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Mets Trades of the Past - The Biggest One Ever

Barry DuchanSunday, March 16, 2008
By Barry Duchan

On December 8, 1977, the Mets were one of four teams involved in one of the most complex deals in the history of baseball. This was it:

The Mets sent John Milner to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Atlanta Braves sent Willie Montanez to the New York Mets. The Texas Rangers sent Adrian Devine, Tommy Boggs, and Eddie Miller to the Atlanta Braves. The Texas Rangers sent a player to be named later and Tom Grieve to the New York Mets. The Texas Rangers sent Bert Blyleven to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pittsburgh Pirates sent Al Oliver and Nelson Norman to the Texas Rangers. The New York Mets sent Jon Matlack to the Texas Rangers. The Texas Rangers sent Ken Henderson (March 15, 1978) to the New York Mets to complete the trade.

I wish I could tell you who conceived this deal and how it fell into place, but frankly, I have no idea. For the Mets' part, they replaced John Milner with Willie Montanez and sent Matlack away for Tom Grieve and Ken Henderson. Montanez was considered a better all-around player and certainly flashier than Milner, but I think that Met fans were disappointed with Willie's production and expected a major upgrade from Milner. Actually, the one full year Willie spent with the Mets wasn't bad statistically, but he seemed to fail a lot in big spots and hit his best in one-sided games. Ironically, the following season, the Mets sent Montanez to Texas, another of the parties in the original deal, in exchange for Ed Lynch and Mike Jorgensen and a couple of years later, the Pirates traded Milner even-up to Montreal for Montanez.

As for the other part of the trade for the Mets, it turned out to be a lot less than either side expected. Matlack had one solid year for the Rangers, but that was about it. Neither Grieve nor Henderson was anything other than a part-time player, though the Mets were expecting more, I'm sure.

The big names in the deal were Blyleven and Oliver, so maybe the deal started out as a one-for-one and other general managers just joined the party. I suppose after giving up Blyleven, the Rangers needed another pitcher and that's how Matlack got involved, but it looks to me like the Mets were a pawn in this trade, and they were probably fortunate it didn't turn out any worse than it did for them.

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 (2)

Montanez, I remember for his homerun trot, and the way he snatched down pop-ups. Otherwise they could have kept him, maybe he was under too much pressure to lead the team. Henderson & Grieve were very forgettable, but I do have Grieve's topps card.

You're right on all parts with this one. We gave up on the "Hammer" and it was a sad one since he was one of the true home grown mets of my time as a kid growing up in the backyard playing wiffleball. After announcing him in a game I can remember bending over at the waist like he did immitating his stance. My buddy was a true twins fan who loved to start Blyleven and when he did I knew it was going to be a tough game. I know I'm going off a little bit, but let me take you through a tipical battle. Willie Mays was my leadoff man. He never hit for a lot of power for me as I would bend my back leg like he did in his later years but I did manage some hits. Next was Millan. I would grab the biggest bat in the yard and choke up a foot with it and you know what? I could hit like that too! Rusty was another great one to immitate as I would hold the bat with a few fingers off it because he did so with broken fingers. Still could hit like that. As far as pitchers, I had a quick hook but he never wanted me to start whistling the "Irish" toon and bring in Tug because he knew he was going to lose!Ah, those were truly the days. As far as Trading Matlack, check out the back of his b-ball card and we got lucky on that one. I finally got to meet him at a card show last year. He was great to talk to and I had to let him know how tough he was to immitate with the high leg kick. He got a charge out of that one!! That trade didn't really help no one but Milner did have a productive year for the pirates as far as I can remember.

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