Bad Met Trades: Nolan Ryan

Jim Fregosi and Nolan Ryan
California Angels shortstop Jim Fregosi and New York Mets pitcher Nolan Ryan. (AP)

Are the Mets famous for trading unproven young talent for fading superstars? Or does management order the General Manager give up a star player just because he has hit his prime and wants to unload a big contract and build for the future? See how some teams and players have fared from some the most lopsided trades in baseball history.

Jim Fregosi for Nolan Ryan and three players

Dec. 10, 1971

The Mets traded Nolan Ryan, Don Rose, Leroy Stanton, and Frank Estrada to the California Angels for the former All-Star shortstop Jim Fregosi.

On July 28, 1964, Jim Fregosi became the first Angel to hit for the cycle, and he did so again on May 20, 1968. Fregosi continued to turn out solid years, particularly in 1967 when he batted .290 (seventh in the AL) and won his only Gold Glove, finishing seventh in the MVP voting.

He became regarded as the league’s top-hitting shortstop, leading the AL in triples (13) in 1968, and was named an All-Star every season from 1966 to 1970. But he was sidelined in 1971 when a tumor was discovered in his foot.

Fregosi was the newest hope at the hot corner for New York Mets. Fregosi lasted less than two seasons and was sidelined by several injuries including a broken thumb in 1972. Fregosi struggled with the Mets, batting a measly .232, before being sold to Texas in the middle of the 1973 season.

Nolan Ryan In his first season with the Angels, Ryan, given a chance to pitch regularly as a starter for the first time in his career, had a league-leading 329 strikeouts–nearly a third more than the AL runner-up, and to that point, the fourth-highest total of the 20th century.

In 1973, Ryan set his first major record when he struck out 383 batters in one season, beating Sandy Koufax’s old mark by one. Nolan Ryan led the American League in strikeouts seven times during his eight seasons with the California Angels.

Although the Angels were a sub-.500 team and remained one for much of his time there, Ryan managed to post some winning records, notably 19-16 in 1972, 21-16 in 1973 and 22-16 in 1974 (the 22 wins tied what remains the Angels franchise record, set by Clyde Wright in 1970).

Ryan signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the Houston Astros after the 1979 season, in which he became the first player to be paid $1 million a year.

Before the 1993 season, Ryan announced his retirement, effective at the end of that season. On August 4, just before the end, Ryan had yet another high profile moment – this time an on-the-mound fight.

After Ryan hit Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox, Ventura charged the mound in order to fight Ryan, who was 20 years, his senior.

Ryan secured the 26-year-old Ventura in a headlock with his left arm, while pummeling Ventura’s head with his right fist six times before catcher Iván Rodríguez was able to pull Ventura away from Ryan.

Ryan stated afterwards it was the same maneuver he used on steers he had to brand on his Texas ranch. Videos of the incident were played that evening throughout the country.

Ryan played in a major league record 27 seasons for the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers, from 1966 to 1993 winning 324 games while losing 292 games.

Ryan was an eight-time MLB All-Star, and his 5,714 career strikeouts rank first in baseball history.

Ryan is the all-time leader in no-hitters with seven, three more than any other pitcher. He is tied with Bob Feller for the most one-hitters, with 12. Ryan also pitched 18 two-hitters.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

About the Author

Lifetime Met fan who hates his parents for making him become a Mets fan as a child. No amount of therapy has helped and cannot switch teams now. Quitting smoking was easier. What a joke this organization really is, how much pain and suffering it has brought us through the years. Bad enough to be in Big Apple with Yankees fans.

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