This article was written by Rich Puerzer
Although Randy Myers had been just promoted from the minors and was but a bit player on the 1986 Mets, his subsequent baseball career was filled with numerous stellar achievements. He was a dominant closer for several teams, was selected for four AllStar teams, was a key contributor to a World Series champion team, and for a time held the National League record for saves in a season. A quirky and sometimes eccentric lefty, Myers pitched for and greatly contributed to six franchises over the course of a fine 14-year major-league career.
Randall Kirk Myers was born on September 19, 1962, in Vancouver, Washington. Myers’ father was an auto mechanic, and Myers credited his blue-collar upbringing and the work ethic he learned from his parents for some of his success.[fn]Larry Stone, “Terminator—Enigmatic Oriole Closer Randy Myers Is Tough for Hitters—and Teammates—to Figure Out,” Seattle Times, September 29, 1997[/fn] Myers grew up in Vancouver, and graduated from Evergreen High School. While at Clark College in Vancouver, he was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the third round of the 1982 January Draft (Regular Phase). Myers did not sign with the Reds, and proceeded to go to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. As a pitcher at Eastern Illinois, he was drafted by the New York Mets in the first round (ninth pick overall) of the 1982 June Draft (Secondary Phase). Myers signed with the Mets and, at age 19, began his professional career as a starting pitcher for the Kingsport Mets in the Appalachian (Rookie) League. In 13 starts at Kingsport, he struck out more than a batter an inning, but also walked nearly a batter an inning, and threw a dozen wild pitches.
Myers progressed through the Mets’ minor-league system, all the while a starting pitcher. In 1983 he started 28 games for the Columbia Mets of the Class A South Atlantic League, where he made great strides in improving his control. In 1984 he split time between the Class-A Lynchburg Mets and the Double-A Jackson Mets, and emerged as a strong prospect. In 27 starts for the two teams, Myers posted a record of 15-6, an ERA of 2.06, and more than a strikeout per inning. He began 1985 in Jackson, and was promoted to the Triple-A Tidewater Tides later in the season. With Tidewater, Myers started seven games, pitching 44 innings and posting an ERA of 1.84. He earned a late-season call-up to the majors, for a cup of coffee with the Mets. Myers made his major-league debut on October 6, 1985, the last game of the Mets’ season. He pitched the final two innings of the game against the Montreal Expos, allowing no hits and one walk while striking out two batters. The Mets lost 2-1, in what was Rusty Staub’s last major-league game.
In 1986 Myers made the transition from starting pitcher to relief specialist. The Mets of course had an excellent starting rotation with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Bobby Ojeda, and Rick Aguilera. Myers’ chances of making the big-league team in the near future would be greatly enhanced if he were to come out of the bullpen. He began the season with Tidewater, and established himself as the team’s closer. He pitched in 45 games, all in relief, finished 35 of them, and earned 12 saves. He allowed only 44 hits in 65 innings, although he also walked 44 batters. Myers was overpowering with his fastball and hard slider, striking out 79 batters, or 10.9 batters per nine innings.[fn]Bill James and Rob Neyer, The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004), 320.[/fn] Myers was called up to the Mets in mid-July, and pitched primarily as a lefty matchup specialist, making eight appearances until mid-August. He pitched 8⅔ innings, allowing only two earned runs while striking out 10 batters. Myers was sent back to Tidewater in mid-August. In mid-September he was called back up and made two more regular-season appearances for the Mets, but was not included on the postseason roster.
Myers began the 1987 season again with Tidewater, but after only five appearances he was called back up to the Mets to stay. Pitching as a middle reliever and set-up man for the Mets’ two closers, Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco, Myers had mixed success. In his first outing of the season with the Mets, he gave up four earned runs without recording an out against the Atlanta Braves. By the end of April, his ERA stood at 13.50. But by the end of the season he demonstrated that he was as effective as any other option out of the Mets’ bullpen. From August 5 to September 25, Myers made 22 appearances and gave up just three earned runs. By season’s end, he had three wins and six losses along with six saves. Impressively, Myers struck out 92 batters in 75 innings. His emergence as a reliable pitcher allowed for the Mets to trade Jesse Orosco to the Dodgers, and left Myers to join right-hander Roger McDowell as the closing platoon. He also earned the distinction of Mets announcer Tim McCarver referring to him by the more formal moniker Randall K. Myers.
In 1988, Randy Myers, 25, had his first great season. He picked up the save on Opening Day, the first of 26 saves he would earn that year. For the season, Myers finished with a record of 7-3, struck out 69 in 68 innings, recorded a WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 0.912, had an ERA of 1.72, and emerged as the leader of the Mets’ bullpen. The Mets had a great season, winning 100 games and finishing first in the National League East. In the National League Championship Series Myers got the win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Games One and Three. However, Mets manager Davey Johnson’s use, or lack thereof, of Myers in Game Four puzzled Mets fans. The Mets led the series two games to one going into that game. Starter Dwight Gooden held a 4-2 lead going into the ninth inning. Gooden walked leadoff batter John Shelby. With left-handed-batting Mike Scioscia coming up and Gooden having thrown more than 120 pitches, it seemed a good time to call Myers from the bullpen. However, Johnson had Gooden stay in the game. Scioscia hit a home run to tie the score. Myers eventually relieved Gooden in the ninth and finished up the inning without giving up a run. He remained in the game until the 11th inning, when he was relieved by Roger McDowell, who would eventually lose the game on a home run by Kirk Gibson. The Mets went on to lose the series in seven games, and Myers did not appear again in the series. Scioscia’s homer was the turning point in the series, as it allowed the Dodgers to tie the series instead of being down three games to one.[fn]Jon Springer and Matthew Silverman, Mets by the Numbers: A Complete Team History of the Amazin’ Mets by Uniform Number (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2008), 234.[/fn]
Myers had another fine season in 1989. The Mets traded former platoon-mate Roger McDowell to the Phillies in mid-June, making Myers the sole closer for the team. He responded well, finishing the season with a record of 7-4 and 24 saves. He again averaged more than a strikeout per inning, appeared in a teamleading 65 games, and had an ERA of 2.35. The Mets finished second, six games behind the Cubs, despite a supremely talented staff of starting pitchers.
After the 1989 season, despite his successes, the Mets decided to trade Myers away. They dealt him and pitcher Kip Gross to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher John Franco and minor leaguer Don Brown. The motivations behind the trade for both teams were somewhat questionable. The trade was essentially 28-year-old left-handed closer Franco for 26-year-old left handed closer Myers. Franco’s contract was far more pricey than that of Myers, nearly $1.1 million per year, to $300,000 a year for Myers. So in making the trade, the Reds were acquiring a less expensive player.
For the Mets, Franco hailed from New York City, making him a potential fan favorite. There were also stories that Myers was pursuing the then unorthodox training method, at least for pitchers, of lifting weights. He was also quirky and known for his interest in weapons and for reading Soldier of Fortune magazine in the locker room. Regardless of both teams’ motivations, Myers did end up in an excellent situation and would prosper in Cincinnati.
The 1990 Cincinnati Reds were a good team with a great bullpen, led by Myers. He was the de-facto closer, finishing the season with 31 saves, an ERA of 2.08, a WHIP of 1.119, and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings, and was selected to his first All-Star team. The reliever triumvirate of Myers, Norm Charlton, and Rob Dibble, who became known as the Nasty Boys, had great success in helping the Reds to win the National League West. Charlton, who moved from the bullpen and into the starting rotation midway through the season, starting 16 games, was back in the bullpen with great success in the postseason. Dibble, who was probably the most dominant pitcher of the three, saved 11 games while striking out 12.5 per nine innings. The Reds won the division by five games, and defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in six games in the National League Championship Series, with Myers pitching in each of the four victories. He and Rob Dibble shared the series Most Valuable Player honors. The Reds went on to face the Oakland A’s in the World Series and surprisingly swept the A’s in four games. Myers pitched in three of the games, allowed only two baserunners and struck out three in three innings of work. He earned the save in the fourth game and final game, and was on the mound when the Series came to an end. To cap the season for Myers, he placed fifth in the voting for the National League Cy Young Award, and 17th in the MVP vote.
Although the 1991 Reds entered the season with great promise, over the course of the season they repeatedly faltered and ended up in fifth place in their division. The Nasty Boys bullpen of 1990 was intact, and Myers and Dibble began the season as a closer platoon. Dibble continued the dominance he demonstrated the previous year, but Myers did not. His strikeout rate was down and he allowed baserunners at a far higher rate than in recent years. He had a particularly difficult streak of appearances from July 11 to the 20th, allowing 11 runs in 8⅓ innings pitched. Hoping a change of responsibility would do him well, the Reds moved Myers to the starting rotation, as Dibble and Charlton had the bullpen well under control. Myers struggled mightily as a starter, with the Reds losing 9 of the 12 games he started. By the end of the season, he was back in the bullpen.
After the 1991 season the Reds traded Myers to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Bip Roberts. Myers was made the closer of the Padres, and had something of a return to form. He led the pitching staff in appearances with 66, and saved 38 games. However, his strikeout rate was still lower than earlier in his career, and he blew eight saves, leading to a relatively high 4.29 ERA. The Padres ended the season third in their division, 16 games behind the Atlanta Braves. After the season Myers became a free agent, and was among the best relief pitchers on the market. The Chicago Cubs signed him to a three-year contract worth $10.7 million. Myers responded with an excellent season in 1993. He pitched in a team-high 73 games (60 of which were save situations), posted an ERA of 3.11, and struck out 86 batters in 75⅓ innings. But what was most notable about his season was his 53 saves, shattering the National League record for saves in a season, 47, set by Lee Smith. Myers finished eighth in Cy Young Award voting.
Myers began the 1994 season well, but as a team the Cubs were dreadful. He recorded 21 saves and was named to the All-Star team, but the Cubs were in last place, 16½ games behind the NL Central-leading Reds, when the players strike forced the end of the season after the games played on August 11. When baseball came back in 1995, the Cubs were modestly better, and Myers soldiered on, leading the team, and the National League, with 38 saves, and again appearing on the AllStar team. After theseason, Myers, now 33 years old, went back on the free-agent market and was signed by the Baltimore Orioles to a two-year, $6.3 million contract. The move to Baltimore reunited Myers with Davey Johnson, his manager when he came up with the Mets, as well as with Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell, his former bullpen mates with the Mets.
In 1996 Myers saved 31 games for the Orioles, helped by a much higher strikeout rate (11.4 per nine innings), than in recent seasons. The Orioles finished second in the American League East, good enough for the wild card in the American League. In the Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, the Orioles won, three games to one, with Myers pitching in all three wins and picking up the save in Games Two and Four. In the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, Myers was in the thick of the action. In Game One, he was brought into the game in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 4-4, one out and two runners on base. He was able to get out of the inning on a line-drive double play. Myers pitched a 1-2-3 10th, but gave up a walk-off home run to Bernie Williams in the 11th. He pitched again in Games Two and Five, and did not allow any runs, but the Yankees won the series four games to one.
Myers came back strong for the 1997 season with the Orioles. He led the American League in saves with 45, with only one blown save for the season. His ERA of 1.51 was a career low. He was selected to his fourth All-Star team. The Orioles won 98 games and finished first in the division. They defeated the Seattle Mariners in the Division Series, with Myers finishing two of the three Orioles wins. In the Championship Series, Myers got the save against the Cleveland Indians in Game One, but that was his last solid outing in the series. He took the loss in Game Three, giving up a run in the 11th inning on a steal of home by Marquis Grissom. Myers entered Game Five in the ninth inning to protect a 4-0 Orioles lead. His performance was shaky and he gave up two runs before finishing off the inning and the game. In Game Six, with the Indians leading the series three games to two, Myers relieved starter Mike Mussina in the ninth inning of a scoreless game and pitched two scoreless innings before handing the game over to Armando Benitez, who took the loss when he gave up a home run to Tony Fernandez in the 11th inning. After the season, Myers’ contributions to the Orioles’ success were well recognized. He finished fourth in the voting for the Cy Young Award and, perhaps more impressively, finished fourth in the Most Valuable Player voting. His time with the Orioles came to an end, however. Myers became a free agent after the season and although the Orioles offered him a substantial two-year contract, he accepted a better offer from the Toronto Blue Jays, a three-year, $18 million contract.[fn]Murray Chass, “Moving Quickly, Blue Jays Snatch Myers From Orioles,” New York Times, November 27, 1997.[/fn]
The 35-year-old Myers pitched effectively for the Blue Jays in 1998, earning 28 saves by August 2. However, he did not exhibit the impressive form of his previous few seasons. By August 2 he had blown five saves and his ERA stood at 4.46. The Blue Jays were also out of contention. At the end of July, the Blue Jays trailed the New York Yankees, who would go on to win 114 games, by 25½ games and also lagged behind the eventual wild-card winner Boston Red Sox by 10½ games. As a result, the Blue Jays were willing to part ways with Myers and put him on waivers. The San Diego Padres, apparently afraid that the Atlanta Braves would claim Myers, put in a claim. The Blue Jays traded Myers to the Padres on August 6 for minor-league catching prospect Brian Lloyd, a trade that would go down as disastrous for the Padres.[fn]Henry Shulman, “Waiver Claim Backfired on Padres / Despite Big Contract They Grabbed Myers So Atlanta Wouldn’t,” SFGATE, August 11, 1998.[/fn] The trade took Myers to a team with more immediate promise—at the time of the trade the Padres held a 12-game lead in their division. However, Myers’ role as a reliever was clearly diminished, as the Padres already had a well-established closer, Trevor Hoffman. Myers settled into a role as a middle reliever and left-handed specialist. He made 21 appearances for the Padres to complete the season. While his ERA for the Padres was 6.28, he was charged with earned runs in only six of his appearances. In the postseason, Myers did not appear in the Division Series against the Houston Astros, which the Padres won in four games. He did pitch in four of the games in the National League Championship Series against the Braves, which the Padres won in six games. Myers pitched in three of the four games of the World Series against the juggernaut Yankees, who swept the Series. He struck out both baserunners he faced in Game One and walked the only batter he faced, Paul O’Neil, in Game Three. In Game Four Myers got O’Neil to line out to end the top of the ninth inning. It was Myers’ last appearance in a major-league game.
Although Myers was under contract for the 1999 and 2000 seasons, he did not pitch again for the Padres. A shoulder injury and eventual rotator-cuff surgery in 1999 essentially brought about the end to his playing career. Myers was only in the first year of his contract when he was traded to the Padres, who ended up paying him $13 million to complete the three-year contract. Myers attempted a comeback in 2001 with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, but the comeback was short-lived; he pitched in only one game and gave up three hits and a walk without recording an out. After the game he retired as a player. He started a nonprofit foundation, T.O.D.A.Y., to promote youth athletics. He became an assistant women’s basketball coach at his alma mater, Clark College. Myers also became a benefactor to the Clark College baseball program, where he got his start, by donating funds to revive what had become a dormant varsity program. As of 2015 he lived in Brush Prairie, in central Washington.
This biography is included in the book “The 1986 New York Mets: There Was More Than Game Six” (SABR, 2016), edited by Leslie Heaphy and Bill Nowlin.