This Date in Mets History: December 3 - Mets Stop Believing, Trade Tug McGraw

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McGraw's departure yanked at the heartstrings of fans, but the Mets got the better end of the deal.

The Mets became a bit more straight-laced on this date in 1974, as the team traded Tug McGraw and two others to the Phillies for pitcher Mac Scarce, catcher John Stearns, and outfielder Del Unser. The Mets went as McGraw did during the '74 season, which is to say, not well. Mysterious shoulder weakness put a damper on the lefty's numbers: 6 wins against 11 losses, 4.16 FIP, his lowest K/9 and highest HR/9 rate since becoming, more or less, a full-time reliever. That, in turn, dragged the Mets down. One year removed from representing the National League in the World Series, the team found no residual magic and stumbled to 91 losses and a fifth place finish in the Eastern Division.

So the powers that be decided a change was in order. Was the decision a hasty one? Perhaps. Turns out McGraw's injury was simply a cyst that was impinging his delivery. After having it surgically removed, Tug returned to being the same pitcher he was before his shoulder started retaining fluid. Still, putting emotion aside, the Mets made out pretty well in the deal. Scarce made himself so after facing just one batter for his new team, but Unser provided a nice 3.2 rWAR season from the center field position in '75. As for the last guy in the trade, John "Bad Dude" Stearns, enforced all the negative connotations of his nickname at first. His Mets' debut did not go well, hitting just .189/.268/.284 in 193 plate appearances. From 1976 to 1982, though, he was a Bad Dude in the best sense, compiling four All-Star appearances and just over 18 rWAR. Unfortunately, elbow woes forced Stearns into early retirement in 1984, coincidentally the same year that Tug McGraw decided to call it a career.

Birthdays

  • Not to be confused with the multiple football players (American, European, and Aussie rules) with the same name, former Mets' outfielder Mark Bradley is 56. Used primarily as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement during 1983, Bradley cracked three home runs in 115 plate appearances, yet drove in just five runs total on the year.
  • Former All-Star Paul Byrd turns 42. Byrd began his major league career as a member of the Mets' bullpen in 1995, going 2-0 with 26 strikeouts in 22 innings as a 24-year old rookie. He made 38 less effective appearances the following year and was traded to Atlanta in the offseason. The Braves tried Byrd in the starting rotation and that's where he where he found the most success, eventually posting campaigns of 15 or more wins for the Phillies, Royals, and Indians.
  • Dave Eilers, a righty who compiled a 2-2 record for the Mets from 1965 to '66, is 76. Eilers's first victory for the team came on August 24, 1965 when a ninth inning, bases-clearing double from John Stephenson made him the pitcher of record in a 4-3 come from behind win.
  • Wayne Garrett turns 65. This space profiled Garrett briefly yesterday on the 44th anniversary of his joining the Mets via the rule 5 draft. The infielder spent eight seasons in New York, drawing walks and playing very good defense. Only four players have drawn more bases on balls than Garrett while wearing the orange and blue and the 12.9 rWAR he compiled is good for 19th all time, ahead of such similarly tenured Mets as Lee Mazzilli and Rusty Staub.
  • The second most famous Darryl in team history, Darryl Hamilton celebrates his 48th birthday. Acquired on the trade deadline in 1999, the outfielder cracked five home runs down the stretch and got on base at a .410 clip to help the Mets reach the postseason for the first time in 13 years. Hamilton stayed with the team for two more seasons, but injuries sapped his effectiveness and he called it a career after getting dropped from the roster in July of 2001.
  • The entire big league career of Kevin Morgan, 43, consists of one at-bat taken for the Mets in 1997. On June 15, Morgan pinch hit for pitcher Barry Manuel in the seventh inning and popped out to short. He remained in the game, playing third for the remainder of a 10-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox. After that, it was back to Triple A Norfolk, where the infielder gained valuable experience for his future role as Mets' Director of Minor League Operations, a position he held until 2006.
  • Finally, Tobi Stoner, the man who surely inspired several homemade shirseys, is 28. The hittable (pun intended) right-hander was drafted by the Mets in 2006 and remained in the organization through 2011, making two token (another intended pun) appearances with the big league club in 2009 and 2010.

Transactions
The Mets spent most of the early to mid-'70s searching for offense to compliment their dominant pitching staff. Of course, the team was always need of more bats because they would often trade away their best young hitters in deals designed to bolster the lineup. Take for example the trade the Mets made on December 3, 1969, in which they sent outfielder Amos Otis and pitcher Bob Johnson to the Kansas City Royals for Joe Foy. Otis was a 22-year old coming off a season in which he'd just posted a .327/.398/.520 line with a nice 19:4 stolen base ratio, to boot. for the Tidewater Tides. Foy, on the other hand, was a 26-year old infielder whose numbers had been trending downward since his rookie season three years prior. To make matters worse, the Mets pretty much had a younger version of Foy, a player with positional flexibility, some pop, and a discerning eye at the plate on the roster already in Wayne Garrett (see above).

Long story short, Foy flamed out and the Mets let him walk at the end of the 1970 season and he was out of baseball within a year after that. Otis, on the other hand, led the AL in doubles and made the first of six All-Star teams. Oh, and Bob Johnson, the "other guy" in the deal, struck out 206 batters in 214 innings. Yeesh.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On December 3, 1967, a team of surgeons at Groote Schuur Hospital in South Africa carried out the first human heart transplant. While the procedure has become somewhat commonplace in the intervening years, unfortunately for fans weary of watching grittier teams outpace the Mets, science has yet to unlock the secret of a GRISSION transplant.

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