During his time in the minors, Jeff McNeil wore a couple of different numbers. Last year, he wore 12 with Las Vegas, and he wore 1 with Binghamton. Overall, he’d wear a variety of numbers including 3, 5, and 10. Naturally, when the Mets called him up to the majors, McNeil was assigned the number 68.
The significance of 68? Well, it was just next in line.
It was something the Mets seemed to start in 2016. That year, the Mets gave T.J. Rivera the number 54, and Ty Kelly was given 55. When Kelly Johnson returned, Kelly was given 56. Over the ensuing years, we’d see the number gradually climb up and up to the point Kelly would wear 66 last year, and eventually McNeil wearing 68.
Now, this is not a practice reserved for all prospects, and it has not been a practice always in place. For example, when Jose Reyes and David Wright were called up, they were given their now iconic 7 and 5 numbers. For that matter, when Eric Campbell was called up to the majors in 2014, he went from 24, a number somewhat unofficially retired by the Mets, to 29.
Now, McNeil is going to wear the number 6, a number which was available all of last season. For that matter, Rivera is going to wear 19, which was a number that Jay Bruce had before he was called up to the majors. It should also be noted the 3 he wore with Las Vegas was worn by Curtis Granderson.
Now, there are some restrictions with uniform numbers. For example, recent uniform history suggests Gary Carter‘s 8 and Keith Hernandez‘s 17 are unofficially retired. They may also want to try to preserve numbers for their top prospects like how Peter Alonso was assigned 20 this Spring Training.
Still, there is a wide chasm between not allowing a player to have a certain number and giving them a number in the 50s or 60s. These players have achieved something by making it all the way to the majors. They should be treated as such by giving them a real uniform number, especially as we saw in the case with Dilson Herrera and Juan Uribe, you are going to make the young player switch when a more established player wants the number.
As a side note, it’s more fan friendly as well because if you are someone immediately attached to a player like McNeil, when you go out and get the jersey, or even shirsey, you have the right number and aren’t out money when the player is finally deemed good enough to pick their own real baseball number.
In recent news former Mets great Al Leiter has announced he will not be returning to the YES booth for the 2019 season. With him leaving the booth, he is leaving behind a promising and good broadcast career which had begun when he was a player providing commentary during the 2003 NLCS.
During that NLCS, you could see Leiter was going to be a gifted broadcaster. He hasn’t disappointed in his time as a Yankees color commentator or as an analyst on MLB Network. Seeing his work, you knew no one was pushing him out the door, and yet Leiter has announced he is leaving.
The reason is his son, Jack, is a senior in high school, and he is committed to Vanderbilt. If Jack is anything like his father, his uncle Mark Leiter, or even his cousin also named Mark Leiter, he has a real Major League future ahead of him. If that is the case, Al Leiter is going to be in New Jersey doing work for the MLB Network, or he will be in the Bronx, or he will find himself anywhere where the Yankees travel.
That does not leave him much time to watch his son pitch during his senior season. It doesn’t give him time to give parental advice to help prepare his son for college or even the draft. It doesn’t leave enough time for him to spend time with his son because his son finds himself in places like Tennesse, whether that is for college or for an Appalachian League affiliate.
In his career, Leiter made approximately $68 million. He’s done a fine job as a broadcaster presumably earning a good salary. With his reputation and his relatively young age (53), Leiter has the chance to do this. This is all every parent wants, and Leiter has that opportunity. Good for him for taking full advantage.
When he’s ready to return, there could be a chance for him at SNY as the Mets have begun taking more of a look at the 90’s Mets team. We have seen Todd Zeile recently hired to replace Nelson Figueroa and Bob Ojeda before him. Sooner or later, we know Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling are going to leave the Mets booth.
Maybe, there will be room for a new booth with Gary, Leiter, and Mike Piazza. It would be the type of booth which could generate the same chemistry and cache with Mets fans. And who knows, maybe we will see Leiter calling games his son is pitching.
But before then, let’s hope the best for Jack Leiter and hope Al enjoys each and every minute of the ride.
Today is the three year anniversary of Yoenis Cespedes officially signing a three year $75 million contract with the New York Mets. The contract came with the opt out the Mets had said they didn’t want to offer anyone, and it was a surprise for a team who had seemed to move on from Cespedes early in the offseason.
For those who recall, the Mets had signed Alejandro De Aza on December 23, 2015. With his signing, the plan was apparently to have him platoon with Juan Lagares in center field. He would be in the same outfield as Michael Conforto, who after a promising 2015 season, looked primed to be an everyday player and Curtis Granderson, a man who was a series of infield and managerial gaffes away from being the World Series MVP.
That was a respectable, but not an especially formidable outfield for a Mets team who had designs on winning a World Series. It caused frustration because the De Aza signing didn’t exactly put the team over the top. The money saved on Michael Cuddyer‘s retirement was arguably poorly spread between De Aza, Jerry Blevins, Antonio Bastardo, and Bartolo Colon.
No, this team needed Cespedes.
What was odd was Cespedes was still a free agent. Sure, there were better regarded free agent outfield options in Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Alex Gordon. There were other attractive options available as well. Still, this was a player who thrived in the biggest market in the world hitting .287/.337/.604 with 14 doubles, four triples, 17 homers, and 44 RBI in 57 games.
Extrapolating that over a 162 game season, and Cespedes would have accumulated 40 doubles, 11 triples, 48 homers, and 125 RBI. Now, it shouldn’t be anticipated Cespedes could do that over a 162 game schedule. However, what we did see is Cespedes is a difference maker just like he was with the Athletics.
Yet, still he lingered with little interest. Sure, the Nationals were rumored to have offered Cespedes $100 million, but it was the typical Nationals offer with deferred money, which did not seem to interest Cespedes. The fact this was the only real offer kept him around thereby allowing the Mets to swoop in and get Cespedes on a good deal for both sides.
It was a coup by Sandy Alderson. It was a necessary move which helped the Mets reach the postseason again in 2016. It marked just the second time in team history the Mets would go to consecutive postseasons. It happened because Cespedes lingered allowing the Mets to make a bold move.
Somehow, some way, the two best free agents entering this free agent class are still available. For reasons unbeknownst to us, there are few teams in on either one of these players. In adding either one of these players, the Mets would take their 2019 team and put it over the top. A team who is projected to win around 85 games would move into the 90+ win range. That’s what happens when you add superstars and potential Hall of Famers.
The Mets took advantage of unexpected opportunities. They struck when no one else expected them to strike. The result was a period of relevance, winning, and increased attendance. The chance is there. The Mets need to strike now and bring in one of Harper or Machado. The 2019 season rests on it.
Come this July, the Baseball Hall of Fame will see the largest Hall of Fame class we have seen in over 50 years. In this class, there will be six new Hall of Famers, none of whom even wore a Mets cap during his career. As we know, Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza are the only two players inducted as the Mets in the Hall of Fame.
Looking further, there are questions as to where the next Mets Hall of Famer will come.
Seeing how the Veterans Committee, or rather the Today’s Game Era Committed, elected Harold Baines and Lee Smith into the Hall of Fame, there is a chance for previously overlooked candidates who played in the 1980s to bet inducted into the Hall of Fame. Foremost in most Mets fans minds is Keith Hernandez.
With his being the best defensive first baseman of all-time, his 1979 NL MVP, five All-Stars, and two World Series titles, Hernandez has a strong case. When you look further, you see how every player who has led his position in Gold Gloves is in the Hall of Fame. Breaking it down further, Hernandez and Andruw Jones, who is still eligible, are the only two players with 10 Gold Gloves or more who have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Put another way, Hernandez is a worthy candidate who may very well be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the near future. The problem when it comes to Hernandez is he will likely be wearing a Cardinals or blank cap. With his playing seven years in St. Louis along with his obvious love of the organization, it’s possible the Hall will push him to wear a Cardinals or a blank cap similar to how they chose an Expos cap for the late Gary Carter. Admittedly, the case for Hernandez wearing a Mets cap is stronger than Carter’s was.
Past Hernandez, the next best case is Carlos Beltran. Judging from WAR, Beltran is the eighth best center fielder of all-time. That puts him ahead of of Hall of Famers like Duke Snider, Andre Dawson, and Kirby Puckett. Combine that with his ranks among all-time switch hitters, being a nine time All-Star, and his postseason exploits, and we can all reasonably assume Beltran will eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
However, like Hernandez, the cap may be an issue. In his career, Beltran played 44 games more with the Mets than the Royals giving him a reasonable option for either team. He may also feel a pull towards the Astros due to his postseason exploits and World Series ring, but he does not have nearly the time with them to wear an Astros cap.
When you consider how the Mets have consistently reissued Beltran’s number 15, the acrimony of Beltran receiving career saving knee surgery, and Fred Wilpon’s negative comments about Beltran in the infamous New Yorker article, it’s hard to imagine Beltran feeling a pull to wear a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
After that, there’s an issue. While David Wright is a beloved player, he likely falls far short of meriting induction. Just look at Scott Rolen. Rolen had a better career than Wright, and he has only been able to muster 17.2 percent in his second year on the ballot.
After Wright, you are looking towards current Mets players. Among the group, Jacob deGrom probably has the best shot. So far in his five year career, he has a Rookie of the Year Award and a Cy Young along with his epic 2015 postseason. His career 143 ERA+ currently ranks 10th all-time putting him ahead of Hall of Famers like Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and even Seaver.
It should also be noted deGrom is 30 years old, and he has only played five seasons. He is going to have to pitch at his 2018 level for a few more seasons to truly enter the discussion. While it may be an uphill battle, we have seen pitchers take off after turning 30. For an example, we need not look any further than Max Scherzer, who is making his own Hall of Fame case.
As for Noah Syndergaard and even Michael Conforto, both have age on their sides. They have shown periods of dominance, but they have had health issues, which have also prevented them from putting up big years early on in their careers from building a more solid foundation to their Hall of Fame chances.
Breaking it down, in an odd sense, the Mets player with perhaps the best chance of induction is John Franco – seriously.
The Today’s Era Comittee just opted to induct Lee Smith, and they opted to elect Baines from seemingly out of nowhere. When you stack Franco up against Smith, Franco has a better ERA+. Franco also has a higher ERA+ than Hall of Fame closers Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley. Moreover, Franco is just one of six closers in baseball history with over 400 saves, and he is the all-time leader in saves for left-handed pitchers.
For those who don’t believe in Franco ever being able to be inducted in the Hall of Fame, the doubt is understood. After all, Franco, like Baines, fell off the ballot in his first year after he garnered just 4.6 percent of the vote.
The dubiousness underlying Franco’s chances underlies just how long it may be before we ever see another Mets player inducted into the Hall of Fame. That should surprise no one as the organization did not see its first Hall of Famer until the franchise was 30 years old. It then had to wait another 24 years for its next Hall of Famer.
With the Mets saying isn’t their type of player, the question needs to be asked about what exactly is the Mets type of player. Well, here are a few examples.
Jose Reyes – beat wife until the point she needed to be taken to a local hospital
Bartolo Colon cheated not just the game with a PED suspension, but he cheated on his wife. To top it all off, he didn’t pay sufficient child support for his second family.
Francisco Rodriguez – assaulted the grandfather of his children in three Mets family room at Citi Field
Jenrry Mejia – first ever player to be banned from baseball due to failing three PED tests
Bret Saberhahen set off firecrackers around reporters and shot bleach at them with a water gun
Vince Coleman threw firecrackers at fans which would injure a child
Wally Backman brought back to organization as a minor league manager after he had been fired by the Diamondbacks after domestic “disputes” came to light
The overriding point here is the Mets type of person wants is a hot head who beats people weaker than them. To that extent, the Mets could not have given Machado a bigger compliment.
The New York Mets have had a number of down seasons with 2018 being one of them. There were some bright spots this past season with Jacob deGrom emerging as the best pitcher in baseball being one of them. This is reminiscent of how many times we have seen different Mets players have great seasons in what has been an otherwise lost season for the franchise.
The last time we saw anything like deGrom’s season happen was R.A. Dickey‘s 2012 season. While the knuckleballer had been better than expected for a few years, no one could see him winning 20 games let alone beating out Clayton Kershaw, who was still in his prime, for the Cy Young Award.
While it was Dickey who won the Cy Young Award, it was Johan Santana who captured the hearts of Mets fans by pitching the first no-hitter in Mets history. Special mention needs to go here for Mike Baxter‘s catch.
In 2004, Mike Piazza passed a significant career milestone by hitting his 352nd career homer as a catcher. With the home run, he passed Carlton Fisk, and he all but cemented his Hall of Fame case by hitting the most home runs as a catcher.
Another Mets catcher who set a home run record was Todd Hundley. In 1996, his 41 homers would not just match a Mets single season record, but it would also pass Roy Campanella‘s single season record for most homers by a catcher. That season saw a number of feats including Bernard Gilkey setting the Mets single-season record for doubles and Lance Johnson setting the record for most triples in a season. Remarkably, all three of these Mets records stand to this day.
On the final game of the 1991 season, which was the Mets first losing season since 1983, David Cone tied the then National League record with 19 strikeouts in a game. It was a feat which had only been previously met by Mets legend Tom Seaver.
Speaking of that 1983 season, Darryl Strawberry would become the first and to this date only Mets position player to ever win the Rookie of the Year Award. The 1983 season was also notable because after the Midnight Massacre, Seaver would finally come home to the Mets.
Really, it was that 1983 season which was the beginning of something special with the Mets. In addition to Strawberry and Seaver, the Mets called-up rookie starter Ron Darling. Much like how he is joined in the SNY booth now by Keith Hernandez, he was teammates with Hernandez that season because the Mets would make a franchise altering trade to acquire the former MVP.
Really, when you look at 1983, you can see how even a bad year is the building block towards a team building a World Series winning club. Hopefully, that is what the 2018 season was for the Mets.
You can argue it was the case with deGrom emerging as the best pitcher in baseball, and Zack Wheeler matching him big start for big start in the second half. Brandon Nimmo had the second highest wRC+ among National League outfielders, and Michael Conforto returned to being Michael Conforto in the second half. More than that, Amed Rosario seemed to turn the corner while his new double play partner, Jeff McNeil, burst onto the scene.
In the end, when you look at losing seasons like 2018, you can see great things. More than that, you can see how great things will soon be in store for the Mets.
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.
The Mets Fan
My name is Tim Ryder. I’m a writer for MMO, a contributor at Call to the Pen, and have been published at Hardball Times/Fangraphs, as well as Good Fundies. I formerly wrote for Friars on Base, a San Diego Padres site.
Personally, I’m 34. I was born October 12 at Booth Memorial in Flushing, which probably sealed my fate. I’m married to a wonderful woman named Heather and I have two lovely daughters, Kayla, 13, and Lily, 8.
How You Became a Mets Fan
I became a Mets fan at birth for the most part. Being born in 1983, I don’t remember ’86 and only vaguely recall ’88. My first real Mets memory is that 1989 team with the championship core still intact. I do remember hysterically sobbing on my kitchen floor after finding out Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter were released in November of that year. A precursor for my relationship with this team, I guess.
Favorite Mets Player
Excellent question. My favorite Met of all-time is probably David Wright. Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana are right up there, as are Mike Piazza, John Franco, geez, I could literally go on forever. Next question.
Favorite Moment in Mets History
Johan’s no-hitter. I sat with my dad at the kitchen table and watched that game from first pitch to last. My dad passed away in 2015, so it’s definitely emerged as “the one” for me. And no, I don’t care that Carlos Beltran‘s foul ball was actually fair. Plus, even with replay, it still would have been foul (can’t review a ball that bounces in front of the base ump).
Message to Mets Fans
Keep voicing your displeasure with the way this organization is run. Send tweets. Send letters (126 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY).
Keep putting pressure on the Wilpons to run this team properly. They’ve become tone-deaf to our passion, as well as our desperation. We’ve been loyal through the best and, mostly, the worst of times and we deserve the same respect in return.
With each start he makes, it becomes readily apparent if Jacob deGrom wins the Cy Young this season, he is going to do so with the lowest win total ever compiled by a starting pitcher. Looking at his stats, you really have no idea how he could be just 8-8. However, if you watched yesterday’s game, you know exactly why his record is that poor.
To no one’s surprise, deGrom began the game matching zeros with Madison Bumgarner in the first two innings. However, the Giants would break through in the third.
After Steven Duggar earned a leadoff walk, he would steal second. Devin Mesoraco would get out of his croutch slower than an old man reaching for a walker, and he would make a lollipop throw to second Travis d’Arnaud thought was bad. Duggar found himself on third after a Joe Panik groundout, and he would score when Mesoraco just missed a pitch, which would go back to the backstop.
Now, Home Plate Umpire Tony Randazzo was horrendous on the day, but despite Mesoraco’s complaints otherwise, Evan Longoria did not foul tip that ball. No, Mesoraco, who is showing himself to be a really poor catcher, flat out missed it. Mesoraco also failed to frame any number of pitches which would aid Randazzo in being a horrendous umpire.
The key call came in the fourth inning. With two outs and a runner on, deGrom threw an 0-2 pitch which led everyone in the ballpark to believe Nick Hundley just struck out looking:
Perhaps because he was frustrated, deGrom would walk Hundley, and then he would allow an RBI double to Bumgarner. At that point, it was 2-0 Giants, and with Bumgarner pitching, there was little to no hope the Mets would win this one.
Overall, this was an off-day for deGrom as he needed 108 pitches to get through six innings, and he would have a season high four walks. Of course, these struggles are indicative of just how great deGrom has been all season. In fact, a struggling deGrom limited the Giants to two runs (one earned) on four hits while he striking out 10.
The Mets would not even threaten Bumgarner until the fourth. There were two and two out, and McNeil hit a hard liner, but it was right at Panik.
It seemed as if the Mets may finally break through and get deGrom off the hook in the seventh. Todd Frazier led off the inning with a homer making him the first ever Met to homer off Bumgarner at Citi Field. Jose Bautista would get hit by a pitch, and McNeil would single. The rally would sputter as Kevin Plawecki, who had come on for an injured Mesoarco in the sixth, hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
That brought up Conforto. He battled back from 1-2 to draw a full count in a nine pitch at-bat. On the ninth pitch, Bumgarner beat Conforto inside with a well placed fastball to end the rally. Given how Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling were harping on the false narrative Bumgarner ruined Conforto’s 2016 season, we should see more of the same for any poor play Conforto makes the rest of the year.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Mets had a chance to rally back from 3-1 against Tony Watson, who they had already gotten to in the series. The only problem was Tony Randazzo wasn’t going to have any of it.
It appeared Wilmer Flores drew a four pitch walk to start the ninth. Instead, Randazzo called an obvious ball a strike. Flores then went the other way as he has been doing so well lately only to line it directly at Panik. Like with deGrom earlier in the game, Flores had some choice remarks for Randazzo, who, again, was terrible.
The game would come down to McNeil, who both Randazzo and the third base umpire ruled did not check his swing leading the Mets and perhaps more importantly deGrom to a loss. Looking at this game, you really see just how much deGrom has working against him as he tries to win games. Ultimately, if he does not win the Cy Young, there should be a line of people offering apologies. On that line, we should see Mesoraco and Randazzo.
Game Notes: Dominic Smith sat against Bumgarner the day after hitting a home run. The Mets are now 19-41 in games Mesoraco has played.
With Keith Hernandez weighing in on the Jose Urena/Ronald Acuna situation, we have rekindled the old school versus new school thinking. Certainly, there is the impression that throwing and hitting batters is an old and outdated way of thinking, but do the numbers and stats really prove that out. As a way to test that out, we could look at the all-time leaders in that category.
Can you name the pitchers who have hit the most batters in the modern era? Good luck!