Mets History: Mike Hampton’s one productive season in New York
By Tim Boyle
Mike Hampton spent only one season with the New York Mets. The results were great with one dominant postseason series highlighting it all.
A year after leading the league with 22 victories and finishing second in the Cy Young voting, lefty Mike Hampton became a trade piece shipped away from the Houston Astros to the New York Mets. The Astros sold him at his highest value one year before hitting the free agent market. As a result, the Mets managed to climb all the way to the World Series.
When a player spends a single season with a franchise, they’re often forgotten. Not Hampton. Mets fans remember him well.
Hampton made 33 starts for the 2000 Mets. He gave them a 15-10 record and a 3.14 ERA. He allowed only 10 home runs all season long in 217.1 innings of work. The 0.4 rate per nine was a career-best. Surely, when Hampton joined the Colorado Rockies the following season, he had much fonder memories of pitching at Shea Stadium.
The 200 campaign wasn’t overpowering. He walked a lot of batters and didn’t strike out many. The typical Hampton season included batters making contact and hitting the ball for outs. Things worked out really well for Hampton and likely led to the big contract he signed in the offseason.
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As one of the best two-way players in modern history, Hampton also showed off his bat. He won a Silver Slugger in 2000 for the second time in his career. Of course, the seven home runs he hit the following season trumped the .274/.313/.274 batting line he posted in 2000 as a member of the Mets.
Nevertheless, Hampton showed the Mets everything he was made of both on the mound and at the plate.
In the playoffs, we saw the best and worst of Hampton. He made one start in the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants. Through the 5.1 innings, the Giants tagged him for 5 earned runs. Fortunately, the Mets won the series and Hampton had a chance for redemption in the NLCS.
Facing the St. Louis Cardinals with a chance to head to the World Series, Hampton received two starts in the NLCS. The end result: 16 shutout innings and a pair of victories.
Hampton pitched seven shutout frames in Game One, defeating Darryl Kile in a 6-2 game. He returned in Game Five and sealed the series victory. The Mets supported him with seven runs made possible by just two extra-base hits both of which were doubles. They got to Cardinals’ starter Pat Hentgen early, chasing him in the fourth inning.
By the end of the night, Hampton had won the game with a 120-pitch masterpiece.
The two dominant wins by Hampton awarded him the series MVP Award and a chance to pitch in his first and only World Series.
When Hampton pitched again, he wasn’t as lucky. The New York Yankees scored four times in his six innings. The five walks he allowed didn’t help. Clearly outmatched by the city rivals, Hampton and the rest of the Mets saw their championship hopes dry up after five games.
It’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of Hampton in a Mets’ uniform. His one year with them was a brilliant one. If he could take it back, I wonder if he would have settled for less money to return. Then again, who knows how much this organization was even willing to offer a postseason MVP?
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If Daniel Murphy‘s 2015 postseason run and subsequent “low-ball” offer is any indication, Hampton can’t complain too much. He got his money and one glory year in New York.