Injuries have ruined the careers of far too many great athletes. The New York Mets know this all-too-well.
The story of Bobby Parnell isn’t exactly the most notable in sports. He was no Bo Jackson, J.R. Richard, or Sandy Koufax. He was probably not destined for greatness. There was never going to be a shrine built at the Mets ballpark for him.
Parnell may have, however, still had a chance to become an excellent closer for the Mets for several seasons. The baseball gods had other ideas.
Injuries robbed Bobby Parnell a chance at becoming an excellent Mets closer
After two seasons split as a starter and reliever, the Mets moved Parnell to the bullpen full-time in 2010. The decision was a favorable one. In 35 innings, he turned in a 2.83 ERA performance. He would come back the following season and give the team a 3.64 ERA across 59.1 frames.
Things were looking up for Parnell. In 2012, injuries to the pitching staff gave him a chance to slide into the closer’s role for a brief period. He did well, securing 7 saves. The year ended with Parnell owning a career-best 2.49 ERA in 68.2 innings pitched.
The next season, the situation was similar. An injury to Frank Francisco allowed Parnell more chances to close. He lived up to the responsibility, saving 22 games.
The 2013 season also saw him drop his ERA down to 2.16 while posting a 1.00 WHIP. Unfortunately, his season ended early. In late July, he was shut down for the rest of the year due to injury.
Refreshed and hoping to bounce back in 2014, Parnell was named the Opening Day closer. Still young with some promise ahead in his big league future, Parnell looked more than capable of becoming one of those middle relief success stories. You know; those guys that go from pitching those meaningless middle innings to closing out the biggest games.
On Opening Day 2014, Parnell blew a save against the Washington Nationals. As if that wasn’t rough enough to experience, he learned the next day he had suffered an injury that would require Tommy John Surgery. Parnell would not pitch for the Mets again until June 13, 2015. No longer the closer, he actually managed to perform well for more than a month. He wouldn’t allow his first earned run until July 8 and managed to rebound quickly with four straight scoreless appearances.
Then the wheels came off. Parnell had three straight appearances of allowing an earned run or more. He would settle back in but would continually struggle on a regular basis throughout the rest of the year.
By this point, it became clear that he might not get a chance to pitch in those big important innings again. He finished the 2015 season with 24 innings pitched, a 2-4 record, and an ugly 6.38 ERA.
Parnell would only pitch 5.1 more big league innings, this time with the 2016 Detroit Tigers. The results weren’t any better nor did they improve in 2017 when he had a 7.34 ERA in Triple-A.
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I don’t think of Parnell as a legend whose career was cut short the same way we might with David Wright. Parnell did still seem to have talent we never got to fully see shared with the world.