An MMO Fan Shot by Rich Glanzer
Smart people say dumb things. That was my thought as I saw a Facebook post stating that David Wright might not have his number retired because he is not headed to Cooperstown. The author insinuated the Mets have an unofficial policy of only retiring numbers who have received baseball’s highest honor, induction into the Hall of Fame.
I of course scoffed at this notion as David Wright is not only the best Mets positional player of all time, career-wise, but he’s only played for the Mets. While the Mets have had plenty of greats wear their uniform, none have only donned the orange and blue. As a matter of fact, the best retired players to only play for the Mets are Ed Kranepool, Jeff Innis and Bob Apodaca. Seriously.
One of the first rules of journalism is your opinion doesn’t matter. For instance, before Curt Schilling got in trouble for his controversial social media posts, I followed him on Facebook. I, like much of America, disagreed with him. I was respectful and tried to engage in discussion. He went on a diatribe about how my parents wasted their money when they paid for my college education. (Can I see some of that money Curt, since I kind of remember working almost every day so I could put myself through college?) He then blocked me. I do not like Curt Schilling.
If I had a Hall of Fame vote, I would take none of that into consideration and put him at the top of my ballot. Because the man was an all-time great pitcher and the fact that I don’t like him as a person is meaningless. However, I wouldn’t retire his number. Retiring a player’s number has more to do with the connection to his teammates, the organization and most importantly, the fans. Of course the numbers matter and, let’s be honest, if you don’t have the stats your connection is probably not going to be there with the fans.
Let’s travel approximately 7 miles to the Bronx. Paul O’Neil won four World Series with the Yanks. He was a very good player and maybe even great at times. But comparatively to other Yankees, he’s closer to having his face on an ant hill than Mount Rushmore.
So when LaTroy Hawkins wanted to honor Roberto Clemente by wearing #21, the Yankee fans booed him for taking O’Neil’s number. And while Met fans can objectively look at Yankee fans and think, “Bro, you know Lou Gehrig, and Babe Ruth played for you, right?” Really, though, it’s not our business. Yankee fans didn’t want to see anyone else wear #21 and they voiced their opinion. Now 15 years later, maybe they should try again, but at the time, it was too soon.
Unlike O’Neil, Wright has the career numbers to back up retirement of his #5. He ranks first for the Mets in at bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBIs, and walks. He ranks second in games played and home runs. Heck, if he ever hits another triple he’ll move past the immortal Doug Flynn and tie Lance Johnson for seventh.
Those numbers unemotionally simply destroy Piazza. Piazza is 12th in games, 11th in at bats and walks, 10th in runs, and 8th in hits and doubles. He’s third in home runs and RBI’s. And if you really want to talk about what a bum Piazza is, check out his paltry two triples. That’s only one more than Jon Niese!
Non-cumulative stats are where you’d expect Piazza to crush Wright, except he doesn’t. They each are batting .296 for their Mets career and Wright is actually winning .376 to .373 in OBP. Piazza is the Mets all-time leader in slugging and has a substantial lead on OPS over Wright. For those that believe in WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball-Reference.com, Wright is 2nd in career WAR for the Mets with 49, while Piazza is 13th with 24. Of course you need to grade it on a pretty big curve since catchers WAR are traditionally much lower than other position players.
But the curve isn’t more than double. Wright’s lead is legit. Simply put, if you think the Mets should retire Piazza’s number and not Wright, you are including Piazza’s Dodgers statistics. Or to put it another way, if Piazza’s whole career was only the years he played with the Mets, you wouldn’t even consider retiring his number. His stats with the Mets just aren’t there.
Going back to the original Facebook post which questioned whether the Mets would ever put in someone who wasn’t going to wear their hat in Cooperstown, it’s not like they had much of a choice. Much like Piazza, Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter did a lot of their damage with another franchise. And we all know the personal demons that caused ugly divorces with Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.
Simply put, the Mets haven’t had the opportunity to retire a player as deserving as Wright, who isn’t a Hall of Famer.
But if you are going to take the hard line of “you need to be a Hall of Famer or bust,” well get ready to never see Carlos Beltran’s #15 worn again because Beltran is going to make the Hall of Fame. He was a superstar during his peak, and now he’s an elite compiler. He’s less than 400 hits away from 3,000 and 79 home runs away from 500. Just like the 2015 World Series, the Mets will be battling the Royals as Beltran has very similar stats for each team, and probably will be able to choose which hat he’d like to wear for eternity.
So with apologies to Val Pascucci, Fred Lewis, Travis d’Arnaud (whose worn every # for the Mets at least once), Bob Geren and Matt Reynolds, who all wore #15 after Beltran left, that number will be taken out of circulation. Can you really imagine a world where Carlos Beltran‘s number is retired for the Mets, but David Wright’s isn’t?
I think the naysayers are the ones who are supremely frustrated with his injuries. And “fan” is short for fanatical, not rational. So after Wright retires, as the best Met to never play for another franchise, with zero arrests, no domestic disputes and a love for this organization, I think most people will realize #5 will look better on the wall next to Seaver and Piazza, instead of one Val Pascucci Jr.
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This MMO Fan Shot was written by Mets die-hard Rich Glanzer. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Send your article to FanShot @ MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.