Dec 20, 2015

Late Seventies / Early Eighties Mets Short Stop: Frank Taveras (1979-1981)

Franklin Crisostomo Fabian Taveras was born December 24, 1949 in the Dominican Republic. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1968.

The tall six foot, speedy infielder was a terror on the base paths. Taveras was never scouted as a good hitter, only batting a best of .267 in the minors. But when he did get aboard, he stole a lot of bases.

In 1970 at A ball Gastonia he swiped 35 bases followed by 19 in 1971 at AA Charleston. He made his MLB debut on September 21st, 1971 at Shea Stadium coming in as a pinch runner for Willie Stargell, in a 15 inning Mets 2-1 victory. It was the only appearance he made that season.


He was back in the minors the next two seasons stealing 17 bases in 1973 at AAA Charleston. Tavares made the Pirates team in 1974, replacing Dal Maxvill as their regular short stop. He would be the Pirates main shortstop for the next five seasons, becoming one of the league's biggest base stealers. In his rookie season, he hit .246 while stealing 13 bases in 17 attempts.


In 1975 he batted just .212 stealing 17 bases but the next year he accelerated. In 1976 he stole 58 bases (3rd in the league) hitting six triples & scoring 76 runs. His problem was getting on base, he batted just .258 although an improvement from the previous year, poor for leadoff men of the times. That year he posted a .321 on base %, his best in all his Pirates years.

In 1977 he reached his base stealing peak, as he led the National League in stolen bases with 70. He also set a Pirate record with in stolen bases, while getting caught just 18 times. The same year On August 5th, he hit his first MLB HR, one of just two in his career. It was an inside the park grand slam at Cincinnati in a 10-6 win over the Reds.

Taveras hit a career high ten triples which were fifth most in the league. His best year at the plate was 1978 when he batted .278, with 182 hits (6th best in the league) 142 of them singles (third most in the NL). He hit nine triples (4th in the NL) a career high 31 doubles & drove in 38 runs. He stole 46 bases (second to team mate Omar Moreno) & got caught a league leading 25 times.

Overall with the Pirates, He made two post season appearances, getting only to the first round NLCS. He played in five post season games, going 1-9 with a walk and an RBI both coming in the 1975 NLCS against the Big Red Machine.

At short stop he would be in the league's top three in making errors six different times. In 1978 he made a career high 38 errors while posting a .946 fielding %. In 1979 after appearing in 11 games for the Pirates he was traded to the New York Mets for short stop Tim Foli. As the Pirates went on to win the World Series, Taveras found himself in last place with the ’79 Mets.

After going 0-1 in his first Mets game, against the Philadelphia Phillies he hit in three straight games having two games with multiple hits. On May 20th he had a game winning base hit off the Chicago Cubs Darold Knowles.

He had the distinction of leading the league in games played that year with 164; (11 in Pittsburgh & 153 in New York). He batted .263, with 26 doubles, leading the club in triples (9) stolen bases (42) sac hits (10) at bats (645) & singles (131).

That season he hit the only HR of his career that actually went over the wall, it too came at Cincinnati against the Reds Mike Lacoss. He was busy at short stop, making 287 put outs (2nd in the league) turning over a career high 92 double plays, while committing 28 errors.

In late July of 1980 he stole bases in four straight games, including two against the Cincinnati Reds on July 26th at Shea Stadium. On August 5th in Montreal, he had a big four hit game, driving in three runs although the Mets lost to the Expos 11-5.

On August 5th he had another three RBI day at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Although at times during the season he flirted at the .290 mark, he ended up posting his career best .279 batting average, leading the team once again in sac hits (10) & singles (130).

His 130 singles were also tenth most in the NL. Tavares stole 32 bases ( second to Lee Mazzilli's 41), hitting 27 doubles, with 25 RBIs & no triples.

At short he posted a .959 fielding % turning 63 double plays with gold glover Doug Flynn.

By 1981 his career was already winding down at the age of 31, he his average dropped to .230 while playing in only 84 games during the strike shortened season.

The Mets had decided to go with Ron Gardenhire at short stop & in December 1981 Taveras was traded to the Montreal Expos for Patterson, New Jersey’s own Steve Ratzer, who would never pitch a game for the Mets.

Taveras finished his 11 year career as a .255 hitter with 1029 hits 300 stolen bases, 144 doubles, 44 triples, two HRs & 214 RBIs. 90 of his steals came as a New York Met, placing him 16th all time in that category. Tavares has played 371 games at short for the Mets, seventh most on the all time Mets list.

Retirement: Since his playing days, he has scouted for the Seattle Mariners & coached in their Dominican baseball organization.

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