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Power Hitting Prospects of The Early 1960's

Barry DuchanSunday, May 13, 2007
By Barry Duchan

Editor's Note: We will publish a post from Barry Duchan every Sunday covering some aspect of Mets history. - M.S.

Over 44 years, the Mets have done an abysmal job in developing power hitters in their organization. Of course, there was Darryl Strawberry and David Wright looks like a real good one, too, but that's been about it.

Back in the early '60's, the Mets thought they had some potential sluggers in Ed Kranepool, Ron Swoboda, Greg Goossen and Danny Napoleon.

Ron SwobodaOf course, just about every Mets fan knows about Kranepool and Swoboda, although younger fans may not know how much they were hyped when they first came up. Although Kranepool lasted for years and years with the Mets and both he and Swoboda were integral parts of the 1969 Miracle Mets, neither ever became the stars they were expected to be, and other than a few prodigious clouts by Swoboda, neither showed signs of the power they were expected to supply. Kranepool's best home run output in a season was 16, while Swoboda hit 19 in his rookie year, but never came close again, once pitchers figured him out.

The lesser known Goossen and Napoleon were also considered major long-ball prospects. Napoleon had one year in the New York Penn League where he either won, or came close to winning the triple crown and was forced onto the major league roster the following year by the same stupid rule that required the Mets to carry Ron Locke, Jim Bethke and Tug McGraw one year after they made their pro debuts. But unlike them, Napoleon was already 23 years old, which probably meant that his big numbers the year before were probably attributable to the fact that he was a 22-year old with college experience playing against 19 and 20-year olds. Had Napoleon been allowed to progress step-by-step through the farm system, who knows if he may have had a better career. But, rushed to the big leagues, other than one big triple that won a game for the Mets, he did little to prove he belonged. He played for awhile in the minor leagues after that cup of coffee, but was rarely mentioned as a prospect again, either with the Mets or the Cardinals, to whom he was subsequently traded in a big package deal. He NEVER hit a homerun in his big league career.

Goossen was a big catcher who had undeniable power and was a pretty good hitter for average, too, at least in the minor leagues. He came out of the Dodgers' organization as a first-year waiver claim. He did well enough in AAA to get a legitimate shot with the Mets, but never seemed to develop the consistency to stay in the lineup. Plus, it was obvious that the Mets had better defensive options at catcher. After hitting the grand total of 2 homeruns during his Mets career, in early 1969, he was sold to the expansion Seattle Pilots, where he had a .300 season, with 10 HR's in 139 at bats, but that was about it for his career.

Note: More of Barry Duchan's writings can be found on his own Metscentric blog.

About Barry Duchan: 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, ChooChoo, 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.   Read More -->

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Comments (4)

I remember all of the hype about Kranepool and Swoboda and Napoleon and Goosen, not to mention Don Bosch, Johnny Lewis (?) and others back in the sixties. Do you have any ideas, Barry on why the Mets were so bad at scouting and identifying hitting talent back in the '60s. It certainly seemed as if they were worse at it than other teams.

Swoboda is doing radio for the New Orleans affiliate. I heard him on the radio a week or so ago in an interview with one of the WFAN second stringers.

The man is honest, and candid in a way that most management types at the major league level will not allow themselves to be. Of Lino Undaneta, Swoboda said: he hasn't shown anything and I am surprised he was called up. He has a high ERA for a closer, and his recorded outs have been mostly LOUD outs.

Also, the announcer's introduction finished something like: "....and by the way, he won a Championship with the '69 Mets. Ron Swoboda!"

Swoboda came on with a laugh: "'And by the way!' If we hadn't won the championship, I wouldn't be here talking with you today."

Love it.

Thanks dd,

I have great attachment to the '86 mets, but I'd like to hear/see more of Swoboda..particularly on WFAN.

Swoboda is a very smart and interesting guy. He's also very insightful in Peter Golembock's book Amazin' about such issues that no one talked much about back then, like the racial subcultures on the team. Swoboda indicates that Cleon Jones and Tommy Agee used to go to barbecues at Louis Armstrong's house back in the '60s (Armstrong was a big Mets fan and lived right near Shea) but he never did because that was not exactly done back then (players of different races getting very close). He says something to the effect that he wishes he could go back in time and go to those barbecues. Kranepool, from what I remember, was neither smart nor particularly interesting.

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