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This Date in Mets History: December 8 - Lefties Come, Lefties Go

Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack departed on this date, but the Mets picked up a pair of southpaws to replace them...eventually.

Jared Wickerham / Getty Images

The Mets went 86-76 in 1976, a record compiled mostly thanks to the contributions of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack. The trio started 101 games, winning 52 while losing just 31 and chucking 14 shutouts. All three had ERAs under three and K/BB ratios over that number, save Matlack, the straggler who posted a 2.68 mark. Within three years, all three pitchers were ex-Mets, too.

Tom Seaver, of course, got traded first. Next went Jon Matlack, who wound up property of the Texas Rangers as part of four-way deal also involving the Braves and Pirates that happened on this date in 1977. Exactly one year later, Jerry Koosman was shipped north to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Greg Field and a player to be named later.

While the Mets traded Seaver in haste and probably didn't get the best package they could have, they did get two solid major league contributors in return. The same can't be said of the Matlack deal, even though the Mets presumably had plenty of time to work something out. Outfielder Ken Henderson appeared in just seven games for his new team before getting traded himself. Much like his son Ben, Tom Grieve was cooked by the age of 30, hitting just .208..273/.297 for the Mets in 1978. The best player in the deal by default, first baseman Willie Montañez who lead the '78 club with 96 RBI despite slugging under .400, a season worth just 0.2 wins above replacement according to Baseball Reference.

Thankfully, the Koosman swap turned out much better. While Greg Field never pitched for the Mets, the player to be named later did. He also wound up pitching for eight other teams over the next 24 years, as his name was Jesse Orosco.

Tim Foli, the shortstop the Mets made the first overall pick in the 1968 June amateur draft, is 62. Taken as a 17-year old out of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California, by the start of the 1970 school year, Foli was up in the big leagues for good. After hitting .226/.272/.281 in 312 plate appearances the following season, the Mets sent the infielder to Montreal as part of the Rusty Staub deal. After six-plus seasons north of the border (and short stint in Northern California with the Giants), Foli returned to the team that drafted him for 1978 and three games of 1979. All told, he amassed 3.4 rWAR over his 16-year career. Not great for a #1 pick, but not bad for his draft class. While Foli lags far behind Thurman Munson (#4, 43.3 rWAR), Gary Matthews (#17, 27.3), and Greg Luzinski (#11, 23.6), he's ahead of everyone else from that year. over half of whom either never made it to the majors at all or provided negative value in their careers.

While the Mets divested themselves of two great lefties on this date, they also picked one in 1983 up by trading infielder Bob Bailor and reliever Carlos Diaz to the Dodgers for Sid Fernandez. El Sid spent ten years in Flushing, racking up 26.0 rWAR. That's good for fifth best in Mets history, two spots below Jerry Koosman and one above Jon Matlack.

And since we're on the subject of southpaws, might as well point out that New York bought the lefty-swinging Richie Ashburn from the Cubs on December 8, 1961. The Mets' first ever All-Star, Whitey played the last year of his Hall of Fame career with the '62 club, rapping out an excellent .306/.424/.393 line while cracking a career-high (and Polo Grounds aided) seven home runs.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On this date In 1776, General George Washington led his army in a retreat from New Jersey to Pennsylvania across the Delaware River. Three weeks later, they'd go on the offensive and cross back the other way. Perhaps you're familiar with the painting of that particular boat trip. If not, ask AA's own Pack Bringley to show it you next time you're at the Met.

Anyway, the only Washington to appear on the Mets' 25-man roster was Claudell, who the team traded for in 1980. The outfielder had worn out his welcome in Chicago's South Side, where fans would taunt his seemingly effort-free play with signs reading, "Washington Slept Here".