Every time Jim Henderson entered a game at Citi Field in 2016, the same picture (taken during spring training) would appear on the scoreboard. For reference, it’s the picture that’s at the top of this article: Henderson sporting Mona Lisa’s cryptic half-smile.
One can easily argue that it’s a happy picture or a sad picture. To quickly summarize:
Jim Henderson was happy
After missing most of the 2014 and 2015 season due to a right shoulder injury, Jim Henderson was a non-roster invitee to Mets camp. He would presumably be making some money to play baseball in 2016, and his arm didn’t hurt all the time. Also, Henderson is Canadian, and Canadians are generally thought to be positive and happy people.
Jim Henderson was sad
Henderson didn’t make it to the majors until he was 29, when he made 36 appearances for the Brewers. He was a decent closer in 2013, amassing 28 saves with a 2.70 ERA. He barely pitched into May of 2014, however, hurting his shoulder on the first day of the flowery month. It took him two years to recover from the injury and here he was, a 33-year-old, fighting for a roster spot to pitch in only his second full major league season.
Terry Collins ruined Jim Henderson
They say to never bury the lede, but dopey picture aside, that’s the real story here.
The first warning sign that Terry Collins had no clue what he was doing with Henderson came on April 13. After three great appearances, Henderson appeared on consecutive nights for the first time in 2016—and his average four-seam velocity had dropped a whopping five clicks over the course of 24 hours. Which makes sense, of course, considering that he was making back-to-back appearances for the first time since April 28 and 29, 2013.
Overall, though, Henderson looked great for his first 14 appearances of the season, allowing a single run in 9.1 innings. Those 14 appearances came over the course of 31 days, however—some might say just a tad aggressive for a guy who hadn’t pitched in nearly two years.
By mid-May, Henderson looked legitimately awful, at one point giving up five runs in 4.2 innings over five consecutive appearances. But wait, it gets better. After a one-week stretch from June 8-14 where Henderson threw 84 pitches in four innings, giving up three runs, Henderson lasted just ten pitches on June 18 before succumbing to right biceps tendinitis, which would devour the next two months of his season.
So to recap—the Mets find a seemingly good “diamond in the rough” relief pitcher, Terry Collins overuses him, he shows signs of fatigue, Terry Collins keeps overusing him, he can’t pitch for two months.
Henderson did eventually return in August, and he did manage to put together a few good appearances in the last few weeks of the season. He even held opponents scoreless in September, although his 1.6 WHIP for the month deserves a big “meh.”
Henderson was outrighted on November 2 and opted for free agency, remaining unsigned at the time of writing.