Last night, Jason Isringhausen appeared in a Met uniform for the first time since 1999 and was greeted warmly by the home crowd. He recorded two outs in the bottom of the seventh innings, stranding two runners and keeping the game tied for the time being. A Met from 1995-99, Izzy went 18-21 with a 4.67 ERA, 1.525 WHIP and 1.52 K/BB during his first go round in Queens, mainly starting but also saw some time the pen. After being traded to Oakland, Isringhausen became one of the game’s best closers, racking up saves with the Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals, but now will hopefully settle into middle relief or the potentially the eight inning role in New York.
Izzy is not the first, and won’t be the last, player to have separate stints with the Amazins. Below are just a few of guys who just couldn’t get enough of the Mets so much that they each had to return after leaving.
Tom Seaver: The Franchise is without a doubt the best pitcher in Mets history. From 1967-1976, Seaver won 182 games with the blue and orange, posting a 2.47 ERA, 1.061 WHIP, 3.18 K/BB and striking out 2334 batters while also winning three Cy Young Awards and a World Series. However, he was traded in the middle of 1977 to the Cincinnati Reds as part of the Midnight Massacre, where he continued to put up great numbers through 1982 (75-46, 3.18 ERA and a 1.117 WHIP, not to mention a no hitter) and struck out eleven batters in his return to Shea in August of 1977. Much to the delight of Met fans, Seaver was traded back to New York following the 1982 season, and put up respectable numbers (9-14, 3.55 ERA and a 1.242 WHIP), although at age 38 he was not the same pitcher. 1983 would be his last in New York-he was selected by the Chicago White Sox that off season as a free agent compensation pick-and was unable to finish his career where he started.
Lee Mazzilli: Born in Brooklyn, Mazzilli was popular in New York. Drafted by the Mets in 1973, Mazzilli made his debut with the team in 1976. He had a couple of good years between then and 1981 (most notably in 1979 when he was an All Star), and was decent overall (.269/.359/.404 with 61 homers), but was traded to the Texas Rangers prior to the 1982 season for pitchers Ron Darling and Walt Terrell. After Texas, he spent some time with the Yankees and Pirates before being picked up by the Mets August of ’86, and posted a triple slash line of .276/.417/.431 down the stretch en route to a World Series championship. He stuck around until 1989 when he was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays, but Mazzilli’s homecoming was certainly a success.
Roger Cedeno: Cedeno wasn’t originally a Met, but was an important part of the 1999 team that won the National League Wild Card race. He hit .313/.396/.408 that season with 66 steals and played everywhere in the outfield. Cashing in on his success, then General Manager Steve Phillips shipped the speedster to the Astros as part of the trade for Mike Hampton. After one year in Houston and one with Detroit, Cedeno returned to the Mets in 2002. Unfortunately, he could not recapture his past success, hitting just .263/.319/.362 with a total of 39 steals over the course of two years. When the Mets signed Mike Cameron before the 2004 season, Cedeno became expendable and was shipped to St. Louis for Wilson Delgado
Todd Zeile: By the time Zeile arrived in Queens in 2000, he was already a veteran and was assigned the difficult task of replacing John Olerud at first base. He had a fine year in 2000 and was integral to the team making the World Series, hitting .268/.356/.467 with 22 home runs while also going 16 for 53 in the postseason. 2001 was a struggle and he was dealt as part of a three team trade to the Colorado Rockies the following offseason in a move that Jeromy Burnitz (see below) and others to the Mets. After continuing his journeyman career, the descendant of John Adams returned to Queens in 2004 in what would be his final season. Although he didn’t put up great numbers, his final day as a major leaguer was a memorable one. He started the final game of the season at catcher, his original position, and smacked a three-run bomb in his final at bat. Not a bad day to end a 16 year career that included eleven teams.
Jeromy Burnitz: Burnitz was drafted by the Mets with the 17th pick of the 1990 draft and made his debut in 1993. From then to ’94, he hit .241/.342/.424 in 474 plate appearances before being traded to the Cleveland Indians. But it was when Burnitz arrived in Milwaukee that he started to develop his reputation as a power hitter. With the Brewers, Burnitz had a slugging percentage of .508 and hit at least 31 homers from 1998-2001. Needing to add some thump to the lineup, the Mets traded for him leading up to the 2003 season. Unfortunately, Burnitz had an awful time in his return to New York, batting just .215/.311/.365 with 19 home runs. He rebounded nicely during the first half of ’04, hitting .274/.344/.581 with 18 long balls through 65 games, but by July the Mets were out of contention and Burnitz and his salary were dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
David Cone: Cone’s story is similar to Izzy’s, except that Cone had great success during his first stint with the Mets. Although he was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals, he pitched only 11 games there in 1986 before being traded to the Mets. From 1988-91, Cone was dominant, going 62-35 with a 3.06 ERA, 1.115 WHIP, 3.00 K/BB and 8.8 K/9. After being sent to the Toronto Blue Jays in the middle of 1992 (where he was enjoying another fine season with the Mets), Cone returned to Kansas City before making stops in the Bronx and Boston. After sitting out the 2002 season, Cone made his return to the Mets, 10 years and 224 days since his last start while donning the blue and orange. Like Izzy, his first outing went pretty well (5 IP, 2 H, 3 BB and 5 K), but a few sub-par starts and injuries forced Cone to retire. Met fans are hoping that Izzy will not suffer the same fate.