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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Hernandez: ‘Wait and see’ if Hall calls after honors

While the magnitude of his retiring number by the New York Mets is “drowning”, Keith Hernandez can only wonder whether the Hall of Fame could be in his future even after the ballot fell nine years later in 2004.

Hernandez, the beloved captain and commentator in Queens for nearly four decades, said on Wednesday that he was “completely surprised” by Mets owner Steve Cohen on Tuesday when he was informed that the franchise would be retiring from its No. .

“He bombed me,” said 68-year-old Hernandez of becoming the fourth Mets player to retire his number. “Totally surprised me.”

“I didn’t know. It’s just now, today, kind of sinking in and drowning. It’s really, to think about it, I’m very honored. It’s the highest honor an organization can give to a sportsperson.”

The five-time All-Star was on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot from 1996 to 2004, but never received more than 10.8% of the vote, well below the 75% threshold for the establishment.

However, baseball’s analytics wave has shed a new light on his talent. Notably, his .386 on-base percentage was underestimated during his career, but through a modern lens, he does well compared to others in the hall.

It’s possible that Hernandez may yet find his way to Cooperstown via an era committee vote, and that recognition from the Mets could help.

“The number of people retiring is something that is very important, and such is an honor,” Hernandez said. “Whether this turns into consideration for me down the road, we’ll have to wait and see.”

At Citi Field, Hernandez’s No. 17 will stand against Tom Seaver’s 41, Mike Piazza’s 31 and Jerry Kosman’s 36. Managers Gil Hodges (14) and Casey Stengel (37) have also retired their numbers.

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“You know, I grew up as a kid like everyone else, going to baseball games, and going to some of those parks with names on the wall,” Hernandez said. “this is incredible.

“I don’t think panic is the right word, but I feel like I’m lost in space that it happened to me, such an honor. It’s something I never dreamed of. You’re on the world championship team.” You dream of becoming a batting champion or an MVP. The thought of retiring as a number one, I can tell you as a grown-up never crossed my mind.”

Hernandez was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1997 and was also inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall the previous year. He’s second in Mets history with a .297 batting average, and won a team-record six of his 11 Gold Gloves in New York.

A fan favorite who praised its success in “Seinfeld” and elsewhere, Hernandez joined the Mets broadcast booth in 1999 and won three Emmys for Best Sports Analyst.

“He just brought up a winning culture,” said former teammate and current TV partner Ron Darling. “The way he moved, the way he acted and the way he played. One thing I think Keith did for that whole ball club was he wasn’t a rah-rah boy, he was a Wasn’t the person who said a lot in that clubhouse, but he used to bring it up every night.”

Fourteen players have worn the number 17 since Hernandez left New York, but none since Fernando Tatis in 2010. Hernandez retired in 1990, and the following year, ace David Cone wore it to commemorate Hernandez’s career.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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