The Mets confirmed Monday that former general manager Frank Cashen, the architect of the 1986 team that won the World Series, has passed away at the age of 88.
Cashen was hired by Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon in 1980, after the two had purchased the Mets.
While Cashen advised Doubleday and Wilpon that bringing the Mets back to respectability – and ultimately contention – would take a number of years, he was hired.
Cashen not only rebuilt the roster, he was partially responsible for the public relations side of things as well.
During Cashen’s time with the Mets, from 1980 to 1991, the club reached the postseason twice, winning the World Series in 1986.
From 1984 through 1990, the Mets won 90 or more games six of seven times, only failing to reach that goal in 1989, when they won 87 games.
Cashen stepped down after the 1991 season.
In 2010, Cashen was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.
Thoughts from Staff Writer Mike Lecolant:
In 1979, my childhood truly ended. I closed out the decade of the 70s as a 12-year old. By then, literally everyone involved with the club (Mrs. Joan Payson, Casey Stengel, Yogi, and all those Amazin’ players) that inspired my initial passion for the Mets were gone, and the team itself was sold to the partnership of Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon.
I became a teenager in 1980, and as such knew very little of Doubleday or Wilpon. But over the latter portion of the previous decade, this baseball fan surely came to know who Frank Cashen was. He built the mighty Baltimore Orioles of the late 60s and early 70s, and I became elated when ownership selected him to be the new Mets general manager.
Because of his previous success in Baltimore, hiring Frank Cashen was indeed a big deal. His appointment was received with high approbation by the media.
If I may, I likened him to the Winston Churchill of baseball.
Both hailed and maligned over the course of his career, he was supremely confident, deliberate, succinct, and at times biting with his words. Only he could (famously) sport a bow tie, and parry through his introductory press conference with such an answer as, “I don’t know.”
But he did know. It’s one thing to formulate a plan. It’s another to have it culminate in a dominating 108 victory regular season, and a World Series championship. During his time in Queens, Frank Cashen restored New York City as a National League town.
What followed (or evolved) beginning in 1987 was a much more controversial body of work. But that’s another discussion. What I hoped here, was to recall the man New York initially hired.
Frank Cashen stepped down in 1991, and by 1994 the Mets and Yankees were clearly on divergent paths. By the end of the decade, the Bronx Bombers owned Gotham again.
On a short list – perhaps limited to Bing Devine and Johnny Murphy, with Whitey Herzog and Joe McDonald on a minor league level – Frank Cashen was, and continues to be the standard by which all Mets executives are measured.
Thoughts from Staff Writer Rich Sparago:
To give Frank Cashen proper credit for all he accomplished, one must consider where the Mets were when he took the reigns as general manager. Cashen’s first year was 1980, and 1979 had been nothing short of abysmal. The Mets lost 99 games that year, and drew just under 789,000 people to Shea. Think about that for a moment: that’s an average of fewer than 10,000 fans per game in a venue that seated 55,000. Yes, the Mets were that bad.
Following the 1979 season, the Mets were sold to Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon. The new owners immediately named Cashen as general manager. He had an Orioles pedigree, consisting of two championships and yearly competitiveness. Cashen talked about a five-year rebuilding plan, and though that seemed like forever, Mets fans were willing to give him time to turn the team’s fortunes around.
It wasn’t all good for Cashen at the start. The Mets finished next-to-last in 1980 and 1981, then last in 1982 and 1983. Cashen then did one of the things I admire most about his tenure (after the acquisitions of Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter).
Before the 1984 season, the fifth of his five-year plan, Cashen acknowledged that things had not gone well. He declared that unless the team turned the corner in 1984, he would resign as GM. The gauntlet had been thrown down. The Mets responded by winning 90 games in 1984, and remaining in the pennant race until the final week of the season. Cashen kept his job.
Cashen had picked up Hernandez during the 1983 season, and traded for Carter after the 1984 season. Though the Mets won 98 games in 1985, they finished second. They won the World Series in 1986, and finished first or second in the division for four seasons after that. That’s first or second place for seven consecutive seasons. Do you think that might feel good now?
Frank Cashen succeeded by being skillful in all aspects of his job. He drafted well (e.g. Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry), made the “big” trade when necessary (e.g. Carter), and also made smaller, helpful trades to bolster the team (e.g. Kevin McReynolds, Frank Viola). He was transparent with the media and fans, and carried himself with a stature commensurate with his role.
Rest in peace, Mr. Cashen. Thank you for making the Mets “the thing” in New York for the better part of a decade, and giving me some of the best sports moments of my life.
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