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Mets/Indians Trades - Losers All Around

Barry DuchanSunday, September 16, 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.

I found it interesting that over the years, the Mets and Indians have made several trades that were considered major at the time, but wound up being highly disappointing for both teams.

The Roberto Alomar and Carlos Baerga trades come to mind first, of course. Both were perennial all-stars as Indians, but total failures as Mets. What keeps these from being steals by the Indians is that the players they got in exchange didn't turn out that well for them. Baerga brought them future Hall Of Famer Jeff Kent (I can't believe I'm writing that, but his stats will get him in) as well as the versatile Jose Vizcaino, who's still around, too. The Indians' problem is that they traded both of them to the Giants for Matt Williams, which made Mets' fans drool at the time because he was one player the Mets always coveted, except that turned out to be a great deal for San Francisco. And as far as Alomar, the Mets sent over Matt Lawton, who never duplicated his earlier success in Minnesota, as well as "top prospects" Alex Escobar and Billy Traber, both now members of the Washington Nationals who will struggle to make the team. Escobar remains a shining example of how "the #1 prospect in baseball" label is no guarantee of future success.

But I also recall a much earlier trade which was considered a big one at the time, although younger Mets fans will no doubt look at these names and think "who were they ?"

On November 27, 1972, the Mets obtained relief pitcher Phil Hennigan from the Indians for young pitchers Bob Rauch and Brent Strom.

The 1972 Mets got off to a 25-7 start before they were devastated by injuries. On paper, they were one of the strongest Mets teams ever with recent acquisitions Rusty Staub, Jim Fregosi, and Willie Mays and a superb starting staff led by Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, Gentry, and McAndrew with Tug McGraw and Danny Frisella anchoring the bullpen. In November of 1972, the Mets dealt Gentry and Frisella for Felix Millan and George Stone, a deal which worked out very nicely, but at the time it created a void for a righthanded reliever.

Phil Hennigan had just had a solid season for Cleveland, posting a 2.67 ERA in 67 innings. Going on 27 years of age, he figured to be entering his prime years. He had already had 3 pretty good years in the Indians' pen and the Mets were expecting him to anchor their relief corps for several years.

Brent Strom had 3 years in the Mets' organization and was probably considered their best pitching prospect at the time. Rauch was one of the Mets' better prospects too, although his ceiling was probably just a middle man in the bullpen.

How badly did this deal turn out? Hennigan appeared in 30 games for the 1973 Mets, pitching to a record of 0-4 and 6.23 ERA and never threw another inning in the big leagues after that year. Strom went 2-10 4.61 for the '73 Indians before being dealt away and never amounted to much. Rauch never made the team.

Fortunately, Harry Parker filled what was supposed to be Hennigan's role very nicely in 1973, helping the Mets to an improbable pennant. But this trade was certainly a letdown for both teams.

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 (3)

It just amazed me how bad Alomar and Baerga fell off once they became Mets. Baerga was over-weight and never close to duplicating the numbers he put up in Cleveland. Guess they knew it was time to dump him. But it was Alomar that really puzzled me. He had the most consistant numbers for a middle infielder, especially secondbase to that point. A Hall of Fame resume, and a "gold glover" to boot. It seem he just gave up once he got here, plus injuries came and he was not even a fraction of the player he once was. In that particular era, it seemed as acquired ball players came to the Mets and forgot their skills and died!

This is an interesting category: trades that work out badly for both teams. Usually you think that trades work out to one or the other team's advantage. But as you've demonstrated, Barry, sometimes both teams end up with the short end of the stick. Alomar has to be the biggest surprise to me of any major trade the Mets have made. Not necessarily the worst trade, but the biggest surprise. Is there any team that we have a long history of good (for the Mets) trades with? I recently saw a presentation by an author about his book about how the Kansas City Athletics were actually a secret farm team for the Yankees in the '50s, with whom the Yankees made many trades all of which (surprise!) turned out to the Yankees' advantage.

The Mets have made so few really good deals that it would be impossible to have a long history of positive trades with any one team. The KC/Yankees relationship lasted from the late '50's to the early '60's. Although not comparable, the early Mets had a pretty good relationship with the Milwaukee Braves who constsntly sent the Mets players for little or nothing in exchange. Some of these players like Hawk Taylor and Amado Samuel didn't amount to much, but some definitely helped - Frank Thomas, Ron Hunt, Carl Willey, Dennis Ribant, Roy McMillan. And in 1972, the Mets got Felix Millan and George Stone from the Braves for Gentry and Frisella, another coup for the Mets. Of course, the Mets and Braves haven't done much business for a long time.

The Mets have a decent history with the Cardinals, with the Keith Hernandez trade being the best of course. Bernard Gilkey for practically nothing was another good one. Also, the Mets made 2 good trades with the Dodgers - Sid Fernandez for Carlos Diaz and Bob Bailor and Duaner Sanchez for Jae Seo. The other really good trade the Mets made in their history was getting David Cone from the Royals, but we'd previously sent them Otis for Foy and this past off-season gave them Bannister for Burgos, so I think the Royals have a bit of an edge there.

But the best parallel to the KC/Yankee relationship is the one between the Mets and Marlins. Remember the Mets got Piazza, LoDuca, Leiter, and Delgado, all established stars from Florida for various packages of young players.

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