Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Different Kind of Banner Day

With the Mets on the road for over a week, I took advantage of Citi Field being devoid of fans walking around the outside plaza (which isn't all that different from game days) and decided to take some photos of the banners hanging on the light poles near the various entrances to the ballpark.  In doing so, I noticed some interesting pairings on those poles.

Six particular pairings caught my eye.  As shown in the photos below, these conscious couplings had to have been as intentional as Roger Clemens' broken bat-flinging incident in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series.  Take a look.

The above photo depicts Nolan Ryan and Robin Ventura, two former Mets who are connected by more than just a light pole.  In 1993, Ventura famously charged the mound when Ryan hit him with a pitch, only to be confronted by Ryan's Noogie Express.

Ventura's White Sox teammates and Ryan's cronies in Texas separated the two back then, but now the Mets are keeping them together, separated by just a metal light pole.

Ventura appears on another banner outside Citi Field.  This time, he's paired with Bobby Jones, a former Met who won 74 games in his pitching career as a Met, good for the ninth-highest total in club history.

Despite his lofty win total and status as an underrated Met, Jones is known primarily for his complete-game one-hit shutout over the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of the 2000 NLDS.  Jones would get all the runs he needed in the first inning, when Robin Ventura crushed a two-run homer to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.  Eight innings later, Ventura and Jones celebrated their series clinching victory along with the rest of their teammates.  

This pairing should be obvious to even the most casual of Mets fans.  John Franco pitched for the Mets in 14 seasons (1990-2001, 2003-04) while Ed Kranepool appeared in a Mets uniform for 18 campaigns (1962-79).

Their longevity puts both players atop the team's all-time leaderboard in several offensive and pitching categories.  It also ranks them No. 1 (Kranepool) and No. 2 (Franco) in seasons played in New York.

Unlike the players represented in the first three photographs, Pedro Martinez and Carlos Delgado were teammates for three seasons (2006-08) in New York.  But they could have been teammates longer had it not been for the way general manager Omar Minaya pursued Delgado.

In Minaya's first off-season as the Mets GM, he signed two of the top available free agents in Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran.  But when Minaya sought the services of Delgado, he was turned away because the first baseman was uncomfortable with the way Minaya was appealing to his Latin-American heritage.  Delgado was eventually traded to the Mets in 2006, becoming a teammate of Pedro Martinez - the first player signed by Minaya in what some people have since referred to as the "Los Mets" era of the team.

Gil Hodges made his mark as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers, then became an original Met in 1962.  Seven years later, as the team's manager, he led the Mets to their first World Series championship.  Meanwhile, Lee Mazzilli was born in Brooklyn in 1955 - the same year Hodges helped the Dodgers win their only World Series in the borough.  Mazzilli was one of the team's brightest stars in the late 1970s before being traded away in 1982.  But just like Hodges, Mazzilli was brought back to help the Mets win a championship.

For Hodges and Mazzilli, their seeds were planted in Brooklyn.  But both men blossomed for the Mets in Queens, winning championships and making the entire city proud.

The oddest pairing might be this David Wright-Keith Miller pole.  Wright is the Mets' all-time leader in various offensive categories and is one of the most beloved figures in recent club history.  Keith Miller was a utility player for the Mets from 1987 to 1991, never collecting more than 275 at-bats in any season and finishing his Mets career with just seven homers and 48 RBI - numbers Wright can easily put up in half a season.

As random as this pairing might seem, these two players have quite a personal connection to each other.  Prior to the 2013 season, Wright signed the most lucrative contract in team history, a deal that pays him $138 million over eight seasons.  Every time Wright thanks his agent for that contract, all he has to say is, "Thank you, Keith Miller."  Miller gave the Mets little run production as a player, but he gave the team eight extra years of run production as David Wright's agent.

Plenty of room for more banners, don't you think?

The Mets have set up various banner displays on poles outside Citi Field.  The banners feature several random pairings of the team's best players.  But not all of them are random.  Some of them, as seen in the six photos above, appear to be quite intentional.  And who knows, maybe the Mets aren't done with intentional banner pairings.

For example, there are still no banners pairing up Mike Piazza and Guillermo Mota.  They got into a famous spring training bench-clearing brawl in 2003 when Mota was a Dodger and Piazza was an ex-Dodger.  Similarly, there are no Gregg Jefferies-Roger McDowell pairings in the plaza.  Maybe the reason for that is because Gary Carter had to spend his final home game as a Met separating the two after they got into a brawl following the game's final out.  And don't get me started on an Armando Benitez-Graeme Lloyd pole.  The two had to be separated in a fight between the Orioles and Yankees in 1998, then briefly became teammates with the Mets five years later.

In addition, there are no banners teaming up Jesse Orosco and Jerry Koosman, two pitchers who were traded for each other following the 1978 season and remain the only pitchers who can say they recorded the final out in a World Series-clinching game for the Mets.  (Seriously, Mets, this pairing has to get done.)

If the Mets wanted some comic pairings, they could have a Follicle Follies-themed pole featuring Nino Espinosa and Jenrry Mejia.  Or perhaps Don Aase (a Met reliever in 1989) and Al Schmelz (a Met reliever in 1967) could have shared an Aase-Schmelz pole.  Aase could also appear on a pole with 1969 World Series hero Al Weis, but that pairing would probably be shot down, because no one likes a Weis-Aase.

The opportunity is there for the Mets to have a different kind of Banner Day at Citi Field.  They just need to show a little extra creativity.  They tried (and failed) to be creative by getting "True New Yorkers" to respond to a letter they sent out.  The team was chased up a pole on that one.  At least there were no banners on that pole.  I'd say it's because those are the poles being reserved for the Terrence Long and R.A. Dickey banners, but knowing the Mets, fans would probably get stiffed on that pairing as well.


DyHrdMET said...

good observations. even with the Wright-Miller link, I still find it weird to see a Keith Miller banner hanging near Shea.

Ed Leyro (and Joey Beartran) said...

I didn't take a photo of it, but the very last set of banners down the plaza in left field is one of Felix Millan and Joe McEwing. How did McEwing get one? He only hit .243 and had a career OBP of .296 as a Met. He could hit Randy Johnson and no one else.