From the top, you don’t need me to tell you that Rich Hill was not the crown jewel of the trade deadline that propelled the Mets into the playoffs like the Max Scherzers of the world might’ve. However, looking at Hill as nothing more than who or what he wasn’t isn’t entirely fair on any level.
Coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Tommy Hunter and Matt Dyer on July 23, Hill was thought to be the first of at least two or three major league starters to take their talents to Queens. By the time the July 30 deadline came and went, Hill still held the title of first, but he was also the last.
While the entirety of the Mets team and organization floundered, dropping from first place to third along the way, Hill pitched 63 innings over 13 games and 12 starts, striking out a tick below one man per inning with an ERA of 3.84. Under most circumstances, a hired gun tossing an average dozen starts in a lost year isn’t really worth remembering beyond the day the season ends, let alone anything further into the future than that, but Rich Hill is a special case.
This summer, the Mets became the 11th team to employ Rich Hill over his 17 seasons in the majors. Born in March of 1980, Hill was the second oldest player to step on a major league diamond in 2021, trailing Albert Pujols of the Dodgers by fewer than two months. Other than Buddy Carlyle and Bartolo Colon, Hill is older than every single person to throw a pitch for the 2015 Mets. Six of the stadiums that he has pitched in no longer exist or no longer house a baseball team, including Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium.
In his first career start against the Mets on August 5, 2005 in Flushing, Hill gave up seven runs in a little over one inning. For the Cubs, Glendon Rusch and Kerry Wood came out of the bullpen, Nomar Garciaparra and Jeromy Burnitz were in Chicago’s starting lineup. Tom Glavine, two years and two months away from being disappointed, started for the Mets. Not even four years out from his 9/11 home run, Mike Piazza was behind the plate. Nearing the end of his first full season in the majors, David Wright drew three walks. A week away from turning two faces into one, Carlos Beltran and Mike Cameron manned the outfield. Every single person who took the field that season for either team was out of baseball by 2018, except for Rich Hill.
By any angle you approach things from, Rich Hill should probably be nearly a decade into his retirement, not getting dealt to New York City in the middle of a pennant chase. Between 2009 and 2015 Hill pitched 142 games in the majors, 22 of them starts. During that span, Hill tore his left labrum, underwent Tommy John Surgery for a torn UCL, found himself bouncing around every level of organized baseball you can imagine from the Gulf Coast Red Sox in rookie ball, to the Tigres de Aragua of the Venezuelan Winter League, to New York’s own Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic Independent League, and eventually back to the majors with the Boston Red Sox. Since that re-debut as an effective starter, Hill has done just about everything, from almost throwing a perfect game, to starting three times in World Series action, and most recently, becoming a Met.
In most eras, Rich Hill would already be a unique character, making a comeback only possible somewhere between daydreams and a Disney Channel Original Movie. In today’s game where players over the age of 40 are becoming more rare by the year, Hill marches on. In a game that pumps out guys who throw 100 MPH like nobody’s business, Hill thrives throwing 88, at best, and frisbeeing 70 MPH curveballs. Far from being the most awe-inspiring pitcher in baseball, Hill in an interesting case in roundabout ways. Any time he appears at a post game press conference, Hill looks like a sleep-deprived father coming off of a 16 hour car ride to Disney World. He runs the bases the same way a horrified burglar would evade a dog in a Looney Tunes short, and between all that, Hill can still find the time to freeze MVP candidate Bryce Harper on Sunday Night Baseball.
He won’t earn any Cy Young votes later this month and he won’t be collecting a World Series ring at Citi Field next Spring, but Rich Hill is a Met who should not be forgotten. Quirky, inexplicable, and constantly entertaining, Rich Hill was everything that baseball strives to be.