Seek Your Level

So last year, the Mets were never once were any better than 11 games over .500, a point they reached just once, following a sweep of the Cubs in June. Their failure to exit that range-bound 6 or 7 over .500 while the rest of the division was worse during the season’s first months was the story of the year, until that club revealed all kind of other problems (injuries, underperformance, lapsed priorities and so on) when they ultimately revealed their level was not actually 6 or 7 games over but 6 or 7 games under.

So it’s with a small amount of trauma that I’ll note this team has so far twice had the opportunity to exceed last year’s high-water mark and twice failed to get there, and doing so with games that weren’t so fun to watch. We shouldn’t be losing to Paul Sewald, as nice a guy as he was (he once acknowledged me yelling “Sewald!” through the bullpen fence at the Cyclones park). If this is really to be as good a year as it looks like it can be, we can’t hover while the rest of the division struggles. Now’s not the time to hover–get to 20 over, a point at which hovering will likely get you to the playoffs.

Catching up again on the comings and goings, we saw Stephen Nogosek and his ridiculous 85 jersey come ago go, and recently welcomed back Jake Reed, who’s still wearing 72. James McCann’s broken hamate–a bad injury for a catcher who already can’t hit, I’d reckon–is out for several weeks and Patrick Mazeika is back. That’s notable only because Mazieka, unlike Nogosek or Reed, got reassigned a normal number and what was 76 last year is now 4.

 

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38+62+30+67+39=0

How great was that?

I have to say, I enjoyed this one more than Santana’s effort, because I was little conflicted on that one. No-hitters are just random enough events that I admired the Mets’ distinctive futility in achieving one, and in a matter of taste, kind of disagreed with how aggressively they went after it, especially given Santana’s wrecked-arm aftermath and the controversy of the Beltran call.

Last night, it was five guys all doing the job asked of them, with no controversy and little danger beyond the Nimmo catch and what might have been even more difficult, the 5-3 putout on the very first batter of the game. That wasn’t a spectacular play but if Escobar doesn’t do everything right it’s a leadoff single we all would have forgotten.

As we’ve seen so far, the Mets are plowing into one of these team-of-destiny kind of seasons, where unlikely breaks go their way, the surprises turn out to be good ones, the win the kind of games that humiliate their opponents, and a camaraderie is being forged by defending themselves against fastballs in the ear. Even anti-vaxx idiots missing games because of preventable deadly diseases haven’t hurt that much. LGM!

Catching up with the uni-verse (I was away on vacation in Arizona, and caught one of those good-break games live, last Friday night’s extra inning win that most Met teams in most years lose but this year’s squad can’t help but win), we’ve seen the reappearance and disappearance of Matt Reynolds, who wore No. 15 again and will be remembered for having been called up for the first time as Ruben Tejada’s injury replacement in 2015 the playoffs (wearing 56 but not playing), finally debuting wearing No. 15 in 2016, then circling back to the organization as a minor-league vet this year, also in 15 before being claimed by the Reds as we tried to shove him back down again.

Adonis Medina (who?) is a former Phillies prospect, purchased from the Pirates a few weeks ago, and appeared for the first time as a Met wearing No. 68; Yoan Lopez, a former Diamondback, did No. 44 proud in his first appearance when he took aim (perhaps a little too high) at Cardinals crybaby Nolan Arenado. We also got a brief glimpse of outfielder Nick Plummer wearing No. 18.

Tipping my cap to the laconically solid Tylor Megill, the breakout star Drew Smith, the smartly acquired Joelly Rodriguez, the ever-reliable Seth Lugo and to Edwin Diaz’s finest moment as a Met. So far.

 

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Let’s Do This

I might have predicted a 100-win season a week ago but the injuries to deGrom and the shuffling of the starting rotation have me a little worried as we get started, finally, on a new year.

The Mets officially added non-roster arrivals Travis Jankowski and Chasen Shreve to the 40-man and active roster, which will have 28 guys for the first few weeks. The shaggy Jankowski will wear 16 and Shreve, who was 43 47 in his appearances last season, is now wearing 47 43.

Travis Blankenhorn (73) and Jordan Yamamoto (45) were kicked off the 40-man roster to make room for the new guys; Miguel Castro (50), who I kinda liked for his ability to make opposing batters every bit as uncomfortable as fans hoping the Mets can hold a lead, was traded to the Yankees for Rodriguez.

We also will be welcoming Adam Ottavino (0), Starling Marte (6), Eduardo Escobar (10), Mark Cahna (19), Max Scherzer (21), Joely Rodriguez (30) and Chris Bassitt (40) for the first time–they will be recorded onto the All-Time Roster in order of appearance. Jeff McNeil is now wearing No. 1; David Peterson has gone back to 23; and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is now in 55.

Other staff– Manager Buck Showalter in 11; Bench coach Glenn Sherlock returns to the No. 53 he wore as a Mets coach in 2019; Wayne Kirby, who wore No. 11 as a Mets player in 1998, will be sporting No. 54 as the portly first base coach; new hitting coach Eric Chavez will wear 51; and third-base coach Joey Cora will wear 56.

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Mets for Sale

It’s rare when my personal and professional lives collide but I’ve been doing quite a bit of reporting on the world of sports marketing for my job lately, including taking up an invitation to visit with the Mets at Citi Field March 31 to sample the new food and new features on the way to the park this year. Jacob Pickles’ fried-chicken-sandwich-on-a-biscuit-with-honey was quite good but a challenging dish to eat in the park. Pig Beach BBQ , Murray’s Mac & Cheese, Lobster Shack nachos– all good stuff. The first three options will be available in the Promenade Club; Lobster Shack behind section 104 on the field level.

Inside the park they’ve replaced nearly all static ad signage with high-definition ribbon boards as a first step toward revamping the big scoreboards behind similar technology next season.

I also caught up with Andy Goldberg, who was recently named EVP and chief marketing officer for the club, and we discussed his plan to better build the Mets as a brand. Though a little light on specifics, he mentioned a desire to better sell Mets games as an entertainment option for adults–particularly night games–which was good to hear after the we-get-it-it’s-important but overbearing emphasis on family entertainment of his predecessor. We also discussed the forthcoming uniform sponsor patches, the possibility of engaging creative agencies, and a vision for taking the Mets brand worldwide. Listen below or on your favorite podcast streamer.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a full season preview and hopefully update the Big roster with guys like Joely Rodriguez. LGM!

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2022’s Most Wanted

Updated–

Thanks to your help I’ve been able to assign unis to the below NRIs and staff. Noting here that David Peterson is back wearing No. 23 after losing it last season to Javier Baez. Jeff McNeil has taken his third number — 1 — as the Mets set aside 6 for Starling Marte; and Jeremy Hefner, who always wears a windbreaker anyway, is now listed in 55. The Mets list catching prospect in 95 but I swore I saw him in 75. Still looking for Fargas, who was 81 last go-round.

Non-roster pitchers: Steve Nogosek, Colin Holderman, Eric Orze, Felix Pena, Jose Rodriguez, Alex Claudio, Josh Walker, Rob Zastryzny

Non-roster position players: Nick Dini, Nick Meyer, Hayden Senger, Brett Baty, Daniel Palka, Matt Reynolds, Carlos Cortes, Jake Magnum

Coaches & Staff: Glenn Sherlock, Jeremy Barnes, Eric Chavez, Wayne Kirby, Joey Cora, Craig Bjornson

Number Name Notes
0 Adam Ottavino, P Was Marcus Stroman
1 Jeff McNeil, INF switched from 6; was Jonathan Villar
2 Dom Smith, IB-OF
3 Tomas Nido, C
4 Vacant was Albert Almora Jr.
5 Vacant Unassigned (David Wright)
6 Starling Marte, OF was Jeff McNeil
7 Vacant
8 Vacant Unassigned (Gary Carter)
9 Brandon Nimmo, OF
10 Eduardo Escobar, INF was Gary DiSarcina, CH
11 Buck Showalter, MGR
12 Francisco Lindor, SS
13 Luis Guillorme, INF
14 Retired Gil Hodges
15 Vacant
16 Vacant
17 Vacant unassigned (Keith Hernandez)
18 Vacant
19 Mark Canha, OF was Luis Rojas, MGR
20 Pete Alonso, 1B
21 Max Scherzer, P
22 Brian Schneider, CH Field coordinator/catching coach
23 David Peterson, P was Javier Baez
24 Robinson Cano, 2B-DH
25 Vacant was Ricky Bones, CH
26 Khalil Lee, OF
27 Vacant was Jeurys Familia
28 JD Davis, INF-OF
29 Trevor Williams, P
30 Vacant was Michael Conforto
31 Retired Mike Piazza
32 Vacant was Aaron Loup
33 James McCann, C
34 Vacant was Noah Syndergaard
35 Vacant
36 Retired Jerry Koosman
37 Retired Casey Stengel
38 Tylor Megill, P
39 Edwin Diaz, P
40 Chris Bassitt, P
41 Retired Tom Seaver
42 Retired Jackie Robinson
43 Vacant
44 Vacant was Robert Gsellman
45 Jordan Yamamoto, P
46 Antonio Santos, P David Peterson switched back to 23
47 Joey Luchessi, P
48 Jacob deGrom, P
49 Jeremy Barnes, CH assistant hitting coach; was Jeremy Accardo, CH
50 Miguel Castro, P
51 Eric Chavez, CH Hitting coach; was Tony Tarasco, CH
52 Craig Bjornson, CH Bullpen coach
53 Glenn Sherlock, CH Bench coach
54 Waybe Kirby, CH First base coach
55 Jeremy Hefner, CH switched from 93
56 Joey Cora, CH Third base coach
57 Dave Racianello, CH Bullpen catcher
58 Alex Claudio, P
59 Carlos Carrasco, P
60 Ronny Mauricio, INF
61 Sean Reid-Foley, P
62 Drew Smith, P
63 Thomas Szapucki, P
64 Yennsy Diaz, P
65 Trevor May, P
66 Mark Vientos, 3B
67 Seth Lugo, P
68 Nick Plummer, OF
69 Vacant
70 Jose Butto, P
71 Vacant
72 Jake Reed, P
73 Travis Blankenhorn, INF
74 Felix Pena, P
75 Francisco Alverez, C
76 Patrick Mazeika, C
77 Yoel Monzon, staff ML staff assistant
78 Eric Langill, CH Bullpen catcher
79 Danny Barnes, CH assistant Major League coach
80 Matt Reynolds, INF
81 Daniel Palka, INF-OF
82 Rob Zastryzny, P
83 Nick Dini, C
84 Jose Rodriguez, P
85 Stephen Nogosek, P
86 Vacant
87 Carlos Cortes, OF
88 Vacant
89 Jake Magnum, OF
90 Nick Meyer, C
91 Josh Walker, P
92 Eric Orze, P
93 Colin Holderman, P
94 Vacant
95 Francisco Alvarez, C
96 Brett Baty, INF
97 Vacant
98 Hayden Senger, C
99 Taijuan Walker, P
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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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