On December 10, 1971, the New York Mets didn’t know it but they had just traded away one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, Nolan Ryan.
When it comes to the New York Mets and the moves they make it always seems like the list of bad moves is a mile long. That list is topped by the worst trade the Mets have ever made and no its not the Tom Seaver trade. That honor goes to the trade of Nolan Ryan on December 10, 1971. A day that will forever haunt the franchise.
Many believe that the trade of Tom Seaver was the worst trade the Mets ever made since he meant so much to the team. He was with them for ten plus years and he was “The Franchise”. However, this was not the worst. The wort was when then-GM Bob Scheffling traded Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr. and three prospects to the California Angels for six-time All-Star Jim Fregosi.
At the time of the trade, Ryan was an erratic 24-year-old who in five seasons with New York posted a 3.58 ERA. The Mets got tired of waiting for him to flourish and decided to move on and give some of their other young arms a shot.
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After the 1971 season, the roster desperately needed a third baseman and the Angels were looking for young players. So, in classic Mets fashion, they decided to acquire Fregosi from the Angels who was a six-time All-Star and a Gold Glove shortstop.
Yes, Fregosi played shortstop for the Angels and was traded to across country to play third having never played third for the Angels. It makes perfect sense, right?
Fregosi would go on to slash .233/.319/.328/.646 with just five home runs and 43 RBIs over two years for the Metropolitans which was a far cry from what he did when he was on the Angels.
As for Ryan, it was more what did he not do in his career after leaving the Mets more than what he did do because he seemingly did everything a pitcher can do in his career except win a Cy Young award.
Ryan played a total of 27 seasons for four different teams. He left the Queens in 1971 and that’s when he started building his Hall of Fame resume compiling seven no-hitters, four complete games with no walks, and eight All-Star appearances. Ryan also finished his MLB career as the all-time leader in three categories; strikeouts (5,714), walks (2795), and hits per nine (6.6).
Ryan achieved so many milestones in his career after leaving New York and it is a real shame that the Mets and their fans could not share in all his successes.
There have been so many days of darkness that Mets fans are forced to remember, and this is one that is at the top of the list. Hopefully, the future is filled with more exciting and joyful memories than dark days but only time will tell.
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The bottom line, Nolan Ryan could have been an all-time great Met and should have never been traded. What could the Mets history have looked like had they not traded him? Unfortunately, we will never know.