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Mets History Rewritten: Jason Isringhausen becomes a star closer in Flushing

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 1: Jason Isringhausen #44 of the New York Mets during a baseball game on June 1, 1994 at Shea Stadium in New York, New York. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 1: Jason Isringhausen #44 of the New York Mets during a baseball game on June 1, 1994 at Shea Stadium in New York, New York. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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In another version of New York Mets history, Jason Isringhausen has the opportunity to become a closer in Flushing. Would it make a difference?

The group of young New York Mets pitchers known as Generation K was supposed to help lead the team to a World Series victory. Unfortunately, none of them ever did much at all with the Mets.

Bill Pulsipher, Paul Wilson, and Jason Isringhausen were all viewed as the next great trio in franchise history. Injuries took their toll on each.

After leaving New York, Isringhausen immediately found success in a new role. He became the Oakland Athletics closer in 1999 and for the next few seasons, he was one of the better closers in baseball.

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Isringhausen saved 33 games for the 2000 Athletics in his first All-Star campaign. He saved another 34 for them again in 2001.

In 2002, he found his way to the St. Louis Cardinals. It was there in St. Louis where Isringhausen had his best years. Most notably, in 2004, Isringhausen led the league with 47 saves.

I won’t rub too much salt into the wounds of Mets fans by going over other accomplishments of his. Instead, let’s ponder about a rewritten history where he does this all in New York.

By the time Isringhausen became a closer, John Franco was done saving games. The timing feels perfect except the franchise turned to Armando Benitez for this role.

Benitez was a better closer than many of us felt at the time. Although he had his meltdowns, he did help lock up those close games at the end. His time with the Mets, however, was far shorter than the years Isringhausen spent with the Cardinals.

There are certain important years during Isringhausen’s peak worth looking at. Those years are the ones where the Mets were competitive. Most notable of all, the 2000 season and 2006 campaign standout.

In 2000, Benitez was the Mets closer. I’m not sure Isringhausen would have made much of a difference. In which case, we can move on from saying they would have beaten the New York Yankees in the World Series with him still in orange and blue.

The 2006 season is similar. Billy Wagner was a great closer for the Mets. However, with a $10.5 million hit to the payroll, the club could have committed this somewhere else, right?

Well, it wouldn’t have been all that much. Isringhausen took home $8.75 million in 2006. Other than perhaps a minor upgrade at one position, there’s not much else the team could have improved.

Maybe the one place we should look instead in this rewritten history is the trade that actually sent Isringhausen to Oakland. In mid-1999, Greg McMichael and Isringhausen were paired in a deal for Billy Taylor.

The 37-year-old Oakland reliever was 1-5 with 3.98 ERA at the time of the trade. When he joined the Mets, he went 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in 13.1 innings of work.

That was it.

Now things get a little more interesting. What if the Mets moved Isringhausen to the bullpen, discovered how great he was, and traded him away for more?

This is a little more realistic. I don’t think Isringhausen was meant to stay with the Mets for the long haul. He would have eventually reached free agency and tried to capitalize on it.

Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you want to look at it, I don’t think having the best years of his career in New York would have done much to aid the club’s history. Sure, they would have had a star closer for a few years when the team wasn’t performing well. It’s a familiar story for many teams.

By the time the 2007 season rolled around, Isringhausen was already on the decline. You may even recall his return to the Mets in 2011 when he did manage to save them seven games in 46.2 innings of work.

Next. Greatest closers in Mets history

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Whichever history you want to look at—factual or fictional—Isringhausen never lived up to expectations as a starting pitcher. As a closer, he was far better than the Mets seemed to believe he could ever become.

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