Al Jackson’s career with the New York Mets didn’t include exceptional numbers but did feature plenty of tough luck seasons.
Al Jackson has a distinguished accomplishment in New York Mets history. He pitched for both the 1962 team and later appeared in nine games for the 1969 ball club. In those earlier years from 1962 through 1965, Jackson was one of the mainstays in the rotation, often suffering from a lack of support around him both on offense and in the bullpen.
The word “unlucky” isn’t quite accurate for Jackson. However, when comparing his 4.26 ERA to the 3.51 FIP he had as a member of the Mets, we can raise an eyebrow at the results. Tough luck may be more appropriate as he had the unfortunate circumstance of pitching for the Mets during their legendarily poor start.
While with New York, Jackson finished with a 43-80 record. This result of six years on some really bad teams helped drag his career record down to 67-99.
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In 1962, Jackson went 8-20 with a 4.40 ERA. Half of his wins came on shutouts. He was the only Mets pitcher to deliver any shutouts to the stat sheet on a team without much pitching help at all. In fact, Galen Cisco was the lone man who stepped on the mound that year to finish with an ERA below 4.00. This includes everyone whether they threw just a single pitch.
During the next few seasons, Jackson continued to finish the season with a below .500 record. However, he did have more respectable ERAs and continued to pitch shutouts. He even came away with at least one save each year.
I understand baseball was different back then so it’s not such an unorthodox situation. Nevertheless, the Mets were able to at least know they had a chance at winning whenever his turn came around in the rotation or in a relief appearance.
Jackson was eventually traded to the St. Louis Cardinals with Charley Smith for Ken Boyer. He made his way back to the Mets where he put up solid numbers in 1968 and looked just about finished in 1969. The Cincinnati Reds purchased him from them during the summer, concluding his playing career as a member of the Amazins.
Over the course of 184 games, Jackson ate up 980.2 innings for New York. He wasn’t the best pitcher, but he was more than serviceable. On a better team with smoother defense, better bats, and a reliable bullpen, his record would have undoubtedly been closer to .500 each year.
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Instead of focusing on the “what if” motif, we can credit Jackson as a grinder during the early years of the Metropolitans.