To the casual Mets fan, Kevin Mitchell is best known for scoring the tying run in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series on a wild pitch to Mookie Wilson. His role in that game was undoubtedly crucial. But Mitchell had a very interesting Mets career outside of that specific game, one that, with more playing time, could have left him with an even larger Mets legacy.
Mitchell initially came up with the Mets in 1984 for a few games, but his first full rookie season was in 1986. He appeared in 108 games that year and batted .277 with 22 doubles, 12 home runs, 43 RBI, and 51 runs scored. Though he started out the year primarily as a pinch hitter, Mitchell eventually played his way into the regular starting lineup.
Perhaps un-coincidentally, Mitchell’s playing time skyrocketed after he stood up for his team during an in-game brawl against the Cincinnati Reds on July 22, while regular left fielder George Foster refused to participate and remained on the bench.
Mitchell’s efforts on the field were rewarded with a third-place finish in that year’s NL Rookie of the Year voting, as well as the heroics of the 1986 World Series. Yet, he was traded to the San Diego Padres shortly after the ’86 season ended, in a deal that brought Kevin McReynolds to New York. Mitchell later went on to the San Francisco Giants, where he had a career year in 1989 that won him an NL MVP award.
So why was Mitchell’s promising career as a Met cut short?
All he did in 1986 was produce on the field and make the most of every playing opportunity he was given. But several off-the-field incidents led Mets management to conclude that Mitchell was a bad influence on the young stars Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Though the entire 1986 team engaged in plenty of illicit activities, Mitchell was singled out as the most expendable of the group.
His long playing career and ultimate peak with the Giants proved that, regardless of his off-the-field demeanor, Mitchell could have given the Mets many more memorable years than he did.