Nolan Ryan and Jim Fregosi: The Truth About the Trade

In the early 1970s, the New York Mets traded a young Nolan Ryan along with three other players to the California Angels for infielder Jim Fregosi. Jim Fregosi's career fizzled into nothingness, and Nolan Ryan went on to set multiple baseball records. The trade has long gone down in history as one of the worst moves - arguably the worst - in baseball history. A recent article featured on the front sports page of AC heavily criticized the Mets for trading Nolan Ryan. Unfortunately, history is revisionist in this point.

History teaches that the Mets gave away an unbelievable talent for a bag of balls. While Jim Fregosi turned out to not be the greatest of options, one could hardly predict that when he moved to the Mets. Jim Fregosi had received MVP votes every year from 1963 to 1970. He had been an All-Star in 1964 and every year from 1966 to 1970. History has forgotten Jim Fregosi's achievements because the rest of his career didn't pan out so well. Nobody could have predicted this. Jim Fregosi is comparable to Nomar Garciaparra in that respect. Nomar seemed on his way to a tremendous career but fizzled out. So did Jim Fregosi. Don't blame the Mets for failing to predict the unpredictable.

On the other side, nobody in baseball had any idea what Nolan Ryan would end up doing. Nolan Ryan had great fire on his fastball, but his promise was just that - promise. The Mets were a team building to win in the present, not the future, and they were recently coming off a world championship in 1969. Holding on to a young Nolan Ryan who may turn into a star was just not an acceptable move for the Mets. And let's not forget, Nolan Ryan asked to be traded. If a player - even Nolan Ryan - doesn't want to be on your team, why keep him there? He'll just be a destructive force. Yes, even Nolan Ryan.

And to be frank, Nolan Ryan is overrated. Yes, he pitched seven no-hitters and holds the record for strikeouts by miles. But the goal of a pitcher is not to strike batters out. It's to win games, or at least, give your team a chance to win games. Nolan Ryan's numbers look sensational, but he was inconsistent. One day he'd throw you a no-hitter, the next he'd get shelled for 6 runs. It was his wildness that caused that, and the Mets saw Nolan Ryan's wildness even when he was a kid. So give them credit for seeing that aspect of his game.

In the long run, nobody doubts it was a mistake for the Mets to trade Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi. But at the time, it looked like a smart move. Give the Mets credit for doing the reasonable thing, even if it didn't pan out as they'd hoped.

Published by Mark L.

Currently residing on Staten Island, NY, and writing for Long Island Blitz (liblitz.com), covering high school football on Long Island.  View profile