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Great Mets' Trades of the Past - Hernandez for Allen and Ownbey

Barry DuchanSunday, February 3, 2008
By Barry Duchan

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published on June 17, 2007. - M.S.

As it becomes apparent that the Mets, as currently constituted, will not run away with the NL East this year, Mets' fans are all anxiously anticipating this year's upcoming deals feeling certain that Omar Minaya will plunge into the trade market. Of course, Mets history has given us many more bad trades than good, but let's look on the positive side, beginning with one of the best trades ever made by the Mets, in this case GM Frank Cashen, certainly the best Mets' GM to this point.

The Keith Hernandez trade of June 15, 1983 is explained in detail in one of the finest baseball books I have ever read, White Rat - A Life In Baseball by Whitey Herzog and Kevin Horrigan. As Cardinals' manager/GM, Herzog made some outstanding deals and a couple of real clinkers. Even worse than the Hernandez deal is an earlier one that may rank as one of the worst trades ever - Ted Simmons, Pete Vuckovich, and Rollie Fingers for Sixto Lezcano, Lary Sorensen, Dave LaPoint, and David Green (then considered the best prospect in the game). But back to the Hernandez deal.

As the 1983 season went on, Herzog felt that Keith Hernandez was dogging it. Herzog said he knew nothing of Keith's drug use, but he couldn't believe how lazy Keith was becoming. He wasn't running out ground balls and he seemed to be spending most of his time before games smoking cigarettes and doing crossword puzzles. Other players were complaining to Herzog about Keith's lack of hustle, and Whitey's coaches told him that even though the club was in first place, Hernandez was "poisoning" the whole team. Herzog also thought the Cardinals needed pitching and felt that Hernandez still had excellent trade value and that Hernandez' salary demands for his next contract were going to be far out of line with his value to the team. The Cardinals also had a red-hot minor league hitter in Andy Van Slyke who deserved a chance in the big leagues. So, Herzog decided that moving George Hendrick to first base and Van Slyke to the Cardinals' outfield and dealing Hernandez for pitching help was the way to go.

When Lonnie Smith came forward admitting to a cocaine habit and possibly insinuating that he was not the only member of the team doing drugs, some suspicion arose concerning Hernandez. The Cardinals began shopping Keith, but there were few interested parties. All the other team were scared of his contract and there was a definite buzz of drug rumors. Only Frank Cashen of the Mets showed any interest. The deal was to be Neil Allen who the Cardinals were going to turn into a starter, and the Mets' most promising young pitcher, Rick Ownbey, in exchange for Hernandez. When Cashen agreed, that was it.

Hernandez' initial reaction to going to the Mets was negative and he was pretty sure he would opt out and become a free agent, but the Mets' young talent and Hernandez' quick adjustment to New York City changed his mind, and Keith put his drug problems behind him and became an integral part of a Mets' team that won a World Championship and probably should have won a couple more. Allen faded quickly and Ownbey surprisingly never made it at all, making this one of those one-sided deals the Mets were famous for, only this time it was in their favor.

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 (5)

The Mets.....a waste of an organization....I guarantee that in five years they surpass the New York Yankees with the largest payroll.....and still...they will not win a championship...baseball is not only about the players, but it's also about team chemistry...which the Mets have none. Take a look what I have to say on the whole situation:

[link removed]

Phillyphan - Point taken, that the whole is often much less than the sum of its parts. Chemistry means everything in an MLB clubhouse. That's why the Mets were keen to make this deal now. That's why Santana himself told the Twins, "Do this thing now, or I'm not talking to any other team until the end of the season". Now they'll both be able to build that chemistry before April.

For a good example of how loading a roster with all-stars does not guarantee you a World Series, please move approximately ten miles northwest of Shea Stadium, where the folks in charge there have spent over a BILLION dollars since 2001 with no additional rings to show for it.

For another good example, go about an hour south and west from Shea, where the following Hall of Famers never won a World Series with the Phillies:

Sparky Anderson 1959
Rich Ashburn 1948-59
Dave Bancroft 1915-20
Dan Brouthers 1896
Roger Connor 1892
Ed Delahanty 1888-89; 1891-1901
Hugh Duffy 1904-06
Johnny Evers 1917
Elmer Flick 1898-1902
Jimmie Foxx 1945
Billy Hamilton 1890-95
Hughie Jennings 1901-02
Chuck Klein 1928-33; 1936-44
Nap Lajoie 1896-1900
Tommy McCarthy 1886-87
Casey Stengel 1920-21
Sam Thompson 1889-98
Lloyd Waner 1942
Hack Wilson 1934
Grover Alexander1911-17
Chief Bender 1916-17
Jim Bunning 1964-67; 1970-71
Ferguson Jenkins1965-66
Tim Keefe 1891-93
Kid Nichols 1905-06
Eppa Rixey 1912-17; 1919-20
Robin Roberts 1948-61

That's an impressive group of ballplayers. Would you call their clubs "a waste of an organization"?

As I mentioned here about a week back, Santana's 15-13 record last year included eight games in which he gave up two or three earned runs, but got either a loss or a no-decision. I daresay that with the lineup the Mets have in place this season, six of those eight L's and ND's turn into wins, and a similar performance gives Johan a 21-9 record and another Cy Young Award.

Finally, Pp1731, I don't take much stock in the opinions of a fan of a team who's won one world championship in 125 years, and has lost more games than any professional team in the history of organized sports. The only two consistent winners your city has had are Pat's and Gino's.

As the owner of this web site, my initial reaction was to remove Phillyphan1731's comment completely. I have little tolerance for those who seek to promote their own web site without even bothering to post a comment that's relevant to the actual post. Both of the previous 2 posts were about Santana, so that wouldn't have been too hard to find. I have compromised by removing his link and letting the comment stand.

Hernandez, for me was a great trade, not only for the beautiful line drive hitter he was. But my uncle Ed taught me how to watch a ballgame and showing me with the Brooklyn Dodegers, Gil Hodges's play at 1st base and how important a good 1st baseman is to a team. Kieth was fun to watch around the bag and the plays he made , the whole infield was better. It made watching the Mets exciting every pitch and inning when Kieth was in there.It made the rest of baseball take notice of the N.Y. Mets who started playing solid baseball. Mike you do a good job in keeping thi blog clean and in check, even if one gets by you, I have a delete button on my key board. I seen a bald headed eagle on my property the other day and I'll take that as a good sign for victory this year for the Mets, of course Santana is also a very good sign. In truth He is better than the eagel.The eagel was a wow but Santana is a double wow.And a great trade and a big lift for every Met fan.( and Met player.)

I think phillyphan should savor the Philly fluke of 07 while he still can because its not likely to happen again now that the Mets have Santana.

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