This Date In Mets History: February 21 — Tom Gets A Terrific Raise

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

A sore hip limits Seaver’s effectiveness in 1974; a pay cut in ’75 becomes a sore spot.

Reigning Cy Young Award winner Tom Seaver became the highest-paid pitcher in major league history on this date in 1974, signing a one-year contract worth a reported $172,000, a 25 percent hike over the previous year. (Some sources dispute whether he or Hank Aaron was the highest paid player at that time.) In the pre-dawn of free agency, it was the last time Seaver and Mets management would be on the same page regarding his worth. Ironically Tom Terrific would struggle through much of 1974, finishing at 11–11 with a 3.20 ERA. To put that latter otherwise respectable stat into perspective, it was more than a run higher than his ’73 mark, about 0.8 higher than his career ERA, and the highest he would post until 1980. Regarding his .500 record, it should be noted that the Mets scored only 17 runs in Seaver’s 11 losses and he had eight quality starts that resulted in no-decisions. On the other hand, he uncharacteristically surrendered four or more earned runs in 11 of 32 games.

While he may have felt some pressure to live up to his lofty salary, Seaver’s woes were attributed primarily to a sore hip that bothered him through most on the ’74 season. He looked more like his old self through his final 11 starts, posting a 2.63 ERA during that stretch. Going into his last start of the season, Seaver needed 13 strikeouts to extend his string of 200K seasons to seven. He got 14, finishing with a flourish by striking out the side in the ninth inning. Being the kind of season it was for him, Seaver was tagged with a loss, outdueled by the Phillies’ Jim Lonborg 2–1.

He took a 20 percent pay cut the following year, which, although his salary was restored to its 1974 peak in midseason, was the beginning of strained relations between The Franchise and the Mets' brass that eventually led to his banishment in 1977.

Birthdays

Joy Foy, who passed away in 1989, would have been 70 today. He was acquired from the Kansas City Royals for Amos Otis in one of the worst trades in Mets history. His failure to provide the expected run production at third base in 1970 also led, indirectly, to an even worse trade two years later (Jim Fregosi for Nolan Ryan, et al). By midseason he was reduced to platooning with Wayne Garrett, even though the righty-swinging Foy struggled mightily against lefties. One could argue that Foy’s presence may have inspired Garrett to up his game; the incumbent third baseman posted what would prove to be a career-best .811 OPS.

Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection

The New Yorker magazine made its debut on February 21, 1925. Among the dozens of award-winning writers who have graced its pages over these past 88 years is Roger Angell, whose baseball essays, compiled in several best-selling books, have lifted the art of sportswriting to new levels of eloquence and literacy. In April 1962, he accurately assessed the expansion Mets as “both too old and too young for sensible hopes” and lovingly described the unlikely 1973 NL champs as “tatterdemalion.” For the title of his post-mortem article on the 1986 World Series, Angell, whose hobbies include creating palindromes, came up with “Not so, Boston.”

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