By Barry Duchan
Editor's Note: We will publish a post from Barry Duchan every Sunday covering some aspect of Mets history. This piece was originally published in September 2005. - M.S.
A couple of days ago, I read an article about how Ken Boyer should be considered for the Hall Of Fame. I had almost forgotten about Boyer's brief time as a Met and what a major acquisition it was considered at the time. Of course, it didn't work out for the Mets or Boyer and in my opinion, considering Boyer for the HOF ahead of Keith Hernandez or Gil Hodges to name just two others with Met connections, is ludicrous. Anyway, let's look at the deal.
In 1964, Ken Boyer was the NL MVP and led the Cardinals to the World Series. A year later, after a somewhat disappointing season, the Mets got him in a trade for Al Jackson and Charley Smith. Jackson was arguably the Mets' best pitcher in their early years. The term "crafty lefty" fit Al to a T. But, it seemed that he'd have to pitch a shutout to win a game. It wasn't quite that bad, but somehow Jackson managed to post 8-20 records for the Mets twice in 4 seasons. Al was without a doubt one of the all-time hard luck pitchers. Every Met fan knew he was a lot better than his record and he was bound to do better with another team, but the bottom line was that the Mets could throw just about anybody out there who could equal (or hopefully, better) that 8-20 mark, so he was expendable. As for Smith, he struck out way too much to be considered anything more than a stopgap at third base, even if he was one of the team's few power hitters.
So, Jackson and Smith for a player one year removed from MVP and still in the prime of his career seemed like a can't miss deal for the Mets. Of course, like the majority of Mets' trades, this one didn't work out at all.
Boyer was mediocre at best for the Mets, batting about .250 over a season and a half with the Mets, showing little of the clutch hitting, great defense, or leadership qualities that were his trademark with the Cardinals.
Smith was no great shakes for the Cardinals either, but a year later they traded him even up to the Yankees for Roger Maris in a deal that may have started the Yankees decline from powerhouse to cellar dweller. Jackson turned in one decent year as a Cardinals starter before moving to the bullpen. He eventually returned to the Mets briefly, but was cut during the 1969 season, so he never got to be a part of the Miracle Mets, which could have been a nice reward for his years of suffering with a team that didn't give him any support.
So, unlike several other deals that backfired on the Mets, this one wasn't so bad because of the players the Mets gave up, but rather because they thought they were getting a bona fide star and a team leader and instead, got an aging veteran who really did nothing that his predecessor (Smith) couldn't have done.
The Mets eventually dealt Boyer to the White Sox, where he didn't do much, either. J.C. Martin came to the Mets in that deal which seemed at the time to be another dud of a deal for the Mets - a player who was still thought of as a star for a backup catcher. I hesitate to say this was a GOOD deal for the Mets, but Martin's memorable contributions to the 1969 World Champions certainly helped to erase the memory of Boyer's disappointing tenure.