What would you tell Joan Payson in 1975?

My Facebook friend Mike Emeigh had an interesting post over at BTF the other day where he asked:

Wind back the calendar to 1975. If you could have told MLB then one thing about the game, what would it be?

It provided some interesting answers so I thought we should examine the same question from a Mets POV. But before we get to the Mets, let’s look at a baker’s dozen of the serious ideas the BTF community came up with in response to the question.

1. Make sure to get in front of PED testing
2. Work a little smarter with the MLBPA
3. Develop your international scouting
4. Dissuade placing a team in the state of Florida
5. Invest time, money and manpower in figuring out how to protect pitchers’ arms
6. Understand how runs are scored – work strike zone and don’t worry about strikeouts
7. Stay with the four-man rotation
8. Stay away from push-button bullpen
9. Make sure there are plenty of urban baseball fields and leagues for black players
10. 140-pitch outings are not necessarily a good thing
11. Get rid of the DH while the union is still willing to let you
12. Instruct umpires to call strikes as the rulebook states, not as a personal interpretation
13. Don’t let networks dictate TV coverage – Let the Masters (the golf tournament that keeps close control over its image) be your guide

Some of these obviously apply directly to the Mets, so I will not repeat them below. The following are what I would go back to January 1st, 1975 and tell owner Joan Payson – who would die on October 4th – and General Manager Joe McDonald, once I succeeded in convincing them that I had indeed seen the future and was a reliable source of information.

1. Mrs. Payson, you are a beloved icon but you will be gone by the end of the year. M. Donald Grant does not have the best interests of the Mets in the forefront of his mind and he should not be involved in the team once you are gone. And your daughter has no interest in being a baseball owner. Look to sell the team during the season while you’re still alive and insure that the club will have a local owner committed to doing the best for the team. Look up a book publisher named Nelson Doubleday and give him a ring. And tell him to keep away from Fred Wilpon.

2. Try to mend fences and re-hire Whitey Herzog. Offer him any position in the organization he wants, whether that is manager, general manager or farm director. He managed the Angels briefly in 1974 but should be open to coming back, especially if Grant is gone.

3. The success of the 1969 Miracle Mets is over. That team enjoyed success because the farm system cranked out good players on a regular basis. In the six seasons before 1969, the Mets added to their farm system: Harrelson, Jones, Swoboda, Koosman, McGraw, Boswell, McAndrew, Ryan, Renko, Seaver, Jorgensen, Frisella, Otis, Matlack, Gentry, Singleton, Foli and Milner. Herzog had a little something to do with that and hopefully his arrival can make that happen again sooner rather than later.

4. On-base percentage is more important than average. A guy who has a .224 AVG and a .337 OBP (let’s call him 1974 Wayne Garrett) is better than a guy with a .268 AVG and a .317 OBP (let’s call him 1974 Felix Millan).

5. You can help to determine if a guy is a fluke by looking at his BABIP. Most MLB players will put up a number around .300 and any number significantly above or below that line could be an indication of someone enjoying an unrepeatable hot or cold season. If a rookie comes up and posts a .377 BABIP, chances are that he was on a hot streak and not a future star. Especially if you combine that ultra high BABIP with a low OBP and no power, then there’s even more reason not to consider that player a future star. Let’s call that guy 1975 Mike Vail (.377 BABIP, .302/.339/.420).

6. It’s not a good idea to trade for a guy in his mid-30s and expect him to be a key member of the team. It didn’t work with Bob Aspromonte in 1971, it won’t work with Joe Torre in 1975 and it certainly won’t work with Mickey Lolich in 1976.

7. Plan a day at Shea Stadium in 1975 for Casey Stengel, who will go into the hospital in mid-September and die before the month is over. Honor him for his contributions to the Mets and his place in history as being the only man to wear the uniform of the Mets, Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants.

8. Make Dave Kingman a permanent first baseman, tell him it’s okay to strike out as many times as he does as long as he throws a few more walks in there and wait for an epic 1976 season from him.

9. It’s okay to pay stars big money. People might complain about player salaries but you never get in trouble paying stars the going rate. You get in trouble by trading stars and playing stiffs – regardless of what they’re paid.

10. A thing called free agency is coming. It’s a chance to sign veteran players from other clubs. It’s not evil and if used with discretion it can be an essential part of building a winning team.


I am sure there are a bunch of other Mets-specific items to mention. What are some that you would include, with the understanding not to put out ones specifically mentioned by the BTF crowd already.

8 comments for “What would you tell Joan Payson in 1975?

  1. 7train
    November 4, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    This is a great premise for an article.

    The suggestions in the article are inspired especially Whitey Herzog, international free agency and the older big name. Hard to beat those.

    Keep your best players happy, and happy their here.

    Make sure the Mets are always run as a first class operation. A place visiting players look forward to coming and might be interested in staying.

    Have the largest and best paid scouting and development staff and draft budget.

    Have a round robin every September at Shea with the top 4 minor league affiliates free for everyone to attend.

    Have a video tribute to a former Met every Friday night before he throws out the first pitch and name a section of the Stadium after the best of the best.

  2. November 4, 2012 at 12:49 pm


  3. November 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm


    I agree: this is a fun premise for discussion and well written. Point by point, there is much there, and it is fun to fantasize with the benefit of hindsight.

    Imagine any of us going back and buying…a few shares of stock? Apple? Intel?

    I know that no one ‘on their death bed wishes they spent more time in the office’, but in going back, I would not only tell Mrs. Payson the above, but would attend more games at Shea. I miss it.

    I used to wonder about my Brooklyn relatives and the emotions attached to the Polo Grounds. Now I understand.

    Being now 10 years removed from New York, I miss Shea more than ever. I loved the orange and blue, and the thrill of catching the first glimpse of them, as a boy.

    Another piece of mainlining nostalgia (thinking of 1975):

    When I was a boy, it was thrilling to also see the bright green grass of Shea, especially after walking through the dark tunnel. I have often wondered why it was so contrasted. Was it just the dark tunnel?

    I finally figured it out recently. My son and I were watching a repeat game when I put on a game from years ago. This meant going from high definition picture to the video of the 70’s game: the green was so dull! My son said, “Is this what watching the Mets looked like when you were a boy?” It was.

    Today, we see the drips of sweat and the blades of grass and may not often think about how much more dull the picture quality was of those games way back when.

    For me, there was little sweeter than a Sunday, sunny, 1PM game, on channel 9, when Tom Seaver was the starter, home at Shea. My brother and I would play ball all morning, and only stop at 1:05PM, and then get out our notebooks and score the game. When the game was over, it was back out to play ball, often whiffle ball, or down to the school to play stick ball or hardball. I was 13 years old, had a paper route and did sweeping a few hours a week at the local butcher shop (kids used to work back then) so I had money to replace the broken whiffle balls (49 cents plus tax) and keep us in baseballs.

    I enjoy when commentators share their memories here on the blog. Mrs. Payson was always “Mrs. Payson” when my father spoke, so I think he had a respectful tone towards her.

    Of all the things I would have told her, once we got rid of M Donald Grant, would be the suggestion about Casey Stengel.

    That was touching to read.

    Thanks for a great article.


    • November 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks Peter!

      Did the whiffle balls you have come in a box with Jerry Koosman teaching you how to throw the “upshoot”

      • November 6, 2012 at 6:53 am

        That’s right!

        My brother and I played so much whiffle ball that it affected my throwing of a real baseball! By the time I was 12 (he was 11), there was no one in the neighborhood that could beat us. He was a lefty and I righty, and there was no one, even the older kids and adults, who could beat us because of that riser: we could basically place it wherever we wanted it to, at an incredibly smooth and fast speed. It made a wonderful sound catching the wind. Either of us could go a full game without a single walk.

        Every so often I try to capture that magic, but…

        I often wonder how I was able to pull off that side arm-almost under arm riser!

    • 7train
      November 5, 2012 at 8:58 am

      So was yours Peter.

    • kjs
      November 5, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      Wasnt it 205 day games and 805 night games?

      Berra over Herzog was a dog of a decision.

      Send the Terminator back to 1977 to say ‘hasta la vista, moron’ to m donald grant.


  4. Jay Jay SimonSimon
    November 25, 2012 at 2:44 am

    Hi Mrs. Payson, I am from the future. Just give Whitey an envelope to open the day of the draft. In the envelope tell him to draft these players, in this order, and not to think about it: 1st Round: Lee Smith; Second Round: Carney Lansford; Third Round: Lou Whitaker; Fourth Round: Keith Moreland; Fifth Round: Andre Dawson; Sixth Round: Bob Horner (out of HS); Seventh Round: Dave Stewart; Eight Round: John Tudor.

    And also an envelope for 1976: 1st Round: Alan Trammell; Second Round: Mike Scott (slip in a note, not to think of trading him for some pinch hitter with Roger Craig’s phone number); Third Round: Rickey Henderson; Fourth Round: Jack Morris; Fifth Round: Ozzie Smith; Sixth Round: Wade Boggs; Seventh Round: Neil Allen.

    Hindsight is wonderful.

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