Choice Cuts

So our old friend Carlos Gomez is in camp wearing No. 85, which happened to be the lowest number available, although roster cuts and reassignments should free up additional space as opening day nears. Already there’s been 13 reassignments and yesterday news came that TJ Rivera had been cut and also released.

This is not a big surprise as Rivera was a one-tool longshot before he missed a year with an injury, but his release frees up No. 19 if anyone wants it. I assume it won’t be long before Dilson Hererra is reassigned and coughs up No. 16; then there’s Gregor Blanco (7) and Rajai Davis (11) who suddenly look more vulnerable now that Gomez is back. In case you’ve forgotten Gomez wore No. 27 in his first appearances as a Met back in 2007. His return suggests to me that Omar Minaya is possibly making the personnel decisions again and just relying on Brodie Van Wagenen to say the right things to the press about them. That’s not a good feeling.

Among pitchers, keep an eye on No. 26, where nonroster invitee Arquimedes Caminero has a 16.20 ERA so far (in a really small sample) but appears to need to beat out one or more better-performing counterparts like Hector Santiago (46), Luis Avilan (43) and Rule 5er Kyle Dowdy (33) who’s going to get every chance despite a Camineroesque ERA so far this spring.

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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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Full House

The Mets uniform assignments as they arrive at Spring Training are below. There’s been some significant shuffling, with Jeff McNeil dropping 62 digits; new assignments for guys like Luis Guillorme; and a few returning guys resuming previous numerical identities like Gavin Cecchini, Dilson Herrera and Juerys Familia.

A few of the new guys we were wondering about got assignments (Keon Broxton, JD Davis, Justin Wilson, etc) and the Mets seem to be at least trying to restore order to the universe, getting their coaching staff largely in the 50s where they belong and dressing their just-in-camp-for-the-catching-equipment guys in the 70s. Clip and save!

Because you can never have enough infielders Danny Espinosa has been invited to camp and doesn’t yet appear to be have been assigned a number — 25 is a good guess as its the only available between 1 and 69!

Number Name Notes
1 Amed Rosario, SS
2 Gavin Cecchini, INF NRI
3 Tomas Nido, C
4 Jed Lowrie, INF Was Wilmer Flores
5 vacant Was David Wright
6 Jeff McNeil, INF-OF Was coach Pat Roessler
7 Gregor Blanco, OF NRI; was Jose Reyes
8 Vacant Unassigned (Gary Carter)
9 Brandon Nimmo, OF
10 Gary DiSarcina 3rd base coach
11 Rajai Davis, OF NRI; Was Jose Bautista
12 Juan Lagares, OF
13 Luis Guillorme, INF Was Asbrubal Cabrera
14 Retired Gil Hodges
15 Tim Tebow, OF NRI; was Luis Guillorme
16 Dilson Hererra, 2B NRI; Was Austin Jackson
17 Vacant unassigned (Keith Hernandez)
18 Travis d’Arnaud, C
19 TJ Rivera, INF-OF Was Jay Bruce
20 Peter Alonso, 1B Was coach Ruben Amaro
21 Todd Frazier, 3B
22 Dominic Smith, 1B-OF
23 Keon Broxton, OF was Matt den Dekker
24 Robinson Cano, 2B Was unassigned (Willie Mays)
25 unassigned Was coach Ricky Bones
26 Arquimedes Caminero, P NRI; was Kevin Plawecki
27 Jeurys Familia, P
28 JD Davis, INF was Phillip Evans
29 Devin Mesoraco, C NRI
30 Michael Conforto, OF
31 Retired Mike Piazza
32 Steven Matz, P
33 Kyle Dowdy, P Was Matt Harvey
34 Noah Syndergaard, P
35 Jacob Rhame, P
36 Mickey Callaway manager
37 Retired Casey Stengel
38 Justin Wilson, P was Anthony Swarzak
39 Edwin Diaz, P Was Jerry Blevins
40 Wilson Ramos, C Was Jason Vargas
41 Retired Tom Seaver
42 Retired Jackie Robinson
43 Luis Avilan, P NRI; was Jamie Callahan
44 Jason Vargas, P was AJ Ramos
45 Zack Wheeler,P
46 Hector Santiago, P NRI; was Gerson Bautista
47 Drew Gagnon, P
48 Jacob deGrom, P
49 Tyler Bashlor, P
50 Jim Riggleman bench coach; was Rafael Montero
51 Paul Sewald, P
52 Yoenis Cespedes, OF
53 Glenn Sherlock 1st base coach
54 Chili Davis hitting coach; was TJ Rivera
55 Corey Oswalt, P
56 Tom Slater Assistant hitting coach
57 Dave Racianello Bullpen catcher
58 Dave Eiland Pitching coach
59 Chuck Hernandez bullpen coach; was Jose Lobaton
60 Luis Rojas “quality control coach”; was PJ Conlon
61 Walker Lockett, P was Bobby Wahl
62 Drew Smith, P
63 Tim Peterson, P
64 Chris Flexen, P
65 Robert Gsellman, P
66 Franklyn Kilome, P was Ty Kelly
67 Seth Lugo, P
68 Rymer Liriano, OF NRI; Was Jeff McNeil
69 Vacant
70 Eric Hanhold, P
71 Ryan O’Rourke, P NRI
72 Andres Gimenez, SS NRI; was Jack Reinheimer
73 Daniel Zamora, P
74 Ali Sanchez, C NRI
75 Colton Plaia, C NRI
76 Patrick Mazeika, C NRI
77 David Peterson, P NRI; Was Buddy Baumann
78 Eric Langill Bullpen catcher
79 Anthony Kay, P NRI
80 PJ Conlon, P NRI
81 Corey Taylor, P NRI
82 Joshua Torres, P NRI
83 Stephen Villines, P NRI
84 Ryder Ryan, P NRI
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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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Debate 8

Should Jed Lowrie get No. 8?

Let the debate begin. The Mets surprised the market by adding the veteran infielder on a two-year contract. In addition to figuring out where he’ll fit on an infield with Amed Rosario, Todd Frazier, Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, JD Davis, Peter Alonso, Dominic Smith, Luis Guillorme, Gavin Cecchini and TJ Rivera, they need to give him a jersey.

Lowrie’s been around the league a little, most often wearing No. 8, but also appearing in No. 12 and 4. The Mets quietly removed 8 from the rotation in 2003, when Gary Carter was elected to the Hall of Fame. Though it’s never been officially expressed this way, I think the idea at that time was to hold out and see whether the Kid would “go into the Hall” as a Met. When he (rightly) was enshrined as an Expo, his health issues made the prospect of reissuing 8 distasteful and so in mothballs it has remained ever since.

I think it’s more likely we see another Met 8 than see the club retire the number, and if it’s what Lowrie wants I suppose I have no problem with it. As I’ve expressed here before, I’d prefer it were the Mets to judiciously reissue, give No. 8 to the next good young catcher, but simply to uphold a limbo ban seems like a dumb idea so if Jed wouldn’t prefer to retake No. 4, I say let him have it.

I mentioned JD Davis above but haven’t got to his signing yet here. He’s a right-handed hitting corner infielder who tore it up as an Astros prospect and seems as though he could at the least challenge TJ Rivera to a roster spot, or perhaps replace Todd Frazier. Or maybe even pitch mop-up relief as he’s said to have a big-league arm.

At any rate, it’s a curious deal given the Mets coughed up three decent but young prospects for Davis. Is Brodie Van Wagenen addressing the criticism the Mets’ system is too “bottom heavy” by rebalancing the system with “ready” prspects? Maybe. Is he ridding the system of the Alderson Regime’s prize project? Perhaps. Is he really going to do something different here and reel in Bryce Harper? Probably not.

Davis wore 28 in a brief run in Houston but 26 is his twitter handle and minor-league assignment. That number became available when the Mets dumped Kevin Plawecki on the Indians in exchange for a fringe starting pitcher prospect, Walker Lockett, and a minor league infielder called Sam Haggerty. Lockett never pitched in Cleveland but instead passed through on paper from San Diego, which traded him with the idea they were to lose him in the Rule 5 draft anyhow. Lockett appeared in four games with the Padres last summer wearing No. 62: He’s the Mets’ problem now.

So long to Plawecki a 1st round Alderson draft choice who like his mate Travis D’Arnaud, simply seemed too nice to make it as a real starting catcher in the league; a forced promotion due to injuries probably got his career off to the wrong start anyway, so good luck on the reset in Cleveland.

And bye-bye, David Wright! The Mets gussied it up with a fake promotion to a fake front office job they but released him just the same.

 

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Is This Scott Holman?

Regarding the discussion below, is the guy on the far left Scott Holman? That jacket could say “28.” The capture is from an 86 Mets vid I found here.

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Revisiting Kingman’s Revisiting

Got a message from longtime reader Dave who asked in so many words, “What was Dave Kingman doing wearing No. 5 during spring training in 1981?”

It’s a good question and one we have addressed before here, but I should mention a few things about that: One, we did it 10 years ago. Did you know this site is nearing its 20th birthday? I still run it, still make the rules, and there’s none against reinvestigations. I actually like taking advantage of the archives (check out the impressive dropdown on the left!) and don’t do it enough. Ask me anything!

Two, what we hashed out was mostly in the comments section, which has been cut and pasted from a couple generations of the web site since and is kind of hard to find or read.

Three, my access to historical data has gotten much better since then as evidenced by what I was able to find looking it over again:

So that’s Dave upon his arrival at St. Petersburg on March 3, 1981, days after the Mets completed a trade bringing Kong back to blue-and-orange for the first time since departing in the Midnight Massacre of 1977. There’s great stuff in there about his handing out monogrammed pens to writers as a signal of his willingness to rehab his image as a reporter-hater. In five years Kingman would be outed for sending a gift-wrapped live rat to Susan Fornoff, who then covered Kingman’s Oakland A’s for the Sacramento Bee. Nothing changes, even when it does, including the uni number!

Anyway, Kingman ironically arrived in a trade for Steve Henderson, who turned out to be the best of all we’d gathered on that bloody 1977 night, if you don’t count Bobby Valentine’s managerial career (Valentine as you know arrived for Kingman along with Paul Siebert; Henderson came in the booty for Tom Seaver). But yep, looks like they initially just did a straight-up Uni Swap, Hendoo for Kong.

The Mets between Kingman’s departure and rearrival had issued 26 to pitchers Mike Bruhert (1978); Ray Burris (1979) and in late 1980, rookie callup Scott Holman. Holman was back training with the Mets when the Kingman deal was done.

Holman was considered something of a hot pitching prospect at the time but was already battling shoulder problems that would plague him for the duration of his career. He was also only 22 and a longshot to make the big club; he’d be reassigned to minor league camp March 25 and spend the entire 1981 season with AA Jackson, freeing up 26 for the Konger before regular-season play began.

Holman eventually made it back to New York in September of 1982, rejoining Kingman and the Mets wearing No. 28, which he also wore through 1983 with the big club. Holman ran out of minor-league options by 1984 but re-signed with AAA Tidewater; that freed up 28, ironically enough, for Bobby Valentine, who had retired but was rejoining the Mets as a third-base coach. Holman signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs in 1985 and spent the year in Class AAA Iowa. But here’s another new thing I learned researching this: Some Mets fans spied a job-seeking Holman working out with the 1986 Mets during spring training, saying he’s briefly visible in a highlight VHS tape I have but cannot play, perhaps that’s out there on YouTube somewhere, if you see it and can identify what Holman’s wearing, let me know!

Kingman would be released by the Mets following the 1983 season and was off to his rat-infested tenure in Oakland.

And that… is the rest of the story.

 

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Broxbuster Trade

So I thought I’d stop talking about hockey for a minute and inform our audience that the Mets have gone and traded for centerfielder Keon Broxton of the Brewers.

Broxton is one of those guys who combine speed, power and strikeouts but brings a highlight-reel kind of glove. He bats righthanded, so if they think he’s a starter (and maybe he’s not), it’s likely this move is another signal that Juan Lagares is on his way out of town. That bit is okay by my thinking; Lagares never really showed the kind of bat consistency we needed and I’m a little skeptical his glovework holds up given his foot injury; some centerfielders just don’t age well. Plus, Lagares was always a Sandy Alderson-Paul DePodesta kind of project and it’s pretty clear those guys could be on their way out. Bobby Wahl, the “headliner” in the Juerys Familia trade last season, is one of three guys the Mets coughed up for Broxton: Minor leaguers Adam Hill and Felix Valerio were the others.

Broxton, who lost a regular gig when the Brewers acquired Lorenzo Cain last season, wore No. 23 in Milwaukee which is available now that the Mets have released Matt den Dekker, who wore it most recently. Wahl surrenders No. 61.

In other news the Mets have signed a bunch of vaguely familiar guys to minor league deals. Veteran lefty swingman Hector Santiago (a 53 with the White Sox and Angels) walks too many guys and also gives up a lot of home runs but was once an pity-choice All-Star for the Angels. There’s Arquimedes Caminero (65 tons of American Pride), a high-heat reliever whose already collected 4 different numbers for three different teams. Rymer Liriano, Gregor Blanco and Rajai Davis can fight out the reps at Syracuse; all three are probably disappointed to see Broxton arriving.

We should see an updated roster in a month or so; but alter reader Jim noted there’s an unofficial (and probably inaccurate) roster up at SNY. Interesting to see Rule 5 draftee Kyle Dowdy listed in 89 Familia is not going to wear 32.

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Who Wants Fish Sticks?

The Mets have had some uniform mishaps over the years, but nothing compared to the infamous Islanders rebrand of 1995, when the struggling hockey club abruptly cast away its classic logo and colors and reeled in an ocean motif highlighted by a cartoon fisherman crest.

Though meant to evoke local pride (and also, sell more merchandise) the move instead flopped with the team’s own fans and players; generated humiliating derision from opponents; and eventually, even the cash registers stopped ringing. The story of the worst branding initiative in sports history—and the associated leadership crises and on-ice failures that enabled and accompanied it—is deeply examined and entertainingly told in a terrific new book from Nick Hirshon called WE WANT FISH STICKS.

To the extent MBTN is focused on the branding message sent by blue-and-orange wearing athletes in New York, I caught up with Nick for the following (lightly edited) Q&A. His book is available at the usual outlets.

 

Jon Springer: Can you take me through the origins of this story?

Nick Hirshon: I’ve been interested in the Fisherman logo for years. When I was an undergrad at St. John’s University [2003-06] one of my classes was sports management and it was taught by a former general manager of the Nassau Coliseum. And he went into detail one day about the Fisherman logo and said he knew a guy at the Islanders who decided to go with the Fisherman logo and that stoked my interest in it.

As an Islanders fan myself, I’d been to so many games and seen the jersey on fans in the stands. And I became more curious wondering what the story was. In 2006, I wrote a story for the Hockey News about the history of the fisherman logo and I spoke to my former professor; I spoke to a guy named Pat Calabria who was an Islanders vice president at the time they changed to the Fisherman logo and is generally associated with making the decision, even though he alone did not make it.

Fast forward to 2013, and for my PhD at Ohio University we needed to write some sort of dissertation that was to be our signature project. I wanted to do something about the Islanders because they were my favorite team and I wanted something I’d be passionate about. But what could I go for here? What in their history hadn’t been told yet? A lot of people are interested in the Stanley Cups, but I wasn’t sure how interesting that is, besides the fact they won a lot, so I thought there’s got to be a more colorful story out there: What about the Fisherman logo?

You’re taught in these historiography courses that history starts about 20 years ago. The Fisherman logo had been unveiled about 20 years before I embarked on this project: If it was something more recent, people might not be willing to talk about it, and we wouldn’t know how it turned out, or how it would be remembered. Once 20 years have passed, you have a good idea of the legacy. And for me it was good that it was just 20 years ago. So a lot of the people who were involved in the rebranding process were still alive, and they also were somewhat removed from the project, so they were willing to talk more freely and maybe be willing to criticize the people involved, whether it was the designers or Mike Milbury, the coach and general manager at the time.

 

Do you like the Fisherman jersey?

Kirk Muller wanted no part of it.

I never saw the problem with the logo itself. I do understand it looks a lot like the Gorton’s fisherman. It reminds me, and a lot of Islanders fans, of the 1990s. It has that look of the San Jose Sharks and Mighty Ducks logos that came out right before, and inspired the Fisherman logo. I’m drawn to the curiosity of it. This was a logo we can’t talk about, it is something that was around only for a couple of years and it was part of history that got whitewashed.

I also like the idea of what it represents. The Islanders don’t play in New York City: They wanted to differentiate themselves from the Rangers. There are distinctions between Long Island and New York. The ocean, the beach, the maritime culture, and the fishermen. And I like that with this jersey they were trying to do all of that. It wasn’t just the logo; it was the wavy numbers on the back that were supposed to represent ocean waves, and the lighthouse logo on the shoulder, which is one of my favorite logos ever. I wish they had made that the main crest.

 

I’m in agreement with you there. The Fisherman jersey in my mind has crossed the line in a way similar to the Mercury Mets jersey: The fans hated it so much they eventually became fond of it. It was so bad it was good.

Howie was there for both the reviled Islanders rebrand and the Mets one-night relocation to planet Mercury

There’s that same quality. Even if it was just one game, people remember the Mercury Mets because it was so bizarre. It reminds me of 1999, when I became a Mets fan, and that was a really great season for them. I vividly remember the Mercury Mets jersey because it was part of my initiation to Mets fandom. I vaguely remember Orel Hershiser wearing it. That’s the fondness people have for these things. If you look at it aesthetically, maybe if you’re a top-notch designer, you think this is silly. But if you’re going for a nostalgic point of a view and an emotional point of view, where I think fans are coming from, then you are going to be kinder to something that might not have been a Versace or Armani quality design.

The wavy numbers on the back of the jersey gave it an interesting look, but it interfered with the purpose of the jersey number which is to allow fans to identify players at a glance. Do you give much thought to the jersey numbers themselves? I thought it was interesting earlier this year when Lou Lamoriello unilaterally changed the jersey numbers of five or six players.

Lamoriello is known for wanting his players to wear low numbers. Josh Ho-Sang is one of the Islanders’ top players and had to change his number from 66 to 26. That caused a stir among a number of Islanders fans. As far as the waviness of the numbers on the jerseys, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. It just became another way for fans to mock the jersey. They could say, “it makes us seasick.”

“Seasick” numerology

It made for a disjointed look depending on what number you wore. If you have a number 1 and its bunched together in a wave, maybe it doesn’t look so bad, but if was a 6 or 9 or a number with contours to it, it made it weird on the back of the jersey.

To me I just embrace it all as part of this experiment. It was different. In my time as an Islander fan they’ve never done anything different with their main logo. There’s been some background changes and done different things with stripes, but they really haven’t done anything bold. And I like that with this jersey, they were really trying something different. OK, it failed, but I want to give them a little bit of credit for trying something. And I hate that because of this flop, the Islanders won’t do anything dramatic anymore. And it seems like they’re stuck with that one logo, and even their quote-unquote secondary logo is just pulling the ‘NY’ off the original logo.

 

Secondary logo that could have been primary

To me, the lighthouse is much more of Long Island type design. Whereas the Fisherman is something you might associate with parts of the Island, everybody on Long Island can relate to a lighthouse. Everybody goes to the beach and has seen them.

The Q&A you do with the designer in the book was interesting. He made a point that he doesn’t really like the classic Islanders logo.

I was startled by that, because for me and most Islander fans, that’s something sacrilegious. That’s what they wore when they won the Stanley Cup! That’s the logo that’s been there since the birth of franchise and I feel a real identity with it. I was an Islanders fan in Rangers country and had them knock me for it, so I became very loyal to it. I view it as a depiction of my identity as a fan.

But he said he didn’t like the lettering and other stuff, and the whole thing was a 1970s look. And the logo was done on short notice. Depending on which story you believe, it was about three days. Someone was told on a Thursday night we need to have a logo by Monday morning for a press conference. It was done before this modern era with focus groups and testing.

It goes to a larger point whether you make fun of the fisherman or the Nyisles the mascot or other aspects of the rebrand, it’s really all subjective. We might say this logo is clearly better, but is it really? The people I spoke to for the book who were pure design people all said the fisherman logo was better than the original Islanders logo. It’s all the memories coming to it though. It’s not all design 101.

Pretty obvious. Source.

It’s fairly obvious to me how closely the Islanders logo adheres to the same ideals as the Mets logo. It’s a circle, it’s the same colors, it’s representative of the area, whether its bridges or buildings or the island itself. One’s got baseball stitches and the other’s got a hockey stick.

So how did you get the book sold? One of the truisms in sports publishing is that books about teams that struggle don’t do all that well.

Hockey books in general don’t sell well, unless its riding a famous player. Wayne Gretzky can sell his book, but will Nick Hirshon sell his? Part of my feeling was this was a very colorful, interesting story. So my idea was let’s not just sell it to this small niche of Islanders fans who remember 1995 but I think you can be someone who never went to an Islanders game and still appreciate the zany stories about Mike Milbury spitting at his players and John Spano coming in posing as a billionaire who will pump all this money into the team but it turns out he’s a con artist. You don’t need to be a true hockey fan to appreciate that.

I tried to make that a part of a part of the pitch from the beginning, so it wasn’t like, I’m a guy from Long Island writing about my favorite team. What the publishers kept asking was, “What’s significant about this?’” So I really had to establish why I thought this was the worst sports branding failure ever, and if you look at everything, they went through more in 28 months than most teams go through in 28 years. I also think University presses in particular are kinder to sports titles that might not do very well in terms of sales, but are stories worth telling and are worth getting out in the market.

 

As someone who was not very well versed in Islander history I was shocked just based on your descriptions of Milbury that he lasted even one year. And it’s easy to make the connection that the wackiness of the branding initiative is a match for the dysfunction in the front office and ownership.

Milbury. Source

Milbury didn’t leave the team until 2007. And that’s kind of insane when you consider the comments he made to the media, the terrible trades, clashing with so many players he sent away or disparaged. It’s unbelievable that someone like that could last so long especially in the New York market which is associated with high rates of turnover.

I think it was a combination of factors. Part of it was being out on Long Island and away from the New York spotlight. A general manager of the Mets or the Yankees couldn’t get away with what Milbury did. It was also before social media where people couldn’t band together to build a movement like they can today on Twitter and Facebook. Also, the ownership kept changing so there was no way to hold someone like Mike Milbury to account. Every new owner felt obligated to give him a chance. He was a hockey lifer and he was very charming and persuasive.

 

Were you able to reach Milbury as part of your research?

I tried, but I got a no from NBC Sports, where he’s an analyst now. I tried every single person I could who was involved in the rebrand: every player, the coaches, broadcasters and designers.  I feel like you owe it to people who might not be viewed positively in your work to have a say.  And that went for everyone, John Spano, and Kirk Muller, who was traded to the Islanders but didn’t report. But everything I say about them were from primary sources—Newsday, the New York Times.

 

I heard you mention casually you’d be interested in a Mets book. What would you write about?

I don’t know. I’m still trying to get the promotion for this one done. And doing the book is so much work, so much intellectual energy doing the research and the interviews. It’s all very daunting. I might be interested in the 1999 season which was my first as a Mets fan, but there’s probably people who are out there who know this more than me or are already working on it.

 

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Wilson, Dilson, Schmillson

Word came in this evening the Mets have come to an agreement with chubby veteran free-agent catcher Wilson Ramos, a longtime Met nemesis who if he can 1) pass the physical and, 2) stay on the field, and, 3) slow the aging process typical for fat catchers in their 30s, just might improve the Mets’ stagnant backstop situation.

It’s only a two-year deal so what’s not to like, especially if it cools Brodie’s jets of entertaining three-way swaps with the Yankees involving Nimmo, Rosario, Conforto or Syndergaard, so it has a mild stamp of approval from us for now.

What number will he wear? Ramos is a longtime No. 40 and old enough to dictate it, so I can see Jason Vargas changing his shirt. Vargas in fact has already changed once; you might recall before being thrown in in the idiotic JJ Putz deal of 2008-09, Vargas spent a brief period with the Mets wearing 43. That figure was worn last season by ineffective reliever Jamie Callahan, whose season ended with shoulder surgery. He refused to be outrighted to the new Syracuse club and so became a free agent. This is a long way of saying 43 would be available should Vargas want to switch back.

And in the event the Mets actually care what Vargas wants, Ramos could wear No. 4, sadly surrendered by the nontendered Wilmer Flores. Let’s hope Wilmer returns as a coach or something someday. I get that his time was likely up given injuries and a little less production than would behoove an arbitration-eligible ballplayer, but as far as I’m concerned, he doesn’t have to buy a drink among Mets fans for the rest of his life, and that’s something.

I didn’t update you all on this but of course 27 will available for Juerys Familia next season. I’m no fan of blowing cash on relief pitchers, but if you’re going to you may as well get a guy whose stuff you know and mostly trust and whom the fans admire. Familia ought to make a good team with Edwin Diaz especially if they’re utilized effectively, but count on the Mets to justify the strenuous Cano trade by carefully designating Diaz as the “9th inning guy.” Not said, if Diaz happens to screw the pooch or tear his UCL as acquired relievers with 100-mph heat have from time to time, it’s good to have a backup.

Speaking of reunions the Mets signed Dilson Herrera to a minor league deal. Perhaps if it all goes wrong this year they can trade him to Seattle for Jay Bruce.

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