Earlier this month, I posted the Mookie Wilson 1990 card where he was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Today, I pulled out another member of the 1986 Mets who was dealt midseason of 1989 and found success elsewhere.
Rick Aguilera was a homegrown Mets pitcher who did a fine job in his first few years at the big league level. In 1985, 1986 and 1987, his win total was in double digits, his ERA was in the 3’s and struck out more than he walked.
Of course he was overshadowed by the likes of Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, Sid Fernandez and eventually David Cone and was regulated to the bullpen for the post season.
He also fit the image of the Hell Raising Mets as he was part of a bar fight in Houston in 1986. Aguilera almost etched his name into Red Sox lore after he gave up the go ahead to Dave Henderson in the 6th game of the 1986 World Series. Instead, despite giving up 2 runs in the top of the 10th, was credited with the win.
The Mets were broken up during that summer of 1989. Aguilera had found new life as a reluctant middle reliever. He wanted to start and got his wish granted when he was packaged off for Long Island native and defending Cy Young winner Frank Viola.
The trade to the Twins led to this awkwardly airbrushed hat on Aguilera’s 1990 Topps card.
On the surface, it looked like a great deal for the Mets. Viola was an elite pitcher and would make the Mets contenders well into the 1990’s. As it turned out, despite a few good seasons by Viola in Queens, the Twins got the better end of the deal.
Aguilera was shifted back to the bullpen for 1990 and became an All Star closer three times. Kevin Tapani, also included in the deal, became Minnesota’s number two starter. David West also was thrown into the deal and became a middle reliever for the Minnesota squad that went on to win the 1991 World Series.
Aguilera made a brief cameo with the Red Sox, helping them win the 1995 Division but giving up a critical extra inning home run to Albert Belle in the Division Series that helped derail Boston’s October against Cleveland.
He finished his career bouncing between Minnesota and the Cubs. Frank Viola had retired by the time he wrapped up his career in 2000. Later he was elected to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.
As the Mets crumbled in the early 1990’s, Rick Aguilera, Randy Myers, Lenny Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell, Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell all remained valuable players for contending teams.
Imagine the team the Mets could have had if they kept the squad together. The bullpen alone would have been the deepest in baseball. But instead they retooled and, in the case of the Minnesota Twins who captured two World Series after the Mets last title, it benefitted the teams outside of Queens.