Sports

Mets icon mum on Shohei Ohtani wearing his retired number if Ohtani goes to New York: ‘It’s in the rafters’

Given Steve Cohen’s fat wallet, the New York Mets will continue to be considered the favorite to land Shohei Ohtani in his free agent sweepstakes in the offseason.

However, the ace pitcher, who also leads the majors in home runs and OPS, would likely have to find another number.

Ohtani wears No. 17, which was retired by the Mets last year in honor of Keith Hernandez.

Keith Hernandez and Shohei Ohtani

Keith Hernandez doesn’t love the idea of Shohei Ohtani wearing his No. 17 if Ohtani became a Met. (Fox News)

Hernandez could allow Ohtani to wear the number.

New York Jets legend Joe Namath said he would give Aaron Rodgers permission to wear his No. 12, but Rodgers passed up the offer and chose his college No. 8.

But Hernandez, unlike Namath, isn’t exactly keen on the idea.

Hernandez, a color analyst for the Mets on SNY, was asked by play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen if he would allow Ohtani to wear No. 17.

Shohei Ohtani pitches against the White Sox

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) pitching during a game against the Chicago White Sox June 27, 2023, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif.  (John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“Well, he couldn’t,” Hernandez replied.

“Well, with your permission he could,” Cohen answered.

Hernandez put a quick end to the chat.

“Don’t ask.”

“It’s in the rafters, and in the rafters it will stay,” Hernandez added.

Ohtani wore No. 16 in the World Baseball Classic, earning the title-clinching save against Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout and Team USA. He also wore No. 11 while he played in Japan before coming to the majors. It’s become common practice in Japan to give the No. 18 to an ace pitcher.

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Mets fans would argue that 16 should be retired for Doc Gooden, and 18 should be in the rafters for Darryl Strawberry, but the numbers have been worn a combined 35 times and remain in circulation since those two stars left the team in the 1990s. 

And plenty of Mets players wore 17, too, before it was retired.

Shohei Ohtani celebrates home run

Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) hits a home run during the fourth inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox in Anaheim, Calif., Monday, June 26, 2023.  (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Multiple league executives believe Ohtani will become the first $500 million player in MLB history and could even eclipse the $600 million mark. The Mets have the highest payroll in North American sports history at roughly $350 million

Cohen, by far the richest owner in baseball, isn’t afraid to spend.

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