Almost all Met fans know the team’s retired numbers: 41 is for Tom Seaver, 14 for Gil Hodges and 37 for Casey Stengel, plus Jackie Robinson’s 42 and a spot for Shea Stadium. And that’s it. The Mets, in their 50 years, have retired just three numbers, two of them for managers. By comparison, the Houston Astros, who entered Major League Baseball the same year as the Mets, have retired nine numbers. This isn’t a contest by any means, but have the Mets really not had enough talented personnel to retire more jerseys?
Of course, retiring a jersey is no small matter; the decision should be carefully thought out. Although there is no set criteria across MLB, there are a few different factors which a team should consider when making the decision to adorn its stadium with a new retired jersey (some teams do make up their own criteria. The Boston Red Sox, for example, require a player to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and have spent at least ten years with the club). The first and most obvious is that the player had to be good: he had to put up some great numbers for the team. The second is longevity: ideally, the player will have been with the team for good awhile. These first two criteria are where the Mets run into a few problems; they’ve had players who have been around for awhile, but never put up great stats. For example, Ed Kranepool spent his entire career with the Amazins and is the club’s all-time hit leader with 1,418, but only hit .261 for his career with 118 homers. He certainly passes the longevity test, but doesn’t have the stats to back up retiring his jersey.
The third, and for me the final, factor is what the player meant to the team. In the sabermetric world we live in, it’s impossible to quantify what a player means to the fan base. By and large, if a player performed well for the team, he will mean a lot, especially if he brought home a championship, but this is one case where the intangibles matter. Here are a couple Mets who are either deserving of or should at least be considered for having their jerseys retired.
Mike Piazza (#31): Piazza is the most obvious and logical candidate to have his uniform retired. He is Hall of Fame bound, the all-time leader in home runs hit by a catcher, and owns a career .308/.377/.545 line with 427 bombs. Mike spent nearly eight years with the Mets, hitting .293/.373/.542 with 220 homers, and is the team’s all-time leader in slugging percentage and second in long balls. Furthermore, acquiring Piazza rejuvenated the franchise, and he’s had his share of memorable moments, including leading the team to the world series. Number 31 hasn’t been issued since he left the team, and I would be astounded if the Mets didn’t retire his number upon his eventual induction to Cooperstown.
John Franco (#31): Franco wore 31 before Piazza came in and wound up switching to 45, but his glory days came wearing the former number. The all-time Mets leader in saves with 276 (424 for his career, currently good for fourth on the all-time list), Franco pitched to a 3.10 ERA with the Amazins over 14 seasons. He was more of a setup man during the later part of his career, but still was a solid staple in the Mets bullpen for nearly a decade and a half. Franco was an integral part of the Mets playoff runs in 1999 and 2000, and struck out Barry Bonds to end Game Two of the 2000 NLDS. Like Piazza, there is a strong emotional attachment to Franco, especially since he was born in Brooklyn and raised in New York.
And that’s really it. It saddens me to say that these are the only two Mets who I think should seriously be considered in having their uniforms retired, although there can be arguments for a few more. Specifically, members of the 1986 team, including Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden and Keith Hernandez. Strawberry and Gooden each dazzled in their own way and will always mean a lot to the organization, putting up great numbers and leading the team to a World Series victory. There is something holding them back though-maybe their off the field problems or their declines after great success. Keith is a little different because of his role with the broadcast team. If he sticks around for awhile in the booth, I could see his number being retired for his contributions on and off the field. Speaking of which, there is one other name the Mets should retire, although he wasn’t a player…
Bob Murphy: Murph was there from the beginning until 2003 as the voice of the Mets. He won the Ford C. Frick Award in 1994, cementing his place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There is precedence for immortalizing announcers alongside retired numbers , such as Ernie Harwell, Jack Buck and Bob Uecker. There might not be another person associated with the Mets who deserves this honor more than the legendary Bob Murphy.
Topics: 1986 World Series, 42, Bob Murphy, Boston Red Sox, Casey Stengel, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Dwight Gooden, Ford C. Frick Award, Gil Hodges, Happy Recap, Houston Astros, Jackie Robinson, John Franco, Keith Hernandez, Matt Kaufman, Mike Piazza, Mike Piazza Retire Number, National Baseball Hall Of Fame, Rising Apple, Shea Stadium, Tom Seaver, WFAN