When compiling a list of the best Mets by choosing the Met who wore a particular number, you finally reach a number where there is only one person who wore the number. That is the case with the number 37 with Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel being the first and only Met to ever wear the number.
Stengel had been unceremoniously fired by the Yankees after Bill Mazeroski hit the only Game 7 walk-off homer in baseball history. After that, the Yankees decided to go in a new direction. In response, Stengel famously quipped, “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again.”
That was the thing with Stengel. He was always good for a line, quip, or malpropos. At his age, it seemed like it was going to be his last in baseball. Even though he was 70, Stengel had turned down other managerial jobs. That initially included the Mets.
Early on in their history, the Mets were hell-bent on bringing in some famous faces, especially those with New York roots. That included former Dodgers like Gil Hodges and Don Zimmer. After persistence, it would finally included Stengel. If nothing else, in those early days, Stengel would be a character who would give the team an early identity.
While Darryl Strawberry might’ve been the first person to play for all the teams which started in New York, Stengel would be the first and only person to actually wear all four New York uniforms. In his playing career, he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. As a manger, he would manage the Dodgers, Yankees, and finally, the Mets.
Stengel was never able to bring the Mets to anywhere near the level of the Yankees. He was oft criticized, but that is what typically happens to managers with bad teams. He would be the only Mets manager in the team’s Polo Grounds days, and he would be the first manager in Shea Stadium. He would manage all the way up until he broke his hip. At the end of that season, he would be the first Met to have his number retired by the team.
While he was no longer the manager, the team would keep him as part of the organization until his dying day. When the Mets won the World Series in 1969, both he and his wife were presented with championship rings. Stengel would wear his proudly until his dying day.
So, in the end, while Stengel was not the Hall of Famer he was with the Yankees, he was quintessentially the Mets in their early years, and ultimately, he too would be a champion. Overall, he is the only and best Met to ever wear the number 37.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky
25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy
29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza
32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey
34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
There were two overriding reasons why the Mets brought in Glenn Sherlock in the offseason. First and foremost, he was brought in because Tim Teufel has never been a great third base coach, and as we saw him send Wilmer Flores to the plate last season, he wasn’t getting any better. The second reason is the Mets wanted to have a new catching guru to replace Bob Geren to work with Travis d’Arnaud.
Now, if the Mets really want Sherlock to work with d’Arnaud, why is he the third base coach instead of serving as the bench coach like Geren?
Now, a bench coach has real responsibilities in the modern game. It is no longer the position Don Zimmer once described as, “People say, What is the job of a bench coach? I say, Very simple–I sit next to [Joe Torre] on the bench. When he plays hit-and-run that works, I say, ‘Nice goin’, Skipper,’ and if it doesn’t work, I go down to the other end of the bench, get a drink, and get out of his way. We only got one manager. I don’t want no credit for doin’ anything. I sit next to Joe like a bump on a log–that’s the way I leave it.” (Scott Raab, Esquire).
Rather, the bench coach has become more than that. He shares many responsibilities pre-game, post-game, and during the game. As Indians GM Chris Antonetti said about Bench Coach Brad Mills, “He’s ’s [Terry Francona‘s] right-hand man, and he really helps executed a lot of the planning, the logistics of when we’re going to work out, practices, all the communication within a game to get players ready.” (Evan Drellich, Boston Herald).
The bench coach has a number of responsibilities that keeps him as engaged in the game as the manager. He needs to be that because he needs to be a check on the manager to make sure the manager takes everything into account whenever he is making a move or not making a move. Part of that responsibility is looking at the catcher and seeing what he’s doing. Is he calling a good game? Is he setting up properly or staying in his crouch long enough? Is he paying enough attention to the running game? The list goes on and on.
That is something that Geren was able to do during his tenure as the bench coach. If there was an issue with how any one of his catchers were playing, he had the opportunity to speak with them and point out what adjustments needed to be made. When the Mets brought Sherlock aboard, it is presumably one of the things they wanted him to do with d’Arnaud.
Except, he can’t.
With Sherlock being the third base coach, he really can’t have that discussion with d’Arnaud. When d’Arnaud is sitting in the dugout while the Mets are on offense, Sherlock is at third base. When d’Arnaud is running out to his position, Sherlock is coming off the field. There are really limited times for the two to discuss the in-game adjustments d’Arnaud needs to make.
Now, these issues could be addressed post-game and in-between games. However, if there is something that really needs to be addressed, you’re not permitting Sherlock to do it. It may not seem like a huge issue, but something as simple as d’Arnaud not getting set up in the right position, can cost the pitcher the corner. With the wrong pitch sequencing, d’Arnaud may not be putting his pitchers in the best position to succeed. If there is something d’Arnaud is doing wrong when trying to get the ball out on a stolen base attempt, you can’t fix the issue leaving the opposition to take advantage of it all game long.
Now, other coaches can address it, but they can’t do it in the way Sherlock can. Sherlock is the catching coach who was brought it to communicate with his catchers, d’Arnaud specifically. While it may not seem like the biggest issue there is, not having Sherlock on the bench is the Mets giving an inch. With baseball being a game of inches, it does not seem like the best allocation of resources.
The obvious retort is Sherlock may not belong on the bench because of his limited managing experience. That ignores his having been a bench coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Dick Scott being named as the bench coach heading into the 2016 season. Scott last managed a team in 1997 when he was the manager of the Single-A South Bend Silver Hawks. Certainly, significant managerial experience isn’t something the Mets are prioritizing their bench coaches.
At this point, it is tough to judge what they are prioritizing because it isn’t experience. More to the point, they’re not prioritizing getting the most from their roster. If they were Sherlock would have been named the bench coach.
On Saturday, September 27, 2003, my father, brother, and I sat down to watch what was seemingly a meaningless baseball game. The Minnesota Twins had already locked up the AL Central, and the Detroit Tigers had already locked up the worst record in baseball. At that time, the only matter at issue was whether the Tigers would finish with a worse record than the 1962 Mets.
As each and every Mets fan knows, the worst team in baseball history was the 1962 Mets. They were bad from the beginning. The 1962 Mets lost their first nine games. That wouldn’t even be the lowpoint of the season. From May 21st until June 6th, the Mets would lost 17 straight games. That wasn’t even their only 10 plus game losing streak. There was an eleven game losing streak in late July, and there was a 13 game losing streak that spanned most of August. The 1962 Mets didn’t really do anything well except maybe lose. They inspired manager Casey Stengel to utter the phrase, “Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?” It was a phrase so utterly perfect that Jimmy Breslin used it as the title for his book about the 1962 Mets.
The funny part about that team is that they are somewhat beloved. There were colorful characters Mets fans know to this day regardless of whether or not they were around to see it. There were old heroes like former Brooklyn Dodgers like Gil Hodges and Don Zimmer. There was future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn. There were colorful characters as well. There was Marvelous Marv Throneberry who missed not just first but second base when running out a triple. There was speedy catcher Choo-Choo Coleman who best utilized his speed chasing down balls that went to the backstop. About the only players who didn’t belong was Frank Thomas with his 34 homers and 17 year old Ed Kranepool who actually had a bright future ahead of him in the majors.
That 1962 season was the first season in Mets history, and it was an important one at that. This record is quintessentially the Mets. It is a terrific reference point for each and every time the Mets have success. Whenever a 1969 or 1986 happens, it’s a reminder of how the Mets really did come from nothing to achieve great heights. Having this record was important, and it should be important to Mets fans.
It is why my family was rooting for the Tigers that day. At that point it wasn’t looking good. The Tigers had to take three of four from the Twins to avoid loss 120. They lost the prior game, and they were down 7-1 going into the bottom of the seventh. Somehow, someway, the Tigers pulled it off. They scored three in the seventh and then four in the eighth to somehow time the game. Then in the ninth, old friend Jesse Orosco threw a wild pitch allowing Alex Sanchez to score the winning run. At that point, Orosco was probably throwing things in disgust. However, to Mets fans, it looked like Orosco was throwing his glove into the heavens like he had done in 1986. The Tigers snatched a win from the jaws of defeat number 120. The 1962 Mets would be safe.
Now, this year, the 1962 Mets are being challenged once again. The Atlanta Braves come to Flushing sporting a 19-46 record. With their .292 win percentage, the Braves are on pace for a 47-115 season. If the Mets sweep the Braves like they should, the Braves will be all the closer to loss number 120. If the Braves are able to move the few major league quality bats from their line-up like Freddie Freeman, who knows how much worse things will get in Atlanta. Towards the end of the season, there will most likely be a race to see if the Braves could actually surpass the 1962 Mets loss total.
While it has been ingrained in me from the days of Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo to never root for the Braves, I will root for the Braves to win some games to avoid losing 120 or more games. Preferably, those wins will come at the expense of the Washington Nationals. Hopefully, at the end of the season, the 1962 Mets place in history will be secure.