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Looking Back 20 Years Ago at the Dismantling of the NL Champion New York Mets

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All-Star Robin Ventura Was Part of Infamous Mets Trade Exactly 20 Years Ago


It was twenty years ago today, more than half the Mets were sent away. The five player trade completed on January 20, 2002 left the Shea Stadium team with few members from the club that had won the pennant just over a year before.

Having fallen to the Yankees in the Subway Series, the Mets finished a disappointing 82-80 in 2001. As soon as the season ended, the Mets began dismantling the team.

Third Baseman Robin Ventura had been dealt to the Yankees back on December 7,2001, outfielders Alex Escobar and Matt Lawton then sent to the Cleveland Indians on Dec. 11. Four days later All-Star first baseman David Justice, who had already won pennants with Cleveland and Atlanta, was shipped to Oakland.

In a matter of 72 hours, the Mets had given away two thirds of their regular outfielders and both of their corner infielders. It would take another couple of weeks before they shipped off a third outfielder and their catcher, along with one of its starting pitchers.

Benny Agbayani and Todd Zeile were traded to the Colorado Rockies on that fateful January 20 day exactly twenty years ago, two of the stalwarts that had helped the Mets win the pennant in 2000. Then, later in that same day, veteran utility man Lenny Harris and star left hander Glendan Rusch were shipped to Milwaukee.

It certainly appeared to be a panic attack on the part of General Manager Steve Phillips, considering the way the defending National League champions had just ended the season. They went 44-29 after the All-Star break, climbing to within three games on September 27.

Basically, the club was playing the way it had been expected to, coming up just short because of a terrible start. They ended up being a third place team, but that flurry of moves looked like the actions of a perennial cellar dweller.

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And that is exactly what the Mets became after dismantling that winter, for ew of the deals paid off. That fact is obvious when you examine their record and the standings, not only in 2002 but many seasons after.

The Mets would go on to finish the 2002 season 75-86, last place in the NL East division. An even worse record, 66 wins and 96 losses, followed that sesason.

All in all New York would not have a winning record again for nearly a decade, and they would not win another pennant until 2015. Unlike after the previous trip to the World Series, the Mets chose to hold on to most of their regulars and reached the postseason.

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