New York Mets: Who's Next for a Retired Number?
The New York Mets have retired three numbers in their history. Managers Gil Hodges (14) and Casey Stengel (37), and pitcher Tom Seaver (41) will not have their numbers worn again. Jackie Robinson's 42 has been retired by Major League Baseball.
Presumably nobody with the name Shea shall be allowed in the stadium anymore either, after their former stadium merited a "retired number" as well.
I had a conversation with a good friend earlier today where he lamented that the Mets sweep their history under the rug. He was making a case for a handful of former players that might have been worthy enough to have their numbers retired.
The following should present the case for and against a number of former Mets for getting their numbers retired, in numerical order.
Bud Harrelson: No. 3
Bud Harrelson was a good field, no hit shortstop with the Mets for 13 years. He batted .236 with only seven home runs for his career, but this is before Shortstop became an unlikely power position in the recent era.
Harrelson was definitely a scrappy player. He famously got into a fight with Pete Rose during the 1973 NLCS, and had a fiery temper that was known throughout the league.
As manager of the Mets from 1990-1991, he had a 145-129 record.
He now owns the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League.
As a Met: 13 years, .234 BA, two All-Star appearances.
Verdict: Nope. His tenure as a manager may have ixnayed any further honor.
Ed Kranepool: No. 7 (mostly)
Eddie Kranepool was 17 years old when he came up with the original 1962 Mets. When he retired in 1979, he had been a Met for half his life.
He switched his number to 7 from 21 for Warren Spahn in 1965.
A fan favorite, his career had two acts. Until 1970, he batted .248 and saw his playing time diminish with the Donn Clendenon trade in midseason.
After being sent to the minor leagues, he came back with the club in 1971 with a new approach, batting .280 that year and .278 for the remainder of his career.
Kranepool was the last Original Met to remain with the Mets, and his 18-year tenure is the most of any Met player. He still is the franchise leader in games played (by more than three seasons over Bud Harrelson), at-bats, hits, doubles, and total bases.
With the Mets: 18 years, .261 AVG, 1418 hits, 225 doubles.
Verdict: A part-time player for much of his career, he bled Mets blue and orange. I say yes, but is it too late?
Gary Carter: No. 8
Gary Carter is a standard-bearer to the catching profession, and is to the 1980's what Johnny Bench was the decade before.
His Hall-of-Fame credentials include a Mets World Series victory in 1986, a year after he came over from Montreal in a trade.
Carter's mouth is also a Hall-of-Fame specimen, but not in a good way. He openly campaigned to be considered for a managerial spot with the Mets while Willie Randolph was still in the position.
With the Mets: five years, 89 HR, .249 BA, bad knees.
Verdict: Sorry, Kid, maybe they'll recognize you in Montreal.
Dwight Gooden: No. 16
Oh, what could have been.
Gooden struck out over 300 in 191 innings at Single-A Lynchburg in 1983. This would never have happened in the age of Moneyball.
Smartly, the Mets brought him up to the big leagues in 1984, where he dominated the National League as a rookie and won the Rookie of the Year.
Gooden got better in 1985, winning the Cy Young and finishing fourth in MVP voting. And he then won 17 games en route to a World Series win in 1986.
He was in rehab for the first month of 1987, then his velocity suffered and his strikeout pitch was mostly gone.
He was a big part of the Mets' 1988 (18 wins) campaign, and looked like he returned to his "old" self in 1990 with 19 wins and almost a strikeout per inning. But he continued to have problems with addiction and injuries.
After 1990 he struggled to 38 more wins in four seasons as a Met, and he left the team after an injury-plagued 1994 season. Of course, he threw a no-hitter with the Yankees in 1996. Go figure.
With the Mets: 1984 ROY, 1985 Cy Young. 12 years, 157 wins, 3.10 ERA, 1.177 WHIP.
Verdict: This one's close. Let's see what happens when the Mets celebrate the 25th Anniversary of 1986 in two years.
Keith Hernandez: No. 17
Met fans and Yankee fans used to argue who had the better first baseman after Keith Hernandez came to the club in an extremely lopsided 1983 trade.
Don Mattingly answered that with his 1985 MVP award and near-miss to Roger Clemens in 1986.
Mex had less gaudy stats than Donnie Baseball, but his defense (11 career Gold Gloves) and ability to stabilize an infield always kept him in the conversation.
The problem with retiring No. 17 is that Hernandez only played six-plus years for the Mets.
With the Mets: .297 BA, .816 OPS, seven Gold Gloves.
Verdict: Thanks for the Memories, Mex. We'll keep your number in play.
Darryl Strawberry: No. 18
Darryl Strawberry came up to the Mets in 1983, and won Rookie of the Year. Between then and 1990, when he signed with the Dodgers as a Free Agent after the season, he lead the major leagues in HR with 252.
His first year in Los Angeles measured up to a typical Strawberry year in New York, but after that only played 100 games once in the next eight years due to injuries and other problems.
Strawberry was a character, and along with Dwight Gooden had well documented trouble with addiction. The Mets could have had two homegrown Hall-of-Famers if they kept their noses clean.
With the Mets: 252 HR, 191 SB, .878 OPS
Verdict: If Gooden gets it, so does Darryl. Too close to call.
Howard Johnson: No. 20
Howard Johnson came to the Mets from Detroit for Walt Terrell after the 1984 season. HoJo played the bulk of the 1985 season at 3B, but played poorly in 1986 and lost playing time to Ray Knight.
When the Mets didn't re-sign Ray Knight after his World Series MVP, HoJo could start at 3B in 1987. He then rewarded the team with his first of three 30 HR-30 SB seasons.
Currently the Mets hitting coach.
With the Mets: nine years, 192 HR, 202 SB.
Verdict: Possibly, but wouldn't be the next Met to be honored.
Mike Piazza: No. 31
Mike Piazza is the '90s Carter. Best catcher in the Game for a good 10-year span between 1993 and 2002.
Although he spent more time with the Mets, his statistics are more gaudy with Los Angeles, where he won Rookie of the Year in 1993.
With the Mets, he carried the offense on his back to the 2000 World Series, had a dramatic first HR after 9/11, and was embraced by New York City.
He also underwent a transition in which he would play 1B, which was puzzling at best and career-damaging at worst. Now post-career he is going through a bit of attention as a possible steroid user.
We can hope this isn't true, but he hasn't spoken out about his involvement yet.
With the Mets: Seven-plus years, .296 BA, 220 HR, NL Pennant (2000)
Verdict: Probably a good chance. If the steroid charges hold up, all bets are off.
John Franco: No. 31, 45
John Franco spent 14 years with the Mets and left the game ranked second all time in Major League Saves and is still the reigning southpaw leader in that category.
With the exception of three injury-plagued seasons, he averaged 30 saves a year for the Mets, and although he may have caused some near heart attacks for some of those saves was as consistent as they come for the decade of the '90s before giving way to Armando Benitez in 1999.
Franco is also a local product and pitched for St. John's University. He was the most positive face of the Mets during some of their most troubled stretches (1993's Worst Team Money Could Buy), but also shared in their success in 1999 and 2000.
Franco is probably the player who epitomized the Mets the most in recent years. Or, at least until Wright and Reyes came up.
The funny thing about Franco is that he switched his number to 45 to accommodate Mike Piazza in the 1998 season. So, if his number were to be retired, which one would he get? I'd jointly retire 31 for Franco and Piazza, if it's going to be retired at all.
With the Mets: 14 years, 276 saves, 48-56, 3.10 ERA
Verdict: I would say yes. But it might be awkward to do it without Piazza. And it also might be awkward to do a number he gave up. Hmmm.
Mookie Wilson No. 1 - A very popular Met in the early-mid '80s, iconic in 1986. Was traded for Jeff Kent (yes, he was a Met too) - 10 years, 281 SB, 1986 WS.
Lee Mazzilli No. 12, 13, 16 - Came up with the Mets in 1976, played OF on some really bad teams but was a fan favorite. Traded for Ron Darling in 1982, then came back in 1986 and got his ring as a pinch hitter/outfield sub. - 10 years, .264 AVG.
Jerry Koosman No. 36 - Overshadowed by Tom Seaver, second in most franchise pitching records. Won 21 games in 1976, lost 20 in 1977. Traded for Jesse Orosco in 1979. - 12 years, 140-137, 3.09 ERA, 1.219 WHIP.
Jesse Orosco No. 47 - Major League Leader in career games pitched, last player born in the '50s to be active. Pitched in four decades. And was on the mound when the Mets won the WS in 1986. - Eight years, 107 saves, 47-47, 2.73 ERA.