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.