On August 21, 2001, Mike Piazza hit an RBI single in the first inning, and Shea Stadium went crazy. They went crazy again when he homered in the second extending the Mets lead to 4-0 in a game they would eventually win 5-2. To be fair, Mets fans always went crazy whenever Piazza did anything, but this was heightened over what is usually was.
The reason for that was the hits came off of Mike Hampton, who had become public enemy number one among Mets fans. That’s an impressive feat when you consider at that time the Atlanta Braves had players like Chipper Jones and John Rocker.
With it being 20 years later, perhaps we should revisit exactly why Mets fans hate Hampton.
Things weren’t always this way with Hampton. Mets fans rejoiced when he was obtained from the Houston Astros. Even with the high price of Roger Cedeno and Octavio Dotel, Mets fans were envisioning a World Series with a pitching staff headed by Hampton and Al Leiter.
Hampton delivered on that promise. In 2000, he was 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA and a 1.346 WHIP. Overall, he was a top 10 pitcher in the National League with his having the fifth best ERA+, seventh best FIP, and the 10th best WAR. When you combine how good a hitter the 2000 Silver Slugger was, Hampton was everything the Mets hoped he would be.
He would then pitch the Mets to the World Series being the NLCS MVP after going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 0.813 WHIP in his two starts. It was Hampton who was on the mound when Rick Wilkins flew out to Timo Perez.
No, Hampton wasn’t particularly good in the World Series, but he wasn’t bad either. In his lone start, he took the loss in Game 2 after allowing four earned over six innings in the game forever known for Roger Clemens throwing a bat at Piazza.
In the offseason, Hampton was a free agent, and he did what almost every player did. He took the best offer given to him. In the end, it was a huge eight year $121 million deal from the Colorado Rockies. Hampton tried to spin it as being for family reasons, but it was a bit much to take for everyone. For example, Sandy Alderson, who was then a executive vice president for Major League Baseball said, “He’s an outstanding pitcher. It’s a lot of money. Case closed. I don’t want to hear about the Wheat Ridge (Colo.) school system.” (ESPN).
Hampton going to Colorado proved to be bad for him and the Mets. Hampton predictably struggled pitching in Coors Field, and the Mets never could quite assemble a roster which could take the Mets over the top. In fact, that offseason was one of the more disappointing in Mets history.
What began with visions of Alex Rodriguez and/or Hampton ended with Kevin Appier, Steve Trachsel, and Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Sadly, that is not an exaggeration. To hear the Mets tell it, A-Rod was a 24+1 player, and Hampton chose the Rockies not because they didn’t offer enough, but rather, for lifestyle reasons.
As Mets fans, knowing all we know now, should we continue to hate Hampton?
By now, we know better about how the Mets spend money. After all, it was prior offseason where Bobby Valentine called into question about the real reason John Olerud left. We also can’t begrudge Hampton for taking the most money, and when we look at his brief tenure with the Mets, he did everything we could have expected him to do.
Looking back, it does go back to that World Series game.
After the game, Hampton questioned Piazza’s reaction to Clemens saying, “I think we should’ve fought, to be honest with you. But that’s not my call. You can’t make something happen if guys aren’t going to defend themselves. Different people react differently. Mike’s a little calmer. I’m more hot-tempered. I would’ve reacted a little different.” (NY Post).
He wasn’t the only Met to feel that way with Lenny Harris also questioning Piazza’s reaction or lack thereof. What made it harder to take from Hampton is he didn’t exactly pitch lights out in that game, and he also didn’t exactly respond by going head hunting in the ensuing inning.
Since that game, Hampton has gone from beloved to hated. The switch flipped that fast. Aside from games he has appeared as a visitor, especially with the hated Braves, Hampton was stayed away.
That is until now. With this being the 20th anniversary of that pennant, Hampton has appeared at Spring Training with fellow members of that team like Turk Wendell and Glendon Rusch. By all accounts, the once detested Hampton has been welcome back at Port St. Lucie.
Perhaps, now, it is time to move on from out hatred of him. After all, the Mets not doing what was needed to keep him and replace him wasn’t his fault. That’s on the Mets. More to the point, no fan should be ever upset at a player for taking the best contract and situation for his family.
As for the World Series, well, it was massively disappointing for us all. Hampton and Piazza included. For any comments between the two, Piazza more than got his revenge hitting .294/.357/.569 off of him with two doubles, four homers, and 12 RBI.In the end, Hampton got it, and Piazza went to the Hall of Fame.
It’s been 20 years, and when you think about it, Hampton has a special place in Mets history. It’s now time to remember, honor, and celebrate it. It’s time to forgive. It’s time to cheer Hampton this year and welcome him with open arms.
When he was struggling earlier in the year, Noah Syndergaard was saying he was struggling now, but he’ll dominate in September. With how he had struggled in his last few starts, this seemed like a punchline waiting to happen. As it turns out, Syndergaard was right.
Yesterday, he was simply brilliant in his first ever complete game. If not for a Jay Bruce throwing error, on a ball he should not have pursued and probably not thrown, the Giants would not have had a base runner since the fourth inning.
If not for the Alen Hanson third inning triple, the Giants probably never score a run.
All told, Syndergaard allowed one run on just two hits while walking just one and striking out 11.
He’d get his 10th win of the season as the Mets gave Syndergaard run support starting with Michael Conforto‘s 20th homer of the season:
Syndergaard got more run support in the eighth as he helped himself a bit.
After a Tomas Nido leadoff single, Syndergaard bunted it just right enough of the pitcher to get Nido, who got a great jump, to second.
Amed Rosario singled to set up runners at the corners, and he’d then take the double play out of the equation by stealing second. Jeff McNeil brought him and Nido home with a two RBI single giving the Mets a 4-1 lead.
With that three run lead and Syndergaard still at 99 on the gun, Mickey Callaway had every excuse he needed to keep Syndergaard in the game.
The end result was a 114 pitch masterpiece and finally a return to the Thor we had been awaiting all season long.
Game Notes: Syndergaard’s 10 wins leads the team. With the win, Syndergaard became the first Met to beat the Giants two times in a year since Steve Trachsel did it in 2003.
Former Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey has retired from the game of baseball after a 12 year career, and he has accepted an assistant coaching position with Division II Newman University. Now, Pelfrey can play the part of Rick Peterson in helping a young pitcher learn about which one of his pitches is like putting ketchup on ice cream.
Reflecting back on Pelfrey’s career, I mostly remember the disappointment.
There was his inability to jump from being the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft to truly help an injured Mets rotation. That certainly stung when we watched Steve Trachselget pounded for five runs over the first two innings of a pivotal Game 3 of the 2006 NLCS.
There was also Pelfrey being a part of the 2007 and 2008 teams that collapsed. In 2007, his September 24th start saw the beginning of a five game losing streak with the Mets losing six of their last seven games to see a two game lead become an embarrassing collapse.
Pelfrey was a much better pitcher in 2008 with him going 13-11 with a 3.72 ERA. His improved pitching did not stop him from going 0-3 with a 4.06 ERA to help the Mets second consecutive collapse.
Still, Pelfrey showed enough to give Mets fans faith for the future. To that end, the rotation was set up so he would be the first ever Mets pitcher to toe the rubber at Citi Field. The third pitch throw in Citi Field history would be deposited by Jody Gerut into the left field stands for a lead-off homer.
Still, with Pelfrey, Mets fans always had hope for him, and we were waiting for him to finally turn that corner to be the front line starter we all imagined he could be. It just never happened for him.
He followed a good 2008 with a disappointing 2009. He rebounded in 2010 by winning 15 games, but he then went 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA. By that point, we all figured he was one of those every-other-year type of pitchers. It all seemed that way when he jumped out of the gate in 2012.
Through three starts, he had not recorded a decision, but he had a 2.29 ERA. His last start was an eight inning gem that would have been a win had the Mets not started that season with Frank Francisco as the Opening Day closer. A few days later, it was announced Pelfrey tore his UCL, and he was going to require season ending Tommy John surgery.
With his impending free agency, this mean that April 21st start would be his last in a Mets uniform. It would seem somewhat fitting his last win in a Mets uniform was from the previous August when he had a six inning three earned run quality start against the Phillies.
That was Pelfrey’s Mets career. His flashes of brilliance really led nowhere, and you were left to look for the little joys in his moments of mediocrity.
Still, it wasn’t all bad memories. He did bring hope with him. He was a player who chomped on his mouth-guard and kicked his fingers while he tried so desperately to succeed. As noted, there was a few seasons he did succeed. There was also a signature moment.
In 2010, there was a crazy 20 inning game between the Mets and Cardinals. With the Mets out of relievers and the team desperately clinging to a 2-1 lead, Pelfrey entered the game despite throwing 106 pitches just two days prior. On that day, Pelfrey saved the day.
That was always the case with Pelfrey. He was always willing, and he did all he could to improve even if that meant his stop putting ketchup in his ice cream.
In the end, he put together a 12 year Major League career full of adversity and perseverance. It’s a career un which he can take much pride. It’s one that will be of immense value as he now seems to impart his wisdom to a new generation of pitchers.
As a Mets fan, I know I wish him the best of luck.
This postseason Terry Francona relied heavily on this three best relievers throughout the postseason. One reason why he did it was Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen were all terrific relievers. Another reason why is the Indians starting rotation was decimated by injuries. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were out of the rotation due to injury before the postseason, and Trevor Bauer lacerated his hand while fixing a drone. Francona was forced to do what he did in the postseason. It was not unlike Willie Randolph in 2006.
Like Francona, the Mets were running away with the division when disaster struck. Their ace, Pedro Martinez, was ruled out for the postseason due to an injured leg, and then all hope of his return for the postseason was abandoned when it was discovered he had a torn rotator cuff. While Steve Trachsel was purportedly healthy a year removed from a cervical discectomy, he wasn’t the same pitcher anymore finishing the year with a 4.97 ERA. On the eve of the NLDS, Orlando Hernandez (“El Duque”) suffered a torn calf muscle thereby putting John Maine in position to start Game 1.
The surprise starter Maine gave the Mets 4.1 strong innings. Still, with runners on first and second with one out, Randolph wasn’t taking any chances in a 2-1 game. He first went to Pedro Feliciano to get Kenny Lofton, and then he went to Chad Bradford to get Nomar Garciaparra. The bullpen pitched the final 4.2 innings to secure the victory. This would essentially be how Randolph would manage the rest of the 2006 postseason in non-Tom Glavine starts. Overall, here’s a look at when the Mets bullpen entered each game that postseason:
|NLDS Game 1||John Maine||4.1||Chad Bradford|
|NLDS Game 2||Tom Glavine||6.0||Pedro Feliciano|
|NLDS Game 3||Steve Trachsel||3.1||Darren Oliver|
|NLCS Game 1||Tom Glavine||7.0||Guillermo Mota|
|NLCS Game 2||John Maine||4.0||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 3||Steve Trachsel||1.0||Darren Oliver|
|NLCS Game 4||Oliver Perez||5.2||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 5||Tom Glavine||4.0||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 6||John Maine||5.1||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 7||Oliver Perez||6.0||Chad Bradford|
Overall, the Mets starters pitched 47.2 innings that entire postseason meaning they averaged 4.2 innings per start. This year, the Indians starters pitched the very same 4.2 innings per star those 2006 Mets did. Despite Francona and Randolph having the very same approaches to the postseason games, Francona was hailed as a visionary and a genius, whereas many blame Randolph for the Mets failures in the postseason. The difference?
It started in Game 2 of the NLCS. Mota infamously shook off Paul Lo Duca, and Scott Spiezio hit a game tying triple. When Billy Wagner subsequently allowed a So Taguchi lead-off home run, it was a completely different NLCS. Then in Game 7, Aaron Heilman left a change-up up in the zone, and Yadier Molina hit a go-ahead two run home run. If not for those two mistakes, the Mets are in the World Series, and quite possibly, it is Randolph, not Francona that is seen as the visionary.
But the Mets lost because their pitchers did not execute in the two biggest moments of that series. As such, Francona is the genius because to the victor goes the spoils.
With Mike Piazza finally getting elected to the Hall of Fame and this current Mets offseason, I’ve been thinking a lot about missed opportunities in Mets history. For me, the 2000 offseason and 2001 season might’ve been the biggest missed opportunity in Mets history (or at least my lifetime).
Coming off a disappointing loss in the World Series, the Mets had a ton of important decisions to make. The most intriguing one was Alex Rodriguez. The Mets passed calling him a 24 and 1 type of player. The biggest free agent in baseball history, a 25 year old shortstop with 40/40 capability, and the Mets weren’t interested. They weren’t interested despite A-Rod wanting to be a Met. The Mets wouldn’t sign a big bat in lieu of him.
The next big decision was NLCS MVP Mike Hampton. The Mets have up a lot to get him, namely Roger Cedeno and Octavio Dotel. However, Hampton delivered. He was 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA. He won a Silver Slugger. He was an ace. He and Al Leiter were terrific that year during the regular season, and they helped pitch the Mets to the World Series. The Mets wouldn’t outbid the Rockies, who offered him the biggest contract in baseball history (until A-Rod signed with the Rangers) and the benefits of the Denver school system.
With the Mets missing out with these two players (and Mike Mussina), the Mets decided to build a deep, cost effective starting rotation. By the way, where have we heard of a World Series losing team choosing depth over high-end expensive players? In any event, the Mets re-signed Rick Reed and added Kevin Appier and Steve Trachsel. The last two moves were about as popular now as they were then.
The end result? The Mets got a compensatory pick for Mike Hampton (more on that in a minute) and an 82-80 record. It would be the last year the Mrts finished above .500 until 2005, which was Piazza’s last year with the Mets. The end of Piazza’s prime was wasted by the Mets. He would never return to the postseason with them. He would never play in another World Series. Was it worth it? Well, it depends on your point-of-view.
For me, the pivotal figure in this inquiry is Hampton. For startees, I say Hampton because I believe the Mets were never truly enamored with A-Rod. The Wilpons and Nelson Doubleday were fighting over the valuation of the Mets. The Wilpons were buying out Doubleday, and they didn’t want the value of the franchise to increase any further. A-Rod would’ve done that. Furthermore, it’s likely they would’ve had a hard time signing A-Rod, building a pitching staff, and buying out Mr. Doubleday. Hence, it was Hampton and not A-Rod as the pivotal figure.
We know Hampton was terrible in Colorado, but then again most pitchers are. It’s fair to assume, he would’ve continued pitching as well as he did in 2000 for the next year or two with the Mets. That’s about a pitcher with a 4.7 – 6.6 WAR. Would that have been sufficient to keep the Mets afloat in 2001? Would he have been enough to rescue an offense with the least runs scored in all of baseball that year?
We don’t the the corresponding moves. We also don’t know if the lack of moves created a negative vibe over a Mets team that sputtered out of the gate in 2001. This was a team that was Jekyll and Hyde. It was 38-51 in the first half and 44-29 in the second half. In reality, their second half push came too late leaving them no margin of error, as we know all too well with yet another huge Armando Benitez blown save.
Maybe with Hampton the season starts off different. It’s possible the Mets don’t make the flurry of moves they did in 2002 that proved disasterous. Maybe with Hampton the Mets make the postseason in 2001 and/or 2002. Maybe Piazza gets his ring. Maybe Mets fans are not waiting 30 years for a World Series. We don’t know. All we know is two things: (1) the Mets missed Hampton; and (2) Hampton leaving might’ve been the best case scenario.
The second reason Hampton is the pivotal figure is the player the Mets got in his stead. When Hampton left, the Mets received a compensatory pick. With that pick the Mets selected one of the best high school bats. The Mets got a third base prospect by the name of David Wright. Wright has been a big part of Mets history. He’s the Mets All-Time leader in games played, runs, hits, doubles, RBI, and walks. He’s second in homers. He’s hit the first a Mets homerun at Citi Field and the first World Series homerun at Citi Field. He was a big part of two postseason teams, which is no small feat in Mets history.
Essentially, you cannot tell the story of the Mets without David Wright. It’s unfathomable to imagine Wright in another uniform. However, I ask you has he been worth it? Was he worth wasting away the last years of Piazza’s prime? Was he worth losing all momentum from the 1999 and 2000 seasons? Would you rather have had a shot for another World Series run back then in exchange for Wright’s entire career?
Before answering, I ask that you keep some thoughts in mind. The first is if Hampton returns, you don’t hate him the way you do now. In fact, you may not hate him at all. Next, I’m not asking you to assume the Mets win the World Series Hampton re-signs. I’m only requesting you think about how he would’ve impacted the 2001 Mets and/or his impact in subsequent years. With that in mind, what do you do?
Now, if you asked me this question in 2000, I’m taking Hampton. No doubt about it. Hampton was a much better option than Appier. If the Mets got Hampton and Appier without signing Trachsel, even better. However, I’ll be honest, while I can separate myself from my hatred of Hampton, I can’t separate myself from my love of David Wright.
Sure, Piazza is my favorite player, but Wright has also been a terrific Met. He’s a homegrown Met. He has a contract that may make him a lifetime Met. Generally speaking, Wright has been everything good about the sport of baseball since he was called up. He’s created some great memories for Mets fans. His name is all over the record books. I’m not sure I could part with that, perhaps not even at a chance at a World Series.
So begrudgingly, I believe I’d pick the entire career of David Wright over the possibility of another World Series title. Sure, World Series titles are rare, but so are the David Wrights of the world. I’m hoping in 2016 Mets fans can celebrate both Wright and a World Series title. It’s a lot more fun than playing the what if game.
When the trade was made in 2006, Baerga switched to number 8 for the 1997 and 1998 seasons. We all know by now it was an awful trade. Baerga provided the Mets with a triple slash line of .267/.302/.373 with 18 homers and 116 RBIs.
The man he replaced, Jeff Kent, turned out to be a career .290/.356/.500 hitter with 377 homeruns and 1,518 RBIs. He was the 2000 NL MVP. He is the all time leader for second baseman in homeruns (351), RBIs (1,389), slugging percentage (.509), and doubles (560). I remember my Dad was angry when the trade first took place, and he would become more irritated each and every passing year.
Now, record wise, 1997 and 1998 were pretty good. However, 1998 was heartbreaking. For all the fans looking for a repeat of 2007 and 2008 after a couple of losses to the Marlins, they forgot about the original collapse.
The Mets had a one game lead over the Cubs and four games over the Giants with five games remaining (seven for the Giants). The Mets lost all five of their remaining games. They were home as the Cubs and Giants had a play-in game for the Wild Card featuring future Met Steve Trachsel, and former Met, Jeff Kent.
In those final five games for the Mets, Baerga went 2-13 (.154) with no walks, one RBI, no extra base hits, and one game on the bench. He wasn’t the only one responsible for that collapse, *cough* Mel Rojas *cough*. However, the Mets were stuck with Baerga while Kent was in the play-in game. It just shows you how changing one player for another can have a profound impact on your season. With this year’s flurry of trades, it’s something Mets fans know well.
So let’s tip our cap to Magic Number 8, Carlos Baerga, who shows us, in part, our fears of collapse are behind us.