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Mets Prospect Graveyard: Hayden Finch

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Following numerous successful draft selections and trades in the 1980s, the Mets came close to signing an elite talent that would have eclipsed all the others.

Hertha BSC v Eintracht Frankfurt - exhibition match
Al Lang Stadium, the spring training home of the Mets in the 1980s.
Photo by Jan-Philipp Burmann/City-Press GmbH via Getty Images

While they ultimately only won a single championship, the 1980s undoubtedly belonged to the New York Mets. In 1980, they drafted Darryl Strawberry, who would go on to win the 1983 National League Rookie of the Year Award and would play in seven consecutive all-star games, hitting .263/.359/.520 over the course of his eight-year Mets career. In 1981, they drafted Lenny Dykstra, who would hit .278/.350/.413 over the course of his five-years Mets career, becoming an important cog in the success of Davey Johnson’s mid-to-late-80s Mets. In 1982, Frank Cashen traded outfielder to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Walt Terrell and Ron Darling, the latter of who would play in one all-star game and would post a 3.50 ERA in 1620.0 innings over the course of his nine-year Mets career. Later that year, they drafted Doc Gooden, who would go on to win the 1984 National League Rookie of the Year Award, the 1985 Cy Young Award, and would play in four all-star games, posting a 3.10 ERA in 2169.2 innings over the course of his eleven-year Mets career. In 1983, Frank Cashen traded pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for all-star first baseman Keith Hernandez, who would appear in three all-star games for the Mets and would hit .297/.387/.429 over the course of his seven-year Mets career.

In 1984, it seemed that Mets had uncovered yet another great talent.

Born in Leicester, England, Hayden Finch was educated at the Stowe School, a private boarding school in Buckinghamshire, England. He was slated to attend Harvard University upon graduating in 1974, but his adopted father, Francis Whyte-Finch, was killed in a plane crash in Nepal and the young man decided to delay his college entry for a year. He moved to Nepal during this period, retracing the steps of his father and taking in Himalayan culture. In 1975, he finally enrolled at Harvard, but his time there was brief, spending only a semester there before withdrawing from his studies to return to the Himalayas.

In July 1984, Tidewater manager Bob Schaefer happened to run into Finch in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, when the Tides were playing the Maine Guides, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate at the time. Astonished by the speed and accuracy of his fastball, Schaefer immediately alerted the Mets front office, who extended Finch a contract. Now calling himself Siddhartha, in honor of Gautama Buddha, the young hurler did not sign the contract, but instead offered to throw for the Mets at their Florida complex in St. Petersburg because he was unsure if he wanted to pursue baseball or not.

Finch’s mechanics were unorthodox, but they worked. Most notable was the heavy boot he wore on his right foot. Swaying his tall, thin body back and contorting himself like a pretzel, he threw with a long arm action. He would lunge forward suddenly at the apex of his weight transfer, his booted foot gripping the ground and affording him balance from the torque that normal cleats might not provide. While the radar technology at the time was not as advanced and accurate as it is now, Mets scouts and coaching staff measured his fastball at 168 MPH. Mel Stottlemyre, an organization pitching coach at the time, attributed Finch’s wrist snap as the source of much of the velocity from his fastball. He did not show much other than his fastball, but given the difficulty of squaring up on a 168 MPH fastball, it is very possible that Finch would have thrived as a one-pitch pitcher.

Ultimately, Finch did not sign with the team. Split between his Buddhist studies, his love of the French horn, and baseball, the enigmatic right-hander decided to pursue other opportunities. In August 1985, he offered his services to the Mets once again, stating that he would be available if the Mets wanted him and would recommit to baseball, but the organization never reached out.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Sidd Finch never existed. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯