This Day in Baseball History: January 20th, 1984

Those were some ugly uniforms.

On January 20, 1984:

The Mets lose Tom Seaver to the White Sox by not protecting him on the roster.

Here’s the situation: Tom Seaver was 39 years old. He was high-priced. He just had one of the worst years of his career record-wise (9-14). The New York Mets thought no one would claim him in the upcoming free-agent compensation draft for those very reasons. They were wrong. The Chicago White Sox surprised everyone by taking the future Hall of Famer.

Before you start asking questions about the compensation draft, it was different from the one of today. The free-agents were classified kind of like today (Type A, B, and C). If a team lost a Type A player, the team would get to draft a major-league caliber player from another team in a January or February draft. A Type B would only give the losing team a pick in the next June’s draft, and a Type C would not get any compensation. Each team was allowed to block 26 people (14 less than today), but the team signing the Type A free-agent was only allowed 24 people.

The White Sox lost free-agent Dennis Lamp to the Toronto Blue Jays, and therefore, they received a pick in the compensation draft. They realized (unlike Cy Young voters) that the won-loss record doesn’t mean much. Seaver had an ERA of 3.55, pitched 231 innings, gave up only 201 hits, and struck out 135. They took him and received two pretty good to really good seasons from him. They almost didn’t, however, as Seaver contemplated retiring, but the White Sox convinced him to come back.

Mets fans, however, (and this is why I bring it up — it reminds me of Smoltz) freaked. They couldn’t believe the Mets let their franchise player go again (Seaver had been traded after the 1977 season due to a contractual dispute, and Mets fans were mad enough then). Seaver was the face of the franchise and was still good if you looked just lukewarmly at the stats. He would be on the 25-man roster the next season, so it just didn’t seem logical that they didn’t protect him. One good thing that came of it was that it opened up a spot in the rotation for 19 year old phenom Dwight Gooden, who had a pretty good season himself going 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA.

This obviously isn’t a direct comparison to the Smoltz situation (history generally doesn’t give us such nice comparisons even when we try to make them that way), but it still reminds me of it (losing iconic figure to another team when he could have easily stayed). Though not a perfect copy of events and circumstances, it does remind us to look at what is gained when one is lost. Can Tommy Hanson be Dwight Gooden (hopefully without the self-destructive drug abuse)?

Just a quick note — Tuesdays and Thursdays are my busiest, and therefore, the posts may not come until 4 or later. As for today, this is the only post I’ll probably get up as I need to Bleed Blue and get some UK basketball tickets tonight. For future reference, I’ll always try to get a “This Day in Baseball History” post up every day, but if it’s the first, it may also be the only as well due to time constraints. Thanks.

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4 Responses to “This Day in Baseball History: January 20th, 1984”

  1. The Mets Police Says:

    What a horrible stupid day that was.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    For once, I can empathize with a Mets fan.

  3. Josh Says:

    Boy Mets management was dumb…huh.

    How could they leave the franchise unprotected??

  4. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    Yeah, but remember: a) Seaver was 39, b) he was expensive, and c) they had Dwight Gooden. If they had left Gooden unprotected, he might have played elsewhere. Still, it doesn’t make too much sense why they didn’t just protect him if they fully intended to use him.

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