Relief Pitcher – Rick Aguilera
When fans talk about the best pitching staff ever assembled by the Mets, they often point to the Mets of the mid to late 80’s that featured Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, and Bobby Ojeda. The one that always seems to be forgotten is Rick Aguilera. He was quiet and reserved, and probably needed to be as the Mets “fifth starter” in that group.
As almost exclusively a starter with the Mets, Aguilera went 37-27 with a 3.58 ERA over three-plus seasons. He was then included as one of the five players who went to the Minnesota Twins in May of 1989 in the trade that brought Frank Viola to the Mets. And while Viola would have one good season with the Mets and win 20 games, what did Aguilera do?
Aguilera went on to become a stud fireman out of the bullpen and save 318 games over the course of his career, 254 of them with the Twins over parts of 11 seasons, and the rest with the Boston Red Sox (part of one season) and the Chicago Cubs (for two seasons).
He was already pretty good in a Mets uniform, but he was great once he moved on from Flushing.
Starting Pitcher – Nolan Ryan
The ultimate of “pretty good In a Mets uniform, but he was great once he moved on from Flushing…” Nolan Ryan is the epitome of “the one that got away.”
You really have to be in another universe to not know what Nolan Ryan did 60 feet 6 inches away from home plate.
In his relatively short time with the Mets, that was interrupted by military commitments, Ryan went 29-38 with an ERA of 3.58. He mostly frustrated the organization with his wildness, but he wowed them when he was needed most, winning the third game of the National League Championship Series in 1969 and then saving Game 3 of the World Series – his only World Series appearance – for Gary Gentry with overpowering stellar performances in both.
But after the 1971 season, in one of the most befuddling moves in Mets history, (if not for the Yankees selling Babe Ruth…well…), Mets management sent Ryan and some marginal prospects to the California Angels for former All Star shortstop Jim Fregosi. Disaster, debacle, cataclysmic mistake…whatever you want to call it…it was.
As Mets GM Bob Scheffing said at the time: “But we’ve had him three full years and, although he’s a hell of a prospect, he hasn’t done it for us. How long can you wait?” What a buffoon!
What would Ryan do after leaving the Mets? He enjoyed huge success with the Angels, the Houston Astros, and the Texas Rangers. He would win 297 games for a total of 324 career wins. The engineer of the Ryan Express would strike out more than 5,200 batters after leaving the Mets en route to a career Major League record of 5,714 strikeouts. He recorded over 200 complete games and 60 shut outs post-Mets. Eight All-Star appearances. No-hitters? Oh yeah. A Major League record seven (7) no-hitters in other uniforms.
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Think about this…Nolan Ryan played for 27 seasons for four different teams. His uniform number is retired by three of them…and one of them is not the Mets. Mets fans always have to wonder, “Why not?”