You can’t think of Steve Henderson without also remembering what first made him a member of the New York Mets. The 1977 trade with the Cincinnati Reds that tore Tom Seaver away from the club brought them four players, including Henderson.
At the time of the trade, Henderson was in his fourth professional season and hitting .326 down in Triple-A. The Mets decided it was time to give him a shot.
In 99 games with the 1977 team, Henderson hit .297/.372/.480 with 12 home runs and 65 RBI. It was a fine debut. Had he played more, he may have won the Rookie of the Year. Instead, he settled for second-place behind only Andre Dawson—a guy who played in 40 more games.
Steve Henderson became a good Mets player remembered most for the bad trade that brought him to New York
Try as he might, Henderson will always be one of the guys traded to the Mets for Tom Seaver. Even if he did hit .287/.360/.423 with the team during his four seasons, it’s how it all got started that defines him most.
Henderson did a few things well for the Mets. Maybe most underrated of all is his place in team history at getting on base. The .360 OBP he posted is tied for ninth with Robin Ventura. In today’s game, he might have batted leadoff or taken his cuts behind the number one guy in the order. Getting on base these days has become more valuable than stealing bags. Had he been born in a different time, it might be Henderson we saw at the top of many Mets lineup cards.
For some more surprises, Henderson’s name appears within the top 35 on a couple of other important Mets lists. His 9.4 WAR in four seasons is ranked 34th with Pete Alonso passing him last season. His offensive WAR of 10.4 is 31st and is actually higher than what players like Curtis Granderson (10.1), Felix Millan (9.9), or Yoenis Cespedes (8.5) were able to do with their bats.
WAR is an accumulative statistic. In four seasons, Henderson seemed to accomplish enough to crawl above more memorable Mets. This could be partly because Henderson played for four Mets teams that never finished higher than fifth in the division and wouldn’t surpass 67 wins.
Although underrated might not be the most appropriate word to choose to describe his time with the Mets, I’m not sure what other adjective would. Henderson is far from a Mets legend. However, he did end up becoming more than a throw-in to a legendarily bad Mets trade.