By Guy F. White
With all the chatter around concerning a possible trade for Syndergaard, it’s easy for Mets fans to descend into a state of panic and despair. Clearly Thor is one of our most popular and effective pitchers. He’s so bad ass. Everything about him is larger than life. The fact that he has a Nordic name and even looks like a Viking is a public relations dream. How can any Met fan not love THOR?? How can anybody even remotely consider trading THOR? Say it’s not so.
There is some precedent in Mets history for trading another popular and effective starting pitcher and being better off as a result. Consider Gary Gentry: Gentry was one of the premier Met pitchers during the Magical 1969 season at the age of 22. He pitched 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball in Game Three of the World Series, while only allowing three hits (Thank you Tommie Agee) in a dominant pitching performance. His ERA in 1969 was 3.43 and he was a potent No. 3 starter after Seaver and Koosman.
By the end of 1972, his ERA had increased to 4.01 but his strikeouts/9 innings had never been higher. At the still tender age of 26, it appeared that Gentry still had a lot of good baseball left in him. With the addition of Jon Matlack, the Mets had a potentially jaw-dropping pitching staff with Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, and Gentry as their No. 4. Someone of Gentry’s caliber being a No. 4 was almost too much to dream.
However, after the 1972 season the Mets traded the affable and effective Gentry, along with Danny Frisella, to the Atlanta Braves for Felix Millan and George Stone, and it was one of the best trades in Met history. We certainly missed Gentry a little, yet Felix Millan hit .290 for the 1973 Mets, played a gold glove caliber second base, and was a perfect No. 2 hitter. Mets fans learned to love the way Millan would dramatically choke up on his bat. When Wayne Garrett started to heat up in late August, with Millan behind him in the order, and with Seaver, Koosman, and Matlack on the mound, the Mets were almost unbeatable. George Stone, obtained in that trade, was our most winning and consistent pitcher down the stretch They went 30-14 (a .682 clip) to finish the season, before ambushing the Big Red Machine in the Playoffs.
Millan went on to hit .283 and .282 in 1975 and 1976 respectively. He played all 162 games in 1975 and was a strong, consistent presence for the Mets for the rest of his career. Gentry almost immediately developed arm troubles and only had 113 1/3 innings left in his arm before he finally retired in 1975. The Mets clearly got the better of that deal.
Naturally, I don’t want to trade Syndergaard. I love THOR!!! I mean who doesn’t love Thor? But if it were to happen, and Thor were to pitch for someone else, it doesn’t necessarilymean the end of the world. Sure we would mourn, cry, and gnash our teeth. But maybe, just maybe, it could turn out to be not such a bad thing.