Now that the Mets will officially retire Mike Piazza’s number, it’s time to discuss where that number should be placed. Previously, the Mets have just added the retired number to the end of the string, but it's worth thinking about it a little deeper. There are a lot of options, and it turns out there is a decent case for reordering the retired numbers entirely.
You could stick to the routine and put 31 at the end, but to me it looks silly to have the SHEA and the 42 in the middle of the Met uniforms.
Only one of the existing numbers belonged to a Mets player, and it might make sense to keep the players together. This gives you two options; You can order them chronologically or numerically. You can stick 31 between the 14 and 41 and ruin the palindromic symmetry.
Or you can put Piazza after Seaver but before Jackie Robinson. This would stick to the tradition of tacking new numbers onto the end, but maintain a grouping of coaches, players, and other. This isn't a horrible choice, but sticking anything between the sequential 41 and 42 messes with my mathematical mind.
The other option is to completely renumber the list numerically, so that it reads 14 31 37 41 42 SHEA. With so few numbers it’s easy to spot the one you’re looking for, but as that list grows it might make sense to have them in an easily readable order.
There is no set precedent for this in baseball. The Red Sox have their numbers retired in numerical order, whereas the Twins go chronologically—and actually switched from ascending to descending order when they moved to Target Field. They keep 42 at the end of the string, as do most teams. This doesn't really affect the Mets, who don't have a retired number higher than 42, nor anyone even close to consideration with a number that high, but it does suggest that special numbers like 42 and SHEA belong at the end.
It can’t hurt to think about making this future-proof and considering what could show up on the wall next. Keith Hernandez’s continued contributions to the team make it inevitable that he’ll eventually be honored in some regard, but do the Mets drop the unwritten rule of having to be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame before having your number retired? If they’re willing to overlook that, they need to consider how 17 fits into the schema. If they don’t, they still need to have a thought towards what happens if Carlos Beltran or David Wright one day go into the Hall as Mets. Those decisions are at least six years out, but Piazza's induction is the perfect time to think about the rules.
I favor a numerical approach. I think it looks neater and more orderly and provides a very clear plan going forward to simply insert new retirees into the spot they belong.