Christopher Wuensch - Hot Stove History: Dismantling the '86 Mets

Christopher Wuensch digs into the annals of baseball history...via the baseball card collection in his basement...

Free agency. Trade-deadline deals. Rookies that crack the lineup mid-season and the expansion of the 40-man roster. Myriad reasons have always been a bane — if not a pain — for baseball card companies looking to keep their cards as current as possible.

Times were different in the 1980s. There was no Internet (thus no Mack’s Mets) to keep us updated on the latest wheeling-and-dealings the split-second they happen.

Information moved slower those days. Back in that glorious decade, for example, one of the only ways we knew the Kansas City Royals traded outfielder Darryl Motley to the Atlanta Braves was via the peculiar fine print that appeared on the front of his 1987 Topps card (No. 99).

Baseball card companies such as Topps, Donruss and Fleer began an annual October tradition to stay current in the pre-Baseball-Reference.com era by releasing an updated sub-set of that year’s collection. It was simply known by card enthusiasts and 10 year olds alike as “Traded.”

With the Hot Stove league glowing orange hot and cooking with activity these days, it’s the perfect time to examine one of the biggest roster shakeup in New York Mets history.

The 1986 Mets were as classic a team as any in Mets’, New York and, even, baseball history. The Amazin’s were as talented on the field as they were off it.

Less than four years later, they were slowly gutted. For proof, we consult the 1990 Score Traded set to document the changing of the guard in Queens and the transformation from “amazing” back to just plain“maddening."


The man famously traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Mets in 1983 was granted his free agency by New York in November of 1989. He spent 24 days on the open market before the Cleveland Indians signed him for $1.76 million. Hernandez lasted just 43 games in a foreign uniform during the 1990 season. The 1979 National League MVP spent the 1991 season on the Tribe’s disabled list and never returned to the diamond.

Replaced By: Dave Magadan


One day after the Mets granted Keith Hernandez free agency in November of 1989, the Mets released Gary Carter. The “Kid” idled on the market for two months before doing what most former great Queens baseball entities do: head to California. Carter signed with San Francisco, providing us the indelibly-awkward image of him donning a Giants’ uniform. The late Carter hit .252 with 9 home runs in San Fran and earned a free agency deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers — before finishing his career back in Montreal in 1992 with the Expos where he was a seven-time all-star.

Replaced By: Toddy Hundley

On June 18, 1989, New York drove a spike through Mets fan’s hearts by trading “Nails.” Lenny Dykstra was the get-up-and-go that got-up-and-went — to Philadelphia. The Mets sent the speedy centerfielder and offensive catalyst to the Phillies along with popular reliever Roger McDowell. In return, they received 2B Juan Samuel. Samuel went on to play 1,035 more career games. Only 86 came in a Mets uniform. That off-season he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Dykstra rekindled his October magic in Philly, hitting .348 with 8 RBI and as many home runs (4) as stolen bases vs. the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. (Joe Carter, coincidentally, can also be found in this traded set, having switched from the Cleveland Indians to the San Diego Padres).

Replaced By: Darryl Boston

If Lenny Dykstra was the energy of the 1986 Mets, Wally Backman was the backbone. The Mets jettisoned Backman on Dec. 7, 1988, shipping the second baseman to Minnesota for a handful of schleps not worth mentioning. Backman made this Traded set after the Twins let him walk to the Pittsburgh Pirates the following off-season. He toiled with the Phillies, Braves and Mariners before hanging up his cleats in May of 1993.

Replaced By: Gregg Jefferies

Jesse Orosco got all the glory as the Mets’ closer during the 1986 title run. Randy Myers earned his ring that season pitching in just 10 games. Two years later, however, Myers was New York’s closer—slamming the door shut on a Mets’ win a combined 50 times in 1988 and 1989.
On Dec. 6, 1989, the Mets shipped Myers to the Cincinnati Reds for fellow reliever John Franco.
Myers went on register another 319 career saves and led the league three times, including saving 53 games for the 1993 Chicago Cubs. Franco wrapped up his career in Queens with 276 saves and, also, led the NL in saves three times.

Replaced By: John Franco

Lee Mazzilli only hit two home runs for the 1986 Mets. Despite his reserve role, Mazzilli is regarded as one of the most popular Mets of all-time. The Brooklyn native played 10 years in New York in two stints.
The Mets originally traded Mazzilli in 1982 to the Texas Rangers for Ron Darling, an essential piece of the 1986 Mets starting rotation. New York re-signed Mazzilli in August of 1986; 11 days after the Pirates released him. He collected two hits and scored twice during the World Series against the Boston Red Sox that season.
His career as a Met ended on July 31, 1989 when the Toronto Blue Jays plucked him from the waiver wire. He played in 28 games north of the border that season before calling it a career.

Replaced By: Mark Carreon and Keith Miller


Some other players with ties to the New York Mets in the 1990 Score Traded include:

D.J. DOZIER, OF: The Penn State alum was the Mets’ stab at having a two-sport athlete a la Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders—which was all the rage in the late 80s, early 90s. Dozier led the Minnesota Vikings with 4.5 yards-per-rush in 1989. He played more games in the NFL than he did for the Mets and was out of baseball in 1992 after just 25 games.

HUBIE BROOKS, OF: Former Met Hubie Brooks, the man the Mets moved to make room for Darryl Strawberry, is in this set after switching from the Montreal Expos to the Los Angeles Dodgers. After the 1990 season, Strawberry packed his bags and joined the Dodgers—most likely to the chagrin, once again, of Brooks.

BILLY HATCHER, OF: The 1989 season also saw former Mets’ foil Billy Hatcher depart the Houston Astros. Hatcher’s game-tying home run in the 14th inning of Game Six of the 1986 NLDS off the Mets’ Jesse Orosco is one of the most memorable home runs in Houston history. The Astros jettisoned Hatcher to the Pirates, who less than a year later shipped him to Cincinnati.

CARLOS BAERGA, 2B: The 1990 Score Traded is home to the Carlos Baerga rookie card. Baerga came up with the Cleveland Indians, but moved onto the Mets from 1996 to 1998 where he hit .267 with 18 home runs.

Christopher Wuensch @MissedCutOff


Mack Ade said...

these are the kin of expanded posts we need on the history of this team

Thanks Chris

(bTW - Chris is my old Sports Editor at Morris Communications

excuse spelling - meds have kicked in

Erol(E Rock 31) said...

Brooks wasn't moved for Strawberry. He played mostly 3 .

Erol(E Rock 31) said...


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