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Poll

What Number Should They Issue to 'Fartinez'?
6
12%
8
18%
12
6%
16
6%
18
6%
22
12%
24
6%
26
0%
27
0%
28
0%
29
0%
30
0%
38
0%
39
0%
43
0%
44
12%
47
0%
49
0%
58
12%
Other?
12%
Total votes: 17

 

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More From Japan

My query as to the significance of the No. 18 jersey in Japan got a little more clarification from Daigo F. of the SABR Asian Baseball Committee. Take it away, Daigo:

When I read the question, first answer that poped in my head, speaking
from my personal experience growing up in Japan, was that its because
Yomiuri Giants 18 has always been "Ace's number". But funny thing is
when I looked it up, in my lifetime only two Yomiuri Pitchers has worn
18, Tsuneo Horiuchi from 1967-86 and Masumi Kuwata (also played for
Pittsburgh Pirates) from 1986-2006.

Horiuchi no doubt was a great pitcher, and Kuwata for the most part,
too. Horiuchi is in Japanese Hall of Fame and won bunch of Sawamura
awards and MVPs
.

Other significant pitchers that I can think of who wore 18 are:
Victor Starffin, Motoshi Fujita (both Yomiuri Giants), Tetsuya Yoneda
(Hankyu Braves), Hideki Irabu (Lotte- Yankees) and Daisuke Matsuzaka
(Seibu Lions).

Masahiro "Ma-kun" Tanaka, of the Golden Eagles; and Hideaki Wakui of the Seibu Lions (who said I am not worthy of Daisuke's 18 at first and wore 16 for a while) wear 18 now, that I can think of off top of my head. Both are considered aces.

On the side note, I grew up rooting for Chunichi Dragons and their
ace's number has always been 20, and my friend told me for Yakult
Swallows (Igarasghi's team), ace's number has aways been 17. So I
guess in that regard, you can't say 18 is Japan's ace number entirely
- but because of popularity of Yomiuri Giants, it could be argued.

Also undoubtedly, in high school ace's number is 1, across the board
(I don't think anyone would argue that in Japan). Interesting that Yu
Darvish is wearing 11, too.

Anyway, big thanks to Daigo and a shout out to his squad, the Chunichi Dragons. To the extent I have a rooting interest in Japan, I like them in the Central League and Nippon Ham in the Pacific, of course. I certainly was rooting for the Chiba Lotte Marines during Bobby Valentine's tenure, but reading about the reprehensible treatment at the hands of management goons during his final year, they've lost any support from me. As the sign said, "What An Unforgivable Disgrace."

And not for nothing but it puts this whole Beltran tempest in some perspective. I have to think that the Mets felt betrayed at some level by Beltran/Boras, but they had to know that picking a fight with them was bound to fail too. In any event, everyone ought to do a better job containing their despair and anger at losing an injured guy for a month or two at the beginning of the year.

Why Igarashi Was Issued No. 18

Thanks to the commenter in the below post who passed along the info, which seemed to eminate from a David Lennon tweet this afternoon indicating the the Mets' new reliever, Ryota Igarashi, will suit up in No. 18 this year.

Lennon (and a good number of commenters at MetsBlog where the news was dissected and blown up in 45 seconds) focused in on what a crime it was to re-issue Darryl Strawberry's number -- as if they hadn't noticed they'd given it to Jeremy Reed, Art Howe and Craig Paquette, to name only three, in the years since Strawberry left town, and they all missed the real significance of the number to players from Japan.

It's been a tradition in Japan dating to the 1930s to give an ace pitcher No. 8 or 18. Eiji Sawamura, the 1930s legend for whom Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young Award is named, wore No. 8 for the All-Nippon team that hosted a team of American stars for a 1934 tour that sparked the creation of a professional baseball league in Japan. Hall of Fame pitchers including Masao Date (an All-Nippon teammate of Sawamura's) and Motoshi Fujita were 18. The tradition carries to modern players like Daisuke Matuzsaka, who now wears 18 for the Red Sox, and Hideaki Wakui, who today wears 18 for Matuzsaka's former team, the Seibu Lions, and who this year won the Sawamura Award. The Mets issued No. 18 to their first pitcher from Japan, Takashi Kashiwada.

The passing along of numbers with significance is in my opinion an admirable tradition in the Japanese game and is echoed in pro soccer where its common to see a team's top player wear No. 10.

Thanks to Rob Fitts, a writer and Japan baseball researcher, whose collection of photos and baseball cards helped illuminate this post.

Still Swinging

All Met fans ought to spend a half-hour with this recent interview of old No. 7, Ed Kranepool, published at Jimmy Scott's High & Tight. He talks about the end of his career and the doomed attempt to buy the club in 1979; he absolutely unloads on former GM Joe McDonald while speaking well of chairman Donald Grant; andprovides his take on former colleagues and teammates from Seaver to Swan.

Great job, Jimmy!

One Of Our Submarines

Bazooka Joe SmithIt may not ever come to anything but happened to notice when the Mets today moved to claim lefthanded pitcher Jay Marshall off waivers from the Athletics. Marshall, a true submariner in the Chad Bradford style, continues a trend among Omar Minaya's Mets teams to include or at least invite a few trick pitchers to camp each year. Marshall this spring will join the lefty-righty siderarm tandem of Pedro Feliciano and Sean Green (and another candidate with an unusual offering, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey). There was Joe Smith and Bradford before that, and guys like Steve Schmoll and Shingo Takatsu were given a shot.

Is this a good thing? I'm not entirely sure. While Feliciano has become one of the Mets' best weapons vs. rival lefty sluggers and Green and Smith often got grounders when they needed them I'd prefer sometimes they could achieve these successes without also tempting the Mets to try and solve all their problems with matchups and specialists. It can grind games to a halt, for one thing, and all seems so delicate: One specialist springs a leak, and suddenly the whole ship is sinking. We've seen it before.

On the other hand, sidearmers are fun to watch when they're going well and the Mets' desire to bring these creatures in house indicates some evidence they have a plan, and I like that kind of reassurance.

Innis in the Morning 

At any rate, surely we're in a Golden Age for Met sideslingers. I barely remember a one from my childhood when guys like Kent Tekulve, Elias Sosa and Dan Quisenberry were someone else's property. David Cone was known to get sideways occasionally, and Jeff Innis was a durable middle-inning submariner for a long stretch, -- and there was Jesse --but I'm going blank after that, although I'm sure I'm overlooking a few. Little help?

 

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!

 

 

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.

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!

Bad Guys Always Win on Amazin' Tuesday

Quick note to remind readers that the final Amazin' Tuesday of the regular season is scheduled for this Tuesday, Sept. 15 at Two Boots Tavern on the Lower East Side. Join your fellow suffering fans for an evening of pizza, drink specials and futile rooting for the Mets to stave off their 81st loss of the season on the big-screen TVs, beginning at 7pm.

The special guest speaker that night is Jeff Pearlman, the former Sports Illustrated writer (and current SI.com columnist) and author of THE BAD GUYS WON, the dynamite revisiting of the triumphant 1986 season and easily one of the best books ever written about the Mets. Jeff's writing career also includes books profiling Barry Bonds (LOVE ME, HATE ME), The Dallas Cowboys (BOYS WILL BE BOYS) and Roger Clemens (THE ROCKET WHO FELL TO EARTH) and he came out of the vaunted University of Delaware journalism program, so you know he's got the goods.

Also on the bill that night: Greg Prince of Faith & Fear in Flushing; John Coppinger of Metstradamus, and, a live unveiling of the much-anticipated Top 10 Number Sixes in Mets History as delivered by yours truly. Trade in any Mets baseball card -- even a 1991 Wally Whitehurst-- for your first drink free!

Two Boots Tavern: 384 Grand Street 212-228-8685

Let's Go SHaMs!

If Marlon Anderson were alive today, he might be distributing his teammates worksheets with the number 45 written on it. Maybe even 50. Those look to be the minimum of the remaining 75 games the Mets are going to have to win if they hope to have any shot at postseason baseball.

Forty-five wins is an even .600 winning percentage and would get the Mets only to 87 wins for the season; 50 wins would make for a sizzling .667 clip and 92 wins. Ninety-two was the magic figure that Marlon Anderson suggested the Mets shoot for when they were floundering at 30-32 and had 100 games left to play last season: a .620 winning percentage. Then as now, the Mets were in fourth place leading only Washington in NL East. They of course fell short of that goal but it took an extraordinary collapse to do it. The advantage this season? 6.5 games out of first place, instead of 7.5 games back last season.

Tall order? For the Mets, you said it. But in the spirit of giving us all some hope, I'm not putting it past the SHaMs: The Second Half Mets.

Hey, why not? The incremental improvements have already begun: Angel Berroa was last seen hitting .136 and wearing No. 14 for the Yankees. But for the Mets, the 2003 rookie of the year and former teammate of Carlos Beltran, represents a clear improvement over the again-demoted Argenis Reyes and will allow Alex Cora to take the days off he so obviously needs. Anything that gets the Mets back to Jose Reyes better than they've scuffled without him so far is real improvement.

Berroa's promotion hasn't been officially announced just yet: Easy enough to predict however he'll be wearing No. 4, which he wore in his glory year with the Royals and is available. (EDIT: Dispatches from Atlanta say Berroa is with the team and is wearing No. 4. Go me...)

From here, we can look forward to additions right through deadline season: Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, Maine. Wagner. A streak or two you know this team might find in it. Let's Go SHaMs: Fifty to go.

Don't forget to join me, Greg Prince, Paul Lukas, Matthew Silverman and a barful of hungry Mets fans as Two Boots Tavern presents AMAZIN' TUESDAY, next Tuesday, July 21 at 7pm. Present a Mets baseball card for your first drink free! Pizza and Rheingold specials, Mets-Nats game on the big screens, memorabilia, giveaways and presentations!

Good Golly, it's Ollie

Now that it looks as if injuries and an underperforming second defense will be the things that kill this Mets team dead, here comes Oliver Perez.

The enigmatic lefty rejoins the rotation tonight against the Dodgers -- I'll be watching up in Section 521 if you want to say hi or commiserate. To make room the Mets returned Argenis Reyes back to where he belongs in Buffalo. His legacy as a No. 11 may be a pointless turn as a leadoff hitter that hastened the Mets' demise and eroded even more of my confidence in Jerry Manuel, who I liked a lot only a few months ago.

Seems that Manuel has become trapped in a device of his own making. While his team was at full strength he opted to play passively so as to build for a second half, only to find that second half just may arrive without the horses. If this team is teaching us anything perhaps it's to consider the possibily of disaster down the road before one pinch-hits one catcher for another with the winning run on base, or employs character-building but ultimately foolish strategies like sacrifice bunts as often as Jerry did early this year.

That, and, you know, the value of catching the ball when it's hit to you.

* * *

With that out of the way, who wants to get together and watch more of this team?

Last month's Metstock gathering at Two Boots Tavern was a great success with a roomful of Met fans meeting, greeting and eating while hearing readings from three Mets-related books including mine. Owner Phil Hartman was so jazzed about its success he's asked Greg Prince and myself to organize similar monthly gatherings featuring literary readings, game-watching, consciousness raising, pizza eating, Rheingold drinking, cocktail shaking, Yankee baiting, memorabilia gawking and seven steps support as needed.

The first such "Amazin Tuesday" is scheduled for July 21 at 7 p.m. and will feature guests including Paul Lukas, ESPN columnist, Met fan and creator of the incomparable "Uni Watch" and author Mathew Silverman, who co-authored MBTN and more recently, Shea Goodbye with Keith Hernandez.

Two Boots is located at 384 Grand Street on the Lower East Side. Any more questions, just ask -- hope to see you there!

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