Friday, February 10, 2012

What Do Jeremy Lin And Jon Niese Have In Common?

What do Knicks' starting point guard Jeremy Lin and Mets' starting pitcher Jonathon Niese have in common?  Let's see.  They're not the same age, as Lin was born in 1988 and Niese's mom got over her pregnancy on the night the Mets won the 1986 World Series.  They're also not the same height, as Niese is one inch taller than Lin.  Jeremy Lin is a righty, while Jonathon Niese is a lefty.  Okay, so what do they have in common then?

The answer is NOTHING!  But they should have something in common, even though the Mets aren't exactly doing anything about it.

Earlier today, Madison Square Garden and other sporting goods stores started selling Jeremy Lin jerseys.  This comes after Lin's recent stretch of excellence in which he's carried the Knicks to four consecutive wins, including Friday night's game against the Lakers.  Let me remind you that these four straight victories are the only four games Lin has started for the Knicks.  But despite the tiny résumé, Lin is now having his jersey sold at the Garden.

There is no truth to the rumor that the Knicks will retire No. 17 for their floor captain before the Mets retire No. 17 for their first captain.  Of course, that could always change.

That brings us to Jonathon Niese.  Niese will be entering his fifth season as a Met, his third as a regular member of the starting rotation.  He is one of only six players left on the Mets who played for the team at Shea Stadium (the others being David Wright, Mike Pelfrey, Johan Santana, Bobby Parnell and Daniel Murphy).

Niese made his final start for the Mets in 2011 on August 23 before missing the rest of the season with an injured ribcage.  At the time of his injury, Niese was leading the team in wins (11 - tied with Dillon Gee) and strikeouts (138).  Eventually, he was surpassed in wins by Gee and strikeouts by Chris Capuano, but still finished second on the team in both categories.

Although Niese is only 25, he is already 43th on the Mets' all-time wins list and 39th in strikeouts.  With a healthy season in 2012, Niese could jump into the top 25 in both categories.  He's already in the top ten in strikeouts per nine innings, as his 7.6 K/9 IP is the eighth best ratio in franchise history, ahead of such stars as Tom Seaver (7.5 K/9 IP) and Johan Santana (7.4 K/9 IP).  He's also improved every year in strikeout to walk ratio, from 1.38 K/BB in 2008 to a career-best 3.14 K/BB in 2011.

And of course, on the individual game front, Niese came within one Chris Denorfia double of pitching a perfect game in 2010.  Perhaps had he retired Denorfia, we would have had Jonathon Niese No. 49 jerseys printed up immediately.  But alas, he did not.  We're still waiting for those No. 49 jerseys.

Since Jason Bay became a Met in 2010, I've seen No. 44 jerseys and T-shirts for sale at Citi Field.  The one place I haven't seen them is on the backs of Mets fans.  Meanwhile, Justin Turner, a player who wasn't even a homegrown Met, had his No. 2 T-shirt for sale at Citi Field.  Even Sandy Koufax, who never played for the Mets, and whose 9-10 career mark as a Brooklyn Dodger (the same record Jonathon Niese had for the Mets in 2010) was less than extraordinary, had a replica jersey for sale at Citi Field last year.

Do you think Fred Wilpon wears these to bed at night?

Jose Reyes is gone.  So are Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan.  All four players had their merchandise for sale at Citi Field in 2011.  With their departures, there will now be some real estate available at the Team Stores.

It's time for Jonathon Niese No. 49 apparel to go on sale at Citi Field.  If Knicks fans can proudly wear No. 17 Jeremy Lin jerseys after only four starts, why can't Mets fans do the same for Niese, a homegrown player who's been with the team since 2008?  Lin and Niese need something in common, don't you think?

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