A Conversation with Frank Viola

Frank Viola was always the definition of a “silky left-handed pitcher.” With his seemingly effortless delivery, which produced excellent results during his career, he more than earned his nickname of “Sweet Music.” If injuries hadn’t effectively ended his career at age 34, it would have been interesting to see where his final numbers would have ended up.

New York was where Viola developed as a baseball player. He grew up a Mets fan in East Meadow, and later attended St. John’s University on a baseball scholarship. It is a place that is very important to him, and even today you can immediately identify his roots just by hearing him speak.

                Viola was first drafted in 1979 by the Kansas City Royals, but he declined to sign in order to return to college. It was a fortuitous decision, because in 1981 he was chosen by the Minnesota Twins in the 2nd round. The Twins became the team that Viola will always be most linked with, and where he achieved his greatest success.

                After just 25 minor league games, Viola was deemed Major League ready and summoned to the parent club. He struggled in his first two years, with an 11-25 record and an ERA over 5.00. Fortunately the Twins stuck with him, and their loyalty subsequently paid off handsomely.

                Viola developed into one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, compiling a number of impressive career highlights. He helped the Twins win the 1987 World Series, and won the Series MVP award, after winning Games 1 and 7 against St. Louis. Viola was also named the 1988 American League Cy Young Award winner after going 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA.

                As the 1989 trade deadline was about to expire, Viola was sent to the New York Mets for a package of young players that included Rick Aguilera and Kevin Tapani. The move was designed to reload the Twins with cheaper talent, and did ultimately pay off, as the team won the World Series again in 1991. It also allowed Viola to return to his New York home.

                Viola won 20 games with the Mets in 1990 and 13 in 1991, but the team was not able to overcome the Pittsburgh Pirates’ mini-dynasty, led by Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds. The Mets finished no better than second place during Viola’s tenure in New York . . .

Read the rest of the article here.

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