Former Mets pitcher Mike Hampton announced his retirement Saturday. Hampton played only one season in New York but it was a memorable one, as he won 15 games and helped lead the Mets to the World Series. His shining moment(s) with the club came in the League Championship Series, when he hurled 16 shutout innings over the Cardinals en route to two wins and the NLCS MVP Award.
Hampton leaves two lasting legacies for the Mets. He was a free agent following the 2000 season and while the Mets tried their best to sign him, he left for greener pastures. The two things Mets fans should remember are:
1. The Mets selected Aaron Heilman and David Wright with the compensation draft picks received from the loss of Hampton.
2. Hampton went on to sign a true albatross contract with his 8-year, $121 million deal with the Rockies.
Of course, we all know what Wright went on to do (and is still doing) with the Mets. As hard as it was to lose Hampton after 2000, I think we can all agree that Wright has been the better player. And Heilman chipped in with a couple of solid years out of the bullpen with the Mets, too.
But to me, the real legacy of Hampton is that contract. He opted for the insane amount of money that Colorado threw his way. He chose to leave a World Series team to pitch for a squad that finished fourth in the National League West.
Not only was he going to an inferior team, he was also willingly going to Denver, in the pre-humidor days when Coors Field inflated offense by 25 percent. And to make matters worse, Hampton claimed that the Rockies were the total package and that the school system of Denver played a big role in his decision to sign with the Rockies.
For the past few years so many Mets fans have complained about how terrible the contracts for Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez were and how they were handicapping the team. Castillo had a 4-year, $24 million contract and Perez had a 3-year, $36 million deal.
Add those together and you have a 7-year, $60 million obligation. In case you missed it the first time I wrote it, Hampton’s deal was an 8-year, $121 million fiasco. Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
So, best of luck in retirement, Hampton. I hope the $121 million and the Colorado school system were worth leaving the Mets and a World Series team. Now excuse me while I go root for Wright and check to see when Heilman pitches against New York this year.