baseball

“Midnight Massacre” Still Conjures Unthinkable Mets’ Memories

By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com

June 15, 1977.

The day that still is considered one in Mets’ infamy. It still has reverberations  to Mets’ fans with each passing year. 

It was the day of a major house cleaning that would send the Mets into a longer rebuild than anticipated. 

In what still is referred to as the “Midnight Massacre,” the Mets traded Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for a package of then four nonentities at the training deadline.

You could hear the multitude of ghast sounds as well as a pin or a nickel drop on a carpet.

 It was that deafening.

Seaver’s shift sent seismic shockwaves throughout the city and baseball. He was baseball royalty that shouldn’t be touched or scoffed. 

The throttle of the Seaver trade had the most impact, but there was more.

The Mets also sent Dave Kingman to the Padres for Bobby Valentine and Paul Siebert, and also sent Mike Phillips to the Cardinals for Joe Youngblood.

Kingman was a strong member of the supporting cast, and his infrequent mammoth homers were still mesmerizing.

What just happened?

The Mets dealt away their franchise player at a time, who was less than two years away from his third Cy Young. The team came off two consecutive third-place finishes.

At age 16, I recalled reading the New York dailies who were like kids in a candy store with free reign. They turned loose.

Along with some of my friends, I didn’t quite understand the reasoning. Now, 44 years later, the picture is much clearer.

Owner M. Donald Grant had been in a contract dispute with Seaver and was determined to send him packing.

Forty-five games into the season, the Mets replaced Joe Frazier with Joe Torre.

This was going to be a rebuild with younger players, who could form a new foundation.

But for the next seven years, it didn’t work. The team finished last in five of those seven campaigns.

Pat Zachry won 41 games over the next six years, and he often was the victim of poor run support. 

Doug Flynn was a young staple at second base along with short and third. He had a solid glove, but a weak bat with five homers and a .234 average in his five seasons in Flushing.

Steve Henderson and Dan Norman were projected to be a budding outfield. Henderson was considered to be the hidden gem of the deal, and he hit a solid .287 over four seasons. However, 

he never materialized as the stud the team envisioned. Norman also was viewed as a wunderkind, but he never was a consistent force over four seasons in which he hit .230.

Contrarily, Seaver went 75-46 over six year in Cincinnati and revitalized the Reds.

The Mets would turn the corner in 1983 when Rookie of the Year Darryl Strawberry burst onto the scene, and fellow rookie phenom Dwight Gooden followed a year later with new manager Davey Johnson.

Yet, some 44 years later, the unthinkable may never be forgotten.

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