Some folks pointed out some glaring omissions in the last entry, where we contemplated who could be the next players honored by the Mets by having their number retired.
I looked at some of what seemed to be guiding principles teams used in bestowing such a tribute. It comes down to stud Hall-of-Famers, Willie Horton-like beloved players closely identified with a team, a Hall-of-Famer returning to the city where he started his career and some oddball instances where owners and executives are given a number.
A friend on my Mets Listserv pointed out that the Red Sox have strict requirements for retiring a number. A player needs to A) be in the Hall of Fame; B) play 10 years in Boston; and C) retire as a Red Sox.
And unless Roger Clemens returns to Fenway, we'll see how serious they are about those rules. Of course, I fear for the worst, which is that the Yankees retire his number first, prompting the bat-chucker to slap a Skanks cap logo on his eventual Hall of Fame plaque.
And the Yankees apparently have no standards for number retirement, other than plant as many as many people as possible in their monument park. I'm sure Alvaro Espinosa Day is scheduled for next season.
Using the legit, non-Yankee principles for the Mets, I narrowed the field to No. 31 for Mike Piazza and John Franco, No. 8 for Gary Carter, No. 17 for Keith Hernandez, No. 18 for Darryl Strawberry and No. 24 for Willie Mays.
There are some players that should have been included in the discussion -- and no offense intended to these fine Mets heroes. They deserve their day in court, so let us take another look.
No. 36: Jerry Koosman
I'm a big Koosman fan. What a classy guy. And sadly, he was forever second in line. He should have been the 1968 Rookie of the Year, although there's nothing shameful about coming in second to Johnny Bench. He pitched in Tom Seaver's shadow most of his career, then played for some dumpy Twins teams, along with the White Sox and Phils. He would have been the ace on almost any other team. He finished with an outstanding 222-209 record and 3.36 ERA Who knows, had some of his mid-70s Mets teams and Twins teams been better he night have ended closer to 250 wins and been given stronger consideration for the Hall. As for the Mets, Koosman remains at No. 3 all-time in wins and strikeouts, and fourth in ERA. He absolutely earned his place in the Mets Hall of Fame. But I think he falls just shy of number retirement. He sets the bar pretty high. If you're not better than Koosman, you're not getting on the wall.
No. 8: Yogi Berra
OK, like Aaron, Berra returned to the city from which he started but with another team and in another league. What's different is that Yogi actually didn't leave New York -- the poor guy played and managed the Skanks -- and his return as a player was for a couple games. Yogi was a fine coach for the championship team, took the helm under horrific conditions after Hodges died and led the team to within a game of a championship in 1973. And I respect that he boycotted Yankee Stadium after the team mistreated him yet again. Still, I don't think that's enough to get honored with a number on the wall. Although I do want to see No. 8 retired for Gary Carter.
No. 2: Bobby Valentine
I confess that I thought Bobby Valentine was an awesome manager and a nice guy. I've met him a number of times and he was very kind, even humoring a cub reporter who was rather star struck when he tired to interview him when he was the Rangers manager. And his restaurant in Milford, Conn. was one of my fave haunts when we lived there. His managerial record is pretty impressive, a .534 winning percentage second only to Davey Johnson, two trips to the post-season. A World Series appearance in 2000, and if Kenny Bleeping Rogers can throw a stinking strike to a guy who has no intention of swinging...well, don't get me started. I guess if we're not retiring the number of the World Series Championship manager in Johnson, then we can't hoist Bobby V. on to the wall. I'd still like to see his bust in the Mets Hall of Fame.
No. 20: Tommie Agee and No. 21: Cleon Jones
I lump the Mets from Mobile together for a couple of reasons. I think they are linked in many ways, the obvious one being they were stars of the 1969 champions. It was a career year for both -- Jones batting .340, which stood as the team mark until John Olerud and Agee with 26 homers in an era when that was still a very impressive number. Both of these players deserve to be in the Mets Hall of Fame. But their numbers would have to be retired using the Harold Baines "beloved player" principle. I'm not sure their Mets careers were long enough or strong enough to merit space on the wall. Agee was a Met for five seasons, and his .255 career average isn't offset by stacks of homers, at least not enough to get to the level required. Jones spent all but one of his 13 years with the Mets -- and his time with the White Sox was short-lived. His career numbers also fall a little short, a .281 average and 93 home runs. But I also think both players suffered because the Mets didn't seem to treat minority players well in those days, another reason to revile M. Donald Grant. Jones was humiliated after a spring training incident that we don't need to discuss here, and Agee was shipped out of town in favor a weak-hitting Rich Chiles (Thank you Greg for the assist here.) Some of that lingers today. Tug McGraw dies and his famous quote is stitched on the Mets jerseys for a year. Agee passes and the Mets wear his number on a patch -- for a day! Both Jones and Agee deserved better. But I don't think they should have their numbers retired.
There you go! I could discuss Mets history all day and it never gets old. All these guys are heroes, and I do think the team could do a better job of telling its own history and making sure the fans of tomorrow will know about players like these and what they meant to a city.