The Mets are apparently playing this afternoon in special, scary St. Patrick's Day caps as pictured here (green-cap tip to the 'Ropolitans for the photo).
In other news, the below post on the Mets-related calypso song got some love in UniWatch today. Paul Lukas has proposed a movement to make the song a hit; I'd be satisfied just to hear it at the park sometime. C'mon, Mets!
Not much on the Uni Number front to report, I'm watching the positional battles just like you and don't have a clue whether Brad Emaus or Luis Castillo or Daniel Murphy winds up with a starting job. I would hope however that the decision is made based on who's the best second baseman, and not whom the fans hate the least. I raised this point last year when Jerry Manuel inexplicably made Ruben Tejada the starter at second base, despite the fact that, as pathetic as it was to own up to, Luis Castillo was the best second baseman the Mets had at the time. The timing of that move was especially curious and, as we know, came right at the moment where an OK Mets' season turned into an especially bad one.
Like every March, I'm impatient for the season to start. My enthusiasm is tempered somewhat by going into another year with a question mark in right field. I'm not down on Carlos Beltran as a person, I wouldn't question his heart or overlook his greatness, but he's played all of a couple innings as a DH this spring and already needed time to rest his knees, I'm just not comfortable with a guy like that in right. Where I'm hopeful is in the prospect of Lucas Duda's awesome power, and in a good spring so far from Fernando Martinez, even if he's already been optioned to AAA.
I keep getting delayed in my attempt to write a season preview, a book review and a few other things but I dropped everything today when I heard this song for the first time. The artist is The Duke of Iron, also a new name to me, but apparently not to New York area Calypso fans in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. In celebrating we fans' love of the team in spite of its foibles, I thought the Duke aka Cecil Anderson, who died in 1968) captured the spirit perfectly, as does the sound.
I was so inspired to share, I downloaded the song tonight and whipped up the accompanying video from stuff I had lying around. Enjoy!
Here's Ken Boswell's 1971 Topps baseball card. That's the Cardinals' Vic Davalillo arriving too late to break up the double play as Boswell works the pivot between shortstop Al Weis and first baseman Art Shamsky. The card -- which must be one of the only Mets cards that includes a view of the Whitestone -- was shot on May 28, 1970, in the 6th inning of a game that Mets were losing 6-0 to the Cards. Boswell, however, was having a good afternoon. He'd go 3-for-3 in this game with a double, a sac fly, and both Met RBIs in what became a 9-2 loss. Against Bob Gibson, not bad.
Boswell wore No. 12, which is apropos in that this month marks the 12th anniversary of Mets by the Numbers, which I've determined "went live" for the the first time on Feb. 22, 1999. This makes MBTN one of the real dinosaurs of the Metosphere; the Ultimate Mets Database, whose awesome powers I use to determine things like what happened to the Mets on May 28, 1970, debuted at around the same time. A site called Mets Online, founded by the current Yankees beat writer for MLB.com (!) and whose offspring today operates as NY Spoortsday, was around then too, but not sure of many others. No. 12 was then in a dark period following Jorge Fabregas's departure and the coming of the Shawon Dunston Era later that year.
Boswell was a Met for eight seasons and possessed a pretty good left-handed bat for a second baseman, especially for his era. A few injuries interrupted his early progress, and he'd eventually be displaced as the regular second baseman by Felix Millan, but he remained a useful player who batted 1.000 in the 1973 Word Series (3-for-3, all pinch hits) and clubbed home runs in consecutive games in the 1969 NLCS rout of the Braves. When Willie Randolph namechecked Ken Boswell while taking the No. 12 jersey, it might have been his finest moment as Mets manager.
The No. 12 jersey has been an interesting one in Mets history. The all-time No. 12 was probably John "Bad Dude" Stearns, a four-time All-Star and all-time tough guy. Twelve was also the best of Ron Darling's three numbers as a Met: He went 68-38 with a 3.38 ERA wearing 12 -- and 31-32, 3.73 wearing other numbers (44 and 15, respectively). Darling's the only Mets pitcher to ever have worn 12.
Twelve belonged to Tommy Davis during his outstanding (and only) Mets season in 1967; and to maddening chatty hacker Jeff Francoeur in 2009 and 2010. It currently belongs to Scott Hairston, who's likely to be a pinch-hitter and hopefully not a full-time player for the 2011 squad. One day, we may remember 12 as the number belonging to two Hall of Famers who endured difficult stays in Metville: Jeff Kent (who probably deserves in) and Roberto Alomar (who'll be enshrined this summer).
Who's your favorite 12?
Quick note: Thanks to reader Jondibrit (below) and others who checked in with eyewitness reports from Florida indicating Ken Oberkfell has been wearing No. 58, not 55 as listed on the Mets official roster (and assigned also to pitcher Chris Young). The report also noted there being ploenty of non-roster instructors on hand including minor league staffers Marc Valdes (74); Tim Tuefel (81); Ricky Bones (84) and Wally Backman (86). Number 0, who we've seen in some photos is minor-league catcher Jeff Glenn, according to Jondibrit.
Thanks as always for the updates. MBTN readers. If you're in Florida and see some cool or stupid stuff, let us know!
Just as we suspected: The Times' David Waldstein with a story we imagined here (sans attribution or access) days before. Jason Bay indeed says he'll surrender No. 44 should Jason Isringhausen makes the squad, acknowledging the digits have more meaning for Izzy than for him. And not for nothing, but doesn't it seem like Bay, beyond his enthusiasm for Isringhusen's chances to make the squad, is practically begging for a good reason to cash in 44 and start fresh? After a year like he had, I would. And no shame: He'd only be another casualty of the No. 44 jersey, which has brought little luck to its Mets' wearers, particularly its outfielders.
Bay, according to the Times "said he would see what other numbers were available if he relinquished No. 44." Let me help you out, Jason: There'd be 45 if you agree to swap with Izzy and 58 (we think) and several of the following group likely to become available as attrition and options play out in coming weeks: 4, 11, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 35, 36, 48 and more. I associate Bay as 38 -- his number with the Pirates -- and as long as guys are swapping I'm sure Chris Capuano wouldn't mind sliding along. I could also see Bay paying tribute to a fellow Canadian athlete with concussion issues, Eric Lindros in No. 88.
Here by the way is the updated Spring Roster.
1 Luis Castillo, 2B
2 Justin Turner, 2B
3 Luis Hernandez, INF
4 Russ Adams, INF
5 David Wright, 3B
6 Nick Evans, OF
7 Jose Reyes, SS
9 Ronny Paulino, C
10 Terry Collins, manager
11 Ruben Tejada, INF
12 Scott Hairston, OF
13 Mike Nickeas, C
15 Carlos Beltran, OF
16 Angel Pagan, OF
18 Ryota Igarashi, P
19 Raul Chavez, C
20 Jason Pridie, OF
21 Lucas Duda, OF
22 Willie Harris, OF
23 Blaine Boyer, P
25 Chin-lung Hu
26 Fernando Martinez, OF
27 Boof Bonser, P
28 Daniel Murphy, 1B-2B-OF
29 Ike Davis, 1B
30 Josh Thole, C
32 Jenrry Mejia, P
33 Taylor Buchholz, P
34 Mike Pelfrey, P
35 Dillon Gee, P
36 Manny Acosta, P
38 Chris Capuano, P
39 Bobby Parnell, P
40 Tim Byrdak, P
43 R.A. Dickey, P
44 Jason Bay, OF
45 Jason Isringhausen, P
46 Oliver Perez, P
47 Taylor Tankersley, P
48 Pat Misch, P
49 Jon Niese, P
50 Mike O'Connor, P
51 Chip Hale, 3rd base Coach
52 Dave Hudgens, hitting coach
53 Mookie Wilson, first base coach
54 Dave Racaniello, Bullpen Catcher
55 Ken Oberkfell, bench coach*
55 Chris Young, P
56 Jon Debus, bullpen coach
57 Johan Santana, P
59 Dan Warthen, pitching coach
61 Tobi Stoner, P
62 Dusty Ryan, C
63 Jordanny Valdespin, INF
64 Josh Stinson, P
65 Zach Lutz, INF
66 Armando Rodriguez, P
67 Manny Alvarez, P
68 Brad Emaus, 2B
69 John Lujan, P
70 Pedro Beato, P
71 Kai Gronauer, C
72 Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF
75 Francisco Rodriguez, P
77 DJ Carrasco, P
* - Has anyone seen Ken Oberkfell in a jersey?
The Times reports this morning that former Mets manager Joe Frazier passed away at age 88. Frazier was a longtime organization man promoted to succeed Yogi Berra following the 1975 season. His 1976 Mets won 86 games, but he was not prepared to deal with the tumultuousness between the players and the front office that erupted with dawn of free agency and was replaced early in the 1977 season by one of his own players, Joe Torre. RIP Joe.
As if the Mets needed more proof that $15 million and an easy looming option clause aren't necessary requirements to furnish a bullpen this year or next, Jason Isringhausen this week walked in off the street and landed a minor-league contract with the Mets. I'm happy to see Izzy back, even if he's a long shot, because it never hurt anyone to have a Plan B or C with a little experience hanging around, especially one with Met heritage. With No. 44 assigned to Jason Bay, Izzy slipped on a No. 45 jersey and said all the right things about John Franco, but in the event he breaks camp, as unlikely as it seems, it might be best for all parties involved if some jersey swapping occurs.
Let's start with the fact that Izzy's had only one other number in his career -- 29 -- but he gave it up for 44 before he ever appeared in a Mets game. He wore 44 so as to remind himself -- and show others -- that he was a 44th round draft pick. And it's the only number he's worn ever since. Bay on the other hand had zero equity in 44 until traded to the Red Sox -- that episode of his career will look like a blip on his baseball card when it's all over -- and he left that team for the Mets. And if anyone could use a change of fortune it's Bay.
(See Matt's comments below for a counterpoint on Bay).
As you probably heard somewhere, the Mets are assembling in St. Lucifer right now in anticipation of the first workouts of spring training. I can tell because my copy of the Maple Street Press 2011 Mets Annual arrived at my home yesterday, and ought to be at area newsstands any minute now. Greg Spira and Matthew Silverman, who handle the heavy lifting for this book, do a great job as always setting an overarching editorial theme -- FRESH START -- and soliciting contributions to cover it from many angles.I offer a peice examining the Mets' fickle posture on free agency over the years, and its ramifications both good and bad. Other writers will take you into the Mets' minor league system, introduce you to the celebrity eggheads in the front office, look back at the 25th anniversary of 1986, and more. You can order the book at the MSP website or look for it at area retail stores. It's editors, writers and other Met fans are gathering for a Mets viewing party and reading April 5 at the former Bobby Vee's in Corona.
On the subject of self-promotion, the nice folks at The Happy Recap had me on their weekly radio show the other night. We discussed uniforms, numbers and my bold comparison of Darryl Strawberry to Mickey Mantle (in an emotional sense). The link to the webcast is here, I come on near the 22:00 mark and hang out for 15 minutes or so (just load the 2/13 link).
It's likely this week that we'll see how the Mets tackle the No. 55 logjam, with both Chris Young and coach Ken Oberkfell assigned those digits according to Mets records. In the meantime, nonroster invitees Kirk Nieuwenhuis (72), Willie Harris (22), Jason Pridie (20), Kai Gronauer (71), John Lujan (69 - really?) and Tobi Stoner (61) have been assigned new numbers. Pridie's assignment puts a potential cap on Ike Davis's potential switch to No. 20 -- a move that would also free up Stoner's former No. 29, as unlikely as it seems.
Let's Go Mets!
After yesterday's post on Lenny Randle in Action, a friend suggested I continue the series with this shot of Felix Millan, also taken during the cruel summer of 1977 at Big Shea.
The Pirate No. 39 arriving at second is of course the Cobra, Dave Parker, as Millan, who had catlike qualities to match his name, fires off to first. Using the clues from the photo I've determined this shot was snapped on July 17, 1977, exactly two weeks before the below shot of Lenny Randle was taken. It's the top of the first inning of the second game of a Sunday doubleheader at Shea. The Mets and Pirates, who had an April series shortened by rain, also played a doubleheader that Friday, so this was the rubber game of a rare 5-game weekend series.
The play photographed shows Parker forced at second as part of an inning-ending, rally-killing 5-4-3 double play. Al Oliver was the hitter, Jerry Koosman was the pitcher, Millan received a throw from Randle and was relaying to John Stearns, getting a rare start at first base. Parker had reached base with a RBI single scoring Rennie Stennet, who'd preceded him with an run-scoring double. Phil Garner led off the game by reaching on an error by Randle.
This would be a good day for Millan, however. Moments after this shot was taken, he'd triple to right field, scoring Randle, who led off the Mets' first by getting hit by a Terry Forster pitch. Millan would then score on Steve Henderson's sac fly, tying the game at 2. Later in the game, Millan had an RBI single as part of a 6-run outburst capped by Henderson's grand slam off Kent Tekulve, and the Mets had a 9-3 win.
Until Keith Hernandez came along, Millan was probably the greatest No. 17 in Mets history (he spent his first year as a Met, 1973, wearing No. 16). Using a distinctive high choke up and a deep crouch, Millan was an extreme contact hitter who rarely walked or struck out, and provided steady defense at second. He held first and second place on the Mets' all-time single-season marks for both singles and hits until broken by Lance Johnson in 1996 (and several times since). He played 162 games in 1975, a Mets record he still shares with John Olerud (1999).
Millan's major-league career would end suddenly but memorably later this season against these same Pirates. In an August game at Three Rivers Stadium, Millan was on the receiving end of a hard take-out slide by the Pirates Ed Ott. Still holding the ball in his right hand, Millan wheeled and socked Ott in the jaw; in the ensuing brawl, Ott picked the dimuntive Met off the ground and drove him crashing to the turf upside down. The fall broke Millan's clavicle and separated his shoulder, and he never played an inning of major league ball again. The Mets sold his contract that offseason to the Taiyo Whales in Japan, where Millan won the Japan Central League batting title in 1979.
Happy birthday to Lenny Randle, pictured here on an unforgettable 1978 baseball card I've had in my collection for 33 years now. Randle, who wore No. 11, arrived on the Mets early in the 1977 season after a regrettable spring training incident turned him into the Latrell Sprewell of his era. Released by the Texas Rangers that spring after socking manager Frank Luchessi in the face during an on-field confrontation, Randle would become a stabilizing force on an otherwise chaotic Mets team, hitting a club-leading .304.
A little Internet research and a hand from my co-author Matthew Silverman determined the photo on this card was snapped on July 31, 1977, a Sunday afternoon at Shea. It's the third inning, the score is tied 2-2, and Randle, who'd just singled, is shown diving back to first base as San Diego first baseman Gene Richards reaches for a throw. Thanks to play-by-play records at Retrosheet, we know Randle was picked off, but pitcher Dave Wehrmeister's throw went awry, and Randle would get up and scurry all the way to third base, and score later that inning on a single by Steve Henderson. The Mets would hold on for a 10-9 win.
A hat tip to Topps for capturing Randle at what he did best. In 1977 he set a then-team record for stolen bases with 33, as well as a record 21 caught-stealings. The steals record has since been bested 20 times, but his 21 caught-stealings remains a Mets record! (actually, it's tied with Jose Reyes who was caught 21 times in 2007 -- while he swiped 78). Thanks to the Ultimate Mets Database for the quick referral.
Randle was the first player who ever responded to an inquiry by MBTN, explaining in an email many years back that he wore No. 11 as a tribute to deposed Ranger manager Billy Martin (No. 1) and to God. Happy birthday Lenny!