That Crazy 4-Team Trade That Sent Matlack To Texas

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On December 8, 1977, the Mets were one of four teams involved in one of the most complex deals in the history of baseball. This was it :

—  The Mets sent John Milner to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
—  The Atlanta Braves sent Willie Montanez to the New York Mets.
—  The Texas Rangers sent Adrian DevineTommy Boggs, and Eddie Miller to the Atlanta Braves.
—  The Texas Rangers sent a player to be named later and Tom Grieve to the New York Mets.
—  The Texas Rangers sent Bert Blyleven to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
—  The Pittsburgh Pirates sent Al Oliver and Nelson Norman to the Texas Rangers.
—  The New York Mets sent Jon Matlack to the Texas Rangers.
—  The Texas Rangers sent Ken Henderson (March 15, 1978) to the New York Mets to complete the trade.

I wish I could tell you who conceived this deal and how it fell into place, but frankly, I have no idea. For the Mets’ part, they replaced John Milner with Willie Montanez and sent Matlack away for Tom Grieve and Ken Henderson.

willie montanez mets osw1Montanez was considered a better all-around player and certainly flashier than Milner, but I think that Met fans were disappointed with Willie’s production and expected a major upgrade from Milner.

Actually, the one full year Willie spent with the Mets wasn’t bad statistically (.256, 32 2B, 17 HR, 96 RBI), but he seemed to fail a lot in big spots and hit his best in one-sided games.

Ironically, the following season, the Mets sent Montanez to Texas, another of the parties in the original deal, in exchange for Ed Lynch and Mike Jorgensen and a couple of years later, the Pirates traded Milner even-up to Montreal for Montanez.

As for the other part of the trade for the Mets, it turned out to be a lot less than either side expected. Matlack had one solid year for the Rangers, but that was about it. Neither Grieve nor Henderson was anything other than a part-time player, though the Mets were expecting more, I’m sure.

The big names in the deal were Blyleven and Oliver, so maybe the deal started out as a one-for-one and other general managers just joined the party. I suppose after giving up Blyleven, the Rangers needed another pitcher and that’s how Matlack got involved, but it looks to me like the Mets were a pawn in this trade, and they were probably fortunate it didn’t turn out any worse than it did for them.

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About Barry Duchan 72 Articles

I’ve been following the Mets since 1962. Have to admit I was a Yankee fan as a kid, but I found it to be so much more interesting to see how a young team could build itself up rather than following a team where the season didn’t really begin until October. I remember them all – Casey, Marv, Choo Choo, Don Bosch, The Stork, etc. As the years went on, I became more and more of a Mets fan, and a Yankee hater once Steinbrenner and Billy Martin entered the picture.

After retiring, I relocated with my family from Long Island to Chapel Hill, NC in 2005. I still get to watch almost all of the Mets games and writing about them on Metsmerized Online and on my new site Mets Memories.