Oct. 21, 2016
The Early Years - How The Braves Helped The Mets
Those early Mets teams were awful, of course, but they would have been even worse if not for Milwaukee Braves GM John McHale who regularly sent his team's excess talent to the Mets, both young and old, usually in return for cash considerations or players of minimal value. Not every one worked out, but those who did certainly made a difference. Here are some examples of players who came over to the Mets from the Braves between 1962 and 1965 :
1. Frank Thomas - Shortly after the expansion draft, the Braves sent Thomas to the Mets for cash and a PTBNL (Gus Bell). Thomas was the Mets' first and only true power hitter in the early years, clubbing 34 HR's in 1962.
2. Ron Hunt - Sold to the Mets after hitting over .300 in the Texas League in 1962, Hunt became the Mets' best player in 1963 and their first legitimate all-star in 1964. More about Hunt in a future post.
3. Carl Willey - A once highly regarded pitching prospect who was sold to the Mets before the 1963 season. He was probably the Mets' best pitcher that year, with a 9-14 record and 3.10 ERA and figured to be a mainstay of the rotation for a few more years. Unfortunately, Willey broke his jaw when he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Gates Brown in a spring training game in 1964, and that was basically it for his career.
4. Roy McMillan - The veteran shortstop was traded to the Mets during the 1964 season for Jay Hook. Although McMillan batted just .214 that year, he provided a good glove, valuable steadying influence, and significant upgrade from the likes of Al Moran. Mc Millan was later named manager of the Mets.
5. Warren Spahn - the greatest Braves' pitcher of all time was sold to the Mets prior to the 1965 season. He was considered the #1 starter for the Mets when the season began and also served as pitching coach. It didn't turn out well for the Mets (see my previous post on Spahn), but the move illustrated once again that the Braves turned to the Mets first whenever they wanted to move a player.
6. Dennis Ribant - He was the #1 pitcher at AAA Denver when the Braves sent him to the Mets in August of 1964 for veteran Frank Lary. The following year, Ribant became the Mets' first starting pitcher to post a winning record and Lary was sent back to the Mets before the 1965 season began.
7. Hawk Taylor - A one-time $100,000 bonus baby who never made it with the Braves, he was sold to the Mets before the 1964 season. He didn't do that much for the Mets, but he was given the chance at both catcher and outfield.
8. Amado Samuel - In retrospect, not a big name at all, but this shortstop was considered a very hot prospect out of the Dominican Republic in the early '60's with the Braves. He was sold to the Mets after the 1963 season and got a shot at the shortstop job, but didn't cut it.
9. Dave Eilers - He was the best relief pitcher in the minor leagues in 1965 when he was sold to the Mets. His impact was minimal, but he did stick around for a couple of years before going to Houston.
10. Gary Kolb - he came to the Mets in a trade for Jesse Gonder and was given a shot at the centerfield job. He was later dealt to the Pirates along with Ribant for Don Bosch and Don Cardwell.
After a while, it got to the point where I would check the Sporting News for the Braves' minor league stats as well as the Mets' when I was looking for potential Mets' prospects.