Mike Hampton, seen here learning how many AP classes Denver's Montbello High School offers. - Brian Bahr / Getty Images
To Mike Hampton, reading is fundamental, while $121,000,000 is secondary.
The Denver school system got a few new students on this date in 2000, as Mike Hampton chose to sign an eight year, $121 million deal with the Colorado Rockies rather than re up with the Mets, the team he'd just help reach the World Series two months prior.
The likelihood of Hampton remaining a Met was slim to begin with. From the start of his time in Queens, there were rumblings that the lefty didn't like New York City and would leave as soon as his contract allowed him to regardless of how much the Mets offered. Not that money was a factor in Hampton's decision to accept what, at the time, was the largest amount of cash ever forked over to a pitcher in the history of professional baseball. Because it wasn't. Hampton explicitly said that a desire to win was the reason he accepted a record-setting sum from a team that finished 82-80 and played its home games in a notorious hitters' park rather than agree to terms with the reigning National League champions or the St. Louis Cardinals, the club Hampton himself knocked out of the postseason with a complete game, three hit shutout in Game Five of the NLCS.
Yes, Hampton signed with the Rockies out of a desire to win, plus the fact that he'd heard "nothing but good things" about the Denver lifestyle, which, of course, includes those vaunted schools. That Colorado was willing to give him more money to enjoy said good things was immaterial.
- Bruce Boisclair (1974-79) is 60. Brought up from Tidewater with a reputation for being a no stick, all glove outfielder, the numbers, in as much as one can trust advanced fielding statistics calculated with 40-year old data, tell the opposite story. From 1976 to '77, Boisclair hit enough and possessed a good enough eye to post OBPs over .350, but gave so much back on defense that he was essentially a replacement level player according to rWAR.
- Pitcher Jerry Cram turns 65. A reliever who appeared in 14 games for the Mets across the 1974 and '75 season, Cram was a pretty good hitter for a pitcher, though he didn't get to swing the bat very often working out of the bullpen. All three of his big league at-bats came between frames 17 and 24 in the Mets' epic, 25-inning loss to the Cardinals on September 11, 1974. Cram went one-for-three with a single and also reached base via error.
- Fifteen games into the big league career of Jeff Duncan, 34 today, his batting line stood at .350/.500/.475 with a nice 11:12 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Given the chance to start just about every remaining game of the 2003 season from that point on, Duncan hit .131/.152/.340. He followed that up with a .067/.125/.192 performance in 17 plate appearances the following year and hasn't been seen in the bigs since.
- Mike Fyhrie, 43, made his MLB debut with the Mets, chucking two and third innings as a September call up in 1996. In the offseason, he was sold to manager Bobby Valentine's old team, the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League.
- Fred Lewis is 32. Your 2012 Buffalo Bisons MVP, Lewis got 25 plate appearances with the big club this September, hitting just a buck fifty, but drawing enough walks and getting hit with enough pitches to boost his OBP to a more respectable .320. A free agent, if he sticks with the Mets organization, he's probably heading back to Triple-A. On the plus side, Las Vegas is much more fun place to peddle one's baseball wares than western New York.
- Less famous than Dwight, George "Doc" Medich, 64, earned his nickname the old fashioned way: by getting a degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. On two different occasions during his big league career, Doc went into the stands to perform CPR on a fan having a heart attack, one of whom was dead before Medich revived him. Neither of those instances came while he was with the Mets, as his entire Queens tenure lasted of a single start made at the tail end of the 1977 season.
- Juan Samuel, a Met by dint of one of the least popular trades in team history, is 52. On June 18, 1989, GM Frank Cashen tried to buy low on Samuel and sent Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell to the Phillies for the former All-Star. As it turned out, what Cashen thought was a dip in Samuel's production was actually a plateau. Nails, meanwhile, performed like an MVP candidate for the Phils when healthy. After just 86 games, the Mets moved on, turning one unpopular player into two by trading Samuel to the Dodgers for Mike Marshall and Alejandro Pena.
- Tony Tarasco, 42, is an infamous figure in the folklore of both of New York's MLB teams. As a member of the Baltimore Orioles in 1996 ALCS, he watched as Jeffery Maier reached over the Yankee Stadium wall to reel in a Derek Jeter fly, turning what should have been a double or out into a home run. Six years later, while playing for the Mets, Tarasco split a spliff with reliever Mark Corey in the Shea Stadium parking lot after yet another home loss. Probably would have been a harmless, forgettable event, had Corey not gone into a seizure afterwards.
- Finally, Del Unser is 68. Picked up in the trade that sent Tug McGraw to Philadelphia, Unser socked 10 home runs and amassed 3.2 rWAR while playing a solid center field for the Mets in 1975. After a slow start to '76 season, however, the team dealt him to Montreal.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On December 9, 1851, the first YMCA in North America was established in Montreal. The Mets, of course, share New York City with a baseball team that plays YMCA by the Village People over the loudspeakers after the sixth inning at every home game. The fact that this rather hidebound team, one that used to literally chain people into their seats during the signing of God Bless America, requires its groundskeepers to do a synchronized dance to a song that alludes to the pleasures of cruising and the commitment-free assignations that occur in an organization for young men is one that is rarely commented on.