get Yoenis Cespedes to contribute. I simply don’t believe that on its face.

Speaking of fanciful notions there are perspective-challenged fans out there  threatening mutiny if Girardi doesn’t come aboard; I’m sure the fact he’s been hired twice and interviewed by two clubs this time around speaks for his general acceptability for the role but it’s never as though there’s only one possibility. If the Phillies want him so bad, make him rich.

I don’t have much of an opinion of Eduardo Perez as a guy or a broadcaster, and all I can say about Luis Rojas is that the organization thinks highly of him, given how frequently he’s appeared in the dugout wearing weird numbers over the years.

And that brings us to Tim Bogar.

Tim Bogar? Why not?

He’ll be coming to the organization with the pixie dust of the Houston Washington juggernaut. His “experience” managing a big-league club is limited to 22 games– he was interim skipper for the 2014 Rangers following the firing of Ron Washington in 2014 and Texas went 14-8 under him (.636 winning percentage-a 103-win pace!!), but he’s a three-time minor league manager of the year and is well-thought of enough to have been in the employ as coach of good big-league teams like the Astros and Red Sox. Bogar also has front-office experience, serving his ex-Met teammate Jerry DiPoto when DiPoto GM’ed the Angels.

Though DiPoto’s reign in Anaheim ended amid friction with manager Mike Scioscia, DiPoto reappeared in Seattle and sent for Bogar who was named bench coach to Scott Servias. So one could argue Bogar has experience helping Robinson Cano have a productive year.

Finally, Bogar for all his seeming lack of sex appeal, is a Met–drafted by the club in 1987, and eventually making it to New York as a righthanded hitting, noodle-bat utility player/”emergency catcher” who lasted the entire Dallas Green era and the beginnings of the Bobby Valentine one, before being traded during spring training in 1997. (Interesting to note that as a coach in Boston, Bogar was said to have not gotten along with Valentine there either). Bogar you may remember wore No. 23 as a Met but surrendered that jersey in 1996 when the club acquired Bernard Gilkey and wore 11 that year.

But even Bogar’s trade–to Houston for Luis Lopez–paid ongoing dividends for the club as that deal was the seed in a still-flourishing trade tree that yielded Noah Syndergaard. Let’s follow it:

In 1997 Bogar was traded to Houston for Luis Lopez, who was traded in 2000 to Milwaukee for Bill Pulsipher, who was traded to Arizona later that year for Lenny Harris, who was swapped in 2001 to Milwaukee for Jeromy Burnitz, whose 2003 trade to Los Angeles yielded Victor Diaz, who in 2006 was traded for catcher Mike Nickeas. Nickeas remarkably lasted long enough in the organization to make the Mets in 2010 and was included in the earthshattering R.A. Dickey trade to Toronto in 2012, a deal yielding Travis d’Arnaud (whose branch died upon his release this year) and Noah Syndergaard.

Tim Bogar for manager!

Title inspiration by the magnificent skinny-tie new waving power poppers Any Trouble (1980):

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Marcus Down As Undecided

Marcus Stroman, who already made club history by becoming the team’s first pitcher to wear a single-digit uni number, will be making more news soon.

Stroman says will no longer wear the No. 7 he was issued upon his trade to the Mets from Toronto in July, saying that he didn’t feel right playing in the same uni as a childhood idol Jose Reyes.

Obviously we all want Stroman to wear what he’s most comfortable wearing but in the bigger picture I’m wondering whether this notion of respect has gone completely overboard. It has always seemed to me that you could argue just as persuasively that wearing the same number your idol did on the same field would be the ultimate way to pay respect, and that pointedly avoiding a number for that reason in particular, while admirable, is an awfully passive statement in practice.

I’m also left to wonder what this will mean to the newly respect-sensitive Mets and their plans to take an untold batch of jerseys out of circulation in coming years. This began only recently with the deserving but curious announcement they would hang up 36 next year. Who knows if the Mets stay on task with this, but you figure such an approach would have to include Ed Kranepool at some point, a different No. 7.

Until then though, you wonder if the club will now have the stones to issue anybody No. 7 as long as Stroman is on board. Did he inadvertently just mothball No. 7 teamwide? Let’s wait and see.

Let’s also wait and see what Stroman finally settles on. Will he continue to buck tradition and take a single digit? If so there’s but two choices and a similarly wobbly third: Zero is available now; 2 belongs to the free-agent-to-be-but-I’d-sure-love-to-be-back infielder Joe Panik; and then there’s 8, which has gone unissued now for 17 years (!!) as the Mets seemingly make up their minds on Gary Carter’s legacy (If you’re listening Mets, don’t do it. Name the St. Lucie minor league team the Kids instead. Give out a Gary Carter Award every year for the team’s best citizen. Don’t take out numbers for guys with 2 good years on the club and more concrete legacies elsewhere).

Stroman’s Toronto No. 6 belongs now to Jeff McNeil and Stroman said he wouldn’t ask for that. I’ll bet you a beer he’s the next 0.

 

 

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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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Better Jed Than Dead

Sorry for the dearth of updates! Was traveling for 2 weeks and lucky to have missed the Atlanta and Chicago series–not to mention the awful Player’s Weekend uniforms.

This Mets team is really driving you nuts, isn’t it? There’s a disease in the bullpen, the team itself is prone to sudden periodic shutdowns, so they are never safe from embarrassing themselves but at the same time the 2019 Mets are as accomplished as any group they’ve run out there for years. I suppose this is an indictment of their manager but it’s more than just that. And with Cano and Nimmo back … and now Jed Lowrie even (!!) they’re arguably better now than they’ve ever been, so I’m not ready to give up, even though I have twice already: Once back on July 24 after they’d slept-walked though a home loss to San Diego, falling to 46-55; and again the other night when Mickey, Sewald & Diaz teamed up to deliver that joke of a 9th inning.

Anyway, the Mets won 14 of 15 after my first surrender and they’re undefeated since the second.

You guys know this by now but Sam Haggerty is wearing 19. Haggerty came over in the Kevin Plawecki trade from Cleveland’s minor leagues. He’s a fleet switch hitter and the first 19 since Jay Bruce. Lowrie took over No. 4 from Wilmer Flores.

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Brach … And Roll

Here we go guys. The new frontier of the no-trades-past-the-deadline era are free agents dumped onto the market for various reasons, like Donnie Hart, Asdrubal Cabrera and now, Brad Brach. We got two out of those three, and may have a fourth if reports hold true and soon-to-former-Giant Joe Panik arrives.

Brach, the former Oriole All-Star reliever released by the Cubs, will replace Hart in the Mets bullpen. He looks to be a victim of bad luck and less than ideal control but could shore up the corps ahead of this weekend’s crucial showdown with Cabrera and the Nationals. Brach’s a strapping righty out of Springsteen Country (Freehold, Monmouth) who’s worn four numbers in four big-league stops: The 29 he rocked most recently in Chicago is available here, so it’s our guess he gets it.

The Mets aren’t officially Panik-ing quite yet but with Robbie Cano out for weeks, consider Joe’s a local guy too (born in Yonkers, went to St. John’s), plays second base, bats lefthanded and is somewhat of a surer bet than Luis Guillorme (much less Cano) to perform for the rest of the year, if one can overlook the fact that he hasn’t been very good for the last two seasons and grew up a Derek Jeter fan. The 12 he’s worn for all six years of his career with the Giants belongs to Juan Lagares, but lucky for him No. 2 is available since Gavin Cecchini’s disappearance from both the Mets’ 40-man roster and their future, given his .225/.286/.314 line at AA Binghamton this year.

Let’s update all this when word’s official. Till then, LGM or as Pete Alonso might say, LFGM. For Pete’s sake.

 

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Gotta Have Hart

What can you say? The Mets have been fortunate to combine the best pitching they’ve gotten all year with a stretch of the schedule featuring one sloppy, less-fortunate club after another, and like good teams do, the Mets are making hay.

Now before we get too overconfident let’s take care of the Marlins. New arrival Donnie Hart, a lefty reliever waiver-claimed from Milwaukee, made his debut yesterday in 68, a number we most recently saw on Wilmer Font, who’s now pitching in Toronto.

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