Roger McDowell

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 8 Gary Carter

All the time we talk about key trades or signings which take teams over the top. While it was Keith Hernandez which helped the Mets realize their potential, it was Gary Carter which took this team from a very good team to a World Series winner, and as a result, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 8.

The Mets obtained Carter in a bold move to help take this team over the top. The team traded away their starting third baseman (Hubie Brooks) and starting catcher (Mike Fitzgerald) along with two well regarded prospects to get Carter. One of those prospects was Floyd Youmans, who was a high school teammate of Dwight Gooden.

In retrospect, even with Brooks having a long career, this was an absolute steal. It wasn’t even in retrospect. In fact, Carter would immediately show Mets fans the type of Hall of Fame player the team acquired:

In the Mets history, they have had Mike Piazza, and they had Todd Hundley setting home run records. Despite all of that, to this date, Carter’s 6.9 WAR during the 1985 season still stands as the best ever produced by a Mets catcher. In fact, at the time, it trailed just Cleon Jones‘ 7.0 mark in 1969 as the best a Mets position player has ever had.

It was during that season Carter began to sow the seeds of the 1986 World Series. He mentored a young staff that included Rick Aguilera, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Gooden, Roger McDowell, and others. Darling would tell the Baseball Hall of Fame, “And the thing about Gary was that before computers, before Sabermetrics, he had it in his brain. The entire National League, he could pull up that knowledge at any time and direct it on a very talented, young pitching staff to heights they probably wouldn’t have reached without him.”

Those Mets had a chance late in the season. In the penultimate series of the season, the Mets took the first two games in St. Louis, and if they completed the sweep, they’d tie atop the division with one series remaining. Unfortunately, their eighth inning rally came up short, and the 98 win team would miss the postseason. As we know, that is something that would never happen in the Wild Card Era.

The 1986 Mets would not be denied, and that team established themselves as one of the great teams in Major League history. Once again, Carter was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and he finished in the top six in MVP voting. However, when we talk about that postseason.

Looking at his stats that postseason, it is hard to conclude anything but Carter struggled. Still, when he was absolutely needed, he came through for the team. The first time we saw that happen was when he hit a walk-off single in the 12th off Charlie Kerfeld to help the Mets get a 3-2 series lead and achieve their goal of not seeing Mike Scott again in that series.

Carter’s biggest moments came in the World Series. After looking fatigued and getting beat by the Red Sox in the first two games at Shea Stadium, Lenny Dykstra ignited the Mets with a lead-off homer. Carter would take it from there hitting an RBI double in that game and then having a two home run game in the Mets Game 4 win.

While the Mets absolutely needed both of those homers, and they needed Carter’s performance in both of those games, Carter will always be remembered for just one single. In Game 6, the Mets were down 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th. After Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez flew out, Carter strode to the plate against Calvin Schiraldi. He was the last man standing between the Red Sox winning their first World Series since 1918:

As written in Jeff Pearlman’s book, The Bad Guys Won, Carter would say, “I wasn’t going to make the last out of the World Series.” Carter accomplished much more than that. He would spark the greatest rally in World Series history. In sparking that rally, he accomplished exactly what the Mets intended to do when they obtained him – win a World Series.

We didn’t realize it at that time, but 1986 was the last truly great year from Carter. Still, he was an All Star in each of the ensuing two seasons, and he would be named just the second captain in team history joining his teammate Hernandez as co-captains.

While people realize how great Carter was and how important he was to those Mets teams, they may not realize his impact on the Mets record books. By the time he left the Mets, he had the second highest single-season WAR for a position player. He had the third highest single season offensive WAR. In fact, it was the highest when he accomplished the feat in 1985.

In that 1985 season, he was just a hair behind John Stearns and Jerry Grote for the best defensive WAR from a Mets catcher. His 105 RBI in 1986 tied Rusty Staub for the Mets single-season record. He still holds the single season record for RBI. He is all over the single season record  lists.

Mostly, he was the only Hall of Fame caliber player on those Mets teams. Aside from Willie Mays, he is arguably the best position player to ever wear a Mets uniform. Yes, even better than Piazza. On that note, Carter and Piazza are currently the only two position players in Mets history who were Hall of Famers who played like it on the Mets.

If not for the Hall of Fame frankly selectively enforcing a rule they did not enforce for players like Reggie Jackson, he would wear a Mets hat on his Hall of Fame plaque, and he would have had his number retired by now. Despite that decision, nothing can take away from the impact he had on the Mets and the World Series he brought to the team. No one can change his being the best Mets player who ever wore the number 8.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Carter was the eighth best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 8.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes

 

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 4 Lenny Dykstra

The number four has had a number of folk heroes and fan favorites in Mets history. The first was Ron Swoboda with his diving catch catch robbing Brooks Robinson of a hit in the 1969 World Series. There was Rusty Staub who gallantly fought while injured for the 1973 Mets.

Robin Ventura had the Grand Slam single, and Wilmer Flores has more walk-off hits than anyone in Mets history. Even with all of these Mets greats, when it comes to the number four, Lenny Dykstra was the best player to ever wear the number.

While he was first called-up in 1985, Dykstra would first establish that as the case during the 1986 season. In that season, Dykstra was pressed into action as an everyday player when Mookie Wilson suffered a Spring Training injury. We would soon find out that not only was Dykstra up to the task, but he would emerge as the Mets second best position player that season (by WAR).

It was more than his numbers. He presented a fire and grit for this Mets team (not that they needed it), and we would see exactly why he had the nickname Nails. Of all the special things Dykstra had done that year, he would save his best work for the postseason – something that would become the hallmark of his career.

In Game 3 of the NLCS against the Houston Astros, the Mets were facing going down 2-1 in the series with Mike Scott slated to start Game 4 and Nolan Ryan in Game 5, the 108 win Mets team was in real trouble. They could not lose this game. Ultimately, they wouldn’t as Dykstra would become the first ever Mets player to hit a walk-off homer in Mets postseason history:

Overall, Dykstra would hit .304/.360/.565 with a double, triple, homer, and three RBI. In a series where the Mets offense really struggled against the Astros pitching, especially the top of their rotation, it was Dykstra who helped keep the Mets afloat for their late inning miracle rallies. Really, next to the pitchers, Dykstra was unarguably the best player for either team in the series, and to some extent, he deserved the MVP award.

Just like he did in Game 3 against the Astros, Dykstra again game up huge in Game 3 of the World Series. After that emotional NLCS, they found themselves down 2-0 heading to Fenway. The Mets were in deep trouble. However, Dykstra would revitalize that Mets team leading off the game with a home run off Oil Can Boyd:

To some extent, that moment would be somewhat tainted by allegations Ron Darling made towards Dykstra. Overall, the off-the-field stuff during his career (steroids) and after his career, marred Dykstra. However, when he played, he was a terrific player who always came up big in big moments.

Again, in the 1986 World Series, Dykstra was terrific hitting .296/.345/.519. From there, he would find himself splitting time with Wilson with the Mets obtaining Kevin McReynolds in an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres. When Dykstra got to play, he was a very good player on the field.

He would again be great in the postseason. In a losing effort, Dykstra was phenomenal hitting .429/.600/.857 with three doubles, a homer, and three RBI. Just like two years prior, pitchers aside, Dysktra was very clearly the best position player on the field.

Seeing how he played in that series and in his Mets career, it is a wonder to everyone as to exactly why Dykstra would be traded during the ensuing season to the Philadelphia Phillies along with Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel. There are not enough ways to describe just how epic a blunder this was for the Mets. This was a franchise altering decision for the Mets and Phillies.

Ultimately, the one thing you can always say about Dykstra was the Mets were always better with him. He was always prepared for the biggest moments on the biggest stage in the biggest city in the world. While he was far from a perfect person, he was the perfect player to play in New York, and if not for him, it is likely we are talking about the Mets only having won one World Series in their history.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Granderson was the third best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 3.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson

Mets Should Never Hold Onto Prospects, Make Trades, Or Sign Free Agents

Looking at this past offseason, the Mets have traded away much of their future to improve the 2019 team. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn were part of a package for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana were traded for J.D. Davis. Finally, Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl were traded for Keon Broxton.

There has been some debate on each of these moves. Whereas many saw the Mets undervaluing assets, there have been a contingent who have justified the deal under the auspices of how not all prospects work out.

To a certain extent, there is validity to the prospects not panning out. With respect to Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen had a successful career, and that was as a reliever not the front line starter we expected him to be. Outfielders Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Alex Ochoa weren’t even so much as a part-time player. Relievers like Eddie Kunz did nothing. The list goes on and on . . . .

Of course, this overlooks the prospects which have had successful careers. Tom Seaver was a Hall of Famer. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Edgardo Alfonzo were all-time Mets greats. As we know, that list is much longer than that. It also includes Nolan Ryan, which was a trade which lives on in Mets infamy.

That was a trade of a young player who hasn’t figured it out for a past All-Star Jim Fregosi. While prevailing wisdom is that trade was a Mets disaster, the school of thought were you trade young players for proven Major League talent would be fully onboard with that deal. That does beg the question why people are against keeping prospects and are not against the Mets making trades.

Looking over Mets history, this team has made many horrible trades. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan for Fregosi trade, we have also seen several other poor trades in Mets history:

There are several others which have blown up in the Mets faces. In addition to that, there have been trades for players which have greatly under-performed for the Mets. In addition to the aforementioned players, you can include Roberto Alomar, Willie Mays, Joe Torre, and a litany of others did not perform when wearing a Mets uniform.

With the Mets losing valuable young players and with the team getting veterans who have not performed, you have to wonder why the Mets don’t just operate on the free agent market. Of course, the reason there is the extensive failures the Mets have made on that front. The list is well known, and Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Vince Coleman, George Foster, Oliver Perez, and many, many others.

Point is, no matter which way you look, you see a history of failures when it comes to the Mets organization. Their prospects always fail. They only trade for veterans in decline. Every free agent signing is a bust.

Of course, that’s not remotely the truth. When looking at each area, the Mets have had plenty of successes and failures. The goal for every General Manager is to have more success than failures and for those failures to not come back and bite you. That’s what defines periods like the 1980s Mets and also the period immediately thereafter.

So in the end, when judging moves, do it on their own merit and not because you believe the Mets prospects fail, trade acquisitions production declines, and every free agent is a bust.

IBWAA NL Manager of the Year Ballot – Dave Roberts

This was a strange year in the National League Manager of the Year race.  All the teams that were supposed to be contenders were actually contenders despite most of those teams suffering brutal injuries.

That Nationals lost Stephen Strasburg for a good part of the year and will likely not have him in the postseason.  The Mets lost Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, David Wright, and Lucas Duda for a good portion of the season.  At one point, the Dodgers entire starting projected rotation was on the disabled list with the most crushing blow being a Clayton Kershaw trip to the disabled list.  The Cardinals have had their shortstops, Jhonny Peralta and Aledmys Diaz, on the disabled list with injuries, and they lost their closer Trevor Rosenthal.  Even the Cubs suffered a huge injury with Kyle Schwarber going down with a torn ACL.  With these teams overcoming those injuries, it could be quite difficult to determine who was actually the best manager in the National League this season.  Taking all that into consideration, here is my ballot:

1st Place – Dave Roberts

A large part of his award goes to Roberts because of what he did despite his team being the most injured team in all of baseball.  By the first week of the season, he lost two members of his starting rotation with Brett Anderson and Hyun-Jin Ryu.  He would also lose important bullpen arms in Carlos Frias, Yimi Garcia, and Chris Hatcher for the year.  He’d also deal with the most dramatic injury of all when Kershaw went down with a back injury.

When Kershaw made his last start before heading to the disabled list, the Dodgers were 41-36, eight games behind the Giants in the West and a game behind the Marlins for the second Wild Card.  From that point forward, the Dodgers have the second best record in baseball.  They have won the NL West for the second year in a row, and they seem poised to make a deep run in the postseason.

That’s not the only reason why Roberts is the Manager of the Year.  He’s also capably handled a number of tricky situations that would have the potential to flummox other managers and potentially poison some clubhouses.  He had to get Howie Kendrick to accept being a utility player and eventually an outfielder.  He had to get one last great season out of Chase Utley.  He would pull rookie Ross Stripling while he had a no-hitter going because it was the best thing for the young player’s career and the Dodgers’ future.

Clearly, Roberts has been unafraid to make the tough decisions.  He had control of the clubhouse.  He avoided near disaster, and he led his team from eight games back to win the NL West.  That’s Manager of the Year material.

2nd – Joe Maddon

In reality, any other year this award would go to Maddon.  Maddon has established himself as the best manager in the game.

Maddon was handed a roster that was easily a World Series favorite, and he delivered during the regular season.  Not only did he get another great season from Jake Arrieta, but he also got better years from Jon Lester and John Lackey.  By the way, somehow he got a Cy Young caliber season out of Kyle Hendricks.

We also saw Maddon play mad scientist like he loves to do.  When Schwarber went down, Maddon took his budding superstar Kris Bryant and turned him into a Ben Zobrist type of player.  It probably helped Bryant that he had the actual Zobrist on the team to give him some pointers.  Additionally, never one to stay at the status quo, Maddon experimented using multiple relievers on the field.

On June 28th, Maddon would actually play Spencer Patton and Travis Wood in the outfield in a 15 inning game against the Reds.  It actually worked out well for the Cubs.  Patton started the 14th inning on the mound and Wood in left field.  When Jay Bruce came up to bat, Maddon would switch them around to get Bruce out.  After the Bruce at bat, Maddon switched them back so Patton could get Adam Duvall out.  This was reminiscent of the 1986 game where Davey Johnson was forced to shift Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell between left field and the pitcher’s mound due to a Ray Knight ejection leaving the Mets without another position player.  However, Maddon wasn’t forced into the decision.  There wasn’t an injury or an ejection.  Rather, Maddon did it because he simply believed it gave the Cubs the best chance to win the game.

That is the type of progressive thinking that has made Maddon the best manager in the game, and it has helped the Cubs to a 100 win season with the best record in baseball.  If not for the terrific season Roberts had, Maddon would have won this quite easily.

3rd – Dusty Baker

Last year, the Nationals were done in by a toxic clubhouse and a terrible manager in Matt Williams.  In the offseason, the Nationals did what they had to do in firing Williams, and then they had to settle on Baker as their manager.

Baker has always been a curious case.  He has never been a favorite of the Sabermetrically inclined.  He makes curious in-game decisions (hello Russ Ortiz), and he has a tendency to over rely on veterans over young players that are probably better and can do more to help the team win.  Despite all of that, Baker has won wherever he has gone.  He has brought the Giants, Cubs, Reds, and now the Nationals to the postseason.  The reason is Baker is a manager that gets the most out of his players.

It wasn’t easy for him this year.  Bryce Harper had a down year, Jonathan Papelbon wouldn’t last the season as either the closer or as a National, and Ben Revere would show he was not capable of being the center fielder for a good team.  Worse yet, Strasburg went down with injury despite Baker actually being someone careful with his young pitcher.  So how’d he do it.  Well, he got career years from Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos.  In a sign of growth, Baker trusted a young player in Trea Turner to not only play everyday, but also to play out of position.  Mostly, Baker was Baker.

Overall, it is clear that Baker has some innate ability to get his teams to play well.  He did that again this year in turning around a Nationals team that fell apart last year to a team that comfortably won the NL East.

Honorable Mention – Terry Collins

By no means did Collins have a strong year this year.  You can point to the injuries, but he did do a lot to exacerbate them by playing players who he knew was injured.  He had a year where he messed around with Michael Conforto‘s development and threatened the career of Jim Henderson by abusing his surgically repaired shoulder for a “must-win” game in April.  Furthermore, he flat out abused the arms of Hansel Robles, Addison Reed, and Jeurys Familia.  So no, Collins is not deserving of the award.

However, he is deserving of an honorable mention with the class and dignity he comported himself in the aftermath of Jose Fernandez‘s death.  He made sure his team was there to console the Marlins, and he prepared his team to win games when some of his own players were devastated by Fernandez’s death.  This was one of the many acts of kindness Collins has shown as the Mets manager, and it should be highlighted.

Implications of the Giants-Cardinals Series

Tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals head out west to begin a pivotal four game series against the San Francisco Giants that will have far reaching implications on the National League Wild Card race.  With each game played, the Mets will both gain ground on one team and lose ground to another.  As the series begins, here is where the Wild Card race stands:

Record GB
Giants 77-68 + 0.5
Mets 77-69
Cardinals 76-69 0.5

With the Mets being idle, one of two things are going to happen today: (1) they are going to be tied with the Giants for the first Wild Card; or (2) they are going to be tied with the Cardinals for the second Wild Card.  As we can see from that, this four game set between the Giants and Cardinals can be both a blessing and a curse that makes you question what result you want from this four game set.

Case for the San Francisco Giants

Each generation of Mets fan has a tale of woe that has come at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals.  There was the Terry Pendleton home run off Roger McDowell in 1987, and Carlos Beltran looking at an Adam Wainwright curveball in 2006.  There have been many other instances, and if history is any evidence, there will be more.  It is quite understandable if Mets fans do not want to see a Cardinals uniform in a winner-take-all Wild Card Game.

There are other baseball reasons to want to face the Giants over the Cardinals.  Since the All Star Break, the Giants have had the worst record in all of baseball.  The Giants ace, Madison Bumgarner, has struggled in the second half going 4-5 with a 3.87 ERA and a 1.200 WHIP.  The last time Bumgarner pitched against the Giants he only lasted five innings allowing six hits, four runs, four earned, and three walks while striking out six.  Bumgarner isn’t the only Giants star that has struggled in the second half.

Buster Posey is amidst the worst year in his career which hast mostly been the result of him hitting .274/.352/.366 with only one home run in the second half.  Posey is a major reason why the Giants have scored the third least runs in the National League after the All Star Break.  You would have to like the Mets chances against this lineup when they are hopefully sending Noah Syndergaard to the mound.

Even if the Giants were to get a lead on the Mets in the Wild Card Game, it will not be a safe lead for the Giants whose bullpen has completely fallen apart.  Santiago Casilla has lost his closer’s job.  Joe Nathan was given a chance, but only proved why he was a 41 year old pitcher in the minors this year.  Hunter Strickland crashed and burned in his first chance to take over the closer’s position.  Fact is, the Giants don’t have a bullpen that can protect a lead which is really dangerous against a Mets team that has Yoenis Cespedes ready, willing, and able to hit a clutch home run late in the game.

In addition to the Giants falling apart, the Mets could very well have more trouble with the Cardinals.  Yadier Molina is a Mets killer.  Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk give the Mets fits.  While the Cardinals rotation has been a big disappointment this season, Carlos Martinez has pitched like an ace this year.  In his career, he is 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA against the Mets.  If the Cardinals get a lead, Seung-hwan Oh has shown himself to be a dominant closer.  Given the past history, and how poorly the Mets matchup against the Cardinals, they would be better off facing the Giants.

Case for the St. Louis Cardinals

We can saw all we want about Madison Bumgarner having a tough second half, and it is true.  However, under no circumstances do you want to face him in a winner-take-all game.  You just have to go to the 2014 Postseason video for proof of that.  In the Wild Card Game, he pitched a complete game shutout.  In Game 7 of the World Series, he came out of the bullpen to pitch five shutout innings to earn the save.  In his postseason career, he is 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA and a 0.883 WHIP.  You don’t want to be anywhere near him.  In addition to this, many people will tell you that you don’t want to face the Giants because it is an even-numbered year.

No matter how much better the Mets may matchup against the Cardinals, you always want to avoid an ace like Bumgarner in the postseason.  Pitching wins, and the Cardinals have no one on the level of Bumgarner.

Case for a Split

A sweep at the hands of the other could bury one of the Wild Card contenders.  The corollary to that is it will rejuvenate one of the two Wild Card contenders.  As it stands, the Giants and Cardinals have seemingly had trouble getting out of their own way.  If either team was able to sweep or take three out of four in the series, it will be a significant mental boost that could lead to them playing better baseball from here on out.  Ideally, the Mets do not want to face a hot team in that Wild Card game.

Ideally, the Mets would also have homefield in the Wild Card Game.  Unless, the Mets sweep the Twins, which may proven to be more difficult than it should be with Gabriel Ynoa potentially slated to go Sunday, the Mets will trail one of these two teams for home field in the Wild Card race.  As of right now, the Mets do not have any teams over .500 remaining on their schedule.  If the Mets take care of business, they should be able to earn a Wild Card spot not matter what happens in the Giants-Cardinals series.

As it stands, the Mets would probably want to face the Giants, and they would want to face them at home.  However, baseball is an unpredictable game, and as we have learned far too often, you should be careful for what you wish for.

 

 

You Can Trust Jeurys Familia Is Getting the Save

Normally, I’m much more in tune with a Mets game than I was last night. Generally speaking, no matter where I am, I’m getting play-by-play someway, somehow. I didn’t last night because I was at the Brooklyn Cyclones game with my family, and courtesy of Nicco Blank, we had great seats:

  
Being that close, especially with an active toddler, we had to be on high alert foul balls  in the stands:

  
Courtesy of Blake Tiberi

In any event, by the time we got to the car, I knew little about the game. I knew Bartolo Colon started the game. I knew Neil Walker hit a two run homer. I knew the Mets were up 4-3. I was just fuzzy on the rest of the who, what, where, when, or why about the other five runs that scored. 

There was another thing I knew. Jeurys Familia was going to close it out. 

So far this year, Familia is a perfect 28 for 28 in save chances. He has a career 2.49 ERA, 1.182 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9. He has a career 149 ERA+. He’s consistent. He’s durable. He’s the best closer in the National League, and he’s amongst the best in baseball. As a fan, he’s a closer that gives you confidence. That’s a rare feeling for Mets fans. 

Sure, John Franco usually got the job done as evidenced by his 424 career saves. That’s the most for a lefty closer. That’s also 424 times he gave some poor Mets fan a heart attack for his Houdini acts. 

He was supplanted by Armando Benitez. Benitez was as dominant as they come unless he was facing Pat BurrellPaul O’Neill, the Braves, or any team in the Month of September or October. 

Billy Wagner was tremendous until he faced the immortal So TaguchiJesse Orosco and Roger McDowell were a bit before my time. 

About the only closer I can come up with during my time I had any confidence in was Randy Myers. Back in 1988 and 1989, he was great as the Mets closer. You had confidence when he took the mound. It was the opposite feeling when the Mets brought in Franco to start the 1990 season as the closer. It began a 14 year high wire act that was followed with the Benitez’s and the Braden Looper‘s of the world. 

It’s been 18 years since the Mets had a closer they can trust not to give everyone a minor stroke when they take the mound. Familia is different than his predecessors. When Familia enters the game in a save situation, he’s getting the save.  He typically does it without giving you a heart attack. When he enters the game, you know he’s converting the save. 

It’s about the one thing I knew for certain about the Mets game yesterday. 

Retire 17?

You know sometimes we forget about the impact Keith Hernandez had upon his teammates. 

After Hernandez left the Mets, David Cone switched his number from 44 to 17 to honor his former teammate. He would wear it again with the Royals. His fellow color commentator, Ron Darling, wore 17 while a member of the Athletics. Bob Ojeda and Roger McDowell did the same with their future teams. In fact, they occupied the number during Mike Piazza‘s early tenure with the Dodgers. This is interesting because Piazza wanted number 17:

When Piazza joined the Mets, John Franco gave him his number 31. It was a terrific gesture that was part of a full court press to make Piazza comfortable and to get him to resign with the Mets. Piazza’s chosen number,17, was taken by Luis Lopez. He’s one of the many who have had the number that drives Hernandez nuts. I’m assuming Piazza never asked for the number. 

With Piazza on the verge of being elected to the Hall of Fame, I presume the Mets would retire his number during the following season. We know that number will be 31. While Franco was a fine Met and a good closer, I’m sure there will be no groundswell to retire the number in his honor as well. 

Now if Piazza wore 17, I’m assuming the Mets would’ve told Luis Lopez to find another number. If Piazza’s number 17 was retired, there would’ve been a major groundswell to retire the number in Hernandez’s honor as well. We know there is one already amongst the fan base. Retiring Piazza’s number might’ve created an avenue to retire the number of a popular player and broadcaster. However, Piazza never got to wear 17, and it’s Hernandez’s fault. 

He left a tremendous impact with the fans and his teammates. The fans and his teammates wanted to honor him. It’s ironic this impact is what is preventing him from having his number retired.