Half a season gone by and the Mets have been fun to watch, buoyed by outstanding performances by Royally Screwed All-Star Reserves David Wright and R.A. Dickey and a kind of gutsy character that's resulted in exciting baseball and lots of satisfying wins. In a lot of ways, the Mets are surprising people not because they've gotten so much better (though they have, a little) but that the league has come back to them. Clubs like Philadelphia and Miami (LOL and LOL) are exhibiting the kinds of struggles the Mets did in recent years and few clubs in the NL look so good that they could run away from the rest, so I think there's a little reason to believe the Mets can't hang around for a while (I think, in fact, lots of teams will hang around for a while). It's just that kind of year.
My concerns are with their weak right-handed hitting, their poor defense and their lack of pitching depth (in that order). It will take a trade or a miracle comback from Jason Bay to fix the first issue and continued health and some good luck to fix pitching concerns (I don't think we have to go nuts trading for some other team's closer, but bolstering the ready supply of good arms never hurt anyone). It's the D that I can't see improving (unless you involve Daniel Murphy and/or Lucas Duda in a trade for that right-handed slugger) and then who knows. But I'd suspect the D will continue to be an issue, so I'm keeping my expectations modest: Let's hope we can hang around, avoid another big dropoff like we've had in so many recent second halves, and see where it gets us. If we can add a bat or an armn, let's do that too. It's been fun so far.
Speaking of David Wright, his home run July 3 "not only moved him past Howard Johnson into third place in the Mets' record books, it also moved uniform #5 past #18 for home runs hit. Number 5 now trails only #20 in home runs." This from sharp-eyed MBTN reader Shorty in the comments section. Sure enough, it checks out: Wright's dinger was the 378th by a player who wears No. 5, surpassing 18, which hasn't had a home run since Moises Alou in 2007 (thanks for nothing again, Jeremy Reed). Only No. 20, with 388 home runs, has produced more but with that uni currently unassigned it looks like Wright (197 HRs wearing 5) and company (John Olerud is next with 63) can overtake the all-time lead later this year. Re-sign this guy!
Getting caught up with the recent roster moves, the Mets designated Justin Hampson and recalled Jordany Valdespin July 4, then swapped out Jeremy Hefner for a healthy-at-last Pedro Beato July 5. Beato was gone so long I forgot what number he wore, but can tell you now it's still 27. Hampson was later reassigned to Buffalo along with Chris Schwinden, who bounced on the waiver wire to the Indians to the Yankees and back to the Mets.
Just goofing off this morning, came across this highlight video featuring two of my favorite Mets thrilling Canadians in 1989. Both Mookie Wilson and Lee Mazzilli would finish their playing careers as Blue Jays, and both are remembered fondly in Toronto for helping the '89 Jays to the finish line in a tight pennant race. It's odd to see Mookie wearing any number other than 1, but I agree with Cito Gaston: I'd pay to see him do his stuff.
Here in the present, we're lucky to once again be encountering an opponent going through a rough stretch, and to our credit, keeping them there. Second halves have not been kind to the Mets lately but this is looking like a team capable of hanging around, especially if they get some right-handed hitting. I remarked below that it was shame to have lost Vinny Rottino for that very reason. I'd have him in the lineup against Kershaw tonight.
Great reprint of a 1984 article on the aftermath of Ed Kranepool's career surfaced this week at MetsMerized Online. If quotes were hits, David Wright would never catch Steady Eddie, who reveals his inner Gene Simmons and demonstrates he's as unique a charcater as the team ever produced. Well worth the read!
It isn't like they needed one but the Mets got another reminder of their shortcomings in depth, defense and power this weekend, and it didn't help that Terry Collins couldn't manage past them and Ike Davis was poisoned. But whatever, they've got to move on and will do so now without Vinny Rottino, who was farmed out last night for lefty relief help, Justin Hampson. We could have used both guys last night but Terry instead opted for Justin Turner, who had a very bad game and Miguel Batista, who's once again pitching like a 41-year-old should.
No word yet on Hampson's digits, we'll let you know (or, likely, you will me). EDIT: Hampson (note the spelling) appeared tonight wearing No. 45.
In the inbetween we welcomed back Ronny Cedeno, Ruben Tejada and Ramon Ramirez and bid goodbye (for now) to Jordany Valdespin, Elvin Ramirez (farmed out) and Frank Francisco (strained mouth). I liked both Valdespin and Ramirez and hope to see them back soon.
I consider myself fortunate to have missed most of the goings-on last night due to another engagement but have no excuse but my own laziness with respect to not keeping the roster updated.
Chris Schwinden: The book is closed on the first No. 63 in team history. He was claimed by the Blue Jays the last time the Mets tried designating him. Manny Acosta and Rob Johnson in the meantime cleared waivers and will try to get their stuff together in Buffalo.
Johnson's departure meant that Josh Thole was back, it's a miracle the Mets made even a little progress without him. Boy do we have some awful bats out there.
Also returning to the team was gigantic soft-tosser Chris Young, again wearing No. 55. He gives me a little more confidence at the back end of the rotation that Migual Batista, who also reappeared this week when Ramon Ramirez hit the disabled list with a hamstring injury suffered while rushing to the mound in celebration of Santana's no-hitter. This was a small price to pay given that Ramirez didn't look to me like he was in great shape to begin with.
Jack Egbert, destined to be one of the most obscure Mets ever I can already assure you, was sent down when Young arrived. Egbert was so nondecript I forgot even to create a record for him here but that's done now.
Congratulations to Johan Santana and his Mets teammates especially the heroic Mike Baxter for spectacularly ending the Mets' random but remarkable 8,020-game no-hitter drought. I have to say I was more stunned than elated as it came to pass but glad a deserving Met earned it. And any time you humiliate the Cardinals is a bonus. Let's Go Mets! This is becoming a pretty good year.
I've never seen Elvin Ramirez in a Mets uniform so don't have any idea what number he'll turn up in when he arrives Friday. He'd been with the Mets organization since he was a teenager, but only began to enter the radar screen when he was selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Nationals, only to miss the year they were required to keep him with a shoulder injury. He was returned to the Mets this year, and he's been kicking ass in Buffalo, so he will get the call, likely at the expense of Chris Schwinden (again). Ramirez was wearing No. 36 in Buffalo, which happens to be available on the Mets now. Nos. 20, 22, 38, 45, 51 and 58 are also vacant possibilities. So I guess I do have an idea.
UPDATE: My idea is wrong again. Mets.com roster lists Ramirez in No. 62. I think we have to consider the 60s are no longer "unusual" for the Mets.
Josh Thole is also en route back, which ought to help a lot given we've somehow continued contending despite three weeks of Mike Nickeas and Rob Johnson, one of whom will likely get cut to make room for him. I don't much like Johnson's defense nor Nickeas' offense, and each the other.
A remark in the comments section in the previous entry, noting that slugging middle infielder Omar Quintanilla had become the Mets' first Q surname and the 25th letter represented overall, inspired the following attempt to field a team of Mets using each letter of the alphabet only once. Thanks for the inspiration and the post-list suggestions. I like this team's chances even if Seaver might have to sit to get Strawberry's bat in the lineup. Isn't that so Metly?
Starting pitchers (5)
Omar Quintanilla this evening will become the 39th player to suit up for the Mets in the No. 6 jersey and the first since Nick Evans wrestled it away from Ramon Martinez in 2008 and began four years of bobbing recalls and DFAs typical of classic Met sixers. Quintanilla replaces the roster slot of Justin Turner who went down with an ankle injury yesterday. As noted here often, No. 6 is the official address of the Met scrub, having been issued more times than any other jersey in team history. Back in 2009, I counted down the 10 greatest sixes in Mets history: A revised version would probably have to include Evans for sheer persistance in waiting around for another turn -- and getting them -- in the face of so many invitations to take a hike.
Also back tonight is Chris Schwinden, rapidly becoming Evans' pitching equivalent. He's up for Manny Acosta but likely just holding a spot in line for someone better. That they designated Acosta for assignment is less of a mystery than why Terry Collins chose to use him in a 1-run game the Mets still had a chance to win, but Manny, like so many of those who dared to wear No. 46 before him, is leaving the Mets in disgrace.