In the early 1980s, George Foster watched as the Mets built themselves from a perennial basement dweller to an eventual World Series winner. Traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Mets in February 1982 for Greg Harris, Jim Kern and Alex Trevino, Foster played for a 97-game loser during his first season in Queens. He was released in August 1986, two months before the Mets won their second world championship.
"That was my objective, to go to a ballclub and help them become a winner," Foster, 66, said Tuesday night at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip, where he was representing Principal Financial Group during an Atlantic League contest between the Ducks and the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
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"Eventually, they did become a winner," Foster, the 1977 NL MVP, said. "When they got Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and Gary Carter, they started to be a formidable team. Then Dwight Gooden started to progress. It was great to be part of the beginning of a winning ballclub."
Foster played four full seasons in Flushing, never hitting above .269, but cracking 21 or more home runs in three of those years. In 655 games with the Mets, Foster hit .252 with 99 home runs. In his 18-year career, he hit .274 with 348 home runs
Now, almost 30 years later, Foster is still watching, though this time from his home in Cincinnati, as the Mets attempt to replicate the success of the mid-80s.
"The biggest difference was that we had superstars that weren't pitchers," Foster said. "Now, it's mostly pitching with the Mets. They don't have the hitter that's going to stand out, like a Strawberry or Carter. They need to get David Wright healthy and bring in a veteran player to help out. They wanted [Michael] Cuddyer to do it, but right now, he's not as productive as they thought he would be."
Prior to being no-hit by the Giants on Tuesday night, the Mets ranked 25th in the majors in runs and 22nd in average. Conversely, they ranked fifth in ERA, eighth in strikeouts and 10th in opponent batting average.
"It's always great to see the pitching, but you need to get some hitting," Foster said.
Despite the low offensive rankings, the Mets still entered the night in first place in the NL East and Foster said he is excited to see them, among other teams that have struggled in recent years, turn it around.
"It's fun to see teams like the Mets, the Royals, Minnesota, the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros on top this time of year," he said. "It's good for baseball and good for the individual cities."
Foster retired after the 1986 season and now works with inner-city and military children in Cincinnati, teaching them "life skills through baseball" as part of his independent organization, the George Foster Pro Concept.
"They're the future of baseball," Foster said. "You want to make sure they have confidence, ambition and desire to become better. We try to teach them the skills that they need to have to go to the next level, whether it be high school, college or even pro ball."
Foster believes that commissioner Rob Manfred should focus on cleaning up the faces of the game -- literally.
"I would have guys be more clean-shaven and get rid of the beards," he said. "They look rough looking out there . . . Kids are trying to emulate them and be like them. In basketball, the commissioner came in and changed the dress code. That improves the image. They're professionals. They should be setting a good example."