Retired Numbers

Should The Mets Retire Davey Johnson’s Number?

While it is not an official policy, the Mets organization will only retire the numbers of players who enter the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets cap.  That is why the only Mets players who have their numbers retired are Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza.  If the Baseball Hall of Fame honored Gary Carter‘s choice, he would have gone into the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap, and as a result, his number would have been retired as well.

That would have pleased many Mets fans who want to see his number be retired.  More than Carter, Mets fans seem to want to see Keith Hernandez‘s and David Wright‘s numbers retired.  With respect to those two, chances are neither enter the Hall of Fame, and just like Carter, chances are Hernandez is inducted into the Hall of Fame wearing a Cardinals cap.

Much of the Carter and Hernandez push is related to both players being key veterans on the 1986 World Series team.  Oddly enough, the same case has not been made for Davey Johnson.

Back in 1984, Frank Cashen tabbed Johnson to be the Mets manager.  He was entasked with leading a Mets team to not just win a World Series, but really to just win games.  The Mets had not been over .500 since 1976, which was Seaver’s last full season with the Mets.  Seaver was back in 1983 only for the Mets to lose him again.

The winning happened immediately.  Behind Rookie of the Year Dwight Gooden, and a young core which included Darryl Strawberry, Wally Backman, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez, the 1984 Mets finished second place in the National League East with a 90-72 record.  This began a string of eight straight seasons where the Mets would finish second or better in the division.  Johnson would oversee six of those seasons.

The 1985 Mets won 98 games, which was then the second most wins the Mets had ever accumulated.  They were that close to winning the division.  Entering 1986, Johnson would declare the Mets were the team to beat, and his team would back him up.  Their 108 wins is the third most ever by a National League team.

When you include the postseason, the 1986 have won more games than any other National League team over the past century.

Yes, this does speak to how great the 1986 Mets were, but it also speaks to Johnson’s managerial abilities.  He was ahead of his time using data and statistics to inform his decisions.  Yes, those 1980s Mets teams were talented, but it was Johnson who got everything out of those talented teams by optimizing his team’s lineups.

This is why Johnson would become the first ever National League manager to have 90+ wins in each of his first five seasons.

He’s also the only Mets manager with two 100 win seasons.  He joins Gil Hodges as only one of two Mets managers to win a World Series, and he was the first Mets manager to go to two different postseasons.

Johnson is the Mets all-time leader in wins and winning percentage.  He is second only to Terry Collins in games managed.  He is second to Bobby Valentine in postseason wins, which is partially a function of Major League Baseball adding an additional postseason round when they added the Wild Card in 1994.

Despite all of these records and his impact on the franchise, Hodges and Casey Stengel remain the only two managers who have had their numbers retired by the Mets.  Given how the standards to retire manager numbers (to the extent there is any) is far lower than for players, it is odd how nearly 30 years after Johnson managed his last game, he has not had his number retired.

His number not being retired may become more of an issue going forward as once again he is a candidate on the Today’s Game ballot for the Hall of Fame.  With his having a better winning percentage than Hall of Famers like Bobby Cox (a manager who also has just one World Series to his credit), and his being only one of two managers in MLB history to lead four separate franchises to to the postseason, there is a real case to be made for Johnson’s induction.

If inducted, he is likely going to enter the Hall of Fame as a member of the Mets.  If so, any and all excuses to not retire his number have gone by the wayside.  Of course, that is unless you are not of the belief Johnson has not done enough to merit having his number retired anyway.

Given how his number has not been retired, it is certainly still up for debate whether it should or should not be retired by the Mets organization.  Going forward, when debates happen,,when taking into account standards already set forth coupled with the impact on the organization, Davey Johnson should probably be first in line when it comes to having his number retired.

Mike Piazza’s Number 31 Officially Retired

It was a muggy and rainy day that might’ve lead to the game being called on any other night. 

  
But they weren’t going to call this game as it was the night the Mets were retiring Mike Piazza‘s number 31. With the 31 inside a home plate mowed into centerfield, the Mets were ready, and nothing was going to stop the night. 

  
The ceremony was just about perfect with a video featuring Piazza standing at the spot home plate once stood at Shea Stadium 

  
We had to visit it after the game. 

Then Piazza would come through the Mets dugout that seemed to have most of the players there, and the crowd erupted. 

  
Every little touch was perfect from the aforementioned 31 in centerfield to his 31 prominently featured on the Home Run Apple. 

  

The video introducing him was spot on making sure to put an emphasis on his post 9/11 home run 

The only thing missing from the tribute was Mets fans giving him a curtain call after he homered off former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez

Speaking of former teammates, there was some surprise that there weren’t more of his old Mets teammates there. Frankly, I was shocked there was no John Franco, but you don’t know the scheduling issues that would prevent people from coming. For example, you know White Sox manager Robin Ventura would never be able to make it. 

You still didn’t notice it too much with who was there. There was old fan favorite Cliff Floyd. The best Mets second baseman of all time Edgardo Alfonzo.  The last player there was the first Mets pitcher Piazza ever caught, Al Leiter. Since leaving the Mets, Leiter was never treated properly by Mets fans for how great a Met he was, but on this day, he would be with a loud standing ovation. Then we finally saw the number unveiled:

  
 Piazza then had to speak. Many times, he seemed speechless at the outpouring of affection he received. Other times, Mets fans would not even let him speak during his speech:

Piazza honored everyone including the fans. He took in the moment as Mets fans did as well. His induction to Cooperstown was a coronation, but this was a celebration with 42,207 of his closest friends. There would be no roomfor booing as Piazza would remind the fans when he brought up the Wilpons. That’s the power of Piazza – he can get the fans to stop booing the Wilpons. 

He gave a poignant speech letting the fans know that for as long as his 31 hangs in Citi Field, he will be with all of us. As he parted, he tried to inspire everyone saying that whenever the team needs inspiration, they need only look up to left field and remember that old Mikey is with them. 

After he threw out the first pitch from home plate to Leiter, it was game time 

  
Yes, there were some jokes about Piazza not doing it to Alfonzo at second. The real joke was what followed. The team either didn’t listen or was too undermanned to draw from these inspirational words. 

The game itself. It was never going to match the beauty of that ceremony, but it didn’t need to be that ugly. The team never heeded his parting advice. 

Given how the Mets have been playing, and the lineup that was put out there, the loss was no surprise. The Mets starter AAA cast-off Justin Ruggiano in center, a reall defensively challenged Kelly Johnson at first, a 43 year old Bartolo Colon on three days rest, and of course Neil Walker.  Not even facing the worst starter in baseball Jorge De La Rosa could revive this offense. 

It was just a brutal game that saw Terry Collins get tossed in the fourth, and frankly, most Mets fans didn’t stay for much longer than that it a 7-2 loss. 

Overall, the only thing worse than the loss was knowing that Tom Seaver was physically unable to attend the ceremony. It was still a great night, and years from now, I will always remember seeing this for the first time. 

  
 Game Notes: Jose Reyes was put on the DL before the game. 

Time to Retire Carter’s Number Has Passed

Every single one of us has our favorite players. Growing up, I loved Gary Carter. If I had a blog back in 1997, it would’ve been named ElectGaryCartertotheHallofFameNow.com.Finally, in 2003, The Kid was finally elected in the Hall of Fame. I wanted him to go in as a Met and for him to have his number retired by the team. 

There would be controversy over his cap. To understand the controversy, we have to go back in time a bit. There was a time that players were not selecting caps due to the team they felt most closely aligned or where they accomished the most. No, players were selecting caps based upon financial incentives. 

Dave Winfield received $1 million to wear a Padres cap on his Hall of Fame plaque when he was inducted in 2001. Winfield going into the Hall as a Padre wasn’t an egregious choice. He started his career there, and he played eight years there as opposed to nine with the Yankees. He did have better numbers with the Yankees, but he was also treated awfully by them. Steinbrenner dubbed him Mr. May to deride his production in a pennant race.  Steinbrenner hired gamblers and private investigators to “dig up dirt” on Winfield to get out from under the contact. So no, it’s not surprising Winfield chose the Padres cap and the $1 million. 

Winfield wasn’t egregious, but it was the sign of a larger problem. That problem would come to a head with Wade Boggs. There were rumors that Boggs negotiated in his contract that he would enter the Hall of Fame as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray. It forces the Hall of Fame’s hand, and they began the process of selecting player caps, even if it was against a player’s wishes. As we saw with Andre Dawson, it’s a move that benefitted the defunct Montreal Expos. 

On the one hand, it’s a move that had to be made. You couldn’t have players and teams negotiating this away in one year contracts towards the end of a player’s career. The Hall of Fame does have some responsibility to preserve history. On the other hand, the Hall of Fame has overstepped its bounds a bit. Remember they did allow Reggie Jackson to enter the Hall of Fame as a Yankee (5 years) as opposed to the Athletics (10 years). They allowed Nolan Ryan to enter the Hall of Fame as a Ranger (5 of his worst years) instead of an Astro (9 years) or an Angel (8 years). 

Carter played 12 years for the Expos, and 5 with the Mets. Based on the Jackson/Ryan standard he should’ve had his choice even if Carter was an Expo through and through. However, Carter wanted to go in as a Met. The Hall of Fame decided he would go in as the first Montreal Expos; a decision Carter did not object

Unfortunately, the decision cost him. The Expos moved to Washington a year and a half after his induction. The franchise almost immediately unretired the number of their first Hall of Famer. Also, it cost Carter his chance of the Mets retiring his number 8. 

As we saw with Mike Piazza, the Mets have set an exceedingly high standard for retiring numbers. For their players, the Mets have reserved that honor for players who have entered the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets cap. With one decision made by the Hall of Fame, not by Carter, Carter was cheated of his chance to have his number retired by the Mets. Sadly, even if the Mets reverse course, the day honoring Carter will be melancholy with his untimely death at the all too young age of 57. 

If Carter isn’t there to enjoy the honor, I believe the moment has passed. As much as I may have wanted it one day, I don’t think the time is now. If the Carter family feels differently, I certainly would change my tune.