Mets Merized Online » Mickey Lolich Sun, 01 Feb 2015 12:00:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 This Day In Mets Infamy: My Brush With Ralph Kiner Fri, 07 Feb 2014 15:35:51 +0000 201402061436525825329

Yesterday another piece of my childhood faded away.

While I was at work I received a email from the Mets announcing the passing of Hall Of Fame ballplayer and original Mets announcer, Ralph Kiner. At first it didn’t sink in. I don’t know if this was because I was so caught up with my work – or I was just aloof. But upon driving in my car on my way home from the office I started to cry – and cry hard. I am not really the emotional type. I didn’t cry when my grandfather passed away six years ago , and I certainly didn’t cry when I got the news that my father had passed almost two years ago. But for some reason whether it was with Tug McGraw, Bob Murphy or Gary Carter before him I cried.

My best guess is because the aforementioned men were like my babysitters. I was barely old enough to remember McGraw as a Met – but for some reason I gravitated to his infectious source of positivity. With Murph and the Kid along with Ralph that was the era that I was truly aware of baseball – when I truly understood the game.

I had the honor being in Ralph’s presence twice in my lifetime. The first was around 1983 at a charity stickball event. I met the likes of Tom Seaver and Jake LaMotta that day – but Ralph was the nicest and warmest of the celebrities at that event. He even signed my autograph book without having to beg.

Fast forward to August of 2010. My wife and I are in attendance for the Mets Hall Of Fame induction ceremonies for Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Frank Cashen and Davey Johnson. Towards the end of the game my wife and I caught up with my sister, brother in law and two nephews in the Caesars Club. We all decided to leave just before the end of the game and we took the club elevator to leave the building. And then it happened…

The elevator stopped at one of the private floors and who happened to get on but Ralph Kiner and a woman who I guess was his wife being wheeled into the elevator car by their attendants’. My nephews who must’ve been about 5 at the time were acting precocious as most 5 year olds do, and Ralph just looked at them and smiled. I didn’t utter a word to Ralph in that elevator because I respected his privacy and he looked extremely tired. But Ralph looked at me and nodded. I smiled back and wanted to thank him but I was just basking in the aura of this man.

Technically Ralph wasn’t a Met – but in many respects he truly was. No he never played one game as a Met, but he will always be tethered to the tapestry of this team. He will always be an original Met.

Even in his latter years with his speech impaired by Bell’s Palsy and often sounding tired, he could still inspire me with stories from his days of old with the Pirates – or even regale you with tales of Choo Choo Coleman, Casey Stengel or Dwight Gooden.

My innocence was lost many years ago – but I always felt that as long as I heard Ralph’s voice I still could hold onto a childhood that left me many years ago. I will miss you Ralph – and as I shed a tear, I also raise a glass of whiskey in your honor.

And with that said…. HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!

Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today include:

  • Reserve outfielder from ’74-’76, Benny Ayala is 63 (1951).
  • One of the better starting pitchers from the “oh so bad early ’80′s teams“, Charlie Puleo is 59 (1955). Puleo was the main cog in the trade with the Cincinnati Reds that brought Tom Seaver  back to Flushing.
  • The man responsible for one of the most amazing catches in the history of the baseball postseason,  Endy Chavez is 36 (1978).

Other notable transactions include:

  • The  New York Mets traded spot starter/middle reliever,  Hank Webb and minor league pitching prospect, Rich Sanders to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league shortstop, Rick Auerbach on February 7, 1977.
  • One time Cy Young Mets pitcher, Mickey Lolich announced his retirement on February 7, 1977. Lolich would come out of retirement a year later to pitch for the San Diego Padres.
  • The New York Mets released utility infielder, Ross Jones on February 7, 1986.
  • The New York Mets claimed reserve infielder, David Lamb on waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays on February 7, 2000.
  • The Seattle Mariners  signed backup catcher,  Kelly Shoppach of the New York Mets as a free agent on February 7, 2013.

Mo Vaughn was so fat he couldn’t bend over!!!”  Ralph Kiner, August 10th 2010

kiner waves

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This Day In Mets Infamy With Rusty: Random Thoughts On Bartolo Colon Thu, 12 Dec 2013 17:04:21 +0000 bartolo colon

Last night as I was getting comfortable on my couch, I was scanning the twitterverse and lo and behold what breaking news did I see but the unofficial announcement that the Mets had signed veteran starting pitcher, Bartolo Colon to a 2-year/$20 million dollar contract pending a physical. Obviously this set Mets Twitter on the verge of nuclear meltdown, the likes that no one has seen since Jason Bay agreed to that fateful 3-year/$66 million dollar contract.

Then I got to thinking: What does this mean to the average Mets fan and how does this affect the Mets over the course of the next 2 years? So here are some random thoughts on the signing of Bartolo – or as the newly signed outfielder, Chris Young refers to him as – ToeLo.

Bartolo’s uniform number should be the same as his waist size (50).

Part of Colon’s contract is that he gets his own show on SNY called Bartolo vs Food.

I wonder who would win in a Sumo wrestling match in a ring filled with Jell-O, him or Mo Vaughn ?

With Bartolo on the mound there is no need for infielders – because he is the infield.

Bartolo makes me look svelte.

He gets his own personal “Shake Shack!”

I bet he doesn’t find salmon tasty.

And lastly, and in all seriousness, this is a good signing that hopefully will help the Mets compete in 2014.

And with that said…. HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!!

Sadly on this date in 1992, Rube Walker – the Mets pitching coach/guru from ’68-’81 – passed away.

The New York Mets traded reserve outfielder, Jim Gosger and utility infielder, Bob Heise to the San Francisco Giants for middle reliever, Ray Sadecki and reserve outfielder, Dave Marshall on December 12, 1969.

In what can and should be considered one of the worst trades in Mets history, the New York Mets traded outfielder, Rusty Staub and minor league pitcher, Bill Laxton to the Detroit Tigers for starting pitcher,  Mickey Lolich and reserve outfielder,  Billy Baldwin on December 12, 1975.

Lolich was supposed to help strengthen the Mets pitching rotation but finished his lone season with a record of 8-13. He retired after the season ended so that he could open a doughnut shop, but then he unretired in ’78 to pitch for the San Diego Padres !!!

The New York Mets traded reserve outfielder, Gene Clines to the Texas Rangers for outfielder, Joe Lovitto on December 12, 1975.

Lovitto ended up being released by the Mets during spring training.

The New York Mets traded middle reliever,  Roy Lee Jackson to the Toronto Blue Jays for utility infielder,  Bob Bailor on December 12, 1980.

The New York Mets signed free agent back up catcher,  Orlando Mercado of the Minnesota Twins on December 12, 1989.

The New York Mets traded reserve outfielder,  Alex Ochoa to the Minnesota Twins for reserve outfielder, Rich Becker on December 12, 1997.

The New York Mets signed free agent José Valentin of the Los Angeles Dodgers on December 12, 2005. This was one of then General Manager ,Omar Minaya’s best under the radar signings

The New York Mets traded middle reliever,  Scott Schoeneweis to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league pitcher, Connor Robertson on December 12, 2008. After the way Scho pitched that last game of the season everybody knew he wouldn’t ever return to the Mets.

The New York Mets granted  reliever and alleged murderer, Ambiorix Burgos granted free agency on December 12, 2008.

The New York Mets claimed starting pitcher, Jeremy Hefner on waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates on December 12, 2011.

Hefner pitched admirably if not uneven the last two seasons for the Mets in a limited role. Lets hope his surgically repaired pitching arm is ready for the ’15 season .

Mo Vaughn is looking forward to chewing the fat with Bartolo Colon!!!

If you want to hear the rebroadcast of last night’s “Shouts From Shea” podcast featuring myself as well as Steven Keane from “The Kranepool Society” please click here. Our guests include Joe D of this fine blog as well as Danny Abriano from the “Rising Apple” blog.


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This Day In Mets Infamy With Rusty: The “All Time Mets Scrub Team” Edition Sun, 15 Sep 2013 14:27:38 +0000 sad mets bench

With the loss in game one of yesterday’s doubleheader with the Miami Marlins, the Mets clinched their 5th straight losing season. This shouldn’t come as a shock since it has happened many times in the past - from the newly minted team of the ’60′s to the “Franchiseless” Mets of the late ’70′s and early ’80′s. Hell even the teams from the Mid ’90s as well as the ’02-’04 seasons were exercises in futility. So I figured I would try to compile the All Scrub Mets Team that encompasses players from all these eras – except from the ’60′s because lets face it 99% of the men that played for those Mets teams were either past their prime – or never had a prime to go past.

So without further ado…

My All Time Mets Scrub Team 

Manager: Jeff Torborg – He was a winning manager during his tenure with the Chicago White Sox, but  I don’t know if it was the expensive payroll of stars ( one of the most expensive payrolls at the time ) or that he melted under the bright lights of New York, but he barely lasted one and a half seasons as the skipper of a sinking ship.

Catcher: Alex Trevino – He was a both offensively and defensively challenged behind and at the plate.

First Base: Mike Jorgenson – Before returning to the Mets in the early ’80′s Mike had been a serviceable reserve outfielder/ first baseman.

Second Base: Luis Castillo – If you find yourself asking why he is on this list you are obviously not a Mets fan.

Shortstop: Frank Taveras – He was your prototypical no hit/all glove infielder. He had speed ( leading the Mets with triples in ’80 ) but he really never got on base enough to flash it.

Third Base: Jim Fregosi – We traded Nolan Ryan for him. He sucked. ‘Nuff Said !

Outfield: Jason Bay – See Luis Castillo.

Outfield: Juan Samuel  - For some reasons not known to man nor beast, then Mets General Manager, Frank Cashen traded Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell to the Phillies for second baseman, Samuel. The Mets tried to convert him to an everyday centerfielder. Guess what – they failed.

Outfield: Vince Coleman – File him under “Never sign a player that is a Mets killer” because they will continue to kill the Mets – from the inside!

Starting Rotation:

The luckless Anthony Young

The Charismatic Jose Lima – too bad he concentrated more on his ” Lima Time” slogan than actually pitching effectively.

The Past his prime Mike Torrez.

The pitcher that obviously didn’t want to be here, Mickey Lolich.

And rounding out the starting rotation – Oliver Perez (See Luis Castillo)


The ineffective Doug Sisk.

The lead blower, Rich Rodriguez – I still maintain that the only reason why he wasn’t released by the Mets is because he was a friend of then G.M, Steve Phillips from their minor league days.

Ineffective reliever from the early ’80′s. Mark “Bombs Away” Bomback.

Another man who couldn’t hold a lead – even if it was glued to his hand – Ryota Igarashi.

Two words that should send a shiver down your spine Guillermo Mota.

And lest we forget, Luis Ayala.

The closer spot is a tough one since the Mets had many men who were not able to put out the fire and save the game, so by default I went with Braden Looper. Yes Looper was playing through injuries in his last season with the Mets, but he still blew the lead in important games when he was healthy – he didn’t have the killer instinct.


The light hitting David Newhan.

The light hitting Dan Norman.

The couldn’t get a hit to save his life Ron Hodges.

And the weak hitting Gary Rajsich

So there is my list… Do you agree/disagree? Who would you add or omit ? Please give your lists in the comments section below.

And with that said….. HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!!!

Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today include:

Charley Smith would have been 76 (1937) today

One of the most ineffective middle relievers ever to wear a Mets uniform, John Pacella is 57  (1956). In Pacella’s 3 seasons with the Mets he compiled a 3-6 record with a ERA of 4.83 in 104.1 innings.

Middle reliever from the ’02 season, Satoru Komiyama is 48 (1965).

Middle reliever from the ’91 season, Doug Simons turns 47 (1966).

Utility infielder from ’96-’97, Jason Hardtke is 42 (1971).

Some other notables include:

The  New York Mets traded  minor league pitching prospects, Shane Young and Jeff Richardson to the California Angels for  reliever, John Candelaria on September 15, 1987. The Brooklyn born “Candy Man” was once one of the most dominant closers in the game. But by the time he was obtained by the Mets he was well past his prime.

The movie character that Mo Vaughn wishes he could be  is Pizza the Hut from “Spaceballs” !!!!


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Great Expectations and a Met Prospect’s Swan Song Sun, 09 Jun 2013 12:00:58 +0000 The GM is one of the most despised people in New York. People are calling for the manager to be fired. The entire team is neither executing nor playing fundamentally sound baseball. We’re not hitting and fans are now outnumbered by empty seats. The Mets seem destined for a 90+ loss season and avoiding 100 losses will be an accomplishment. The Yankees own the city. Opposing teams are chomping at the bit when they arrive in Flushing. There seems to be little hope and only darkness on the horizon for years to come.

But in the midst of this we have one bright spot… A young and very talented pitcher that we are pinning our hopes on. He will become the ace of our staff. He will become our new Tom Seaver.

My question is this: Am I referring to the 2013 Mets or the Mets of the late seventies? Am I talking about Matt Harvey or Craig Swan?

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

craig swan (4)Craig Steven Swan was born in California (just like Seaver) on November 30, 1950. He was the Mets third round pick in the 1972 draft. After Swannie pitched in the ’72 College World Series and allowed just one earned run in 18.0 innings pitched, fans saw a dynasty coming. A guy like this would be joining Seaver, Koosman and Matlack. Wow!

From 73 through 75, Swan battled inconsistency. He was regularly shuffled back and forth between New York and Tidewater – the Mets AAA affiliate at the time. By 1976, however, Swan became our number five starter behind our Big Three and Mickey Lolich. He was finally here to stay.

However, his inconsistency rattled the nerves of fans. His first four starts were downright awful. Then, over his next three, he allowed just one earned run and 13 hits in 26 innings. The Mets won 86 games that season and Swan went 6-9 with a respectable 3.54 ERA.

In 1977, M. Donald Grant traded away “The Franchise” and ripped out the hearts of Mets fans. Losses went up, attendance went down. The Mets finished in last place, 37 games back. Our 98 losses were the most in a decade. Swan finished with a 9-10 record and posted a disappointing 4.23 ERA. However, his nine victories were more than both Koosman and Matlack that season.

By 1978, the Mets had sunk to new lows and were downright terrible. And although we still had Kooz, it was becoming clear that #36 was disgruntled and wanted to get the hell out of New York. Craig Swan assumed the role of de-facto ace. He was a good pitcher on a bad team. (Matt Harvey anyone?)

Swan’s first start of the year was a complete game shutout, allowing just five hits. On July 4th, 1978, the Mets’ brightest star fanned 13 but took a 3-2 loss. He dropped to 1-5, yet his ERA was a Seaver-esque 2.66. On September 16th, in spite of allowing just three hits and one earned run over none innings, the Mets’ bats were quiet as usual. Swan failed to secure the “W.”


When the curtain came down on the 78 season, Craig Swan led the National League with a 2.43 ERA had the league’s second best WHIP. At Shea his ERA was 1.67. His record, however, was 9-6. Good pitcher. Bad team. On a good team, with stats like these, Swan would have probably been a 20 game winner.

By 79, Koosman was now gone and Swan found himself the Mets ace. He made 35 starts, tossed 251 innings, racked up ten complete games – three of them shutouts. His 3.29 ERA was led the team and remarkably his 11 wins were more than any two other Mets combined.

Perhaps he really was our new Seaver as the young righthander was now our lone beacon of hope. Management forked over $3.25 million for five years and made Craig the highest paid pitcher in team history.

He was well worth it and 1980 saw Swan yet again pitch masterfully. Although the Mets were still awful and providing him with no run support, Swan was 5-4 with a superb 2.21 ERA through mid-June.

And then, just like that, he fell apart.

His velocity dropped and suddenly his command became uncharacteristically erratic. He couldn’t get anyone out. One month later it was determined that the Mets ace had torn his rotator cuff. Back then, surgery was not yet an option as it is today, and it appeared that Swan’s career was most likely at an end. But Swan did what most pitchers at that time did; he rested. After a month off he returned to make two more terrible starts before we landed back on the DL and was lost for the season.

In spite of the torn rotator, Swan was back on the mound the following April. In his second start of the season, he walked leadoff man Tim Raines on four pitches. On his fifth pitch, also a ball, Raines broke for second base and Mets catcher Ron Hodges attempted to nail the speedy Raines. However, Swan had his back to the plate and Hodges’ throw slammed right into Swan’s back resulting in a fractured rib. A Metsian moment to be sure.

Swan returned to the DL yet again. He was now dealing with the fractured rib as well as coming back from the torn rotator cuff. He made two ineffective relief appearances later that spring… And then the baseball strike of 1981 happened. Swan came back after the strike, continued struggling and spent the remainder of the season on the DL. The Mets ace, the highest paid pitcher on our staff, tossed 13.2 innings that season.

swan mookie wilson

By 1982, we were beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. The long dark days appeared to be coming to an end as a couple of kids named Mookie Wilson and Hubie Brooks brought some excitement back to Shea. We were also hearing great things about a couple prospects in the minors named Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Lo and behold the Mets, now under new ownership and a new GM, acquired RBI machine and a legitimate home run threat – former MVP George Foster.

And in the middle of all this, Craig Swan bounced back big time. Although the Mets still struggled, going 65-97, Swan again found himself the ace on a bad team. He was the Mets leader in ERA (3.35) and wins (11). and was the only starter to post a winning record. For his efforts he finished second to Joe Morgan for NL Comeback Player of the Year. Swan was also used out of the bullpen that season and compiled a solid 1.30 ERA working out of the pen.

It was during Spring Training in 1983 when the 32-year old Swan felt “something pop.” His myo-fascial tissue had been ripped from his triceps. He again attempted to pitch through this new injury. The battler and bulldog that he was, realized he was.the ace and that his team needed him. However, it was to no avail as he went 2-8 with a 5.51 ERA, and ultimately he was shut down again.

It was a devastating blow, but fans were distracted because the Mets acquired a new pitcher – Tom Seaver was back in a Mets uniform and Swan’s career-ending injury was just a mere footnote. Swan was overshadowed by the very man he was supposed to become.

By 1984, the Mets seemed poised to compete. There was something different in the air. Hope? Promise? Craig Swan who spent years being a very good pitcher mired on a very bad team would finally get to be on a competitor. However, it was not meant to be.

It was obvious the injuries had finally taken taken a toll and gotten the better of him. In 18.2 IP he allowed 17 ER and five home runs. The Mets ace, the man who was destined to replace Seaver, the man who landed that record $3.25 million contract, was sadly released on May 7, 1984.

He was picked up by the Angels but after getting knocked around twice, they released him as well. The promising kid from California who was going to lead the Mets to glory, was now out of Major League Baseball at the age of 33.

After spending his career dealing with and learning about injuries, Craig Swan became a huge believer and follower of Rolfing. It’s described as a holistic system of soft tissue manipulation that organizes the whole body in gravity. He currently lives in Stamford, CT where he operates a physical therapy facility that specializes in Rolfing.

On September 28, 2008, the Mets brought down the curtain on Shea Stadium after 45 seasons. A handful of former Mets were invited to be on hand and 57 year old Craig Swan was one of them. As he scanned the stadium and glanced at the same pitching mound where he once was the ace of the Mets, who did he see? Tom Seaver, on the rubber, throwing the ceremonial “Final Pitch” to another beloved Met, Mike Piazza. Craig Swan was once again in Seaver’s shadow.

Days later, Swan was at work at his Rolfing practice in Connecticut when he looked up to see none other than his good friend and former teammate walk in. It was Tom Seaver. The Hall of Famer had spent fourteen days in traction in nearby Greenwich and was still in pain. His back was messed up and he seeked out Swan of all people for help. Craig explained to Tom the theory behind Rolfing and how it works. It was now Swan doing the teaching. He educated his former teammate on how to “soften” his toes while walking and how this would help to alleviate his back pain.

Seaver jokingly asked, “Swannie, how am I supposed to see what my toes are doing? They’re inside my shoes.”

Craig Swan smiled, affectionately put his arm around his friend and replied, “You’ve got three Cy Young Awards. I’m sure you can figure it out.”

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Memorable Mets Moments: Rusty and the Rundown Thu, 28 Mar 2013 13:00:50 +0000 In the course of the many years I have been a Mets devotee, I have witnessed countless contests between the Amazin’s and their various opponents where the end result was either a victory or loss for the Flushing crew, but nothing much beyond that unless something truly remarkable occurred to mark the game in my memory. Those games, where something truly out of the ordinary happened, have popped up from time to time and by virtue of their very scarcity have helped reinforce a belief that there are indeed “baseball gods,” that only occasionally deign to let us acknowledge their handiwork. Perhaps I wax a tad philosophical, but when recounting those Met moments that seemingly transcend the box score, it seems only natural.

What I seek to provide here is my recollection of certain small chapters in Mets’ history that stand out from the pack, not necessarily for their place in a championship campaign or a particularly important game, but for their unique qualities which occasionally move them into the realm of the strange or even at times, the poetic.


Rusty-StaubThe first of these instances involves one of my favorite Mets of bygone days, Rusty Staub. During his first go-round with the Mets, Rusty provided more in the way of consistent offense and heady play than fans had come to expect from a Mets team that relied primarily on the arms of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack , Tug McGraw and whatever offense could be scrounged from the day’s lineup. In 1973, two years into their second decade of existence, the Mets had still not had a player produce a 100 RBI season. The team would make its second trip to the World Series that year, but would wind up second to last in the NL in runs scored with a paltry 608. As a result, defense was a key component to go along with that vaunted pitching staff. In June of that year, the Mets were playing a series at Shea against the Dodgers. The Saturday game of that set (on June 9th) was Old Timers’ Day and a good crowd was on hand. The offensive heroes for the day were Staub, with two doubles and 3 RBI, and Willie Mays who homered for the other run in what would be a 4-2 complete game win for Jon Matlack.

It wasn’t Rusty’s offense that made this game memorable for me, but his defense- specifically, his role in a play that took place in the top of the seventh inning.  By virtue of a pinch-hit double by future Met Tom Paciorek and a bunt single by Davey Lopes, the Dodgers had runners at the corners with no one out and Bill Buckner (of all people) coming to the plate. The Mets were clinging to a 3-2 lead at this point that looked to be in jeopardy. Buckner was an up-and-coming young batsman of 24 at this time, but was coming off a season where he had hit .319 and shown a penchant for making contact. With Lopes dancing off first, Matlack made a successful pickoff throw and a rundown ensued.

Rundowns always make me nervous if it’s my team trying to execute one. We’ve all heard how, if properly done, only one or two throws should be needed to nail the runner. Invariably, as the number of throws involved in the play increases, so does the percentage that one will ultimately wind up in the stands, the dugout, or the outfield while the runner advances.  On this particular play the infielders involved, Bud Harrelson, Felix Millan, and John Milner, were no slouches with the glove  but Lopes was fleet and managed to elude a tag. A number of throws were made, back and forth, with Paciorek looking for a chance to score from third. Ultimately, with the middle infielders out of position, Lopes dashed for second, seemingly uncovered until…Rusty Staub, having run in from his position in Right Field, took the throw at second, slapped a tag on Lopes diving for the base, then fired a strike to the plate to catch Paciorek trying to sneak in with the tying run. Double play! Buckner flied out to center and the inning ended with no damage done.

As a mere 16 year-old at the time, my depth of baseball knowledge was not substantial, but I had been bitten by the bug at a young age and had read more about the game’s history than many of my peers. Nowhere had I come across an account of a similar play, which, while not the weirdest thing to happen on a baseball field, was without a doubt the most heads-up piece of fielding I had ever witnessed.

Rusty went on to play heroically in the LCS (3 HR’s and a great catch where he badly injured his shoulder), and World Series that year (hitting .423 with a 5 RBI game while playing hurt). In 1975, he became the first Met to reach the century mark in RBI while setting a club record with 105. Management rewarded this by trading him to Detroit for a washed-up Mickey Lolich and fans were left to pin their hopes on Mike Vail. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work out too well.

Regardless, Rusty’s place in the annals of Metdom is assured, but is just that much more deserved, in my opinion, because of that nifty double play.

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MMO Flashback: Mets Trade Le Grande Orange Mon, 26 Dec 2011 21:12:15 +0000

Here’s something I dug up from a couple of years ago that brings us back to the hot stove season of 1975, when the Mets also traded one of the team’s most popular players – a move they would eventually regret. Mike Lloyd does a nice job in the re-telling of what happened back then.

Examining Hot Stove history from the Past.

December 12th 1975 – The New York Mets trade Rusty Staub and Bill Laxton to the Detroit Tigers for Mickey Lolich and Billy Baldwin.

From the moment he was acquired, Rusty Staub was probably the best Met hitter of the first twenty years of the franchise. He was a more prolific power hitter than Cleon Jones who had a great year in 1969 batting .340, which led the Met franchise for decades till John Olerud hit .354 in 1998. But, Rusty was shipped out of town in December 1975 for an excellent pitcher named Mickey Lolich. The other principles, Bill Laxton and Billy Baldwin never amounted to much.

‘Le Grande Orange’ had come to the Mets on April 5th 1972 , 3 days after the death of arguably the greatest manager in Met history, Mr. Gil Hodges. The Mets paid a steep price to acquire the most popular player in Montreal Expos franchise history to that point. Ken Singleton, Mike Jorgenson and Tim Foli were dealt away to Montreal to bring Rusty to Shea Stadium. (we’ll examine that deal at another time)

The irony of the ’75 deal with Detroit was that it shouldn’t have occurred. Free agency had arrived in baseball and players were beginning to realize just how much money the owners were making, and how little the players cut was. Rusty made some waves regarding his salary and M.Donald Grant, the Met President at the time, (yes, that M. Donald Grant) decided that he could compete with a rotation of Seaver, Koosman, Matlack and Lolich, and decided to ship Rusty to Detroit for the ‘portly’ lefthander.

(Mickey owned a donut shop and it was argued by fans that he spent every waking hour testing his products)

On the surface Mickey was a complete bust who went 8-13 in ‘76, his only year in NY. But he did have a 3.22 ERA that season. And it was argued by many that Lolich didn’t receive run support throughout the campaign. Matlack had arguably one of his best seasons that year when he went 17-10, 2.95 ERA and Koosman won 21 games with a 2.69 ERA, his only 20 win season. Seaver went only 14-11 but with a 2.59 ERA. Mickey just wasn’t the same great pitcher in NY as in Detroit. Meanwhile, Met fans were frustrated by the lack of offense associated with that ‘76 team.

The trade was a total failure as Staub, age 31 at the time, managed some excellent years in Detroit while Lolich managed to eat his way out of baseball soon thereafter.

Lolich was age 35 in’76. He had some incredible years in Detroit but was at the end of the line when the Mets made that deal. That wasn’t his fault, but that was of little solace to Met fans.

Rusty had some incredibly productive years in Detroit, but back then as today, the Yankees and Red Sox dominated the old AL East in the late ‘70‘s. He even managed an AL all-star appearance for Detroit in ’76. Prior to that, he’d appeared in five straight NL all-star games from ‘67 through ‘71. He never managed an appearance in the summer classic with the Mets, but may have, if he hadn’t had multiple injuries in his first stint in NY. Shamefully without that injury history, Rusty may have reached 3000 hits.

The Mets were dismantled over those 2 ½ years, eventually culminating with the Midnight Massacre on June 15th 1977. (we’ll also examine that fiasco at another time) But the Rusty Staub trade on December 12th 1975 was the beginning of the end for the Mets’ first successful cycle of their history. In ‘76 the Mets had a decent year going 86-76. They’d never be above .500 again until 1984.

Of course, Rusty did manage to return to the Mets in ’80. Nearly 5 years to the day after being dealt away, Rusty signed as a free agent December 16th 1980. He went on to become one of the more prolific pinch hitters and beloved figures in Met history.

Former teammates and fans alike loved ‘Le Grande Orange’. He is revered not only in New York, where he’s become a fixture, but in Montreal, where his popular nickname was derived. A deal that should have never occurred… How many can we count in NY Mets history?

NOTE: Rusty’s restaurant in Manhattan is a must for Met fans to enjoy. The Cajun style menu is wonderful!

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