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Tom Seaver Greatest Met of All Time


Mets hats & merchandiseThere are 10 days to go before catchers and pitchers. I find that today I am unable to write about the Wilpon financial mess without getting a case of the dry heaves, so to keep you avid Mets fans from reaching new depths of despair, I thought that I would share an article I had written about the greatest Met ever, Tom Seaver.

Tom Seaver was often compared to Christy Mathewson, the clean cut, handsome, intelligent ace of the New York Giants, who was the most popular pitcher of his era.

The story goes that Tom Seaver timidly walked up to Hank Aaron before his first All-Star Game in 1967 and asked him for his autograph. Seaver introduced himself to Aaron, thinking that Hammerin’ Hank would not know who he was. Aaron chuckled, and then replied to Seaver, "Kid, I know who you are, and before your career is over, I guarantee you everyone in this stadium will, too." Later on, Aaron would state that Seaver was the toughest pitcher he ever faced.

On June 19 th, 1977, M. Donald Grant, goaded by New York Daily News columnist Dick Young, who continuously harped about the “greediness” of Tom Seaver, traded him to the Cincinnati Reds for four mediocre players. The trade, later dubbed the “Midnight Massacre”, deprived the Mets of both their most popular in their history, and one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game, in one stroke. The Mets rapidly sank to the bottom of the National League, and Shea Stadium was dubbed as “Grant’s tomb”. Six years earlier, of course, the Mets traded away another Hall of Fame pitcher, Nolan Ryan, in a deal that was, perhaps, even more infamous. All in all, the Metropolitans gave up two hurlers who would wind up winning a career total of 635 games for a washed up Jim Fregosi, Tom Zachry, Steve Henderson, Doug Flynn, and Dan Norman.

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Seaver achieved National prominence in 1969, as the lynchpin of the Miracle Mets, one of the most remarkable baseball stories of the 20 th century. He had a fabulous year; his record was 25-7, an ERA of 2.21, with a Won/loss percentage of .781. He won his first of three Cy Young Awards, and was 2 nd in the MVP vote. If you look back at the Mets starting roster for that season, you will find Tommy Agee, a solid and at times spectacular center fielder, Cleon Jones, an excellent contact hitter who had a career year, surrounded by a group of overachievers, neer-do-wells, life-time backups, and players deep into the back nine of their careers. The Mets won the pennant, the first MLB playoff Series against the Braves, and the World Series against the powerhouse Orioles, who were virtually a better squad at every position, through a combination of Divine Intervention, a Black Cat, Karmic Fate, and a great pitching staff. However, if you look at Seaver’s first two years in the Majors, where he labored for a 10 th and 9 th place team, his composite across-the-board stats were not all that much different then 1969, except for the won-loss record. The Mets had a number of terrible teams when Seaver was pitching for them, and even their better squads relied more on defense and pitching. The ’69 Championship team and ’72 NL pennant winners were far from hitting machines. Seaver had a career Winning percentage of .609%; the composite of the teams he played for was .509%, and thus well under .500% when Seaver wasn’t pitching. In this respect, Seaver’s career was similar to Walter Johnson’s, who also had the task of dragging his team to victory more often then not. His lifetime ERA of 2.86 was 18% over the league average of 3.51 during that period.

The career statistics speak for themselves. Besides the ones mentioned above, Seaver had 311 lifetime wins, was Rookie of the Year, was a 12 time All Star, was 6 th All time with 388 Career Win Shares, a Top Ten Cy Young candidate 10 times, 3 times led the NL in ERA and Wins, Five Times in Strike outs, (6 th all time career), 2 times in shutouts (7 th all time career). One of his best years was in 1971, when he won 20 games, had a 1.76 ERA (half the league average), had 289 K’s, threw four shutouts, and pitched 21 complete games. He had a far better year then Ferguson Jenkins, but finished 2 nd in the ballot for Cy Young. In 1970, Seaver stuck out 19 batters to tie the then ML record, including a record 10 in a row. He was the first pitcher to have 10 200 K seasons. He also walked less then 3 batters per nine innings, almost unprecedented for a power pitcher. In an ESPN poll among his peers, Bob Gibson Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Bert Blyleven and Don Sutton all agreed Seaver was "the best" of their generation of pitchers. Bill James has stated that there is actually a good argument that could be made that Seaver is the greatest pitcher of all time.

In 1992 Tom Seaver was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame with a 98.8% of the voters, the highest percentage in the history of that institution.

"Blind people come to the park just to listen to him pitch." - Reggie Jackson



By Paul J. Nebenfuhr
MLBCenter.com New York Mets Correspondent

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