Problem With Retiring Jerry Koosman’s And Keith Hernandez’s Numbers
It used to be in order for a New York Mets player to have their number retired, they needed to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a New York Met. That is why Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza had their numbers retired, and why Gary Carter didn’t. Had the Baseball Hall of Fame not treated Carter differently than every other Hall of Famer in baseball history, his number 8 would be in the rafters at Citi Field.
Somewhere along the way, perhaps not coincidentally coinciding with Steve Cohen’s purchase of the New York Mets, the Mets changed their policy on retiring numbers. First, it was Jerry Koosman. Then, it was Keith Hernandez. Certainly, we anticipate David Wright will be next followed by a massive argument amongst the fanbase as to who gets their numbers retired.
Therein lies the problem. When the Mets had a stringent policy, there was at least one. A player wasn’t slighted by not having their number retired, and they weren’t having their career or impact on the Mets belittled. Rather, there was a policy in place, but there was a Mets Hall of Fame available for some of the true Mets greats.
Now, there is admittedly a quagmire. While you can argue Koosman and Hernandez tweak the standard to impactful and great Mets who have won a World Series, Wright’s eventual number retirement will throw all of that out. What follows is really just chaos, and more importantly, a need for explanation on a number of players.
John Franco is the all-time leader in team history in saves, and he was the third team captain in history. You can argue his number should now be retired. If it should, do you double retire 31, or do you retire his 45? If you opt for 45, why not Tug McGraw too?
However, if you retire McGraw, do you then have to look at Armando Benitez, Jeurys Familia, and Jesse Orosco? All three have more saves and pitched on Mets pennant winning teams.
What happens to Edgardo Alfonzo? By WAR, Alfonzo is the Mets best middle infielder, and he ranks ahead of Hernandez in the rankings. He was part of the best infield in Major League history, was a clutch hitter, won a pennant, and he won the New York-Penn League championship as a manager.
Bud Harrelson was the first Met inducted into the team Hall of Fame, and he’s the only man to win a ring with the 1969 and 1986 teams. Howard Johnson was the first Met to have a 30/30 season, he’s the only Met to do it twice, and he was part of the 1986 Mets.
Of course, you have Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Both symbolize all that was great and went wrong with those 1980s teams. To this day, you could argue they’re also two of the most beloved Mets ever.
Everyone is going to have their line and opinion. Without clear standards, each and every one of these players will be slighted by not having their number retired. There are and will be more.
Yes, honoring Koosman and Hernandez is great. They deserve to be honored. It feels good to honor them.
What doesn’t sit right is all those who won’t get that honor now wondering why they haven’t.