Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 1, 2008
BASEBALL: Why The Mets Traded Nolan Ryan

Well, there wasn't just one single reason, but in considering the Mets' much- and justly-maligned deal of Nolan Ryan, I had never previously looked at the breakdowns from the 1971 season. Ryan that year started off looking very much like the pitcher he would soon become; at the end of June, he was 8-4 with a 2.05 ERA; in 92.1 innings he was allowing 6.24 hits, 0.49 HR, and 5.26 BB, 9.06 K per 9. Ryan pitched OK in defeat in his next start, but beginning with his appearance the day before the All-Star Break, he completely lost the strike zone: from July 11 through the end of 1971, he was 2-9 with a 7.62 ERA (9.00 if you include unearned runs), averaged just 3.89 IP per start in 13 starts, and averaged 10.04 H, 10.04 BB, and only 6.75 K (he did still avoid the longball, 0.52 HR/9). The Mets won just 2 of Ryan's last 16 appearances, and one of those was a game where they scored 20 runs.

Yes, it was terribly short-sighted to give up on a 24-year-old pitcher who threw 100 mph, and the Fregosi trade, along with the Amos Otis deal, was one of the cornerstones of the downfall of the franchise in the 1970s. But few GMs would have much more patience with a starting pitcher who walks 10 men per 9 innings and an equal number of hits over half a season.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:04 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Hay Crank I've been reading your blog daily for almost three years and I have yet to read such a great post. Thanks for always keeping me updated - I don't need to watch the news or read the newspaper when I look @ my daily crank.

Posted by: Kiefer Waterman at April 1, 2008 3:01 PM

I think more factored into the decision than just Ryan's wildness. Remember that back in the early 70's 4 man rotations were the norm. At that time the Mets had 4 pretty good starters that they projected to be around for a while. Of course there was Seaver and Kooseman, but also Gary Gentry and Jim McAndrew would have been looked at as a pretty good 3 & 4 starter. With 4 young guns and McGraw in the pen it was probably seen as an opportunity to fill that black hole that was third base with the addition of Fregosi.

The Angels on the other hand were going no where and were able to stick Ryan in their rotation and let him pitch without worrying about the wildness. Obviously they were handsomely rewarded for their patience, but the Mets would not have been able to endure Ryans growing pains and continue to compete.

Posted by: maddirishman at April 1, 2008 4:26 PM

The Ryan trade was a bad one, but not really a blunder.

Ryan was horrible the second half of 1971 -- 7.74 ERA, 37 Ks & 53 BBs in 47 innings, WHIP of over 2.2. He won only two games, and one of those he still gave up six runs (the Mets scored 20, 18 when he was on the mound).

The Mets probably looked at that and figured it was time to move him. And the opportunity to get a perennial all-star for a pitcher who looked like he was never going to make it.

Ryan himself has said that if he hadn't been traded, he probably wouldn't have amounted to much; it was a combination of not liking New York and deciding after the trade to rededicate himself to pitching better.

At the time, most people thought the trade was a pretty good one for the Mets. Fregosi was a disappointment (due to injury) and Ryan did much better than anyone expected.

Posted by: Realitychuck at April 2, 2008 10:55 AM

If what you gentlemen say is true then the Dodgers should have surely traded Sandy Koufax.

Posted by: Two-By-Four at April 3, 2008 10:22 PM

Looking back at 1971, you can't fault anyone for making this deal. I'm quite sure if they knew Nolan Ryan would have 300 wins, 5000+ K's and would pitch until 1993, that Gary Gentry or Jim McAndrew would have been traded instead.

The Mets could not score runs, and they had a major problem at 3rd base, and getting an All Star like Jim Fregosi would fix both problems, so someone had to go. You know it wouldn't be Seaver, your ace, or Koosman or Matlak both lefthanders, so it had to be either Ryan, Gentry, or McAndrew, and Ryan was the most coveted at this time. Baltimore also wanted him.

In 1971 I was in the Navy, and was driving home from Norfolk,VA that Friday afternoon when I heard of the trade on a Baltimore radio station, and I was elated, I thought it was a good move, because the Mets just got an All-Star hitter, something that they were desperately lacking.

I've been a Mets fan since 1962, and looking back over 47 years , this was not their worst move: a-they should have never traded Seaver, or b- Koosman, c- they never should have never signed Vince Coleman, or d- Eddie Murray, and e - they should have had Omar Minaya as GM when Bobby Valentine was Manager.....and f and g - Bobby Bonilla and Rickey Henderson are better as ex-Mets than Mets.

Posted by: metsfan4life at April 4, 2008 5:18 PM

Fregosi was a real good player, but he had just turned 30 and was coming off a season when he batted .233/.317/.326, albeit hitting .286/.369/.364 in the second half. And while he was much better than his raw numbers, he wasn't exactly George Brett - he slugged under .400 five times in six years between 1966-71.

It was still a bad deal. My point was just that it's easier to understand the deal when you look at how badly Ryan lost it down the stretch that season.

Posted by: The Crank at April 4, 2008 5:27 PM
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