(Check out more of my photos from Bobby Abreu’s final major league game at my Flickr account.)
Fregosi was a great player for the Los Angeles/California Angels in the 1960s and later went on to manage them. But east coast fans are more likely to remember him for one of two things.
On December 10th, 1971, the New York Mets sent a pitcher named Nolan Ryan and three other minor leaguers to the Angels in a trade to acquire Fregosi. Although he had been an All-Star shortstop, the Mets got Fregosi with the idea that he could be their answer at third base, and it did not work out well. Ryan became a star, winning 138 games and pitching four no-hitters for the Angels before departing as a free agent at the end of the 1979 season.
Phillies fans will remember Fregosi as the manager who presided over the “worst-to-first” turnaround of the 1993 National League championship team.
“Jim Fregosi was not only one of the most respected men in baseball, he was a great man,” Lenny Dykstra told CSNPhilly.com. “He was a player’s manager. He had that special gift as a manager that made you want to get to the field and play your ass off for him. Jim Fregosi was the reason that 1993 was one of the most exciting years in Philadelphia sports history.”
Fregosi had been good about signing autographs for collectors who wrote to him and asked. I got my 1973 Topps baseball card signed in 2007.
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December 10th is the anniversary of two New York Mets trades involving future Hall of Famers.
Forty years ago today, the Mets sent a 24-year-old pitcher named Nolan Ryan and three other prospects to the California Angels for a past-his-prime All-Star shortstop named Jim Fregosi.
At the time, the deal made a certain amount of sense. The Mets had a perennial problem at third base and hoped that Fregosi could provide the answer. He had been an All-Star as recently as 1970, and Baseball Reference calculates that he was worth 44.1 wins above replacement during his 11 seasons with the Angels.
Meanwhile, Ryan was coming off a 10-14 season with a 3.97 ERA for a team that had an incredibly strong pitching rotation. During five years with the Mets, in which he bounced between the rotation and the bullpen, Baseball Reference calculates that Ryan was worth 3.7 wins above replacement.
With the benefit of hindsight, we know the Mets should not have made this trade. Fregosi was a bust in New York, hitting .233 with five home runs and 43 RBI in 146 games before moving on to Texas and Pittsburgh to finish out his career as a bench player.
Ryan went to his first All-Star Game in 1972, finishing the year with a 19-16 record for a 75-80 fifth place Angels team. He led the American League with nine shutouts and 329 strikeouts, and had a sparkling 2.28 ERA. That year alone, Ryan was worth 6.3 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.
We all know where Ryan’s career went from there. What we don’t know is what might have happened if he stayed with the Mets… would Ryan have put up the same numbers and helped the Mets win a few more World Series trophies? Would he have pitched his record six no-hitters in the orange and blue? Or would he have continued to bounce between the rotation and the bullpen… or maybe worse – would he have been another part of the 1977 midnight massacre trades?
Twenty-seven years ago today, the Mets made a better deal. They acquired All-Star catcher Gary Carter from the Montreal Expos for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans.