In the winter of 1981-82, the New York Mets were Big Apple nobodies -- a star-less, charisma-less franchise coming off of a miserable 41-62 strike-shortened season. The team had drawn 704,244 fans, seventh in the National League (and not even half the total of the cross-town Yankees), and its marketing exclamation, "The magic is back!" rang hollow. UnlessJoel YoungbloodandPete Falconepossessed some sort of secret, Houdini-esque abilities, the magic was not back. It was, in fact, dead.
With this as a backdrop,Frank Cashen, the team's general manager, pulled off a headline-stealing deal. In exchange for three middling players, Cashen landed slugging outfielderGeorge Fosterfrom the Cincinnati Reds, immediately signing him to a five-year, $10 million contract.
Did Cashen think the former National League MVP was the missing piece that New York needed to turn itself into a winner? Hardly. While the Mets offense was nothing to brag about, it was the club's rotten starting rotation and lowly middle infield that required the most attention. "But signing George was a message to baseball and to our fans that we were in it to win," Cashen said. "From here on out, we would do whatever it takes."