Dec 1, 2013

The Mets Third Base Experiments of the Early Seventies

Wayne Garrett
Looking back to the late sixties, one can only imagine what might have been if the Mets would have settled on Wayne Garrett at third base & not made some stupid trades for a third baseman.

After the Miracle 1969 World Champion season, Mets veteran third baseman Ed Charles retired. This left Wayne Garrett as the clubs sole third baseman, and Mets management was not satisfied. Believing they had the outfield locked up (and it looked that way at the time) with Tommie Agee in center, Cleon Jones in left, & Ron Swoboda & Art Shamsky in right, they traded they the highly touted prospect Amos Otis to Kansas City.

Otis was drafted by the Mets while Whitey Herzog was running the minor league system. Not wanting to give Garrett the chance at third, the club tried converting the quick footed Otis, from outfielder to a third baseman. He struggled mightily at third base and it affected his hitting. He hit just .220 in 1968 (59 at bats) & .151 in 1969 (93 at bats). The Amos Otis third base experiment was over by 1970.

The Mets gave up on AO & traded him to the Kansas City Royals, where he would soon play under Herzog, the Manager. In K.C. he became one of the best outfielders of the seventies. Winning three gold gloves, making five All Star Games and winning a stolen base title during a run of four Royals AL Western Division titles. In return for Otis the Mets got Joe Foy.

Joe Foy had been the 1965 Minor league player of the year. He began his career with the Boston Red Sox & was their main third baseman for their 1967 AL Pennant season. He moved on to play third base for the Kansas City Royals in their 1969 inaugural season. He hit 11 HRs with 71 RBIs & batted .262 with 37 stolen bases.

In New York, Foy never fit in, he struggled at third base & batted just .236 with 6 HRs & 37 RBIs. His only plus was his 22 stolen bases. It was said by players on the 1970 Mets that he was a also using drugs. The Mets shipped him off to the Washington Senators by 1971, which was his last year in the majors. Foy was a native New Yorker, born in the Bronx, where he also died of a heart attack in 1989 at the age of 46.

In 1970 Wayne Garrett still managed to play in 114 games hitting a respectable .254 with 12 home runs. But the Mets were not satisfied, they went out looking for more. In 1971 they traded to get a Brooklyn born; Italian American named Bob Aspromonte. He would hit just .225 with five HRs and be released at the end of the season. Garrett would only play in 56 games in 1971, hitting just .213 because of injuries and a bruised ego.

This led to "One of the Worst trades in Mets History" (if not MLB history) when on December 10th 197, they traded Nolan Ryan to the California Angels in exchange for third baseman Jim Fregosi. As everyone knows Ryan went on to be the all time MLB strikeout leader who threw seven career no hitters & went on to the Hall of Fame. Jim Fregosi was the first star of the California Angels franchise. He made the All Star Team every year from 1966 to 1970. He was sidelined in 1971 when a tumor was discovered on his foot.

This didn't stop the Mets upper management who thought he was the answer at third base. Ryan was still struggling with control, was un happy in New York & not Manager Gil Hodges favorite hurler. They made the trade in the 1971/1972 off season, but Fregosi bombed big time.

First he got sidelined with injuries, in 100 games he hit a dismal .232 with just five home runs and 32 RBIs. The next year (1973) he was hitting just .238 without any home runs by summer and got traded by mid season. He went on to have a successful managing career with the California Angels, Chicago White Sox & Philadelphia Phillies, leading them to the 1993 World Series.

After trading away two great players that could have made a major impact on the 1970's Mets, they still had old Red; Wayne Garrett playing at third after all. He would have his best season in 1973 helping lead the Mets to the World Series, hitting .256 with 16 HRs & 58 RBIs. He is the only Mets third baseman to have played in two different World Series.

One can only imagine a pitching staff that would have been Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman & Jon Matlack.

Especially if Amos Otis was patrolling center field & stealing bases atop the line up at Shea Stadium. Remember how the Mets struggled with a centerfielder, base stealer & lead off hitter in the early to mid to late seventies.

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