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What Number Should They Issue to 'Fartinez'?
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Mets by the Numbers

The Mets Website That Counts

Good Riddance to 2009 and to Stupidity

I'd be very surprised if at next week's press conference the Mets don't present Jason Bay with the No. 44 jersey most recently surrendered by Tim Redding. And it looks also like 45 will be distributed to Kelvim Escobar, the Ex-Jay and former Angel whom the Mets signed to a make-good deal after missing most of the last two years with injuries.

Bay to me seems like a solid addition in an otherwise underwhelming field of available players but it's entirely possible that his contract could be a burden over the longer term. He's no Matt Holliday, but Matt Holliday isn't that much better, I don't think. I like the risk on Escobar, who before the arm troubles was a strikeout guy who could start or relieve and who desperately needs a new start.

I'm also okay that these moves have been largely pooh-poohed by the mainstream media who seem to want to punish the Mets for failing to compete behind the moves and roster they advocated last year. I agree with MBTN reader 9th-string catcher who in a below post commented that the theme for 2010 is "no stupid moves" as the Mets rebound from a hugely disappointing 2009 marked not only by a massive rash of injury, but by a smug overestimation of their own ability to compete.  



How About a Knuckle Sandwich

Only a few knuckleballers come around per generation, so I was pleased to learn the Mets were on the verge of signing one Tuesday. R.A. (Remarkable Athlete) Dickey has kicked around several organizations since first surfacing with Texas in 2001 and like many knuckleballers, developed the pitch only after his other stuff (including elbow ligaments) abandoned him.

Dennis Springer in '00: Get a Grip!The Mets' have employed but two pure knuckleballers in their history. The first was righthanded reliever Bob Moorhead, who developed the delivery while on the road back to New York following a string of injuries (including, ironically, breaking two knuckles by punching a Sportsmans Park dugout door in frustration after a 1962 outing). Moorhead's other distiction was having been the first relief pitcher ever called on in a Mets game. Moorhead wore 22 as a knuckleball dabbler in 1962 and 21 as a specialist in '65. The Mets' last pure knuckler, Dennis Springer, was released shortly after taking a pounding from the Reds on a frigid, wet, windy April evening at Shea in 2000. He wore No. 34.

Other Mets have included a knuckler as part of their repetoire, including relievers Jeff Innis (who threw his sidearm); Dave Roberts; Tom Sturdivant; Frank Lary; Warren Spahn; Bob McClure and Todd Zeile, whose whole pitching career was something of a stunt. Dave Mlicki threw a knuckle curve.

The Mets for a time were developing potential knuckleball throwers in the minors. One, Zac Clements, was a converted catcher who appears to have topped out at AA Binghamton in 2006. Charlie Hough, a longtime knucleball hurler, was the Mets pitching coach in 2001 and 2002.

Dickey in the meantime only signed a minor league contract, and has had only sporadic success in the majors to recommend him, but I'l be rooting for him just the same. Knucklers of recent vintage including Tim Wakefield and Tom Candiotti wear No. 49 so as to honor Hoyt Wilhelm, one of the giants of the craft. The Mets' current tenant of 49 is lefty Jon Niese.


As long as I was pointing out local media figures preying on what they considered to be a demanding and impatient fan base and poking the Mets with sticks to make a few headlines, I felt I should also point out that Mike Vaccaro of the Post has been providing a steady counterpoint more to my way of thinking.


I wouldn't necessarily agree with everything in this column, but compared to what John Harper's been shoveling this week in the News, it's a welcome contrast and -- would you believe?  -- perspective.


Numerically related content: Jason Bay wore 38 with the Pirates and most recently, 44 with the Red Sox. Fernando Nieve (I liked him quite a bit in his brief stay last year) owns the former at the moment while the latter went back on the market last week when the Mets declined to offer salary arbitration to disappointing signee Tim Redding


Give Me Relief

The Times this afternoon reports that the Mets are close to a deal with Japanese reliever Ryota Igarashi of the Yakult Swallows. From what I've read Igarashi is either a righthander with a deceptive motion and good control, or a wild righty who throws mad heat, but should be considered to be a late-inning relief candidate in any disguise. All the photos I've seen indicates he prefers to wear No. 53, which happens to be Jerry Manuel's number. In other words, if the Mets don't get off to a hot start, he can have it on Memorial Day.


I made the mistake of listening to WFAN while I moved the car last night and was blown away by the fire of stupidity Mike Francessa was stoking among fans competing with one another to be the most wounded by the news that the Phillies were to acquire Roy Halladay (at the cost of Cliff Lee, a multiyear, multimillion extension and some prospects) and the Red Sox had signed John Lackey for five years and $85 million. Ira on the Car Phone announced his intention to stay away from CitiField forever and demanded the Mets part with Jose Reyes (cuz we need less offense) while Francessa just let him talk.




My confidence in the Mets' ability to do the right thing for the club is shaky at best, but that's mainly due to those occasions when they kowtow to the demands of Francessa's listeners and columnist hacks like John Harper of the Daily News (THE METS MUST SIGN LACKEY he demands as hunting season opens and "THE METS NEVER HAD A CHANCE" he taunts at the end). The JJ Putz trade, which I'll never stop maligning, was a perfect example. If this tricky offseason has shown anything so far it's that the Mets haven't turned themselves inside out only to create the illusion they've solved their problems or to win a meaningless competition to make the biggest offseason splash.


They can certainly do a better job standing up for themselves in the meantime, but I'm glad they aren't getting pushed around, so far. Kudos too to the Phils for boldly making the moves they feel they have to to stay on top. It wouldn't be any fun to know your opponents weren't also trying.


Happy Birthday


Today would have been my Dad's 80th birthday. Frank Springer was a freelance cartoonist whose work appeared in comic books and strips, magazines including Playboy, Sports Illustrated for Kids and National Lampoon, and newspapers including the long-defunct Suffolk Sun, which employed him to draw sports cartoons in 1969. After retiring from the commerecial art world in the 1990s he took up oil painting and was doing some terrific work, including the above, until he passed away this April. Born in Queens and raised there and in Lynbook, he grew up a Dodgers fan and then, an original Mets fan. He raised five blue-and-orange kids including at least one obsessive one, and had seven grandchildren who are Met fans too.

The short video here shows many of his baseball works, plus other stuff. Happy birthday Dad!



Blanco, Inc.

The Mets on Thursday signed chubby veteran defensive specialist Henry Blanco to further bolster a catching corps that earlier in the week landed Chris Coste and apparently isn't done shopping yet.

The Mets will become Blanco's 8th team in 12 years. His numerical history is just as busy, having worn 54 (Dodgers), 35 (Rockies), 12 (Twins), 20 (Braves), 21 (Twins), 9 and 24 (Cubs) and most recently, 28 with the Padres.Given that Blanco looks to inherit Omir Santos' old role as primary reserve, he could wind up in No. 9, but I think he takes what he gets. Surely he's a better bet for the 23 jersey Brian Schneider just gave away. Or they could salute themslves for being Blanco's newest employer and dust off the old No. 8 that's been in storage for years while they tentatively wrestle with the idea of honoring Gary Carter. But I wouldn't count on that.

Who Blanco caddies for remains a mystery. The Mets are said to admire Bengie Molina though I cannot understand why. As said before perhaps they look into a trade. Ryan Doumit of Pittsburgh? Dionner Navarro of the Rays? Who knows.

Thanks to Jack Looney's indespenable NOW BATTING NUMBER for the Blanco history.

Coste-Benefit Analysis

Ouch. The Mets officially got their off-season work underway this week by re-signing veteran Alex Cora and giving free agent catcher Chris Coste a split contract and a shot at the 2010 Mets. In the meantime they saw their own catcher, Brian Schneider, sign with the Phillies, accepting the backup job he probably should have had here all this time.

Cora, it is to be assumed, will step right back into the same No. 3 jersey he wore last season, when unexpected and especially slow-healing injuries to starting shortstop Jose Reyes thrust Cora into a full-time role he was never physically up to. Playing with one and then two sprained thumbs was admirable and gritty, but it didn't do much to help the Mets win, which raises the question why the Mets would expect a different outcome should Reyes get hurt again. Is he even healed yet? Who knows.

The Schneid and Cute Wifey Jordan in better times.Looks doubtful from here that Coste comes out of his Mets experience with fodder for another inspiring true-life bestseller, but with a decent right-handed bat and some experience playing first base, it's not out of the realm of possiblity he helps some in 2010. At worst he could be the 2010 Robinson Cancel; much may depend on who winds up with the starting assignment behind the dish: Henry Blanco? Bengie Molina? I'd prefer a trade.

Coste wore 27 with the Phillies (and 41 more recently in Houston) but with Schneider shedding 23, he might slide in there. I've always felt Schneider never got enough credit for playing as poorly as he did for the Mets -- his defense was less than advertised and his bat was nonexistent but for stretches of both his years here -- but news accompanying his signing with the Phillies that he grew up a Phillies fan I'm sure will bring the boo-birds out upon his next visit to CitiField.

Turkey Stew

Happy thanksgiving! There is a 21-pounder in the brine now and half the guests can't make it so I may have to open a Brooklyn outpost of Capriotti's. If you ever find yourself hungry in Delaware, I'd suggest you memorize those locations.

So the new uniform announcement came and went in time for your holiday shopping derby, without a runway fashion show nor any of the garish alternates the Mets had asked about earlier this year. Of course they screwed up the new creamy pinstriper by including the unnecessary black dropshadows (and names on back, I'm pretty sure) and failed to throw out the black completely, though that was a little much to dream for an organization that only now has come to realize that Met fans wanted some Mets with their new stadium.

I try not to get angry anymore. I think it might be best at this point to look around at the people you're spending Thanksgiving with and realize the Mets are run by a group not unlike them -- peculiar unto itself, kind of hard to explain to outsiders, and at times, just completely, astonishingly, bewilderingly, irritatingly, embarrassingly, mind-bogglingly clueless. Spending 81 holidays a year with them would probably drive you crazy at some point too.

If you haven't seen it yet, The Miracle Has Landed, an offshoot of SABR's Biography Project focusing on the 1969 Mets, is out now from Maple Street Press. I contributed two chapters including an interview with reserve infielder Kevin Collins, who I'm happy to report was absolutely thrilled to learn that he was the first player in team history to wear four different uniform numbers. But the book's real highlights are contributions from some terrific folks like Matt Silverman (who co-wrote my book and co-edited this project); Greg Prince; and my friend Edward Hoyt. Being associated with these guys as friends and collaborators is something I have to be thankful for in what was otherwise a rough year to be a Met supporter. Thanks also to all the regular contributors to the chatter at this site including Alex. And to my web guy David Moore, with whom I hope to complete another site overhaul this offseason. 

We have more new coaches! Say hello to new third base guy Chip Hale (No. 5 with the Diamondbacks last season) and bench coach Dave Jauss (No. 50 with the Orioles last year). We'll update that info as it comes in.

Murder By Numbers

The Mets today said that bitching about changes to the 2010 uniforms will begin in December, later than originally scheduled, but timed to coincide with the period during which fans will bitch about the players acquired to wear them, so it will all work out.


With that in mind, the following chart may help you navigate the upcoming shopping season, with a selection of free agents and potential tredees mentioned in recent rumors and speculation, their most recent uni number, and our analysis of the chances they maintain it with the Mets.

Apologies for the ugly chart. They don't pay me enough here to fix it.


Rumored Guy     Current Team    Uni No.     Available?     Notes


Joel Pineiro        St. Louis   35    Sorta     Technically belongs to Lance Broadway

Brandon Phillips Cincinnati   4     Yes       Wilson Valdez not on the 40

Aaron Harang     Cincinnati   39   No         Bobby Parnell could switch

Matt Holliday     St. Louis     5/15 Neither  Wright and Beltran won’t switch

Jason Bay         Boston       44   Sort of    Tim Redding cannot make demands

John Lackey     Anaheim     41    Nope     Don’t ask

Ryan Doumit     Pittsburgh   41   No         See Above

Randy Wolf       Los Angeles 21 Yes         Delgado won’t return

Jason Marquis  Colorado 21 Yes         See above

Roy Halladay     Toronto     32   Yes         Unissued in 2009

Benji Molina     San Francisco 1 No         For now; Castillo is rumored to go


Your Move, Creep

"I had a guaranteed military sale with ED-209. Renovation program! Spare parts for 25 years! Who cared if it worked or not?”
--Dick Jones, Robocop

I was reminded of this remark while reading a recent article on Amazin’ Avenue that sought to determine where Omar Minaya’s allegiances stood in the age-old debate between Scouts and Stats. It’s a provocative piece and more evidence, as if you needed some, that the best writing on the Mets these days is being done everyday by losers like you and me who simply devote more thought to the team than the usual suspects with better access.

But back to Dick Jones for a moment. I thought of him because it was clear that in the JJ Putz trade referenced in the above article, limiting the scope of Omar’s motivations for making that deal to Scouting or Statistics, or even a combination of them, sort of misses the larger point of having made that move primarily to make a show of displeasure with the 2008 bullpen and a scapegoat of Aaron Heilman, scouts and stats be damned. As long as it created the illusion that the Mets had become bulletproof, who cared if it worked it not?

Now that it’s become clear that committing five players and $10 million to a fat closer with arm trouble while gambling on a lineup with too many holes and a rotation with too many questions left us with nothing more than a set-up reliever who more or less is the equivalent of Heilman, while providing an explosive bounty for the Mariners who just might wind up re-signing Putz, maybe Omar ought to listen less to the usual suspects and their demands for dramatic fixes to last year’s problems, and care about what works or not.

Here’s your million dollars, Putz. Now go away.

Numeric content coming soon, I promise!

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