New York Mets: The 10 Greatest Mets General Managers of All Time
In part two of this 13-part series about the greatest Mets of all time, we look at the 10 best General Managers in franchise history. Sandy Alderson was hired to become the Mets' 12th official GM shortly after the 2010 season. Now is a wonderful time to look back on all of the other general managers in franchise history.
The Mets have long been known for making aggressive trades that more often than not have ended up poorly for the team. Trades such as Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi, Tom Seaver for Doug Flynn, Pat Zachry, etc, Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel, Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga and more recently, Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano were all terrible moves that fans will never forget.
However, in other moments, some of the Mets general managers have made brilliant trades and decisions which ultimately brought a decent amount of success for the Mets. Nonetheless, in the end, just about all of these general managers made a bad move or two that ultimately led to their firings.
To be honest, not all of these General Managers (mostly the bottom three) even deserve to be mentioned as part of a Top 10 list, but if one were to be created, it would probably look something like this.
Here are the top 10 General Managers in Mets history: The good, the bad and the ugly.
Honorable Mention: Al Harazin
The Mets have had plenty of bad general managers in their history, but Al Harazin is without question the ultimate goat for beginning the downward spiral that affected the Mets through most of the 1990s, and for eventually becoming the worst general manager money could by.
Harazin was originally one of Frank Cashen's top assistants, along with another future general manager, Joe McIlvaine. After Cashen decided to step down following the 1991 season, he selected Harazin to replace him. This was a bad decision from the start. With most of the Mets' 1980s stars already gone, Harazin decided to rebuild the team...by signing veterans that were already past their prime.
The first bad move Harazin made was signing Jeff Torborg to become the new manager. Harazin apparently thought that the 1990 AL Manager of the Year could lead the team back to success, but this ended up being far from the truth, as Torborg's 1992 team became "The Worst Team Money Could Buy,"and Harazin was at the very top of those that were blamed for the lack of success.
Eddie Murray and, when he was not being a distraction, Bobby Bonilla were two of Harazin's few good pickups, but he made some terrible trades that did anything but benefit the Mets. One of his first trades was sending Kevin McReynolds and Gregg Jeffries to the Royals for the two-time Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen. McReynolds and Jeffries kept hitting, while outside of a strong 1994 season, Saberhagen underachieved and is best known as a Met for setting off a firecracker and spraying bleach at reporters.
In August of 1992, he traded the popular David Cone, who was still throwing gas, to the eventual World Champion Blue Jays for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson. This was one of the worse trades in Mets history, as Cone went on to bigger and better achievements by winning championships with the Blue Jays, and eventually with the Yankees as well.
On the other hand, Kent showed some early signs of the great player he would later become with the Giants, but Thompson, who was projected as the center fielder of the future, was a complete bust and did not put up the numbers everyone was hoping for. He also spent a good chunk of time on the disabled list.
After the 1992 season, Harazin made another bad trade, this time with the Padres to acquire Tony Fernandez. Fernandez hit just .225 in 48 games with the Mets in 1993 before being traded again to the Blue Jays, whom he helped win another championship.
The horrendous 1993 Mets got off to a bad start, and after firing Torborg on May 19, Harazin decided to resign a month later, realizing that he indeed played a big role in how the Mets' personnel failed to achieve success. McIlvaine was soon brought back to the Mets and replaced Harazin as the next General Manager.
The one thing Harazin should get credit for is some of the players he drafted during his thankfully brief tenure. Preston Wilson, Octavio Dotel and Benny Agbayani were all good future Mets that were selected by Harazin and his staff, and that should not go unnoticed. Nonetheless, Harazin is the worst general manager the Mets have had and hopefully, there will not be anyone in the Mets' future that is even worse.
10. Jim Duquette
This picture basically sums up why Jim Duquette's very brief tenure as the Mets' General Manager was a disaster. The reason he is above Harazin is that not only was his tenure one of the shortest ever, but it also did not have a downward spiral effect on future teams. But by no means should Duquette get any praise for the moves he made.
Duquette had been a longtime assistant under Steve Phillips and was appointed by the Mets' front office to replace Phillips in June of the 2003 season. He then signed a three-year contract that fortunately did not last its entire length.
The first thing Duquette did at his new post was trade away aging veterans Roberto Alomar and Jeromy Burnitz to the White Sox and Dodgers, respectively. A month later, he traded closer Armando Benitez to the Yankees. By then, Benitez had become quite inconsistent and his days were numbered. However, Duquette barely got any legitimate talent from all three of these trades.
Duquette's next big moves did not come until after the 2003 season. His first big signing was a mistake, as the Mets were able to lure Japanese free agent infielder Kazuo Matsui to the Mets for a multi-year contract. There is a good chance this was done to even themselves with the Yankees, who were able to sign a better Matsui. This Matsui was heralded as a switch-hitting infielder with power, but barely showed any of his Japanese fame as a Met.
He was even put at shortstop while Jose Reyes was moved to second base, which did not work out well for either side. Matsui was booed mercilessly in his own brief Mets tenure.
Duquette's other significant move in the 2003-2004 offseason was the signing of center fielder Mike Cameron, who led the 2004 Mets with 30 home runs. This one certainly turned out better, although in 2005, Cameron was moved to right field and did not adjust as well as everyone had hoped. Duquette also signed closer Braden Looper, who saved a good number of games, but was inconsistent at times, which led to a lot of boos.
The signing of older veterans Karim Garcia, Shane Spencer, Ricky Bottalico, Scott Erickson and James Baldwin all brought minimal results to the team. Garcia and Spencer were probably best known as off-field distractions during the 2004 spring training in their very brief tenures with the Mets.
One decent trade that Duquette made during the 2004 season was acquiring outfielder Richard Hidalgo from the Astros. Hidalgo hit 10 home runs in July, but did not do much else during the rest of the season.
But the No. 1 trade that led the Mets to eventually firing Duquette was the one in which he sent top prospect Scott Kazmir to the Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano. Everyone was completely puzzled once it happened. Zambrano barely made any contributions to the Mets and was out of baseball by 2007, while Kazmir blossomed with the Devil Rays and led them to an AL pennant in 2008.
After another poor finish in 2004, Duquette was fired after just one season as the official GM. Omar Minaya replaced him and immediately brought credibility back to the Mets.
9. Joe McDonald
Although M. Donald Grant made most of the final decisions at the time, the Joe McDonald era was definitely one of the darkest for the Mets, as fans saw many of their favorite players traded away, similarly to what the Marlins have now done periodically. Grant and McDonald were not big supporters of the new free agent market, and this certainly hurt the team for years.
McDonald was hired immediately after the 1974 season to replace Bob Scheffing, who was reassigned as a scout. The Mets' front office was apparently unhappy with some of Scheffing's questionable decisions, but the thought that McDonald would be better and would piece together a team that would contend never panned out.
Once hired, McDonald's first major trade involved the aging Ken Boswell going to the Astros for Bob Gallagher, who appeared in just 33 games in 1975 and was out of baseball soon after that. Boswell was near the end of his career, but McDonald failed to acquire someone valuable in return.
But it was his next major trade in December that led to some raised eyebrows. McDonald decided to trade popular closer Tug McGraw, along with center fielder Don Hahn and Dave Schneck to the Phillies for John Stearns, Del Unser and Mac Scarce. McGraw later coined this as a "Jack Daniels trade," which began McDonald's failed legacy as a Mets GM.
Stearns went on to become a Mets mainstay behind the plate for the rest of the decade, while McGraw pitched another 10 seasons in Philadelphia and helped the Phillies win their first championship in 1980. Clearly, the Phillies came out as the winners of this deal.
McDonald tried to make up for this blunder by bringing in Dave Kingman, who became the Mets' first genuine slugger. However, he spent part of his first stint with the Mets on the disabled list and when he wasn't hitting 450 foot bombs into the parking lot, he usually ended up striking out, which plagued him throughout his career.
In 1975, McDonald upset the Mets fans by releasing Cleon Jones. Apparently, Yogi Berra was involved in this, but it only made McDonald's reputation worse with the fans, who had grown to love Jones' play since the late 1960s. However, the next day, McDonald went out and acquired Skip Lockwood from the A's, who would become the closer for the rest of the decade.
The following offseason, McDonald made another huge blunder by trading away the popular Rusty Staub to the Tigers for Mickey Lolich. Lolich had put up very good numbers for years, but the Mets' offense did not give him good run support, as he finished 8-13 in 1976, despite a 3.22 ERA. He subsequently retired before the 1977 season, while Staub continued to hit well with the Tigers.
During 1976, McDonald made another bad trade by sending third baseman Wayne Garrett and Del Unser to the Expos for Pepe Mangual and Jim Dwyer, both of whom did not contribute much at all to the Mets.
But all of this was nothing compared to the horrendous decisions McDonald made in 1977. First, he fired manager Joe Frazier after the Mets got off to a bad start that year. He was replaced by Joe Torre, whose inexperience at the time definitely showed during his entire Mets managerial tenure.
With Tom Seaver in a long feud with Grant over financial negotiations, Seaver ended up demanding a trade. McDonald followed through during the Midnight Massacre, which disgusted the fans. The Mets ended up receiving Doug Flynn and Pat Zachry, among others from the Reds in exchange for Seaver, who kept his Hall of Fame career going, while the Mets immediately tanked for years.
That same day, McDonald also traded Kingman to the Padres for future manager Bobby Valentine.
McDonald was not done, as he traded longtime catcher Jerry Grote to the Dodgers as well for two players that never played a game for the Mets.
The cherry on top was an offseason trade that sent Jon Matlack and John Milner to the Rangers for Willie Montanez, Ken Henderson and Tom Grieve. By then, the Mets fans were simply infuriated at what Grant and McDonald had done to their team.
Right before the 1978 season, McDonald traded another mainstay in Bud Harrelson to the Phillies. The 1978 season was bad, but more quiet in regards to trades. Then after that season, Grant was finally canned and McDonald traded away the last of the Mets' dominant pitchers, Jerry Koosman, to the Twins for future closer Jesse Orosco. Although it was disappointing to see Koosman go, this trade actually benefited the Mets in the long run.
McDonald did make any significant moves in 1979, but by the end of the season, the team suffered their third consecutive losing season. In the offseason, the team was sold for the first time to Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon. The new ownership regime started off by firing McDonald before the 1980 season and replacing him with Frank Cashen, who immediately turned the Mets back into winners.
Under McDonald's watch, some good future Mets were drafted. They include Neil Allen, Mike Scott, Wally Backman, Mookie Wilson, and Hubie Brooks.
Despite a couple of decent trades and signings, McDonald's legacy as General Manager will forever be remembered by the Midnight Massacre, the Tug McGraw trade and the Rusty Staub trade. McDonald may have looked like M. Donald Grant's puppet at times, but he clearly was not able to make good moves. Thankfully, he became an afterthought once the Mets started winning under Frank Cashen.
8. Bing Devine
The fact that Bing Devine, who was the Mets General Manager for just one season in 1967, ranks above three other General Managers goes to show how poor those men were at making baseball decisions during their respective tenures. Nonetheless, Devine made a few good trades during his lone year at the helm before going back to the Cardinals to become their new General Manager. Apparently, Devine had been longing to return there, so he bolted there at the first chance he got.
While with the Mets, Devine was originally one of George Weiss' top assistants from 1965 until he resigned from the post after the 1966 season. Devine was named the second General Manager in Mets history and promptly traded popular second baseman Ron Hunt and Jim Hickman to the Dodgers for outfielder Tommy Davis. Davis ended up as the best hitter on the 1967 team before being traded again for Tommie Agee.
In February 1967, Devine signed reliever Ron Taylor, who would become a key component during the 1969 championship season. He made one solid trade during the 1967 season by acquiring third baseman Ed Charles from the Royals in May. He then made a brilliant swap after the season by acquiring Art Shamsky from the Reds for Bob Johnson. He then traded Davis, Jack Fisher and Billy Wynne to the White Sox for Agee and utility man Al Weis, before resigning and going to St. Louis.
Devine also deserves credit being the GM that ultimately brought Gil Hodges back to manage the Mets, although Johnny Murphy played a larger role in the deal. However, he deserves much more credit for persuading George Weiss to place the Mets into the Tom Seaver lottery. Weiss did not want to spend a lot on an unproven college pitcher, but Devine persuaded him to at least enter the lottery. It turned out that Devine's convincing became the greatest decision the Mets ever made.
During his one year at the helm, Devine managed to have a successful draft by selecting Jon Matlack and Gary Gentry, both of whom made big postseason contributions.
On most top General Managers ranks, Devine would probably be at the very bottom because he spent one year with the Mets and obviously wanted to go back to the Cardinals all along. However, other General Managers caused such a disaster to the team during their respective tenures that Devine ended up here mostly by default.
7. Joe McIlvaine
Although he was not particularly cut out to be a successful General Manager, Joe McIlvaine held his own and became one of the most aggressive General Managers the Mets have ever had. McIlvaine succeeded his former colleague Al Harazin in 1993, a month after Harazin resigned from the post.
McIlvaine let Howard Johnson and Sid Fernandez sign with other teams following the dreadful 1993 season, but he did not make any terrible trades prior to the 1994 season. The one significant trade he made was when he traded away the very disappointing Vince Coleman to the Royals and reacquired Kevin McReynolds, who spent the 1994 season with the Mets during his second stint.
He also traded the very unlucky Anthony Young to the Cubs for shortstop Jose Vizcaino, a mainstay for the next few seasons. He finished the 1994 spring training acquiring first baseman Rico Brogna from the Tigers, one of the more underrated trades he made. Unlike Harazin, who tried to rebuild the Mets by signing experienced veterans, McIlvaine's ultimate plan was to rebuild the Mets' minor league system and produce solid homegrown talent, which was certainly more successful.
Following the strike-shortened 1994 season, McIlvaine was very aggressive in the offseason and made some solid trades. These trades led to pitchers Dave Mlicki, Paul Byrd, Pete Harnisch and Doug Henry all becoming Mets. Right before the 1995 season, McIlvaine was able to pry center fielder Brett Butler to the Mets, only to trade him back to the Dodgers at the trade deadline.
But the best trade of this offseason was when McIlvaine sent infielder Quilvio Veras to the Marlins for a young outfielder named Carl Everett, a top prospect that was projected to be a five-tool player. Everett ended up becoming the starting right fielder midway through the 1995 season and showed glimpses of the talent he possessed.
After feuding with manager Dallas Green and not playing as much in 1996, Everett blossomed in 1997. That year, he showed even more of his potential by hitting long home runs in clutch situations and showing defensive capabilities at both center and right field, only to see himself traded to the Astros after the season amid rumors that his children were abused by him.
McIlvaine was busy during the 1995 trade deadline, as he first traded for a young pitcher Derek Wallace. Wallace had the talent to become a future closer, but a blood clot got in the way of that. Nonetheless, he made the most of his brief stay in 1996 by becoming the first Mets pitcher to strike out four batters in an inning while picking up the save.
McIlvaine then finally traded away the infamous Bobby Bonilla to the Orioles for another top outfield prospect in Alex Ochoa, while also sending Bret Saberhagen to the Rockies. Ochoa, whose arm was a cannon, was projected to be a five-tool player just like Everett, but his career ended up being that of a journeyman.
The Mets were certainly happy to get rid of Bonilla, but as a Met, Ochoa never lived up to his offensive potential. He spent 1996 and 1997 as the Mets' fifth outfielder, although he was occasionally put in as a defensive replacement. He ended up getting traded to the Twins prior to the 1998 season.
The 1995-1996 offseason ended up being by far the most productive for McIlvaine. He first signed Lance Johnson as the new center fielder. Johnson promptly delivered a career season in 1996 by setting Mets' single season records in runs scored (117), hits (227), triples (21) and total bases (327). As of 2011, his 227 hits and 21 triples are still single season records. He also batted .333, hit 31 doubles, stole 50 bases, struck out just 40 times and made the All-Star team in one of the finest Mets seasons ever.
However, Johnson was bothered with shin splints in 1997 and was not as productive, which led to him getting traded later that year.
The other huge move McIlvaine made brought left fielder Bernard Gilkey to the Mets. Gilkey's 1996 season was if not better, then at least as good as Johnson's. Gilkey had a career season as well by batting .317 with 30 home runs, 117 RBI, 44 doubles and 18 assists from left field. His RBI total tied Howard Johnson for the single-season record that was broken three years later by Mike Piazza, but the 44 doubles remain the all-time high.
Unfortunately, Gilkey struggled in 1997 and 1998 before finally getting traded, and never found his 1996 success ever again.
McIlvaine also made two other significant moves on the pitching end that were underrated at the time. The first of this was the signing of Rick Reed, originally a replacement player following the strike, but from 1997-2001, Reed became a two-time All-Star and one of the most dependable starters for the Mets during their success.
The other important move was sending the disappointing Ryan Thompson to the Indians for another starter in Mark Clark. Clark became the Mets' best pitcher in 1996 with 14 wins and a 3.43 ERA, although he ended up getting traded again at the 1997 trade deadline.
During the 1996 trade deadline, McIlvaine ended up making one of the worst trades in team history by sending eventual Hall of Famer Jeff Kent, as well as Jose Vizcaino, to the Indians for former All-Star second baseman Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza. Baerga apparently left his talent in Cleveland, as he became a huge disappointment during his two plus years with the Mets. He never hit more than nine home runs or drove in more than 52 RBI in both 1997 and 1998.
Kent, meanwhile, ended up becoming a star with the Giants and won the 2000 NL MVP.
In the 1996-1997 offseason, McIlvaine's moves began with more disappointment. Shortly after acquiring Armando Reynoso from the Rockies, who became a decent, but dependable starter for the Mets in 1997 and 1998, McIlvaine sent Brogna to the Phillies for relievers Toby Borland and Ricardo Jordan. McIlvaine's goal through this was to strengthen a weak bullpen, but clearly, those two were not the answer.
After Borland pitched horribly for a month, McIlvaine wasted no time in realizing his mistake by sending him to Boston in May of 1997. Jordan also pitched poorly and was gone after the season, while Brogna put together some good years with the Phillies.
However, McIlvaine made up for these blunders by making an amazing trade for first baseman John Olerud. He sent pitcher Robert Person to the Blue Jays for the former AL batting champion, and the Jays even paid most of Olerud's 1997 salary. Olerud became the team's best hitter in 1997 with a .294 average, 22 home runs and 102 RBI. A year later, he would set the Mets' single season batting record with a .354 average and was a key contributor during the 1999 playoffs.
Slowly but surely, the Mets' late 1990s-early 2000s team was getting assembled.
McIlvaine, before the season, made even more moves to try and strengthen the bullpen, but the two pitchers he got were Yorkis Perez and Barry Manuel, both of whom never found success of any kind. The 1997 Mets' bullpen, aside from John Franco, pitched poorly for the most part, which led to McIlvaine being blamed for its lack of success.
But what McIlvaine's tenure will mostly be remembered for is the promise and eventual collapse of the injury-plagued "Generation K."
Generation K was composed of pitchers Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson. All three were destined to become aces and take the Mets to greater success. The Mets did end up becoming successful, but Generation K had nothing to do with it. Isringhausen and Pulsipher both first appeared in 1995. Pulsipher was inconsistent, but Isringhausen pitched well late in the season and finished with a 9-2 record in just 14 starts.
In 1996, Pulsipher missed the whole season with injuries, beginning a familiar trend for the trio. Isringhausen struggled in his second year, while Wilson, the 1994 No. 1 overall draft pick, also struggled as the two combined for just 11 wins and a 5.05 ERA. After having surgery following the 1996 season, Wilson never pitched again for the Mets, as he was plagued with one injury after another before the Mets finally sent him packing in 2000. Pulsipher returned briefly in 1998, but pitched poorly and was sent to the Brewers.
He reappeared in 2000, but this stay was worse and even more brief. Isringhausen turned out to be the most successful of the trio, but his success did not occur until he was traded to Oakland in 1999 and converted to a closer. His best year was in 2004, when he led the NL with 47 saves. He is currently make a bid to resurrect his career with the Mets this season. All in all, the highly regarded trio did very little for the Mets, despite McIlvaine's efforts.
Once the Mets ownership finally realized that McIlvaine's strength was in player development and scouting instead of combining that with the business end of the General Manager position, McIlvaine was reassigned as a talent evaluator, while promoting Steve Phillips as the new GM. McIlvaine had apparently spent a lot of his time watching minor league players develop rather than watching his major league team compete.
As for drafting, McIlvaine had decent success, as Grant Roberts and Jason Phillips were among the notable draft picks under his watch. He also signed shortstop Rey Ordonez at the beginning of his tenure.
Overall, McIlvaine was very aggressive, but made some solid trades and signings for the Mets, particularly that of Rick Reed and John Olerud. However, the Generation K collapse and the Carlos Baerga trade will probably be what fans will remember most about him. Nevertheless, the Mets may not have had success in the McIlvaine era, but the 1997-2000 success would not have been the same without some of McIlvaine's key decisions.
6. Bob Scheffing
After Johnny Murphy's sudden heart attack months after the 1969 championship, Bob Scheffing was named as the new General Manager. Scheffing originally was a catcher who played on the Cubs, Reds and Cardinals from 1941-1951. Scheffing later became the Mets' Director of Player Development and was promoted to hopefully make good trades that would lead to a potential late 1960s-early 1970s dynasty. The Mets came close in one of his years, but not as much in the others.
When Scheffing began his tenure, he did not make any moves before the 1970 season. The team would finish 83-79 that year, a 17-game drop from 1969.
Scheffing had a quiet 1970-1971 offseason, with one notable exception. Right before the 1971 season began, he traded the popular Ron Swoboda to the Expos for a light-hitting center fielder, Don Hahn. Hahn provided good defense for the 1973 team, but his hitting was not at Swoboda's level.
Midway through the 1971 season, Scheffing released utility man Al Weis, who subsequently retired.
But it was the 1971-1972 offseason that Scheffing will be most remembered for. First, he traded Art Shamsky and three others to the Cardinals for Jim Beauchamp, Harry Parker and two other players. Shamsky was one of the Mets' better hitters in 1969, but batted just .185 in 1971, leading to the trade. The Mets did not get much back, as Beauchamp played sparingly in 1972 and 1973.
Parker pitched well as a set-up man in 1973, but struggled in 1974 by losing 12 games and was sold midway through 1975.
Scheffing then sold dependable reliever Ron Taylor to the Expos and released 1969 World Series hero Donn Clendenon. Clendenon could still hit, but batted just .247 in 1971 as a platoon player.
But the day after releasing Clendenon, Scheffing made by far one of the worst trades in team history by trading fireballer Nolan Ryan and three others to the Angels for infielder Jim Fregosi.
Fregosi struggled with the Mets as their new third baseman and was sold midway through the 1973 season as the team kept trying new ways to find a permanent fit at third base. Meanwhile, Ryan would go on to bigger and better accomplishments as a Hall of Famer with the Angels, Astros and Rangers. He would go on to pitch a record seven no-hitters and played in 27 total seasons, another record. He also became the all-time strikeout king with 5,714.
However, not all the blame on this trade should be put just on Scheffing. Ryan had apparently become frustrated as a Met, most likely due to his 29-38 Mets record. Furthermore, the Texan-born Ryan told Mets management that he was not happy in New York for various reasons, and was considering retirement if they wouldn't trade him. Not wanting to lose Ryan for nothing, Scheffing traded him, but he could have gotten a lot more in return than just Fregosi.
In the end, Ryan became a Hall of Famer and the Mets still had trouble finding a permanent third baseman for the rest of the decade.
Scheffing nonetheless made up for his recent blunder by acquiring Rusty Staub from the Expos. Staub became the team's best hitter in the mid-1970s and became the first Met to drive in over 100 RBI when he had 105 in 1975.
After manager Gil Hodges had passed away from a heart attack right before the 1972 season, Scheffing promoted Yogi Berra to become the new manager.
In May 1972, Scheffing made another good trade that brought the legendary Willie Mays back to New York. By then, Mays was well past his prime and was at the end of his career. Nonetheless, he made some clutch contributions off the bench during the 1973 postseason run.
After the 1972 season, Scheffing made yet another solid deal by acquiring the lefty George Stone and second baseman Felix Millan from the Braves. Stone won 12 games in 1973, while Millan led that team's offense with a .290 average.
However, a few weeks later, Scheffing also sent the popular Tommie Agee to the Astros. Agee, though, retired after the 1973 season at just 31 years old, so that trade was not as bad as it could have been.
Outside of selling Fregosi, Scheffing did not make any moves on the surprising NL pennant-winning 1973 Mets, who lost to the Oakland A's in the World Series. Mays retired following the season.
Scheffing did not make any moves during the 1974 season, but the team had finished 71-91, considerably worse from the previous year. M. Donald Grant and the rest of the front office apparently became very upset and immediately reassigned Scheffing to be a scout, while promoting Joe McDonald as the new General Manager.
This turned out to be a terrible move as, outside of 1976, the Mets never found any success during McDonald's tenure. Had Grant and his staff not canned Scheffing right after 1974, maybe the team would have been better.
Scheffing will forever be remembered for the Nolan Ryan trade, but despite that, he made some good moves for the Mets, trading for players like Staub, Stone, Millan and Mays. He was also relatively successful with drafting, as the Mets made good selections with Ron Hodges and Lee Mazzilli in his tenure. Scheffing should have been given another chance in 1975, but he is still among one of the better General Managers in team history.
5. Omar Minaya
Omar Minaya's tenure is all too familiar with fans right now. He got the Mets back into relevance when he was first hired, but at the end, some of his decisions were simply awful. Despite some of the moves that still haunt the Mets today, the Minaya era still had plenty of good moments.
Minaya was hired immediately after the 2004 season to replace Jim Duquette, who simply did not know what he was doing. Minaya had been Steve Phillips' long time top assistant, but became the Expos' new GM in the beginning of 2002. He became the first hispanic General Manager while doing so. His brief Expos tenure was highlighted by a terrible trade that sent then-minor leaguers Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips, along with veteran Lee Stevens, to the Indians for Bartolo Colon, who pitched well that year, but this was clearly a loss for the Expos.
After the Mets' disappointing and very chaotic 2004 season, owner Fred Wilpon personally asked MInaya to become the Mets' new GM following the season. Minaya accepted the job and rebuilt the Mets right away.
The first thing MInaya did was hire Willie Randolph to replace Art "The Lame Duck" Howe as the new manager. Randolph had never managed before, but Minaya had confidence in him from the beginning.
Minaya's next major move was the signing of the three-time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez. Martinez brought credibility to the Mets' rotation instantly and won 15 games to the lead the Mets in 2005 before injuries limited his production in the subsequent years.
After sigining Martinez, Minaya turned to the offense and signed the best offensive free agent that year, Carlos Beltran, to a seven-year deal. Beltran struggled in 2005, but was a significant part of the Mets offense from 2006-2008 before knee injuries caught up with him.
That offseason, Minaya also made a bunch of minor moves, signing Marlon Anderson, Doug Mientkiewicz, Miguel Cairo, Ramon Castro and Roberto Hernandez. He traded Jason Phillips for Kaz Ishii, both of whom did not play as well after the trade compared to before.
During the 2005 season, Minaya made more moves, signing veterans Jose Offerman and Danny Graves, as well as a very young Fernando Martinez.
Minaya was even busier in the 2005-2006 offseason. He first traded away a disgruntled Mike Cameron to the Padres for Xavier Nady, who was a fine hitter in 2006 before getting traded again to the Pirates. Minaya then made a significant trade by sending Mike Jacobs, among others, to the Marlins for the slugging first baseman Carlos Delgado. Mientkiewicz struggled throughout 2005, so Delgado replaced him and gave the Mets a solid cleanup hitter.
Five days later, Minaya signed fireballing closer Billy Wagner to a three year deal. Wagner was an instant upgrade from Braden Looper and was clutch in the 2006 playoff run.
Soon after, Minaya made another significant trade that brought catcher Paul Lo Duca to the Mets. Lo Duca did a very good job in replacing future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza behind the plate in 2006, but did not play as well in 2007.
Minaya again made many small moves that turned out to be very good for the Mets. Jose Valentin, Julio Franco, Endy Chavez, Chad Bradford, Pedro Feliciano and Darren Oliver all played key roles in the 2006 success.
Minaya also made two small but significant trades that offseason. The first sent Jae Seo and Tim Hamulack to the Dodgers for set-up man Duaner Sanchez. Sanchez pitched brilliantly in 2006 before his famous taxi accident that ended his season; he never found much success as a Met after that. The other trade sent Kris Benson to the Orioles for reliever Jorge Julio and a young John Maine. While Julio got traded a few months later for Orlando Hernandez, Maine went on to pitch well in the 2006 postseason and won 15 games in 2007.
Midway through the 2006 season, Minaya sent underachieving second baseman Kaz Matsui to the Rockies for Eli Marrero. Marrero only lasted two months with the Mets, but fans were glad to get rid of Matsui, who was one of the biggest busts of the decade. Minaya also traded Jeff Keppinger to the Royals for Ruben Gotay, who hit well in 2007.
After Sanchez's taxi accident, Minaya made his first bad trade with the Mets by bringing back Roberto Hernandez, along with the infamous Oliver Perez, in exchange for Nady. Hernandez did not pitch as well this time around, while Perez pitched well in the 2006 postseason and won 15 games in 2007.
After a decent 2008, Perez has since become the most worthless player in baseball.
As the team was getting close to winning the division, Minaya got outfielder and former Yankee Ricky Ledee off waivers and traded for Shawn Green to be the new right fielder. Green did well that year, but struggled throughout 2007.
Another interesting trade Minaya made was to get reliever Guillermo Mota from the Indians. Mota was a revelation at the end of 2006 and had a 1.00 ERA in 18 innings. However, he was suspended for the first 50 games of 2007 as a result of performance-enhancing drugs. After he returned, he struggled badly and fans booed him mercilessly.
After the 2006 season, Minaya made a terrible trade by sending relievers Heath Bell and Royce Ring to the Padres for Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins. Johnson and Adkins did virtually nothing with the Mets, while Bell thrived and became one of the National League's best closers.
Minaya also traded away one-time closer Matt Lindstrom to the Marlins for Jason Vargas and sent Brian Bannister for Ambiorix Burgos, who made more off-field headlines than on-field. He let Bradford and Oliver sign with other teams, while bringing in veterans Damion Easley and Moises Alou. Aside from his Mets record 30-game hitting streak at the end of 2007, Alou was basically injured throughout his two Mets years.
Minaya's next four signings were all highly unsuccessful. David Newhan basically took up a roster spot in 2007, while Jorge Sosa and Scott Schoeneweis were both disastrous for the Mets' bullpen. The veteran Aaron Sele did not do much better. Minaya though did make two good moves in the 2007 season by signing Fernando Tatis, who would play a big role in 2008, as well as bringing back Marlon Anderson.
However, after Jose Valentin got hurt in 2007, Minaya made by far one of his worst trades by not only acquiring an aging Luis Castillo, but then signing him to an absurd four year deal after the season. Minaya also acquired Jeff Conine to help the Mets with their ultimately failed playoff push that year.
In the 2007-2008 offseason, Minaya traded Mota to the Brewers for Johnny Estrada, who was soon traded again. He also traded one-time top prospect Lastings Milledge to the Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. This trade ultimately worked for both sides, as all three players have struggled ever since. Church could have been a good hitter, but after a concussion midway through 2008, his hitting declined.
Minaya's decision to sign Matt Wise prior to the 2008 season was one of his worst. Wise appeared in just eight games for the Mets due to lingering arm injuries and has not pitched in the major leagues since.
However, Minaya made his best move since the Martinez and Beltran signings by acquiring Johan Santana from the Twins in a blockbuster trade. The talent the Mets gave up included Carlos Gomez and Phil Humber, but the Mets clearly won this deal, as Santana won 16 games in 2008 and pitched well in 2009 and 2010 despite a few injuries and a never-ending lack of run support.
The Mets were widely expected to win the division as a result of this trade.
In June of 2008, Minaya decided to fire Willie Randolph during the Mets' road trip in Anaheim. However, the way he handled it was poor. He let Randolph manage the first game of the series, and then decided to send him home at 3:00 AM eastern time. Pitching coach Rick Peterson and first base Tom Nieto were also fired. Although everyone wanted Randolph fired at the time, Minaya was heavily criticized for how it occurred. Minaya promoted bench coach Jerry Manuel to be the new manager.
Minaya did not do much with player moves during the 2008 season, except for acquiring Luis Ayala to be the new closer after Wagner was shut down for the rest of the season. Ayala failed miserably in this new role, as the Mets suffered their second straight collapse and missed the playoffs again.
After 2008, Minaya set his sights on improving the bullpen once and for all. And the moves he made certainly made him look very good. He signed top closer Francisco Rodriguez to a three year deal, which outside of Rodriguez's infamous family brawl, has been pretty good. Minaya then traded for another closer in J.J. Putz to become the set-up man. Putz, however, pitched poorly in June before missing the rest of the season due to injuries.
In that deal, the Mets also got Jeremy Reed and Sean Green, both of whom did not contribute much in their brief tenures.
However, in that same offseason, Minaya also made his worst decision as GM to sign Oliver Perez to a new three-year contract worth $36 million. This money has basically become dead weight as Perez's contributions the past two years have simply been meaningless.
As usual, Minaya made a bunch of small moves, leading to Tim Redding, Alex Cora, Livan Hernandez, Cory Sullivan and Elmer Dessens all becoming Mets. Right before the season started, Minaya was able to lure the veteran Gary Sheffield to the Mets in what would be his final season.
The 2009 team was an injury-plagued disaster, but because of the injuries, it's hard to pin Minaya as the only person to be blamed. He made a good trade in July by sending Church to the Braves for Jeff Francoeur, who hit well for the rest of the season and played decently in 2010 before being traded again to the Rangers.
By the end of 2009, Minaya knew his job and manager Jerry Manuel's were both on the line. He made brilliant under-the-radar move by signing R.A. Dickey to a minor-league deal. Dickey ended up getting promoted to the Mets in May 2010 and became one of their top starters by winning 11 games.
He then signed Jason Bay to a lucrative four-year deal. However, Bay struggled throughout 2010 with just six home runs before sustaining a collision that ended his season. Despite making more good pickups with Rod Barajas and Hisanori Takahashi, Minaya's signing of Ryota Igarashi backfired as Igarashi struggled with his control for most of the season. But this was not as bad as his trade to acquire Gary Matthews Jr. from the Angels for Brian Stokes. Matthews did literally nothing before finally getting released just two months into the season.
After the 2010 team finished four games under .500, Minaya and Manuel were both fired immediately after the season. Sandy Alderson is now the new General Manager.
Like Joe McIlvaine and his former boss Steve Phillips, Omar Minaya was one of the most aggressive General Managers the Mets have ever had. He made some brilliant decisions in the beginning of his tenure, but after some very poor decisions at the end, his time simply was up. Minaya may return to the Mets in a different capacity at some point, but he has also received offers from other teams. Minaya will definitely not be missed at the moment, but later on, he will definitely get more recognized for his important contributions towards the Mets' 2006 success.
4. Steve Phillips
Like both his predecessor, Joe McIlvaine, and his assistant, Omar Minaya, Steve Phillips was another Mets GM that was very aggressive throughout his tenure. His aggressiveness certainly paid off when the Mets were one of baseball's best teams in 1999 and 2000. However, that same aggressiveness led to the Mets underachieving, and ultimately his firing midway through 2003.
Phillips had been in the Mets' front office throughout the 1990s as an assistant, primarily for Joe McIlvaine. He was always involved in McIlvaine's moves, but after some poor decisions made by his boss, Phillips was promoted to be the new GM on July 16, 1997, while McIlvaine became a talent evaluator, a position that better suited him.
The first major decision Phillips made as GM occurred slightly after the trade deadline on August 8. That day, Phillips his first of many large trades by sending center fielder/1996 sensation Lance Johnson, along with dependable starter Mark Clark and backup infielder Manny Alexander to the Cubs.
In return, the Mets got another center fielder in Brian McRae, a proven reliever in Mel Rojas and another soon-to-be proven reliever, Turk Wendell. Despite missing a month with shin splints, Johnson was batting .309 with the Mets that year. However, this move ended up giving a lot more freedom for Carl Everett to play every day in what was a crowded outfield. Nonetheless, Johnson was a popular player and fans were disappointed to see him go.
Despite a down year in 1997, McRae emerged as one of the Mets' best hitters in 1998 with 21 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Johnson's career, meanwhile, was never the same afterward. Regardless, Phillips made this move in an attempt to improve an underachieving bullpen. His main focus at the time was Rojas, a former Expos closer, but Rojas struggled mightily with the Mets through the 1998 season and was booed mercilessly. Wendell, in fact, turned out to be the big steal as a dependable set-up man for the next few seasons.
In the end, this deal definitely benefited the Mets.
At the end of the month, Phillips also sent the depressed Pete Harnisch to the Brewers. Somehow tabbed as the 1997 Opening Day starter, Harnisch battled depression starting soon after his first start and lasting until August, but he was ineffective when he returned. Feuding with Bobby Valentine in a Baltimore hotel did not help either. He went on to pitch much better for the Reds the following year.
At the end of the season, Phillips had a lot of work to do. The Mets' star catcher Todd Hundley was expected to miss at least most of the 1998 season while recovering from elbow surgery and the Mets needed another proven catcher to fill the void until his return. Phillips though failed to sign a proven catcher throughout the offseason, as he ended up settling for Tim Spehr, but that did not stop him from making other moves.
After losing reliever Cory Lidle to the expansion draft, Phillips began the offseason by trading away the disappointing Alex Ochoa to the Twins for another short-lived disappointment in Rich Becker. Becker ended up getting released two months into the season. A week later, Phillips made a solid trade by acquiring lefty Dennis Cook from the Marlins for two minor leaguers. Cook would team up with Wendell to become a dominant tandem of set-up men in the years to come.
Four days later, in one of Phillips' more disappointing trades, he sent the volatile Carl Everett to the Astros for overrated reliever John Hudek. Hudek ended up getting traded again midway through the season for Lenny Harris, while Everett's production (and temper) reached new heights while with the Astros, and later the Red Sox.
After his infamous child abuse case, Phillips knew Everett had become a distraction and had to go, even though he publicly denied that claim. Nonetheless, he could have gotten better talent in return than just Hudek.
In January 1998, Phillips signed Japanese import Masato Yoshii, who emerged as one of the more dependable Mets starters in 1998 and 1999. A month later, he made his first big splash by acquiring Al Leiter from the World Champion Marlins. Leiter ended up becoming the Mets' ace during his tenure and gave the Mets a dependable lefty starter that they did not have since the Bob Ojeda and Sid Fernandez days. One of the minor leaguers that the Mets traded for Leiter turned out to be current Yankee A.J. Burnett.
After Opening Day catcher Tim Spehr got hurt at the beginning of May, Phillips knew that he had to do something to improve the position. Then, the Dodgers' premier catcher Mike Piazza declined a contract extension and was traded to the Marlins. Phillips then made every effort to get him to the Mets, even though at one point he claimed he was not pursuing Piazza. But on May 23, Phillips came through and delivered a Piazza that elevated the Mets to another level.
During the season, Phillips took about week-long leave of absence from the Mets to deal with a sexual harassment claim that was filed against him. The Mets publicly defended Phillips throughout this issue.
In June, Phillips was able to send Dave Mlicki and Greg McMichael to the Dodgers for All-Star Hideo Nomo. However, Nomo did not pitch as well in his brief stint with the Mets. Phillips meanwhile ended up getting McMichael back to the Mets a month later to improve the bullpen in exchange for big lefty Brian Bohanon. McMichael's two trades was something only Phillips could have come up with.
At the 1998 deadline, Phillips finally sent a declining Bernard Gilkey to the Diamondbacks for Willie Blair and Jorge Fabregas. Both Blair and Fabregas contributed minimally to the Mets, but Gilkey's hitting had only gotten worse and worse since his career season in 1996.
To fill his void, Phillips also acquired Tony Phillips from the Blue Jays, who did not do much better than Gilkey and was gone after the season. On the same day as the Gilkey trade, Phillips sent the once promising lefty Bill Pulsipher to the Brewers. Pulsipher had a lot of talent, but spent a lot time on the disabled list and like the rest of Generation K, was never able to show a full season's worth of pitching.
The 1998-1999 offseason was one of the busiest for Phillips. He replaced the declining Carlos Baerga with Gold Glove third baseman Robin Ventura, while Edgardo Alfonzo moving to second base. Right fielder Butch Huskey, who outside of 1997 had failed to put together a strong full season of hitting and was sent to the Mariners, while Mel Rojas was traded for Huskey's original replacement, the one and only Bobby Bonilla.
This Bonilla was much worse, feuded with Bobby Valentine, played sparingly as the 1999 season went on and was caught playing cards at the end of the NLCS that year. Phillips though agreed to release Bonilla before the 2000 season and not pay him the $5.9 million he was owed. As a result, beginning this year, the Mets will be paying Bonilla almost $30 million between 2011-2035.
The biggest signing of the Phillips era turned out to be the seven-year contract Piazza signed to stay with the Mets for a then-record $91 million. As a result, Todd Hundley was the odd man out and was shipped to the Dodgers for Roger Cedeno and Charles Johnson. Johnson was then swapped to the Orioles for the hard-throwing Armando Benitez, who would soon become the Mets' new closer following a John Franco injury.
Phillips was also able to sign the legendary Rickey Henderson to become the new left fielder and Henderson played well throughout 1999 as he continued his legacy as the greatest base stealer ever.
Right before spring training, Phillips signed the veteran and former Cy Young winner Orel Hershiser, who became dependable in the back end of the rotation that year. He was also a good mentor towards the younger pitchers.
At the 1999 trade deadline, Phillips was busy once again as he first acquired Kenny Rogers from the A's. Rogers did well as a rental pitcher, but ended up giving up the walk that cost the Mets the pennant. A week later, Phillips made one of his worst trades by sending Greg McMichael and heralded, but unproven phenom Jason Isringhausen to the A's for Billy Taylor.
Taylor was expected to help the Mets' bullpen, but in the end became a mere afterthought as his ERA ballooned to over 8.00 in his brief stint. Meanwhile, Isringhausen developed into a strong closer with the A's and got even better with the Cardinals. That same day saw Brian McRae, who had failed to repeat his 1998 numbers, to the Rockies for Darryl Hamilton and Chuck McElroy. Hamilton was certainly an upgrade at center field and hit well the rest of the season.
In September, Phillips made yet another deal to get Glendon Rusch from the Royals. Rusch ended up being a good No. 5 starter for the 2000 Mets.
In the offseason, the Mets lost John Olerud, as he signed with the Mariners to be closer to home. Replacing him was Todd Zeile, who had a good season in 2000. But the big trade of this offseason was when Phillips sent Roger Cedeno, who had played well in 1999, along with Octavio Dotel to the Astros for ace Mike Hampton and right fielder Derek Bell. Hampton pitched well once again in 2000 and won the game that sent the Mets to the 2000 World Series.
However, he joined the Rockies after the season. Bell also played well, but got hurt in Game 1 of the NLDS in what became his final game as a Met.
The only other significant signing at the end of the 1999-2000 offseason was the signing of Timo Perez, who would eventually become an important outfielder in the 2000 playoffs after Derek Bell got hurt.
At the 2000 trade deadline, Phillips ended making three trades. The first was one of his worst trades, which sent Melvin Mora, Mike Kinkade and two minor leaguers to the Orioles for shortstop Mike Bordick. Rey Ordonez was out for the year with an injury and Bordick was acquired to be a rental shortstop for the rest of the year. He ended up being hurt during the playoffs and went back to Baltimore the following year, while Mora ended up becoming an All-Star.
In the second deal, Phillips traded top prospect Jason Tyner, as well the injury-riddled former No. 1 overall draft pick Paul Wilson to the Devil Rays for Bubba Trammell and reliever Rick White. Tyner and Wilson never resurrected their careers, while Trammell was traded to the Padres to the off-season for the ineffective Donne Wall. White became one of the more dependable Mets relievers during the rest of 2000, as well as 2001.
The third trade did not get a lot of attention because it involved the Mets acquiring reserve infielder Jorge Velandia from the A's for a minor leaguer named Nelson Cruz. Velandia never ended up being a productive player, while Cruz is now an All-Star right fielder for the Rangers. The Mets today certainly could use his bat.
After the season, Phillips failed to re-sign Hampton and Bell as they went to the Rockies and Pirates, respectively. To replace Hampton's spot, Phillips went out and signed the best starter in a weak market, Kevin Appier. Appier pitched modestly well for the Mets in 2001 only to see himself traded again in the following offseason.
Phillips did not do much else in the 2000-2001 offseason, but was busy once again at the deadline. This time around, he made rather unpopular trades. The popular backup catcher Todd Pratt was sent to the Phillies for fellow catcher Gary Bennett.
Exactly a month later, Bennett was traded to the Rockies for a minor leaguer. The successful tandem of Dennis Cook and Turk Wendell were both sent to the Phillies as well for Bruce Chen and a minor leaguer. Chen pitched decently in his brief stint with the Mets that year. But the most puzzling trade Phillips made was sending dependable Rick Reed to the Twins for Matt Lawton. Mets pitching only got worse after Reed was traded and Lawton was gone after the season.
In the following offseason, Phillips first traded a declining Robin Ventura to the crosstown Yankees for David Justice, who in turn was traded a week later to the A's for lefty reliever Mark Guthrie and righty Tyler Yates. Guthrie had a solid scoreless streak in 2002, but outside of that, he was not particularly impressive. Phillips brought back Roger Cedeno on a three year deal, but Cedeno this time around was not the speedster he was in 1999. He had gained weight and did not hit as well.
David Weathers and Satoru Komiyama were both signed to improve the bullpen, but neither were particularly good.
The biggest trade of this offseason was when Phillips decided to acquire Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar from the Indians. To get him, they had to send Lawton, top prospect Alex Escobar, and pitcher Jerrod Riggan, as well as two minor leaguers. The Mets also got lefty Mike Bacsik in this deal, who would later become the pitcher that gave up Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run. It has since been said that Phillips at the time would not have been afraid to include Jose Reyes in the Alomar trade, which thankfully never happened.
Phillips was not done. He traded the colorful (literally) Tsuyoshi Shinjo and utility infielder Desi Relaford to the Giants for lefty starter Shawn Estes. Estes is best known for hitting a home run against Roger Clemens in a Subway Series game in 2002. The rest of his Mets resume was not as good.
Eleven days later, Phillips made another big trade by sending Appier to the Angels for former MVP Mo Vaughn. As the new first baseman, Mo Vaughn became one of the biggest busts the Mets have had in recent years. Everyone expected a monster year from him in 2002, but all they got was 26 home runs and 72 RBI from him, along with 145 strikeouts. Vaughn was in terrible shape even before he got to the Mets and was coming off an injury that caused him to miss all of 2001. Nevertheless, Phillips felt that he could be a successful cleanup hitter and give good protection to Mike Piazza.
It got even worse for Vaughn in 2003, who gained even more weight and played in just 27 games before a knee injury ultimately ended his career. Phillips however decided to keep him on the roster as an insurance dodge. Nevertheless, Vaughn became the last Met to wear No. 42.
In January 2002, Phillips signed veteran pitcher Pedro Astacio and traded Todd Zeile and Benny Agbayani to the Rockies for Alex Ochoa. That same day, Ochoa, along with Glendon Rusch and Lenny Harris were all traded to the Brewers for slugger Jeromy Burnitz, pitcher Jeff D'Amico, infielder Lou Collier and Mark Sweeney. The latter two never ended up playing for the Mets.
Burnitz was brought over to bring more power to the lineup, but struggled in 2002 by hitting just .215 and only getting 54 RBI despite 19 home runs. After struggling at the start of 2003, Burnitz finally picked it up in the middle of the season, but ended up getting traded again to the Dodgers once the Mets were clearly out of contention.
At the very beginning of the 2002 season, Phillips traded Chen, Dicky Gonzalez and Luis Figueroa to the Expos for reliever Scott Strickland, as well as Matt Watson and Phil Seibel. Strickland was plagued with injuries from 2003-2004, but was not particularly effective in 2002. That same day, Marco Scutaro was claimed off waivers. He played occasionally in 2002 and 2003, but would be claimed off waivers by the A's, who helped him turn into an everyday shortstop.
Once again, Phillips was busy in what would become his last trade deadline. He made another poor trade by sending Bobby M. Jones (the lefty), and a young player by the name of Jason Bay to the Padres for side-armer Steve Reed and Jason Middlebrook. Reed was gone after the season, while Bay ended up getting traded again to the Pirates, which was where he thrived and became a solid power hitter.
That same day, Phillips also dealt Jay Payon and Mark Corey to the Rockies for John Thomson and Mark Little, both of whom contributed almost nothing to the Mets. Corey is best known for having a seizure after smoking pot one night with outfielder Tony Tarasco. This, along with a picture of pitcher Grant Roberts taking a bong hit were images and news that the Mets did not want to associate with. Estes was later traded as well to the Reds, most notably for Pedro Feliciano.
After a poor finish for the Mets in 2002, Phillips tried once again to improve the team. He signed veteran Cy Young lefty Tom Glavine to a four year contract, which was something the Braves did not enjoy seeing. Glavine was solid for the Mets, but never as good as he was with the Braves. Phillips let popular infielder Edgardo Alfonzo sign with the Giants, which did not turn out as bad as fans had thought due to Fonzie's lingering back problems.
Phillips also traded Ordonez to the Devil Rays for two prospects. Ordonez had lost his amazing range after his 2000 injury and was never as good ever since.
Lefty reliever Mike Stanton and outfielder Cliff Floyd were soon signed as well. Floyd was supposed to contribute heavily to the offense, but the Mets only got one healthy season from him in 2005, when he hit 34 home runs and drove in 98 RBI. Rey Sanchez was brought in to be the new shortstop, but his stay was short with the arrival of Jose Reyes. Phillips also brought Tsuyoshi Shinjo back to the Mets, but Shinjo was not as good or even exciting in his brief second stint.
Veteran David Cone was even brought back to the Mets in what became his victory lap. He pitched briefly before retiring in May 2003.
Despite the many different trades Phillips made, one thing always remained the same, and that was his relationship with manager Bobby Valentine. It became no secret by around 2000 that they did not get along. Whether it was personal or over baseball matters may be unknown, but it came to as no surprise when Valentine was fired after 2002.
Phillips only made the Mets worse when he hired Art Howe to replace Valentine. When the Mets got off to a poor start in 2003, the Mets ownership had had enough of Phillips, fired him in June and replaced him with his understudy, Jim Duquette.
Phillips was definitely one of the Mets' best General Managers when it came to drafting. The notable draftees in Phillips era include Ty Wigginton, Mike Jacobs, Angel Pagan, David Wright, Aaron Heilman, Lastings Milledge and Brian Bannister. Phillips was also the guy that signed Jose Reyes in 1999.
Phillips has since worked for years with ESPN as both a color commentator and in-studio baseball analyst. However, he was fired after news came out that he was having an affair with an ESPN intern, Brooke Hundley. His wife has since divorced him and as a result, he has recently received more unwanted media attention. Today, he works for AOL FanHouse and does radio work for WFAN and Sirius Radio. He has also contributed his voice as a color commentator on MLB 2K9-11.
Steve Phillips was as aggressive as a GM could be. He made some brilliant trades in the beginning of his tenure, but the trades he made later on, particularly the Roberto Alomar and Mo Vaughn trades ended up costing him his job, but his replacement, Duquette did not do any better. Regardless, Steve Phillips built the 1999 Wild Card winners and 2000 National League Champions and he deserves a lot of credit for their success.
Mike Piazza would not have become a Met if it wasn't for Phillips' efforts.
3. Johnny Murphy
Johnny Murphy, a longtime George Weiss assistant, is one of the best General Managers the Mets have had, and mostly because he was the final architect of the 1969 championship team. He was hired once Bing Devine decided to go back to the Cardinals at the beginning of 1968. Murphy ended up only being the GM for two years (which ultimately was not his fault), but some of the moves he made got the Mets their first championship and Murphy ended up in the Mets Hall of Fame later on as a result.
After being very instrumental in bringing back Gil Hodges to manage the Mets, as well as the Tommie Agee and Al Weis trade, Murphy did not do too much during the 1968 season. After the season, he cut ties with the disappointing Don Bosch and took a young third baseman in Wayne Garrett from the Braves in the Rule 5 Draft. Garrett ended up platooning with Ed Charles at third base in 1969 and had a breakout season in 1973.
But the big trade that Murphy is remembered for the most occurred in June 1969, when he brought the Mets a slugger they badly needed in first baseman Donn Clendenon. Although Clendenon, like many other Mets regulars, platooned at first base with Ed Kranepool, he hit very well as a Met with 12 home runs in just over 200 at-bats.
With the Braves showcasing mostly right-handers during the NLCS, Clendenon's big moments would occur against the more lefty-oriented Orioles in the World Series. He hit three crucial home runs in the series, including the clinching game. His home runs would help him become the World Series MVP, and he obviously was the Met with such an honor. In 1970, Clendenon would break Frank Thomas' then-club record of 94 RBI by driving in 97 RBI.
After the championship season ended, Murphy released Ed Charles, who subsequently retired. He tried to improve third baseman once again by trading Amos Otis for Joe Foy. While Otis became a star with the Royals in the 1970s, Foy struggled with the Mets and the Mets kept on trying to find a fixture at third base. Murphy also traded Jim Gosger and Bob Heise to the Giants for Ray Sadecki and Dave Marshall in what would unfortunately be his last trade.
On January 14, 1970, Murphy all of a sudden died of a heart attack. It was a shocking and unpredictable loss for the Mets and chairman M. Donald Grant decided to put Bob Scheffing as the new GM. Murphy's Mets legacy though will always be remembered as the guy that put together the finishing touches of the 1969 championship team.
Murphy also did well with drafting. John Milner, George Theodore and Buzz Capra were all drafted under his watch. Milner ended up placing third in the 1972 Rookie of the Year voting.
Murphy's time as Mets GM was all too short, but the fact that the Mets won their first World Series with him as the architect is enough to place Murphy at the top section of Mets General Managers.
2. George Weiss
When most fans think of George Weiss, they will think of the work he did as the GM of the Yankees, who constructed a team that won seven championships and ten pennants under his watch. They may also think of the horrible early Mets teams he put together. What fans should also know is that the Mets' late 1960s-mid 1970s core would not have been together if it wasn't for Weiss.
Original Mets owner Joan Payson decided to name Weiss as the Mets' first General Manager. However, due to a rule from the Yankees, Weiss was name team President in title, but still made all the moves a General Manager would make. Weiss then hired his old colleague Casey Stengel out of retirement to manage the new team.
Weiss got the expansion Mets rolling through the expansion draft. His original draft picks were mostly players that had some sort of connection to New York baseball, or in other words, former Dodgers and Giants.
The first major change Weiss made was trading Gus Bell to the Braves for slugger Frank Thomas. The 1962 team was simply awful, but Thomas was one of the very few bright spots as his 34 home runs and 94 RBI stood as team records until 1975 and 1970, respectively. Weiss then lured center fielder Richie Ashburn to the Mets and traded with the Dodgers for Charlie Neal.
Weiss in 1962 was extremely busy as he traded many players that simply did not perform in exchange for other players that did not perform. One of the players Weiss acquired was "Marvelous" Marv Thornberry. Thorneberry kept making one mistake after another as he became a symbol of how bad the Mets were.
Later in the year, Weiss signed future Mets regulars Ed Kranepool and Cleon Jones. At the end of the year, he got second baseman Ron Hunt, the Mets' original All-Star.
In 1963, Weiss made many New Yorkers very happy by bringing the popular Duke Snider back to New York for a brief victory lap. He signed Jimmy Piersall, who famously ran the bases backwards after hitting his 100th career home run, but released him two months later. That year, he also signed future Mets regulars Bud Harrelson and Ron Swoboda. Slowly, the Mets' core was coming together.
In June 1964, Weiss signed future closer Tug McGraw. Two months later, he signed Jerry Koosman. A year later, he brought Yogi Berra to be a player/coach, although the latter was all he was basically was after retiring as a player with just nine at-bats as a Met. Before the 1965 season, Weiss also got the legendary Warren Spahn to become a Met, which lasted less than a year.
After the 1965 season, Weiss made a huge trade with the Astros that brought over catcher Jerry Grote, who became a mainstay with the Mets for the next decade. A day later, he acquired former MVP third baseman Ken Boyer from the Cardinals.
Before the 1966 season, Weiss ultimately decided to put the Mets' name into a lottery for a college pitcher named Tom Seaver. Weiss was initially reluctant to do so because Seaver was unproven at the time, but Bing Devine persuaded him enough to enter the lottery. It turned out to be the best move the Mets have ever made and Weiss should get a lot of credit for this by giving in to Devine's request and not being too stubborn.
Weiss eventually retired after the 1966 season and Devine briefly replaced him. Weiss also became one of the first people to be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame for his wonderful efforts.
Weiss also drafted a few more notable Mets in Nolan Ryan, Ken Boswell, and Jim McAndrew in 1965, as well as Duffy Dyer a year later.
George Weiss will always be known for the 1962 team he originally constructed, but the later core of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw, Ed Kranepool, Cleon Jones, Bud Harrelson, and Jerry Grote were all thanks to Weiss, which not as many people may remember. Johnny Murphy to this day still gets most of the credit for the 1969 championship, but a good chunk of the credit should really go to Weiss for creating the inner core that the Mets were fortunate to have for many years.
1. Frank Cashen
With his vast knowledge of baseball and trademark bowtie, Frank Cashen is easily the best General Manager the Mets have ever had. He took over a team that was clearly spiraling out of control and eventually began a Mets' mini-dynasty in which the team never finished below second place in the NL East from 1984-1990.
Cashen was hired in 1980 by the Mets' new ownership, led by Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon. His job was basically rebuild the Mets into champions by all means necessary. It took some time to get the job done, but Cashen was ultimately successful as the Mets' best decade has clearly been the 1980s, and most of this was thanks to Cashen.
The very first major move Cashen made as the new GM was a huge one. With the No. 1 overall pick in the 1980 draft, Cashen selected a raw young talented outfielder named Darryl Strawberry. Scouts said that Strawberry could become the second coming of Ted Williams. Although Straw ultimately fell short of that distinction, he did become the greatest position player that the Mets have ever produced. He won the 1983 NL Rookie of the Year award and became one of the best hitters in the league during his time with the Mets.
Cashen did not do much else in the 1979-1980 offseason, but made a good move in the middle of the 1980 season by signing reliever Doug Sisk, who would remain on the team for most of the decade.
After the 1980 season, Cashen signed a young Kevin Mitchell to the Mets. Although he only spent one full season with the Mets, Mitchell's role proved critical during the 1986 World Series. Cashen also brought back the popular Rusty Staub to be a pinch-hitter, a role he excelled in through 1985. The fans loved this signing from the very beginning as Staub had been very popular with the Mets during his first stint.
Right before the beginning of the 1981 season, Cashen brought another familiar face back to the Mets: Dave Kingman. Kingman continued swat monstrous home runs in his second stint as one of the few Mets with power in the early part of the decade.
In May 1981, Cashen made a trade that ended up making a trade that backfired on him. He traded the hard-throwing Jeff Reardon to the Expos for Ellis Valentine. Reardon ended up becoming a dominant closer with the Expos.
After the 1981 season, Cashen fired manager Joe Torre, who had managed the Mets to five consecutive losing seasons. Replacing him was George Bamberger, who managed the Mets to another losing season in 1982 before resigning from his post 48 games into the 1983 season. Apparently his heart was more focused on retirement than managing the Mets. His big first base coach Frank Howard managed the Mets for the rest of 1983.
Cashen also traded away both Doug Flynn and Frank Taveras to the Rangers and Expos, respectively. But the big news of the offseason was the acquisition of slugger George Foster from the Reds. A former MVP, Foster was expected to carry the Mets' offense for the next few seasons. However, Foster never put up his Reds numbers while with the Mets and was released in the middle of 1986 after being benched.
Right before the season started, another far more important trade was made. The popular Lee Mazzilli was dealt to the Rangers for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell. Darling became one of the most dependable starters for the rest of the decade, while Terrell did well during his shorter tenure.
In June 1982, Cashen drafted another Mets cornerstone when he selected a 17-year old pitcher named Dwight Gooden with the fifth overall pick. Gooden became the ace of the Mets in the 1980s and an icon throughout the league. He went 24-4 in 1985 to become the only Met not named Tom Seaver to win the Cy Young Award. Two rounds later, Cashen also drafted future reliever/closer Roger McDowell.
After the 1982 season, Cashen traded pitcher Mike Scott to the Astros for pinch-hitting specialist Danny Heep. While Heep became one of the top hitters off the bench for the Mets, Scott became a much better pitcher with the Astros and showcased his abilities in the 1986 NLCS by dominating the Mets in each of his starts.
This eventual blunder soon vanished once the fans heard Cashen had brought back Tom Seaver from the Reds. Seaver was originally traded away in 1977, but fans kept hoping he would return and he did. However, it was only for one year as the White Sox claimed him before the 1984 season. Soon after the Seaver trade, Cashen traded Pat Zachry to the Dodgers. Zachry did not particularly live up to expectations and the Mets gave up on him. Slowly, the Joe Torre-era Mets were getting dismantled.
In June 1983, Cashen made probably his best trade ever for the Mets. He sent closer Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey to the Cardinals for former MVP and Gold Glove first baseman Keith Hernandez. Mex became the glue of the offense that the Mets sorely needed as he held down his position for the rest of the decade and won more Gold Gloves each season.
After the 1983 season, Cashen made another deal with the Dodgers and acquired lefty Sid Fernandez. Although it took him some time to develop into a dominant starter, the Hawaii native ended up becoming one of the most dependable starters for the Mets and was on the team through 1993. Cashen also signed defensive-oriented shortstop Rafael Santana that offseason. The World Champion Mets were starting to come together now.
There was also the decision to be made about the Mets' next manager. Cashen decided to promote Triple A manager Davey Johnson to manage the Mets. It was by far the best managerial decision he made. Johnson's leadership immediately became noticed as the Mets never fell below second place in each year he was at the helm. He brought second baseman Wally Backman with him and Backman became the starting second baseman from 1984 on.
At the 1984 trade deadline, Cashen worked out a brilliant trade that sent three minor league players to the Astros for third baseman Ray Knight. Knight became the primary third baseman through 1986. His biggest contributions occurred in the 1986 World Series as he became the eventual MVP for his clutch hitting.
After the 1984 season in which the Mets had a winning record for the first time since 1976, Cashen kept making wonderful decisions. He traded Terrell to the Tigers for third baseman Howard Johnson. Although Johnson spent a lot of time on the bench in 1985 and 1986, he became an integral part of the Mets' offense from 1987-1993 and arguably the Mets' best third baseman ever at the time.
But that trade did not get anywhere near the amount of attention Cashen's next move did. With almost all of the eventual championship team already assembled, Cashen had one big hole to fill: the catching position. He solved the problem by acquiring All-Star catcher Gary Carter from the Expos for four players, including Hubie Brooks, who became expendable with Knight and Howard Johnson now on the team. Carter became the run producer the team needed by hitting 32 home runs and driving in 100 RBI in 1985. He played a big role in the 1986 World Series as well.
Before the 1985 season, Cashen also acquired reliever Randy Niemann. Niemann was on the championship squad, but is now better known for being a longtime bullpen coach within the Mets organization.
Cashen did not do anything significant during the 1985 season, but shortly afterward, made another key deal. He sent Calvin Schiraldi and three others to the Red Sox for lefty Bob Ojeda. Ojeda instantly upgraded the Mets' rotation and was the most consistent starter in 1986. He led the team with 19 wins.
At last, the championship team was set... with just two notable exceptions to go. The next move Cashen made was acquiring second baseman Tim Teufel from the Twins. The right-handed hitting Teufel ended up platooning with Backman at second base as Backman had always struggled against left-handed pitching.
The only other big move to go was for the bench. With Lenny Dykstra becoming the every-day center fielder, Mookie Wilson shifting to left field and Darryl Strawberry an obvious fixture in right field, George Foster was the man left out. He soon complained about being on the bench and was released in early August. Replacing was another familiar face in Lee Mazzilli. Mazzilli had just been released from the Pirates and the Mets picked him up right way to make a strong bench even stronger. The Mets were now all set to win the 1986 World Series, which they did in dramatic fashion.
After the championship, Cashen made two significant trades. The first was with the Padres. Cashen dealt Kevin Mitchell and two others in exchange for three players, including the slugging left fielder Kevin McReynolds. McReynolds immediately became a fixture in left field and gave the Mets even more power than they had in 1986. Right before the 1987 season began, Cashen made another trade to acquire the hard-throwing David Cone from the Royals. Cone had a breakout season in 1988 by finishing 20-3, which became the first of many solid seasons throughout his career.
Cashen had failed to re-sign Knight as he offered a one-year deal that Knight refused. He had been looking more a multi-year contract and got just that with the Orioles.
After the 1987 season, Cashen traded away Doug Sisk and Rafael Santana to the Orioles and Yankees, respectively. Danny Heep and Jesse Orosco both ended up signing with the Dodgers.
Cashen was quiet with trades and signings during 1988 as the Mets won another NL East title and were destined to get back to the World Series before losing to the Dodgers in the NLCS.
After 1988 ended, Cashen's streak of poor trades had officially begun. He was not a perfect GM and it certainly showed in the rest of his tenure. Cashen traded Backman to the Twins for three minor leaguers that never ended playing for the Mets. Backman was one of the hardest working players on the team and had earned the fans' respect for his hustle and effort on every play. As a result, fans were sad to see him go. And they would only get more disappointed.
Cashen made a lot of unpopular decisions in 1989. In June, he shocked the fanbase by trading away Dykstra and McDowell to the Phillies for Juan Samuel in one of the worst trades in franchise history. Dykstra continued his gritty style of playing as a Phillie and led them to the World Series in 1993, while McDowell became a journeyman for the rest of his career, but still threw quite well. Samuel on the other hand was a total disaster for the Mets and was gone after the season. He batted just .228 in his brief stint.
A month later, Cashen made a rather good trade by acquiring Cy Young winning lefty Frank Viola from the Twins for Rick Aguilera, among others. Viola pitched brilliantly in 1990, but was not as solid in 1991.
That same day, Mazzilli was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays. A day later, the fanbase took another huge hit when the popular Mookie Wilson was traded to the Blue Jays as well. Trading away Dykstra and Wilson and putting Juan Samuel as the new center fielder was something that everyone could not understand. After all the brilliant moves Cashen had made, these two were quite odd.
Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter were both gone after 1989, even though both had declined significantly in their last Mets seasons. Closer Randy Myers was the next to get traded. In return, the Mets got another lefty closer named John Franco, who would become a mainstay for the next 15 seasons. Myers won the 1990 World Series with the Reds, but everyone in New York was definitely satisfied with Franco's pitching.
The 1990 season was an improvement from 1989, but when the Mets got off to a slow start, Cashen fired Davey Johnson and replaced him with one of his coaches, former Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson. Harrelson led the Mets to yet another second place finish that year, while Cashen did not do anything during the season.
After the 1990 season, Darryl Strawberry had finally become a free agent. He demanded a big payday, but Cashen did not want to fork over the five years and $22 million Strawberry would get with the Dodgers. Cashen though was more willing to pay speedster Vince Coleman $12 million for four years to replace Strawberry. In the end, the Mets definitely wished they kept Strawberry.
Coleman became mostly a distraction during his time with the Mets. He was accused of rape and swung a golf club in the clubhouse that ended up injuring Dwight Gooden's arm. Then, in 1993, Coleman recklessly through a lit firecracker into a crowd of fans waiting for autographs. The firecracker explosion ended up hurting three children, one of whom was just two years old. This stupidity led the Mets to suspend him for the rest of the season. Bob Ojeda was also traded away after 1990 to the Dodgers for the return of Hubie Brooks.
In the disappointing 1991, the Mets fell to their first losing season in 1991. Cashen did not make matters any better by continuing to dismantle the championship squad. Teufel was traded to the Padres in May for Gary Templeton. In July, Cashen ended up making his last major trade as Mets GM when he sent Ron Darling to the Expos for Tim Burke. After the season, Cashen decided to step down, while the horrendous Al Harazin, one of Cashen's top assistants replaced him.
Cashen would remain with the Mets after 1991, mostly as a consultant for a good number of years. He even became an interim GM in 1998 when Steve Phillips left for a week in light of his sexual harassment charges. In 2010, he was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, becoming the third Mets General Manager to be honored.
Besides Strawberry and Gooden, Cashen made many successful draft picks during his tenure. His most notable picks include Lenny Dykstra, Roger McDowell, Rick Aguilera, Dave Magadan, Calvin Schiraldi, Gregg Jefferies, Todd Hundley, Anthony Young, Tim Bogar, Butch Huskey, Jeromy Burnitz, Fernando Vina, Bill Pulsipher and Jason Isringhausen. Cashen also signed Edgardo Alfonzo to his first contract in 1991.
As the Mets' General Manager for 12 seasons and with the success his teams have, Frank Cashen is easily the Mets' greatest General Manager in team history. He made one brilliant move after another to bring winning baseball back to the Mets. Some of his later decisions were certainly questionable, but in the end, the Mets would not have been so dominant from 1984-1990 if it was not for Cashen's intelligence. He signed many popular players, traded for more popular players and was by far the most successful at drafting than any other Mets GM.
Hopefully, Sandy Alderson can make some moves that will bring winning baseball back to today's Mets just like Frank Cashen did thirty years earlier.
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