On December 16, 1982, the Mets atoned for a mistake made five and a half years earlier (almost to the day) by sending the pitcher Charlie Puleo and minor leaguers Lloyd McClendon and Jason Felice in Cincinnati for 38 years Tom seaver, “Franchise”.
Seaver had pitched for the Reds for five and a half seasons, compiling a 75-46 record with a 3.18 ERA and 116+ ERA. Seaver also pitched his only go-without game with Cincinnati, and was a two-time All-Star as a Red (I consider his 1977 All-Star appearance to be a Mets appearance, as he had pitched for the Mets so far. to June 15 of this season).
For the Mets, their favorite son was coming home for the 1983 season. Seaver was the franchise leader in virtually every pitching category on his return, having a career record of 189-110 as the Met. Seaver was going to have a modest 1983 record of 9-14, 3.55 ERA and 103+ ERA on a team that lost 94 games.
Seaver made the opening day start against the Phillies on April 5, 1983, tying Walter Johnson ‘The record for most opening days begins in a career. Seaver, who opted to walk to the mound from the bullpen rather than ride the reliever cart as was common at the time, did not disappoint the Shea Stadium crowd of over 4600 people. He pitched six innings, allowing just three hits, no runs and five strikeouts.
The Mets weren’t good in 1983, but signs of life were appearing in Queens. they obtained Keith Hernandez on the trading deadline, and Darryl Strawberry was on his way to the Rookie of the Year award. Mookie wilson was a dynamic and exciting center player. Ron darling was a September call, the first of several talented young players to come from the Mets’ much-vaunted farming system.
Things were going well for the Mets. They had young talent, with more to come, and veteran leadership in Hernandez and Seaver. There was a sense of optimism for the 1984 season and beyond. After six dark years, things were improving in Flushing.
Then a strange thing happened. There was a free agent compensation plan in MLB at this time, where teams losing a “Class A” player to free agency would be able to select a compensation player from a list of players. left unprotected by their teams. The White Sox lost a player to free agency after the 1983 season and the Mets left Seaver unprotected.
Some say Mets general manager Frank Cashen took what he called an “unfortunate bet” by leaving Seaver unprotected. The theory behind this is that teams wouldn’t want to accept the contract of an aging pitcher, whose salary of $ 750,000 was quite high at the time.
The other school of thought is that Cashen, a seasoned baseball executive, knew exactly what was going on and was trying to figure out a way to get rid of Seaver’s high salary and free up a spot on the roster at a time when the Mets. had a stable of young arms ready. take his place. Cashen couldn’t trade Seaver, as the organization couldn’t endure this PR nightmare again.
Seaver had inherent value, as his 1983 season was certainly respectable, and most importantly, he was a striking distance from a career milestone, his 300th victory. At the very least, Seaver’s presence in pursuit of that goal might spark fan interest.
The White Sox decided to take Seaver, and once again The Franchise had gone to another organization. The fan base was furious. I remember reading about the deluge of phone calls, with fans expressing their disdain for how “it” could happen again. I remember seeing TV reports with fan interviews. One dismayed fan called the situation “typical Mets mismanagement.”
Of course, the Mets were heading for a renaissance, as young players generally lived up to expectations and veterans like Gary Carter and Ray knight were added to put the final pieces in place for the second team championship. The sting of Seaver’s defeat faded from fans’ minds pretty quickly. Seaver won his 300th game at Yankee Stadium as a member of the White Sox, pitching for Chicago in the 1986 season, in which he was traded to the Red Sox.
After all that had transpired between Seaver and the Mets, his relationship with the organization was strained when his playing career ended after the 1986 season. Seaver returned to baseball in New York City as a broadcaster with the Yankees from 1989 to 1993. He later appeared to mend obstacles with the Mets, working in their WPIX TV booth from 1999 to 2005.
Seaver passed away on August 31, 2020. A statue of him is expected to be unveiled at Citi Field on opening day 2022. Steve Cohen, as team owner, brings hope for better days to come. What better way to start the 2022 campaign, with hope for better days, than with a ceremony and statue in honor of the organization’s most prolific player, The Franchise, Tom Seaver.