Former Mets general manager Frank Cashen has died today at age 88. Here is a statement from the Mets CEO Fred Wilpon:
On behalf of all of us at the Mets, we extend our deepest condolences to Jean Cashen and her entire family. Frank Cashen revitalized our franchise when he took over in 1980 as General Manager and helped engineer us to a World Championship in 1986. I dealt with Frank on a daily basis and he was a man of integrity and great passion. No one had a more diverse career than Frank. He was also a lawyer, sports writer and marketing executive. His accomplishments will always be an integral part of our team history.
When Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday bought the lowly New York Mets in 1980, one of the first people they contacted was Cashen. The Mets had lost at least 95 games in each of the last three seasons and were in desperate need of a turnaround.
Could Cashen, the former general manager of the Orioles, lead the Mets back into baseball relevancy? It turned out he could, and more! Over the next five years, Cashen completed one of the most successful rebuilding jobs in MLB history that culminated with the Mets being named World Series champs in 1986.
It wasn't easy, as Cashen had to trade away fan-favorite Lee Mazzilli and promising young reliever Neil Allen in order to acquire integral parts Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez. They say the best things in life are free, though, and Cashen proved that by plucking Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden from the 1981 and 1982 drafts, respectively.
Cashen's wheeling and dealing began to pay off during the 1984 season when the Mets jumped from 68 wins to 90 thanks in part to the arrival of Gooden and Strawberry in the major leagues and the acquisition of Hernandez. In 1985, Cashen traded for Gary Carter, and the Mets moved to 98 wins and within three games of the division title. Finally, in 1986, the "magic" proved to be "back" in full force, as New York easily conquered the NL East en route to one of the most memorable World Series in baseball history.
At that point, it looked like only more titles were to come, but for Cashen, maintaining a championship squad proved to be more complicated than building one. Key contributors like Kevin Mitchell, Lenny Dykstra, and Roger McDowell were traded away for players who proved incapable of returning the Mets to the heights reached in 1986. Although the team would fall one win short of another NL pennant in 1988, it wouldn't reach the playoffs again after that until 1999.
By then, Cashen and manager Davey Johnson were long gone, with the GM firing his skipper after a 20-22 start in 1990. Bud Harrelson took over to lead the Mets to 91 wins that year, but in 1991 the team collapsed to finish 77-84, its worst record since 1983. With the Mets looking like they needed to be built up again, Cashen resigned following the 1991 season.
Even after he left the GM role, Cashen stayed close by the Mets organization, even serving as interim GM in 1998 when Steve Phillips was dealing with a lawsuit. In 2010, Cashen was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, and his passing should touch all those fans who fondly remember the 1986 championship, as well as those who have only been told the story of that season. May he rest in peace.