The New York Mets are finally listening to the pleas of many Mets fans to retire the No. 16 for Doc Gooden and No. 18 for Darryl Strawberry. “Many Mets fans” does not include this one.
For the longest time, while the Yankees had what seemed like an entire roster of players honored in Monument Park, the Mets had but two numbers retired – No. 37 for Casey Stengel and No. 14 for Gil Hodges. Hodges was honored as a manager, not as a player. It wasn’t until Tom Seaver’s No. 41 was retired that the Mets finally so honored a player.
The “reasoning” was always that the individual had to be in the Hall of Fame before the Mets would grant them the privilege of their uniform number being adorned on the outskirts of the field.
Well, then, how did Hodges get up there? He wasn’t in the Hall of Fame. Not yet anyway. Not for a long time. Did the Mets person in charge have some kind of premonition? And he wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame as a manager, he was elected as a player. And not for the New York Mets, but for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In some way, the New York Mets “reasoning” as to how to select numbers to be retired went out the window long ago.
To be honest, why should Casey Stengel be in the mix? He was a has-been, way past his prime by the time he put on a Mets uniform. And he was pretty much considered a clown who kept the media entertained while the organization tried to find an escape from the tag of “Lovable Losers.”
We all know why Tom Seaver’s No. 41 is up there, and finally, a statue so well-deserved out front, even though that No. 41 on his back is wrong.
And Mike Piazza, who although he had some of his most productive years with the Dodgers, became a hero in New York and entered the Hall of Fame, rightfully so, as a New York Met.
For many years, everyone else was relegated to the Mets Hall of Fame…the TEAM’s own Hall of Fame…that is tucked in the corner of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citifield. A nice honor…but the number hanging in the outfield is the ultimate.
In working to right some wrongs, the new Mets administration began to recognize that others may deserve the honor. So Keith Hernandez had his No. 17 retired and then Jerry Koosman’s No. 36 joined the ranks.
Hernandez was the Mets first captain and, much like Seaver, was a professional who wasn’t satisfied with anything else other than winning. His arrival to the organization was a huge part of the Mets rise in the 1980’s.
Anyone who was privileged to see the Mets with Seaver and Koosman together understands how great they were. It was like Drysdale and Koufax was for the Dodgers. Koosman was often overshadowed by Seaver, but Koosman was a "money" pitcher.
Those two were deserving. The two that are slated to be the next to have the honor – Strawberry and Gooden – not so much. Yes, they provided some thrills for Mets fans. They also provided some heartaches. But personal issues aside, they each had a few pretty good seasons and the rest were rather pedestrian. We could go through the statistics, year by year, but they were impact players for a very short time before moving on to other organizations. Ironically, both landed with the Yankees and found success in the Bronx.
It is understandable the retirement of No. 42 for Jackie Robinson, all around Major League Baseball, for what he stood for. But to say that Willie Mays should be celebrated for what he did for “New York” by retiring his Mets No. 24 is, I believe, tantamount to the Mets retirement of Stengel’s number. It’s not warranted, relatively speaking.
Similarly, I don’t believe that the Nos. 16 and 18 warrant it. Simply because that ultimate honor is now losing its lustre, becoming less special than what it has been and what it should be.
And what makes it feel even worse…is the one guy who was the face of the organization…the lifetime Met…the Captain…David Wright…his No. 5 should be a no-brainer and be up there before any of the others are even talked about. You want to honor the legacy of the organization? Start with No. 5. THEN we can discuss the others who are less worthy.