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Five years ago, the Mets gave up on a promising prospect with an unfairly bad rap.
The biggest thing to occur on this date in Mets history happened early this morning when David Wright signed the largest contract in team history, ensuring that (with luck) he'll continue to compile memorable moments and milestones that we can recount in this space for many seasons to come.
However, since that all lies in the future and This Date in Mets History is concerned primarily with the past, let's start today by looking back five years at the day the team bid farewell to someone many though would be a Queens fixture for years. On November 30, 2007, GM Omar Minaya sent fan fav/clubhouse un-fav Lastings Milledge to the Washington Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. The trade signaled a precipitous drop in how much the organization valued Milledge, as according to rumors, Minaya refused to part with him in a proposed deal for Manny Ramirez a mere 18 months earlier.
Whether Milledge's stock had fallen throughout baseball is another question. In July 2005, the Mets were allegedly unwilling to move a prospect at the deadline, fearing a repeat of the Scott Kazmir debacle. It's also evidence that the front office was unable to learn the real lesson of that trade, which is that trading minor leaguer talent is a viable way to improve the big league club, provided the player(s) acquired are the type that can't be found on the free agent market. For instance, Hall of Fame caliber hitters, not oft-injured pitchers with control problems. In 2007, Lastings was coming off a season where he more than held his own against major league pitching as a 22-year old, posted an above-average OPS+ and slugged .446 to display some newly found pop at the plate. One imagines that, had all teams known such a player was on the market, the Mets probably could have received more than a 29-year old platoon outfielder and a 31-year old starting catcher who wasn't as good as the team's backup for Milledge regardless of how many fans he high-fived.
- Juan Berenguer, the man nicknamed both Señor Smoke and El Gasolino, turns 58. A hard throwing Panamanian, Berenguer spent the first three years of his 15-year career in Flushing, striking out 40 batters in 50+ innings, but also not really knowing where the ball would go, as evidenced by a walk rate of 5.6 BB/9. He'd later harness that control enough to become a contributor to three different World Series-bound teams between 1984 and 1991, none of which were the Mets.
- Matt Lawton, 41 today, came to the Mets in 2001 as part of the Rick Reed trade and departed 18 weeks later in the Roberto Alomar deal. Between the transactions, he hit .246/.352/.366 over the course of a brief, 48-game tenure.
- Craig Swan is 62. The Mets' third-round pick in the 1972 draft, Swan made it to the bigs the next season and spent parts of the next 11 years with the club. By 1976, he was a permanent member of the starting rotation, pitching pretty effectively when healthy. Unfortunately, that wasn't often. Over the course of his career, Swan missed significant time with maladies such as a broken elbow, a torn rotator cuff, and fractured ribs. The highlight of his career was the 1978 season when, on the back of by a 1.67 ERA at Shea Stadium, Swan posted an NL-best 2.43 mark.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
November 30 is a pretty great day for pop culture history. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1782, bringing the American Revolution to an end. Mark Twain and Winston Churchill were born. The Wall and Thriller each hit record stores on this date within three years of each other. Of course, noteworthy as all these events are, they pale in comparison to the news that David Wright is contractually obligated to stick with the Mets for eight more season.