The virtual 1960s New York Mets (Part 4: 1966-67)

So far, we’ve taken our Mets through the embryonic expansion draft stage, and then into seasons one and two, and then three and four. Here’s how our version has done so far, compared with the actual Mets in those years:

     Actual Mets             Virtual Mets

     W     L   Pos   Year    W     L   Pos
    40   120    10   1962   65    95     8
    51   111    10   1963   64    98     9
    53   109    10   1964   70    92     9
    50   112    10   1965   62   100    10

We’d been making slow-but-visible progress through 1964, but our 1965 performance was definitely a downer: our worst record, and our first last-place finish. We come into 1966 with something to prove.

1965-66 offseason: Actual Mets deals we will make

Oct. 14, 1965: Purchased pitcher Jack Hamilton from the Detroit Tigers.

Hamilton threw very hard, but had such serious struggles with his control that first the Phillies and now the Tigers were giving up on him. But his Triple-A results in 1965 had been good, and he was a talent worth giving another try.

Oct. 19, 1965: Traded cash and a player to be named later to the Houston Astros for catcher Jerry Grote. (On Nov. 24, 1965, the Mets sent pitcher Tom Parsons to the Astros, completing the deal.)

Paul Richards’ fledgling Houston franchise had featured two very young catchers: Grote and John Bateman. Both had been force-fed into the major leagues way before they were ready, and both had struggled mightily with the bat at the big league level. But both had hit well in the minors, and both were impressive prospects.

Yet Richards was at this point abruptly choosing Bateman over Grote; indeed this trade essentially amounted to a dumping of Grote. This was puzzling, given it wasn’t at all clear that Bateman was more likely than Grote to eventually succeed in the majors, especially since Bateman was older by 27 months (at the time of this deal, Bateman was 25 years old, and Grote had just turned 23).

Moreover, though Grote presented far less power at the plate than Bateman, Grote was far more mobile and defensively adept. On the basis of the home run-unfriendly conditions prevailing (indeed, to Richards’s design) in the Astrodome, a catcher with Grote’s skill profile would seem to be the direction in which to go. In any case, as of the conclusion of the 1965 season, there was no on-the-field reason to toss Grote aside.

The explanation lay in Grote’s personality: he was at this stage extremely fiery-tempered, prone to tantrums and sulks. Richards had clearly decided that Grote was never going to develop the composure and discipline necessary in a good major league catcher.

Richards might have been proven correct, of course, but he was preemptively betting on it. Our Mets (and the actual Mets) would be quite willing to take that wager. Perhaps this wasn’t simply a gift from Houston, but it was something close to it.

Nov. 29, 1965: Purchased outfielder Al Luplow from the Cleveland Indians.

Luplow was nothing special, but he was a left-handed-batting corner outfielder who had hit well in the past (specifically, 1962), and who covered reasonable ground. He was worth a chance.

1965-66 offseason: Actual Mets deals we will modify

The actual Mets did this:

Feb. 22, 1966: Traded infielder Bobby Klaus, catcher Jimmie Schaffer, and third baseman-outfielder Wayne Graham to the Philadelphia Phillies for first baseman Dick Stuart.

“Dr. Strangeglove” had been acquired by the Phillies for the 1965 season, expected to provide them with a booming first base bat. But at the age of 32, his performance, while not bad, had fallen well short of expectations. The Phils’ eager trade for first baseman Bill White in the autumn of ’65 indicated just how ready they were to go in another direction.

With Stuart so obviously rendered surplus, Philadelphia wasn’t in the strongest of bargaining positions in dealing him. Undoubtedly, they ardently shopped Stuart at the 1965 winter meetings and came up empty. They were reduced, as we see here, to sending him off to the Mets as spring training dawned in exchange for nothing more than a triple shot of Triple-A roster filler.

The Mets’ interest in Stuart wasn’t in installing him as the primary first baseman, as promising young Ed Kranepool fully held that status. But the left-handed-batting Kranepool in 1965 had significantly struggled against left-handed pitching, and the right-handed-batting veteran Stuart seemed ready to work as a platoon partner.

That’s equally true of our Mets. Though we don’t have Klaus, Schaffer, or Graham, it’s clear that none of them were specific targets of the Phillies.

Therefore, we’ll do this:

Feb. 22, 1966: Traded catcher Chris Cannizzaro and outfielder-first baseman Jim Beauchamp to the Philadelphia Phillies for first baseman Dick Stuart.

Cannizzaro and Beauchamp were at this point proven modest talents, but they represented some value, at least equal to that of the package actually sent in exchange for Stuart.

1965-66 offseason: Mets deals we will invoke

Oct., 1965: Sold pitcher Moe Drabowsky to the St. Louis Cardinals.

This sell-off was actually performed by the Kansas City Athletics. But we’ll undertake it as readily as they did: for us, as he had in reality for the A’s, Drabowsky had flashed brilliance in 1963, but he’d layered mediocre performances in ’64 and ’65, and we’re ready to move on.

Nov., 1965: Traded catcher Jesse Gonder to the Pittsburgh Pirates for catcher Orlando McFarlane and cash.

No one had ever confused Gonder with a good defensive catcher, but he’d presented value as a left-handed-batting catcher who could really hit. When his 1965 hitting performance was less than good, Gonder’s value began to sink.

The Pirates actually acquired him via the Rule 5 draft that month, so clearly they had an interest in Gonder. McFarlane was a catcher (with less offensive talent than Gonder, but more defensive) whom the Pirates actually surrendered in the Rule 5 draft that month. Therefore, it’s quite plausible that one could be traded for the other that month.

Nov., 1965: Traded pitcher Arnold Earley to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Ty Cline.

The Braves would actually acquire Earley as part of a trade that winter, and they would actually let Cline go in the Rule 5 draft. So it’s sensible that they’d have made this deal.

Dec., 1965: Traded outfielder Don Landrum to the San Francisco Giants for infielder Gil Garrido and cash.

Cline was essentially the same ballplayer as Landrum, only a few years younger. So Cline’s arrival allows our Mets to move Landrum, whom the Giants actually acquired as part of a trade that winter, for some middle infield organizational depth.

1965-66 offseason: Actual Mets deals we will not make

Oct. 20, 1965: Traded pitcher Al Jackson and third baseman Charley Smith to the St. Louis Cardinals for third baseman Ken Boyer.

This was one of the least wise transactions executed by George Weiss in his five-year tenure with the Mets. Boyer had long been a great star, of course, and he was widely respected as a team leader, as well. But in his age-34 season just completed, Boyer’s performance had dramatically dropped off; it was obvious his tank was approaching empty. If the Cardinals had been willing to dump him for a token payment, that would be one thing, but Jackson and Smith were two of the most valuable assets in the Mets’ meager treasury.

The exchange just didn’t add up. Our Mets will say, “No, thanks.”

Nov. 30, 1965: Traded outfielder Joe Christopher to the Boston Red Sox for shortstop Eddie Bressoud.

You’ll recall that our Mets would have loved to have been able to acquire Bressoud in the expansion draft. But that was four years ago, and Bressoud was now in his mid-30s and clearly in decline. Besides, we don’t have Christopher to trade anyway.

1966 season: Actual Mets deals we will make

May 20, 1966: Purchased pitcher Gerry Arrigo from the Cincinnati Reds.

June 10, 1966: Purchased pitcher Bob Shaw from the San Francisco Giants.

For the past couple of years, our Mets have been able to refrain from any mid-season scrap-heap pitching pickups. But in early 1966, our staff will spring a couple of leaks, so we’ll rummage through the bargain bin here.

Arrigo and Shaw represent the opposite ends of the scrap-heap spectrum: Arrigo was a wild young southpaw struggling to establish himself in the majors, while Shaw was a grizzled veteran right-hander nearing his career’s end. Both will be acceptable stopgaps for us.

1966 offseason: Mets deals we will invoke

May 11, 1966: Purchased infielder Dick Schofield from the San Francisco Giants.

May 11, 1966: Sold infielder Roy McMillan to the New York Yankees.

In actuality, the Yankees bought Schofield from the Giants on this day. He had to pass through National League waivers for that to happen, and our Mets won’t let that happen. Schofield would be a younger, better option for us at utility infielder.

So, we’ll pick up Ducky, and place the 36-year-old McMillan on waivers, and the Yankees will have to settle for him.

June 15, 1966: Traded first baseman Dick Stuart to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Thad Tillotson and cash.

In reality, the Mets released Stuart on this day. That was a silly thing to do. Stuart had been making a reasonable contribution in his limited role. His purpose for the Mets was either to provide use on the field or in the trade market; so long as he was performing at least minimally well, they should have kept him until or unless they received some manner of realisitic trade offer.

Once released, Stuart would soon be signed as a free agent by the Dodgers, who had a spot for him on their bench. The package of Tillotson (a grade-B prospect) and cash was what the Dodgers would actually pay to the Yankees to acquire Schofield in September. We won’t be making Schofield available to them (at least not for that offer), but it’s sensible that they would have been willing to expend it here in exchange for Stuart.

1966 season: Actual Mets deals we will not make

June 15, 1966: Purchased pitcher Bob Friend from the New York Yankees.

Aug. 6, 1966: Purchased pitcher Ralph Terry from the Kansas City Athletics.

Enough, already. Arrigo and Shaw will be sufficient for our needs. Put that credit card away.

Aug. 16, 1966: Sold pitcher Gerry Arrigo to the Cincinnati Reds.

This one just made no sense. Arrigo hadn’t done well since being picked up by the Mets earlier in the season, but he hadn’t done badly, either. What’s the point of a far-out-of-contention team tossing aside a medium-quality 25-year-old left-handed pitcher?

1966 season results

In endeavoring to improve upon the disappointing 1965 finish, our Mets would be pinning their hopes on the development of several young and unproven talents, particularly behind the plate and in the outfield.

The rest of the team would essentially be coming back intact. Going into the season the only changes on the pitching staff would be the additions of rookie Rob Gardner and retread Jack Hamilton in the bullpen, in place of Arnold Earley and Gary Kroll.

  Pos   Player         Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
   1B   E. Kranepool*   21  146 464  48 118  15   2  16  53  41  66 .254 .316 .399 .715  100
   2B   R. Hunt         25  132 479  60 138  19   2   3  31  41  34 .288 .356 .355 .711  102
 SS-3B  B. Aspromonte   28  152 560  50 143  16   3  10  46  32  66 .255 .295 .348 .643   81
   3B   C. Smith        28  116 391  32 103  13   3  11  41  21  82 .263 .294 .396 .690   93
 RF-LF  R. Swoboda      22  112 342  32  76   9   4   8  45  31  76 .222 .296 .342 .638   79
 CF-LF  C. Jones        23  139 495  70 136  16   4   8  53  30  62 .275 .318 .372 .689   94
 LF-RF  A. Luplow*      27  111 334  31  84   9   1   7  29  38  46 .251 .331 .347 .678   92
   C    J. Grote        23  120 317  25  75  12   2   3  27  40  81 .237 .327 .315 .642   82

   UT   F. Mantilla     31   82 250  25  55   9   0  11  31  18  53 .220 .277 .388 .665   85
 LF-RF  L. Elliot*      28   70 243  28  59  16   2   7  33  22  57 .243 .306 .412 .717  100
 2B-SS  D. Schofield#   31   75 192  21  43   3   0   0   9  23  24 .224 .309 .240 .549   58
   CF   T. Cline*       27   98 195  23  49   3   0   1  13  10  23 .251 .295 .282 .577   64
   RF   J. Lewis*       26   65 166  21  32   6   1   5  18  21  43 .193 .282 .331 .613   72
  C-LF  J. Stephenson*  25   63 143  16  28   1   1   1  11   8  28 .196 .248 .238 .486   38
   C    O. McFarlane    28   49 138  13  35   7   0   4  12   8  46 .254 .299 .391 .691   93
   1B   D. Stuart       33   31  87   7  19   0   0   4  12   9  26 .218 .292 .356 .648   82
  1B-C  H. Taylor       27   35  73   3  13   1   0   2   7   2  13 .178 .211 .274 .484   36

        Others                  155  16  30   6   2   1   7  12  45 .194 .253 .277 .530   50

        Pitchers                366  21  56  13   2   2  15  18 145 .153 .180 .216 .396   11


        Total                 5390 542 1292 174  29 104 493 425 1016 .240 .296 .341 .636  79

        * Bats left
        # Bats both
 
        Pitcher        Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        A. Jackson*     30   36  30  11  12  15   0 233 220  83  66   19   43   90 2.55  141
        K. Johnson      33   32  31  11  10  11   0 216 213  87  78   23   47  104 3.25  111
        G. Brunet*      31   41  32   8  12  13   0 212 198  99  88   21  101  146 3.74   96
        J. Fisher       27   35  33   8  10  13   0 207 204  95  83   22   48  116 3.61  100
        B. Shaw         33   26  16   4   7   7   0 126 124  60  52    8   31   79 3.71   97

        D. McMahon      36   61   0   0   7   9  10  90  76  32  26    8   41   62 2.60  138
        B. Miller       27   46   0   0   2   4   5  84  72  33  28    6   29   57 3.00  120
        R. Gardner*     21   41   4   0   1   5   1  67  74  37  36    6   32   39 4.84   74
        J. Hamilton     27   38   4   1   2   6   2  75  69  41  30    6   42   49 3.60  100
        G. Arrigo*      25   17   5   0   2   4   0  43  47  20  18    5   16   28 3.77   96
        G. Richardson*  27   15   1   0   0   2   1  19  24  19  19    7    6   15 9.00   40
        T. Stallard     28   11   1   0   0   2   1  16  18  13  11    4   10   11 6.19   58

        Others                    4   0   1   4   0  43  50  28  26    7   22   31 5.44   66

        Total                   161  43  66  95 20 1431 1389 647 561 142  468  827 3.53  102

        * Throws left

The performance of the key youngsters would be a mixed bag: Cleon Jones would blossom splendidly, and Jerry Grote would hold his own, but Ron Swoboda would disappoint. Ed Kranepool would fail to take the step forward expected of him.

Felix Mantilla would encounter some struggles at the plate for the first time in his Mets’ tenure, and lose his first-string status. Johnny Lewis would flop after his solid 1965 showing. Overall, the hitting, while not quite as weak as in 1965, would remain the league’s worst.

On the pitching side, as mentioned, above a couple of problems would crop up, as both Gordie Richardson and Tracy Stallard imploded, necessitating the mid-season importations of Arrigo and Shaw. But on the whole, our Mets’ staff was once again a strength. With Shaw’s support, the starting would be without weakness, and Bob Miller—and especially Don McMahon—would stoutly anchor the bullpen.

This ballclub is better than our 1965 version, but with the same general balance of strengths and flaws, and the improvement over the previous year is modest. And, take particular note of this: our Pythagorean record is 66-95, precisely equal to the won-lost mark posted by the actual 1966 Mets.

It is the case that those real-life Mets outperformed their Pythag by four wins, so if we would do the same, our Mets would come in at 70-91. But that has us grasping at straws. The larger fact is that after performing substantially better than the actual Mets in each of our first four years, in the fifth season the true-life Mets have effectively caught up with us.

This is not at all where we want to be. The pressure is distinctly on for us to get back in gear in 1967.

1966-67 offseason: Actual Mets deals we will make

Oct. 14, 1966: Selected outfielder Larry Stahl off waivers from the Kansas City Athletics.

It was curious for Charlie Finley’s A’s to be casting off Stahl in this way, as he was a 25-year-old who’d done fairly well for them in a semi-regular platoon role in 1966. He’d proven he could play a little bit. We’ll be happy to give Stahl a shot, as did the actual Mets.

Nov. 28, 1966: Drafted catcher John Sullivan from the Detroit Tigers in the 1966 Rule 5 draft.

A left-handed-batting catcher is always a handy commodity to have around, and by this point it was all too clear that Johnny Stephenson just wasn’t adequately filling that slot.

Feb. 10, 1967: Purchased pitcher Ron Taylor from the Houston Astros.

The sinkerballing Taylor had severely struggled in his season-and-a-half with Houston, so it wasn’t unreasonable for the Astros to be letting him go. But through it all he’d maintained his excellent control, so it’s just as reasonable for us to give him a chance.

1966-67 offseason: Mets deals we will invoke

Dec., 1966: Traded outfielder Larry Elliot and pitcher Jack Hamilton to the Kansas City Athletics for outfielder Roger Repoz.

The 26-year-old Repoz was an impressive talent, a good defensive outfielder with home run power. But he was prone to the strikeout, and had been unable to sustain a good batting average in either the majors or minors.

With the emergence of Rick Monday in Kansas City, Repoz was about to be displaced in the A’s outfield. In actuality the Athletics would deploy Repoz in a utility role for the early part of 1967, and then essentially dump him for spare parts in a June trade.

We know that Finley’s A’s had some interest in Elliot, as they would actually trade for him in the spring of ’67. And Hamilton’s competent performance with the Mets in 1966 had re-established him as a major leaguer. So it’s quite plausible that Finley would take this offer.

Dec. 8, 1966: Traded third baseman Charley Smith to the New York Yankees for outfielder Roger Maris.

This trade was, of course, actually made by the St. Louis Cardinals. The oft-injured 32-year-old Maris had seen his career largely unravel, but his remarkable all-around ability was such that even a greatly deteriorated Maris remained a good ballplayer, if a fragile one. He represents the sort of talent who can improve our light-hitting Mets in the short term, and if Maris rebounds somewhat, his value can be leveraged in the trade market.

And for our Mets, the emergence of young shortstop Bud Harrelson has us ready to move Bob Aspromonte over to third base for 1967, thus rendering Smith expendable. We’ll be just as willing to accept this Yankees’ offer as were the Cardinals.

April, 1967: Traded catcher Hawk Taylor to the Baltimore Orioles for infielder Bob Johnson.

This might be seen as a “modified actual deal” rather than an “invoked deal,” as the actual Mets would purchase Johnson in May of ’67. But we’re moving up the timing of the acquisition to pre-Opening Day because of our particular circumstances.

Our plan had been to deploy Felix Mantilla as the right-handed-batting first base platoon partner for ’67, but Mantilla tore up a knee in spring training (and effectively ended his career). So that role suddenly would be open, and we’ll turn to the journeyman Johnson, who in previous years had demonstrated an above-average infielder’s bat. The Orioles at this point were in need of catching help, and so would likely be happy to see what they might be able to do with the long-on-potential, short-on-results Taylor.

April, 1967: Sold outfielder Al Luplow to the St. Louis Cardinals.

April, 1967: Sold pitcher Thad Tillotson to the New York Yankees.

April, 1967: Sold pitcher Bob Shaw to the Atlanta Braves.

For the first time, our Mets would arrive at the end of spring training as exporters of surplus talent.

1966-67 offseason: Actual Mets deals we will not make

Nov. 29, 1966: Traded second baseman Ron Hunt and outfielder Jim Hickman to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Tommy Davis and outfielder-third baseman Derrell Griffith.

At the age of 72, Mets General Manager George Weiss retired following the 1966 season, ending his half-century-long career in professional baseball. In his place, the Mets hired Bing Devine, who as the GM of the St. Louis Cardinals had been named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News in both 1963 and ’64.

Devine’s first major transaction for the Mets was this one. In our Off-season blockbusters series of a few years ago, we had this to say about it:

Davis had put terrific seasons back-to-back in 1962-63, but he’d had an off-year in ’64, then suffered a compound ankle fracture in ’65. He was back only as a platoon player in 1966, hitting all right but not as he once had.

Given all this, it wasn’t surprising to find Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi shopping him around. What was surprising was the price Mets GM Bing Devine was willing to pay: Hunt was among the better offensive second basemen in baseball, and two years younger than Davis. Unless Davis regained his years-ago form, it was hard to see how this deal would help the Mets.

It didn’t make sense to us then, and it doesn’t now. Hunt was simply too good to be expended for this return. We’ll keep him.

Dec. 6, 1966: Traded picher Dennis Ribant and outfielder-catcher Gary Kolb to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher Don Cardwell and outfielder Don Bosch.

We don’t have Ribant or Kolb, and moreover neither Cardwell nor Bosch interests us.

April 1, 1967: Traded infielder Eddie Bressoud, outfielder Danny Napoleon and cash to the St. Louis Cardinals for infielders Jerry Buchek and Tony Martinez and pitcher Art Mahaffey.

The core of this package, Bressoud-for-Buchek, was a sensible deal for the Mets. But we don’t have Bressoud, and in any case, with Hunt still on board we don’t have much need for Buchek.

1967 season: Mets deals we will invoke

May 22, 1967: Purchased infielder-outfielder Jimmy Stewart from the Chicago Cubs.

In real life, the White Sox bought Stewart from the Cubs on this date. We won’t allow him to pass through NL waivers, as he’s a handyman who can provide some help off our bench.

1967 season: Actual Mets deals we will not make

Devine conducted a veritable flood of transactions throughout the 1967 season. The great majority of them involved entirely marginal players. We won’t bother to list them all here, but let it suffice to say that our Mets won’t be engaging in such frantic behavior. The most significant ones we’ll nullify are as follows:

May 10, 1967: Traded outfielder Larry Elliot and $50,000 cash to the Kansas City Athletics for third baseman Ed Charles.

We’d already sent Elliot to the A’s during the off-season, and we don’t have a need for Charles at this point.

June 12, 1967: Traded pitcher Rob Gardner and a player to be named later to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Bob Hendley. (On June 17, 1967, the Mets sent catcher Johnny Stephenson to the Cubs, completing the deal.)

Neither Gardner nor Stephenson had panned out, but the journeyman Hendley wasn’t worth both of them. We’ll keep Gardner and Stephenson in the minors.

July 11, 1967: Traded infielder Chuck Hiller to the Philadelphia Phillies for infielder Phil Linz.

We declined to acquire Hiller earlier, and we’ll pass on the harmonica player now.

July 16, 1967: Traded pitcher Jack Lamabe to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player to be named later. (On Oct. 13, 1967, the Cardinals sent pitcher Al Jackson to the Mets, completing the deal.)

We didn’t pick up Lamabe earlier, and we already have Jackson anyway.

July 22, 1967: Traded third baseman-first baseman Ken Boyer and a player to be named later to the Chicago White Sox for third baseman-outfielder Bill Southworth and a player to be named later. (On Aug. 15, 1967, the Mets sent infielder Sandy Alomar to the White Sox, and on Nov. 27, 1967, the White Sox sent catcher J.C. Martin to the Mets, completing the deal.)

We hadn’t traded for either Boyer or Alomar.

Aug. 2, 1967: Purchased pitcher Cal Koonce from the Chicago Cubs.

We won’t have room on our staff for this journeyman.

1967 season results

Two rookies feature prominently in our plans for 1967. We’re handing the shortstop job to Harrelson (and the accompanying shift of Aspromonte to third figures to improve the infield defensively at both positions), and we’re also promoting highly-touted right-hander Tom Seaver into the starting rotation.

Our hopes for an improvement in the offense rest on the additions of Maris and Repoz to the outfield, and also on the anticipation that in his third full big league season, Kranepool will develop into a more productive hitter.

  Pos   Player         Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
   1B   E. Kranepool*   22  141 469  40 126  17   1  10  61  37  51 .269 .321 .373 .694  100
   2B   R. Hunt         26  110 388  46 106  18   3   4  36  37  25 .273 .348 .366 .714  107
   SS   B. Harrelson#   23  151 540  62 137  16   4   1  31  48  64 .254 .317 .304 .621   81
   3B   B. Aspromonte   29  137 486  49 143  24   5   8  64  44  46 .294 .351 .414 .764  120
   RF   R. Maris*       32  125 410  56 107  18   6  10  59  50  62 .261 .343 .407 .750  116
   CF   R. Repoz*       26  130 456  57 109  23   4  11  52  49 106 .239 .312 .379 .691   99
 LF-CF  C. Jones        24  129 411  49 101  10   5   5  36  19  57 .246 .282 .331 .613   77
   C    J. Grote        24   96 258  20  50   6   0   3  19  11  49 .194 .225 .252 .477   38

 LF-RF  R. Swoboda      23  121 392  44 112  16   3  11  53  37  82 .286 .346 .426 .772  122
 1-2-3  B. Johnson      31  103 256  32  87   9   3   5  33  15  33 .340 .371 .457 .828  138
 2B-SS  D. Schofield#   32   84 232  23  53  11   1   2  17  29  41 .228 .308 .310 .619   79
   UT   J. Stewart#     28   64 167  25  40   6   2   0  14  12  29 .240 .288 .299 .587   70
   OF   T. Cline*       28   82 163  21  43   6   5   0   8  11  22 .264 .315 .362 .677   95
   C    J. Sullivan*    26   65 147   4  32   5   0   0   7   6  26 .218 .248 .252 .500   45
   C    O. McFarlane    29   53 119   7  28   4   0   2  11   8  38 .235 .279 .319 .598   73
   C    G. Goossen      21   37  69   2  11   1   0   0   4   4  26 .159 .216 .174 .390   14

        Others                  118   9  24   6   0   1   9   5  21 .203 .232 .280 .512   47

        Total                 5469 567 1358 203  42  73 525 441 930 .248 .303 .341 .643   86

        * Bats left
        # Bats both

        Pitcher        Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        T. Seaver       22   35  34  18  18  12   0 251 224  84  77   19   78  170 2.76  124
        G. Brunet*      32   39  37   6  10  17   1 225 196  97  91   16   78  149 3.64   94
        K. Johnson      34   29  29   6  11  11   0 210 191  77  64   19   38   85 2.74  124
        J. Fisher       28   33  30   6   9  14   0 198 223 105 100   18   57  107 4.55   75
        A. Jackson*     31   34  15   1   7   6   1 111 122  69  53    7   34   42 4.30   79

        D. McMahon      37   63   0   0   6   2  15 109  75  30  25    7   37   82 2.06  165
        R. Taylor       29   50   0   0   5   5   8  73  60  21  19    1   23   46 2.34  146
        B. Miller       28   41   4   0   2   6   1  69  72  38  34    8   23   25 4.43   77
        D. Selma        23   38   4   0   3   3   2  81  71  28  25    3   36   52 2.78  123
        G. Arrigo*      26   32   5   1   5   6   1  74  58  29  24    5   35   57 2.92  117

        Others                    4   0   1   3   0  38  34  20  18    4   20   29 4.26   80

        Total                   162  38  77  85 29 1439 1326 598 530 107  459  844 3.31  103

        * Throws left

This season wouldn’t be without its setbacks. Cleon Jones and Jerry Grote both significantly regress from their 1966 performances. None of the several other catchers supporting Grote hit a lick, either. Kranepool wouldn’t hit poorly, but he would make no progress. And on the mound, three of our Mets’ previously reliable stalwarts—Al Jackson, Jack Fisher, and Bob Miller—all deliver off years.

But the positives would be plentiful. Seaver would step in as an immediate sensation, the Rookie of the Year. Combined with particularly strong turns by veterans Ken Johnson and Don McMahon, and a delightful resurgence from Ron Taylor, our Mets’ pitching would once again be a plus.

And while our hitting wouldn’t scare anybody, it would be meaningfully improved. Home runs would prove very hard to come by, but our Mets’ capacity to hit for average and get on base would be close to league-average, something we’ve not seen before.

It would add up to a Pythag record of 77-85, dramatically superior to that of the actual Mets, and placing our Mets at least as high as seventh place in the league, far and away our best showing yet.

So, in our sixth season, we’ve achieved a decisive stride toward competitiveness. Let’s recall the question we put forth in the first installment of this series: “Is it reasonable to assume that with a ‘sound organizational effort’ the Mets ‘could have gained respectability before 1969?’” At this point, the answer to that rests on whether it’s reasonable to consider a 77-85 record within the realm of “respectability.”

One is inclined to think that it is. Or if it isn’t, it’s awfully doggone close.

Next time

Can we sustain the improvement as we close in on the decade’s end, and the fateful year of 1969?

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Comments

  1. madisonmetsfan said...

    What about the one move which could have had the most positive impact of all?

    “With the first pick in the 1966 amateur draft, the New York Mets select Reggie Jackson, OF, Arizona State.” As in, “not Steve Chilcott.”

    How about an outfield of Jones, Agee & Jackson from ‘68 until well into the 70s?

  2. Steve Treder said...

    Well, yeah.  That would have been awesome.

    But in this exercise, I’m not meddling with any amateur draftings/signings; I’m assuming the Mets and every other team signed and developed all their minor leaguers exactly as they actually did.

    The reason for this is that it is truly only with the benefit of hindsight that we know how very differently Reggie Jackson and Steve Chilcott turned out.  At the time it was anything but clear.  For every Jackson, of course, every draft includes dozens of Chilcotts, as only a tiny fraction of amateur signees, even from the first round of the draft, become stars.

    I’m doing my best in this series to try and view things based only on what the Mets (and everyone else) knew at the time.  I’m certain that some hindsight-driven bias is seeping in anyway, but not consciously.  And going on the basis of players’ actual professional (minor and/or major league) performance through each season, rather than whatever scouts might have said about them before they were drafted/signed, is a way to try and deal with that.

  3. From_Mets_to_Rangers said...

    Steve –

    Great series of articles, but, we all know the Roger Maris deal would absolutely never have happened.

    He wasn’t going to get a Budwesier distributorship from Joan Payson.

  4. Steve Treder said...

    Fair enough, but Maris wasn’t a free agent.  He had no control over which team traded for his contract.  In our scenario Maris could either play for the Mets in 1967 or retire.  I believe it’s plausible he’d have played for the Mets.

    And anyway, stay tuned … there might be a Budweiser distributorship in Maris’s future yet, even in our scenario …

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