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One Year Wonder: Tom Seaver

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The three-time Cy Young winner was a trade acquisition who helped the Sox win the 1986 AL East crown.

Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It’s time for part three of the One Year Wonder series. We’ve already taken a look back at the brief Red Sox careers of Don Aase and Bob Watson and now it’s time to turn the page and examine our next player. Our next entry features a player even non-diehards should know: Tom Seaver.

How He Came to Boston

Seaver is considered one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history and for good reason. Most will remember him as the young ace who lit the world on fire for the New York Mets for 12 years in the late 60s and into the 70s.

Seaver got to New York in an odd way. He was originally drafted by the Dodgers out of USC, but they weren’t willing to pay him what he wanted. So he was then selected by and signed with the Atlanta Braves in 1966, but commissioner William Eckert negated the contract. Seaver wasn’t able to go back to play for the Trojans, however, as the NCAA ruled him ineligible since he had, in fact, signed a professional contract. Yes, even back then the NCAA was messing things up.

Luckily, Eckert eased a bit and Seaver eventually signed with the New York Mets. It may have been the greatest bit of fortune experienced by Queens’ baseball club. Seaver went on to win three Cy Young Awards for the Mets as well as the 1967 Rookie of the Year. He went 198-124 with a 2.57 ERA, 136 ERA+ and 2.67 FIP across more than 3,000 innings of work for the Mets, leading the league in strikeouts five times and producing a WHIP below one three times.

Unfortunately, despite all that great work, plus the 1969 World Series title, Seaver and the Mets had a messy breakup (although not a permanent one). It ended with the right-hander being sent to Cincinnati Reds for some guys named Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman and Pat Zachry. Unless the Mets were playing Scrabble and needed more letters, the trade was an unmitigated failure on their part.

As for the Reds, they didn’t get Seaver at his Cy Young best, which isn’t that surprising since he was traded to them at age 32. He still did make two All-Star appearances and pitched to a 3.18 ERA, 3.56 FIP and 116 ERA+ across six seasons in Cincinnati.

Seaver would eventually be traded back to the Mets for the 1983 season where he went 9-14 with a 3.55 ERA. Then, at age 39, the White Sox picked him up as a free agent compensation pick. During the course of two and a half seasons with Chicago, he tossed 547 13 innings with a 3.67 ERA while only striking out 4.9 batters per nine innings, far below his 6.8 career average.

In late June of 1986, Seaver owned a 4.38 ERA in 12 starts for the White Sox and was traded to the Red Sox for young outfielder Steve Lyons.

What He Did in Boston

Seaver immediately became a part of the Red Sox’s rotation, starting his first game in a Red Sox uniform on July 1 against the Toronto Blue Jays. He pitched well enough, lasting seven innings in which he allowed four runs on nine hits. He was able to eat up plenty of innings for the Sox, with 12 of his 16 starts lasting at least six frames, including his Boston masterpiece on Aug. 8 when he threw a complete game with nine strikeouts in a 6-1 win over Detroit.

In all, Seaver went 5-7 with a 3.80 ERA, 3.27 FIP and 111 ERA+ across 104 13 innings, while striking out a respectable 6.2 batters per nine innings. Despite playing the first three months of the season with Chicago, Seaver ended up ranking 10th on the 1986 squad in bWAR (2.0) while helping the Sox to a first place finish in the AL East.

Unfortunately, he did not pitch in the postseason and missed a chance to throw against his former team the Mets in the World Series due to a knee injury.

Why He Left Boston

Following the 1986 season when absolutely nothing bad happened for the Red Sox in the postseason, Seaver became a free agent. The Sox did not pursue his services again and although he tried to catch back on with the Mets, he officially retired in 1987.

What He Did After Boston

Seaver did not play another MLB game after 1986, meaning his four-inning start against Toronto on Sept. 19, 1986 was the last of his career. Following his playing days, Seaver went on to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame with what was then the highest percentage of votes (98.84 percent). Ken Griffey Jr. recently beat him for that honor with 99.3 percent.

As for work, Seaver got into broadcasting, calling games on NBC with Vin Scully and doing color commentating for the Yankees from 1989 to 1993 and for the Mets from 1999 to 2005. He also opened his own vineyard in Calistoga, California which he is still the proprietor of to this day.