Over seven seasons (1980-1986) with the Mets, Lynch compiled a 38-40 record and a 3.82 ERA. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs at the 1986 trade deadline.
Lynch joined the MetsRewind podcast to talk about his playing days in New York, his days as general manager of the Chicago Cubs and his memories of Tom Seaver. Subscribe to the MetsRewind podcast on iTunes or Spotify for a complete archives of Game Rewinds and more player interview.
ED LYNCH TRANSCRIPT (CONDENSED)
MetsRewind: You arrived in New York in 1980, you were the player to be named later in the Willie Montanez deal. Then 1986 comes along — and I want to cut right to the chase — you are dealt at the trade deadline. Did that. Did getting traded from a team that was on the brink of winning a World Series sting?
Ed Lynch: Yeah, absolutely. But you know, I was smart enough to understand the business. I had hurt injured my knee in spring training and I pitched one game in ‘86 of Philadelphia. I came in and relief, uh, early in the season in April in Philadelphia and I pitched one and two thirds innings. I pitched well and that night after the game, my leg blew up. My left knee blew up the size of a basketball … he examined me and said, you’ve got a torn meniscus. We got to do surgery. So I had surgery done on my knee … So I went down to Tidewater and I’m pitching (and) I knew I wasn’t going to go back to New York and be put back on that staff. So, two or three days before my rehab ended I remember I got a call from my father-in-law. He said you might want to check the New York Times today. So I was in a hotel — and this sounds like the dark ages –but I went down to the gift shop or bought a New York Times. I opened the sports page and it said Lynch trade expected today. As soon as I read that the phone rang. It was Al Harazin. He said, Ed, we made a trade and you’re going to Chicago. I remember my quote was “it was like living with a family the whole year thrown out on Christmas Eve,” and that’s really how I felt.
MetsRewind: Let’s rewind a little bit to your arrival in New York. In 1980, the Mets were pitiful and you had an amazing front row seat of watching that franchise go from worst to first. Did this have an influence on you when you later arrived in the front office for the Cubs and watching that building process take place?
Lynch: I never made that declaration to myself … I think I came to that decision after I retired and I was in law school and I was fully intending on practicing law. And then. About two months before I graduated, I graduated early because I went all summer. I got out as fast as you could possibly get out two years and four months. During the World Series in 1990, I got a call from Joe McIlvaine and he was just named general manager of the San Diego Padres. He asked me if I’d be interested in the position of director of player development. And that’s a heck of an entry level position. I mean, you’ve got people coming in as unpaid interns and things of that nature and working their way up to a position like that.
But to go back to your previous question, I had a front row seat from August of 1980 until June of 1986. Like you said, I was on the first row and I saw that there’s three major avenues to improve your club: Through the draft. Obviously the Mets were fabulous at that. Joe McIlvaine did an incredible job … obviously the big one was by trade … We got Keith Hernandez from the Cardinals on June 15th, 1983. We were all stunned. When that trade happened, we didn’t know any of the backstory. We didn’t know about Whitey Herzog and Keith being at odds.
Number one, he’s on our team. And number two, we don’t have to face them anymore because Keith Keith was the, the quality player you’re talking about the leader. Of the defending world champion gets traded over to Austin last place. I mean, that never happened. And so those, those trades were, were huge. So then the last thing of course is free agency.
MetsRewind: Davey Johnson always said Gary Carter was “the last piece of the puzzle.” Hernandez was probably the first piece of the puzzle. How did he impact the environment that clubhouse, the culture, his presence being there.
Lynch: He got there in ’83 and we were bad ball club. It was obvious we were going to finish at the bottom of the division. Keith was in shock. I remember when he first got there … I’m on the other side of the clubhouse and I’m watching them unpack his bag and I’m thinking, “man, you poor guy.” He’s putting on this Mets uni and we stink and I felt terrible for him. He told me later, it’s the greatest thing that ever happened to him.
But I remember we played out that year. Keith didn’t really say a lot or do a lot. He was still a great player. He was vocal, but he wasn’t like as assertive as he was from the first day at ’84 Spring Training, it was like, Hey guys, when we lose a game, we don’t go in and say, we played hard and we just didn’t catch the breaks.
Every loss was a personal insult. And if we lose, someone’s going to be blamed. And if it was him, he would take the blame. So if I went up there in ’83, and I didn’t get a bunt down, nobody’s saying anything. If I get up there an ’84 in a sacrifice situation, and I didn’t get a bunt down, he’s waiting for me on the top step of the dugout.
I remember the 55,000 people at Shea stadium and I’d hear something, it’s like a jet taking off. But I had sense that someone was trying to get my attention. I looked over at Keith and he looks around like, nobody’s watching and says, Hey, this guy is a good high ball hitter. Well, great. You just told 58,642 people, you know, but that’s the way he was.
MetsRewind: Hernandez was there. Mookie Wilson arrived. The pitching staff was starting to fill out. The Mets had entered this next stage of being a contender. Were there moments? Or games or stretches during those couple years, ed that are notable in your mind where you said we we’ve turned the corner.
Lynch: I think it happened right away in 84.
We went into Cincinnati Opening Day and got beat, I think, 10, nothing in the clubhouse after the game. If that was ’83, would be like, here we go again. Not in ’84. They were very unhappy guys in that clubhouse. Then we went out and won six in a row. And I think that’s the first time we won six in a row in my years up to that point.
I said, this club’s for real. Then, you know, you look out there every, every fifth day we had guys like Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez was there. We had Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell, one of the premier left-hand and relievers in the league. We had Darryl Strawberry. We also had Walt Terrell, who threw 200 innings as a young kid. We’re putting a pretty good starting pitcher out there every day. We were extremely young in ’84 though. So there was a sense that we were going to compete, but we just couldn’t beat the Cubs that year.
MetsRewind: You had the opportunity to pitch alongside Tom Seaver in ’83. What were your impressions or memories of Tom Seaver and maybe anything you learned from him?
Lynch: I’ll tell you that was the most awesome experience for me. I was 13 years old in 1969. I’m a freshman in high school and watched the Miracle Mets. Tom Seaver was all of our idols. I grew up in New York. We moved to Miami, Florida when I was 12 in 1968, and I was a Met fan, a Jet fan and a Knick fan. Of course, all three of them win the world championship. The next year I’ll be down in Miami, Florida with no ESPN.
But I just worshiped him from afar. I had the chance to pitch against them twice. When I heard he was coming over, I was really at all the guy. And the thing he taught me was how seriously he took his craft and it’s a war out there. It’s really a war and, and it’s not fun and games. I remember he said, “Hey, late in a tight game, it’s like a bar fight. You know? You might get smacked in the mouth and taste your own blood, but you got to just keep swinging back.
If we had Tom Seaver on our club in 1984 and ’85, there’s no way we’re not winning the division. He would have pitched Opening Day. Dwight Gooden would have pitched after him. Then Ron Darling and then Walt Terrell. There’s no way we don’t when that division in ’84 and ’85 without if we had Tom Seaver. So that was a devastating blow to the organization.
When Tom died that took a big chunk out of my heart because it’s part of your youth, you know? When you’re you’re young and you idolize somebody, for a lot of people, it was like — not as dramatic — but like President Kennedy getting killed or Martin Luther King. I mean, someone that meant so much to you is gone and it takes a chunk out of your heart and it takes a chunk out of your soul and that’s how deeply I felt about Tom Seaver and the effects that he had on me.
MetsRewind: Your first draft pick as a GM is Kerry Wood. Tell me about the first time you saw him pitch?
Lynch: Let’s take a step back going into that draft. We were picking fourth, I believe. And. You know, uh, we knew that the angels were going to take Darren Erstad, we knew he was going to be one, one. We thought that the Padres would take Ben Davis, a catcher from the Philadelphia area. Number two. Seattle was picking three. We didn’t know what they were going to do … so Seattle is up on the board. And then, you know, when you see these movies about the NFL draft, you’re on the board, you got 20 minutes. I mean, you basically have 30 seconds, Seattle selects, and back then it was Seattle selects and they. And they say a number or name. That means it’s the first time the guy’s been drafted. As soon as I said that, we knew who he was, they were taking Jose Cruz Jr. Because he was the guy that we thought they might take. Then we took Kerry, but I’ll tell you something, John. I haven’t told a lot of people this, if we did not get Kerry we taking Todd Hill.
Lynch: I had somebody tell Todd Helton that. I happen to be in Colorado on the day for him Todd Helton they retired his number. One of the announcers, I think it was George Frazier. I said, Hey, tell him that story. So when he came back off, I said, what did Todd say? You know what he said? Wow. It’s just what you said. It’s amazing how his life could have changed. Immeasurably. If Seattle takes Kerry Wood than we take Helton … It’s amazing how much your life can change.
I went down to, to see Kerry throw the first time as a professional. He did a bullpen. I was walking in and he was warming up. He’s a high school kid and he’s a little nervous. I remember the first fastball he threw, I thought it was going to be in the dirt. And it just stayed at that level. And then wham. It’s a spot on the strike zone. And I said, I haven’t seen a fastball like that since Dwight Gooden, 1985. And that’s what I heard at Tom Seaver used to throw.
MetsRewind: You were leading the Cubs during the Sosa years, you watched him evolve and flourish. And by ’98, of course, the magical season and Sosa and McGwire were on top of the world. As a GM who saw Sosa every day. Did you ever have a suspicion about PEDs with him?
Lynch: Sure. I mean, we’re not stupid. I get that all the time, management and the commissioner turned a blind eye. I mean, that is so ridiculous. Because we didn’t have the authority. I asked Sammy, are you doing anything illegal? No. And so I didn’t have the, there was no mechanism in place for me to force him to take a test.
That was the union. The union is the reason nobody could be tested, not the clubs. You know, what was the commissioner supposed to do? Suspend a guy, because he thinks he’s doing something? It’s ridiculous. I’m not blind and I’m not naive. I mean, I never saw steroids when I was a player, but you look around the league in 1998, look at Mark McGwire, look at all these guys that just got twice their normal size.
And it wasn’t my position to question, you know, I asked him, he gave me an answer. There’s nothing else I could do. If people think that’s a cop out, well, then it’s a cop out because I really had no other mechanism in my in my power to get to the bottom of anything.
You know, it took people. Dying basically to get some sort of testing federated and things like that. That’s the answer to the question, but I’ll tell you what, Sammy not only was a powerful hitter. He was a good hitter. He was a 300 hitter. And I’ll tell you what it was a lesson in being around the most famous athlete in the world, which not many people have the pleasure of doing.