This Date in Mets History: December 23 - Hampton Comes Alive

Hampton comes alive! Or becomes a Met. Either/or. - Matthew Stockman / Getty Images

Just days after being spurned by Ken Griffey, Jr., the Mets rebound by trading for the Astros' ace.

Mets fans received an early Christmas gift on this date in 1999, as GM Steve Phillips engineered a deal with the Astros to acquire the rights to 22-game winner Mike Hampton. The trade, which sent Roger Cedeño, Octavio Dotel, and minor leaguer Kyle Kessel to Houston came roughly a week after the Ken Griffey, Jr. of the Mariners vetoed a swap that would have made him a Met in exchange for Cedeño, Dotel, and Armand Benitez.

As it would turn out, the best years of both Griffey and Hampton were behind them. That said, either would have made a fine addition to the Mets at the time. Junior would have boosted an offense that saw John Olerud, its top bat, depart for Seattle (of all places). Hampton, though he's vilified now for the way he left town, did help shore up a rotation that only had one member contribute more than two wins above replacement the previous season according to Baseball Reference. The tenacious lefty tossed 217 innings of 4.5 rWAR ball in 2000 and his shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals in the clinching match of the NLCS is tied with Bobby Jones's one-hitter for the second-best postseason pitching performance in Mets history when ranked by game score.

What makes the acquisition of Hampton versus Griffey a clear win for the Mets is that had Phillips never traded for him, he never would have split for Denver, and we never would have gotten the compensation pick that landed us this guy.

Birthdays

  • Tim Harkness, the first Met to get a hit at Shea Stadium, is 75. The first baseman singled off of the Pirates' Bob Friend in the third inning of the 1964 home opener. He'd hit .282/.336/.368 that year as the primary back up to Ed Kranepool.
  • Happy birthday to Jerry Koosman, who turns 70 today. The best lefty in team history, only Tom Seaver has started more games or thrown more innings as a New York Met than Kooz. The Minnesotan made his MLB debut in 1967 with a trio of September starts, but emerged as a top-flight pitcher the following year, posting a 19-12 record and a 2.08 ERA, which was good for 6.2 rWAR and a second place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting. While Kooz never quite reached those heights again as a Met, he was almost as good in '69 before settling in as a solid contributor who'd turn in the occasional All-Star caliber season when fully healthy. Over the course of a dozen years in Flushing, Koosman won 140 games and amassed 37 rWAR, both of which are third-best in team history and tops among Met lefties.
  • Tim Leary is 54. The second overall pick in the 1979 draft, Leary went 15-8 with a 2.76 ERA as a 21-year old for Double-A Jackson in 1980, leading the Mets to break camp with him in the rotation one year later. Unfortunately, he strained his elbow seven batters into his first big league start and was never quite the same pitcher again, at least not with New York. Leary did have one big, healthy season in 1988, winning 17 games and striking out 180 batters in 228-plus innings for the World Series champion Dodgers.
  • Former manager Jerry Manuel is 59. According to the statistics, he's 59. Of course, statistics are false hustle, so there's no telling how old Jerry thinks he is or even if he know its his birthday. Here's hoping he's spending his special day doing something gangsta, like reminiscing about that time he authored the Mets' worst Opening Day lineup in decades.
  • All HAIL SATIN on the occasion of his birth! Jeffery Paternostro fav Josh Satin turns 28. The infielder got all of one at-bat for the Mets during the 2012 season, though he turned in a fine year for the Buffalo Bisons, getting on base at a .391 clip and showing good, but not great pop. Given that he's isn't on the 40-man roster at present, Josh will likely wind up at Triple-A Las Vegas, though the city's thin air and licentious attitudes make it seem like the kind of place where SATIN would thrive. Hail him!
  • Satin's occasional Binghamton and Buffalo teammate Jordany Valdespin is 25 today. The Mets record holder for most pinch hit home runs in a single season is currently putting together a nice line this for Tigres del Licey in the Dominican winter league, hitting .280/.402/.398 with more walks than strikeouts as of Friday.
  • Last but not least, Rick White is 44. Acquired from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at the trade deadline in 2000, White was the winning pitcher in Game Three of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants, the tilt that Benny Agbayani ended with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 13th inning.

Transactions
The Mets have signed two backup catchers who've hit memorable home runs for the team on this date. In 1996, Todd Pratt joined the club. His tenth inning drive in Game Four of the NLDS gave the Mets a 3-1 series victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Twelve years later, the team caught lightning in a t-shirt by inking Omir Santos, who later shocked Jonathan Papelbon with a blast over the Green Monster in May 2009.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
This evening, citizens in the city of Oaxaca will be celebrating Noche de rábanos, or Night of the Radishes. This holiday, held annually on December 23, entails carving radishes into figures religious figures or scenes from Mexican folklore. It's much more exciting occasion than Night of the Rajsich, which commemorates the time Mets outfielder Gary Rajsich smacked a pinch hit home run against the Cardinals on September 18, 1982.

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