Just in time for the holiday season, Mets 101's Seven in Seven series returns as our gift to you. Each week, the Mets 101 staff will begin a countdown of topics related to the New York Mets (i.e. best third baseman, worst defeat, etc.). We will begin our countdowns with the number seven and work all the way to number one. This week's Seven in Seven list is a blockbuster, as we will break down the biggest off-the-field moves that stole the headlines throughout Metropolitan history. We conclude the countdown with the single biggest blockbuster in Met history, the May, 1998 trade that brought Mike Piazza to Queens.
The Met franchise had been on the upswing after bottoming out in the mid-1990's and was currently in a decade-long playoff drought. The pieces were coming together however, as the Mets had brought in players like Al Lieter and John Olerud to compliment the likes of Edgardo Alfonzo, John Franco and Todd Hundley. Hundley had been the Met slugger for the past several seasons but the slugging catcher was beginning to break down and the Mets were still without a major game changer in the heart of the batting order. The Florida Marlins meanwhile, were in the midst of a total franchise firesale, hot off their 1997 World Series win and had just acquired a slugging catcher of their own, Mike Piazza, in a seven player deal with Los Angeles. After just one week and five games with the Marlins, Met GM Steve Phillips stunned the baseball world by pulling the trigger on another blockbuster, sending three prospects to the Fish, for the big bat the Mets so sorely lacked.
Heading to the Marlins
The Mets shipped off three minor leaguers to Florida, with Preston Wilson, the nephew of 1986 Met hero Mookie Wilson, the marquee chip heading south. Wilson. The young outfielder had just received his first call-up to the Mets two weeks prior and was an attractive piece due to his power bat and was ranked amongst baseball's top prospects four times while in the Met system. The Marlins also received pitching prospects Ed Yarnall and Geoff Goetz
Heading to the Mets
Mike Piazza, the 1993 National League Rookie of the Year and already a four-time All-Star, headed to New York and was the team's first bonafide star acquisition since the disasterous Bobby Bonilla signing earlier in the decade. With 177 homers already under his belt, he was the cleanup bat Steve Phillips was looking for and a cornerstone the team could build around as they looked to finally get back in the postseason.
How the Marlins Fared
Wilson put together a respectable career for the Marlins, winning the center field starting job in 1999 and finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting. He joined the 30-30 club in 2000, belting 31 homers and swiping 36 bases, showcasing the tools that made him a top prospect. Wilson would remain a Marlin through 2002, but was slowed by injuries and was eventually dealt to Colorado.
Ed Yarnall never played for the Marlins, spending the rest of the 1998 season in the minors, before being dealt to the Yankees in the deal that saw third baseman Mike Lowell head to Florida. Goetz, the Mets first round (sixth overall) pick in 1996 pitched in the Marlins system until 2002, never making it higher than AA ball.
How the Mets Fared
The rest they say, is history, as Piazza went on to become the face of the Met franchise, cranking 220 homers and 655 RBI in eight seasons in New York. Big Mike will go down as one of the greatest Mets in history as he led the team to within just one game of the 1998 playoffs, followed by consecutive postseason appearances in 1999 and 2000. His memorable homer on September 21, 2001 will live in Mets fans memories forever and even as his body wore down in his final Met seasons in 2004 and 2005, Piazza was still a threat in the Met lineup and showed he still had it, homering off Pedro Martinez in his second game back at Shea Stadium, receiving a curtain call as a visting player from the Flushing Faithful. Should he be inducted into the Hall-of-Fame, Piazza will likely be the second player to don a Met cap on his plaque, joining only Tom Seaver as a New York Metropolitan in Cooperstown.
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