I was going over the Mets’ spring roster the other day because of a suspicion that’s kept bubbling up in my brain.
Tomas Nido’s too young. So are Amed Rosario and Wuilmer Becerra. None of those guys is going to make the Opening Day roster. Travis Taijeron’s been passed over before and the Mets already have 75 corner outfielders. Hmm, non-roster guys. Can’t see P.J. Conlon making it this year. Tom Gorzelanny looks ready for the fork in the back. Tim Tebow … hahahahahahaaaaaaaaa.
Unless there’s a trade or something weird happens (entirely possible since it’s mid-March), the Mets who stroll out to their positions at Citi Field on April 3 will all be guys we’ve seen in blue and orange before. Same for the Mets waiting in the bullpen and on the bench. All 25 of the initial 2017 Mets will be returnees.
Has an all-recidivist Opening Day roster ever been assembled before? It seemed unlikely, so I started digging through Ultimate Mets Database.
I’ll save you the manufactured drama: it has happened before, and in rather amazing fashion. But it’s only happened once in any fashion at all.
The 1973 Mets won just 82 games, yet might have won a second World Series title if not for Yogi Berra‘s overmanaging. The team pursued another bat in the offseason, but passed on potential trades for Jim Wynn and old nemesis Ron Santo. GM Bob Scheffing was reluctant to break up a stellar pitching staff, and no doubt reasoned that the team’s usual combination of plenty of starting pitching and just enough hitting would make it a contender again. It wasn’t to be — the ’74 Mets lost 91 games — but Scheffing can be forgiven for a little optimism. Hadn’t the ’73 Mets taken the A’s to a seventh game despite an absurd run of injuries?
In the first week of April 1974 the Mets made their final cuts before leaving St. Petersburg. They released John Glass and sent down Steve Simpson, Randy Sterling, Ike Hampton, Rich Puig, Benny Ayala and Bruce Boisclair. Those seven departures made it official: the ’74 Mets would begin without a single new player on the roster.
And so it was on April 6 at the Vet, an Opening Day that began with Tom Seaver‘s fastball MIA and ended with Tug McGraw giving up a walkoff homer to a young hitter with a career average below .200 named Mike Schmidt. The Mets trudged through April and May and into June without a single new player, an oddity that became exasperating after Bud Harrelson was kept on the roster with a broken hand, proving you can pinch-run in a cast though not that it’s a good idea.
Stasis was finally broken on June 16, when Jack Aker arrived from Atlanta and took the hill in the ninth at Shea with the Mets getting blown out by the Dodgers. Aker didn’t improve matters, as Steve Garvey hit a home run. Still there was finally a new ’74 Met. And eventually there would be others: Jerry Cram and Ayala in August, then an incoming September Tide of Sterling, Hampton, Puig, Boisclair, Brock Pemberton and Nino Espinosa.
How weird was ’74 for its opening 10 weeks without new Mets? No other campaign comes close. I only found five other seasons in which the Mets didn’t have a new addition to The Holy Books by the end of Opening Day, in fact:
- In 1976 Mickey Lolich was the first new Met out of the gate, starting the season’s third game against Montreal hurler Dan Warthen.
- In 1977, Luis Alvarado began his short Mets career on April 13, the season’s fifth game.
- In 1983 Danny Heep made his debut in the Mets’ second game.
- In 1986 Bob Ojeda relieved Ron Darling in the season’s second game.
- In 1988 – a year that saw a record-low four Mets debuts, third-string catcher Mackey Sasser‘s arrival had to wait for the season’s sixth game.
Best I can tell, all of those mentioned above were on the Opening Day roster. Aker wasn’t, and his debut came in Game 60 of the ’74 season. If anything involved with a meh relief performance involving Jack Aker can be called amazing, that qualifies.
As for 2017, one imagines that Rosario and other promising youngsters will be granted a taste of big-league life; an extra catcher will report for duty after something unlucky happens to Travis d’Arnaud; various relievers will need to be run through the Terry Collins Arm Sawmill; extra outfielders will be summoned to further retard Michael Conforto‘s development, and so on. Stuff will happen, as it almost invariably does.
And look, it’s not like any of us would mind if the Mets won the World Series despite not adding a single player to the Holy Books, right?
Hm. Actually, I’d mind.
But I’d get over it.