Outfielder Steve Henderson joined the New York Mets as part of an infamous trade. However, he was a productive player in Flushing for four seasons most of us prefer to forget about.
The 1977 New York Mets season is best known as the year when everything began to come apart. In the middle of the year, Tom Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in the “Midnight Massacre.” This and other moves signaled the franchise’s change in direction from hopeful contenders to rebuilders.
This same year was also the rookie campaign for a Mets player we often forget about. A 24-year-old outfielder named Steve Henderson played his first big league game for the 1977 Mets. He was one of several players the Mets received for Seaver. There’s an argument to make that says he was also the best.
In 99 games and 398 trips to the plate, he did enough to earn second-place honors in the Rookie of the Year voting. Henderson earned nine votes to the ten received by future Hall of Famer Andre Dawson. Considering he had just as many RBI as Dawson, scored more runs, and had a better slash line, one has to believe the only thing going against him was his lack of games played.
Henderson got the opportunity to play a full season in 1978. Although still a productive year, his slash line totals dipped by noticeable margins. It was still a season which included 30 doubles, 9 triples, and 10 home runs while driving in 65 for the second straight year.
Henderson hit .306 in limited action the following year. In 1980, with 584 opportunities, he hit .290 while stealing a personal-best 23 bags.
It seemed as if the Mets could grow into the 1980s with Henderson in the outfield. Those hoping to see this happen were disappointed when the Mets traded him to the Chicago Cubs for round two of Dave Kingman.
The trade ended Henderson’s tenure in New York. He had some good years in the 1980s but never stuck with a franchise for more than three seasons.
Henderson’s four seasons in New York, however, look pretty good on the stat sheet. He slashed .287/.360/.423 for the Mets in just over 2.000 plate appearances. His three years of hitting .290 or higher helped put him high on the list of the top career batting averages in team history.
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Because the four years he spent in Flushing were so poor for the Mets, Henderson’s time with the club is often forgotten. On a better team, he could have gone down as a franchise-favorite. Instead, he’s one of those guys who stopped off briefly at Shea and continued on elsewhere.