With help from deep-pocketed owner Steve Cohen, many anticipate the New York Mets will make a serious run at Los Angeles Angels slugger Shohei Ohtani when his contract expires after this season. In that scenario, Ohtani, who has worn No. 17 throughout his career, would have to change numbers, since 17 is already retired in honor of Keith Hernandez.
When asked if he’d be willing to make an exception for Ohtani, the SNY color commentator took offense. The Met great voiced strong opposition to the team repurposing his number after it was taken out of circulation last year.
“If Ohtani were to sign with the Mets, would you allow him to wear his number 17?” asked SNY play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen on Wednesday night.
If Shohei Ohtani came to the Mets next year, would Keith let him wear No. 17?
"Don't ask" ? pic.twitter.com/GuBlfD8yYE
— SNY (@SNYtv) June 29, 2023
“He can’t,” Hernandez responded matter-of-factly, adamant that his beloved 17 stays retired. “Don’t ask.”
Hernandez is taking the opposite approach of Joe Namath, who was happy to lend his No. 12 to Jets newcomer Aaron Rodgers upon his arrival in the Big Apple. Rodgers, out of respect, elected to switch from 12—which he wore for the duration of his Green Bay tenure—to No. 8.
No. 16, which Ohtani wore while representing Japan at this year’s World Baseball Classic, is up for grabs. That would be a workable alternative should he join the Mets as a free agent next winter.
Ohtani leads all of baseball in home runs (28), OPS (1.048) and slugging (.659). He’s expected to command the largest contract in MLB history, with projections ranging from $500-$600 million.
For a team already well into the luxury tax, Shohei Ohtani would represent an enormous financial commitment. They own MLB’s highest payroll at $344 million. However, the Mets have shown an affinity for big splashes under Cohen. They have backed up the Brink’s truck for Francisco Lindor, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander, among other top-flight talents.