As we wind down the 1973 player profiles, we’ll take a look at the heart and soul of the Mets (1973 or any other year), Tom Seaver. Writing about Seaver in a blog post is analogous to the task of describing the Louvre in a few sentences. There’s simply no way to do justice to the topic. However, here are some important facts about Seaver.
- The Mets drafted Seaver from Fresno State in 1966.
- Seaver made his major league debut in 1967.
- He was rookie of the year in 1967.
- He won 4 Cy Young awards, all as a Met (1970, 1971, 1973, 1976).
- He was a 12-time All Star.
- He won 20 or more games 5 times.
- He won 311 games in his career.
- He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.
It’s obvious that Seaver is the most prolific player ever to don a Mets’ uniform. As a Met, Seaver won 198 games and lost 124. He struck out 2541 hitters over nearly 12 full seasons as a Met. In 1973, Seaver led the way as the team made its unlikely rise to the top on the National League, going 19-10 with a 2.08 ERA. Seaver was also a part of one the darkest days in Mets’ franchise history.
On June 15th, 1977 (the trading deadline in those days), the Mets traded Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, and Dan Norman. The trade came after a long dispute between Seaver and the Mets’ front office, particularly M. Donald Grant. The issue stemmed from a contract that Seaver had signed just before free agency hit baseball. With free agency came higher salaries, and as a star player, Seaver felt the Mets should re-negotiate his contract to bring it in line with the new standards. The Mets were not interested in doing this, because a contract is a contract. The feud went into the tabloids, with Dick Young of the Daily News leading the charge that Seaver had no case. As the days wound down to the trading deadline, it became a question of who would blink first. Would the Mets agree to re-negotiate? Or would Seaver drop his demands, and accept his contractual terms with no more drama? Well, this happened.
Seaver was gone, on his way to Cincinnati. On its surface, purely from a baseball perspective, the trade wasn’t bad. Zachry was a starting pitcher who had won Rookie of the Year in 1976. Flynn was light-hitting, but speedy second baseman with a great glove. Henderson and Norman were the Reds’ best outfield prospects. Henderson went on to have decent career, with 5 good years as a Met. But Seaver was The New York Mets. His trade wasn’t about statistics and rebuilding and contracts. When Seaver went, the heart of many Mets fans went with him. The team was plunged into a horrible abyss of losing, and would not have a winning season until 1984.
As if to atone for past mistakes, the Mets re-acquired Seaver before the 1983 season (although there was a new front office in place). The fans were thrilled. On opening day of 1983, Seaver walked in from the bullpen to take the mound, and Shea was delirious (I was among the stoked faithful). He pitched a good game, and the Mets won (although Seaver did not get the win). Seaver went 9-14 in 1983 on a very bad team. Then, almost shockingly, it happened again. Seaver was left unprotected after the season, and was selected as a compensation pick by the Chicago White Sox. It defied logic. He was left out there, and under the rules of the CBA at that time, the White Sox grabbed him. The fans once again were furious. But Seaver was gone, never again to pitch in orange and blue. He won his prestigious 300th game as a member of the White Sox. Seaver ended his career with a brief stint with the Boston Red Sox, before retiring after the 1986 season.
One thing is clear. When discussing the impact of players on the Mets, there’s Tom Seaver, and then there’s everyone else. As a long-time fan, I appreciate having had the opportunity to watch Seaver pitch. He was the master craftsman, with perfect mechanics, a crackling fastball, and pinpoint control. Here’s a Rising Apple standing ovation to retired number 41 of The New York Mets, Tom Seaver.