The Mets will retire Keith Hernandez’s number 17 in a pregame ceremony on Saturday, July 9, the club announced earlier this evening. He will become just the fourth player to have his number retired by the franchise, and the seventh number overall to be retired. Hernandez, along with Sandy Alderson, will discuss the news via Zoom on Wednesday at 1:30pm.
In a statement, Steve Cohen said:
Keith was the first captain in team history and a great leader and catalyst on that ’86 championship team. He was a defensive wizard at first and was a clutch performer late in games. We made a promise to continue celebrating and honoring our tremendous history and this is another deserving step in that direction. Congratulations, Keith.
Hernandez ranks near the top in a number of offensive categories for the Mets. During his seven-year stint in Queens, he posted a 26.6 bWAR, which is good for sixth among position players in franchise history. His .297 batting average ranks second only to John Olerud, while his .387 OBP ranks fourth and his 468 runs batted in rank tenth. He took home the Gold Glove award at first base every season in Flushing except 1989—he earned 11 straight Gold Glove awards during that stretch—and he picked up a Silver Slugger in 1984. He finished second in MVP voting in 1984 and fourth in 1986.
But Hernandez represented more to the Mets than just his numbers and awards. His arrival in Queens in a 1983 trade deadline deal instantly brought credibility to a club that had been languishing at or near the very bottom of the NL East standings for the prior six seasons. While he famously was none too pleased with the trade, which came amid a falling out with his Cardinals club, he was sold on the team’s future and ended up signing a five-year contract. Hernandez’s leadership, together with his on-field contributions, would play a pivotal role in the club’s World Series victory in 1986.
He also became a cultural icon off the field, with his appearance on a two-part episode Seinfeld during the show’s third season making him a household name to non-baseball fans. Post-retirement, he entered the world of broadcasting, joining Gary Cohen and his 1986 teammate Ron Darling on SNY beginning in the network’s inaugural 2006 season. Cohen and Darling, as well as Steve Gelbs, offered their congratulations for their colleague.
This will be the second straight season that the club has retired the number of a franchise great, after the Mets honored Jerry Koosman in a pregame ceremony last August. The organization had previously seemed to favor only retiring the numbers of players who had made the Baseball Hall of Fame, but Cohen has changed this since he purchased the Mets. With Hernandez on the calendar, speculation can begin on which other players will receive the honor down the line.