Just in time for the holiday season, Mets 101's Seven in Seven series returns as our gift to you. Each week, the Mets 101 staff will begin a countdown of topics related to the New York Mets (i.e. best third baseman, worst defeat, etc.). We will begin our countdowns with the number seven and work all the way to number one. This week's Seven in Seven list is a blockbuster, as we will break down the biggest off-the-field moves that stole the headlines throughout Metropolitan history. We continue the countdown with our fifth biggest move of all time in the winter of 1999, when Steve Phillips shocked the baseball world by pulling the trigger on a mega deal to bring ace lefty Mike Hampton to Flushing.
After a heart breaking loss to end an impressive 1999 season, the New York Mets looked to get that last piece of the puzzle that would get them over the hump. As it would turn out, that piece would be a pretty big one. It would also be in 1999 that Mike Hampton would have the biggest season of his career. Hampton posted the best record in the National League at 22-4 while throwing for 239 innings and posting a 2.90 ERA with 177 Strikeouts. Hampton narrowly lost out on winning the Cy Young Award to Randy Johnson.
Headed to the Mets:
LHP Mike Hampton-Hampton was coming off an impressive season and looked to be the missing piece that the Mets needed. The Mets hoped that Mike Hampton would become the ace of the rotation and form an impressive 1-2 punch with lefty Al Leiter. Hampton was entering a contract year and looking to strike it big after the season.
OF Derek Bell-A 31 year old outfielder who provided some pop. Bell played right field for the Astros in 1999, batting .236 with 12 home runs and 66 RBI's. Bell also showed off some speed in Houston as he swiped 18 bags.
Headed to the Astros:
OF Roger Cedeno: Roger Cedeno was coming off a breakout year for the Mets in 1999. Cedeno, 25, batted .313 with four home runs and 36 RBI's in 1999. Cedeno's main asset was his speed, as he swiped 66 bags while setting the table for a dynamic offense in Queens. Cedeno also scored 79 runs for the Mets.
RP Octavio Dotel: The main piece of the deal for the Astros was pitcher Octavio Dotel. Dotel had made his major league debut for the Mets in 1999 and was a key part of the team's stretch run to the postseason. Dotel was being developed as a starter for the Mets, but made the team's postseason roster out of the bullpen.
SP Kyle Kessel: Kessel was a left handed starter with good stuff who was included in the trade as a throw-in. Kessel had shown some promise and Houston hoped to develop him into a back of the rotation starting pitcher.
How the Mets Fared:
Hampton's biggest strength was his control. So naturally, when his control wasn't to it's normal par in 2000, the results were mixed. It wasn't all a terrible year as he actually did pretty well ending the season with a 15-10 record and a 3.14 ERA. Bigger picture wise, it provided the Mets with another big pitcher to compliment Al Leiter. Despite some struggles early in the playoffs, he was able to settle down and deliver the Mets two wins in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals. Hampton was named the series MVP as the Mets did get over the hump and advance to the World Series.
Bell started out the year in right field and did servicably, batting .266 with 18 home runs and 69 RBI's on the year. Bell was able to hold onto his starting job until game one of the NLDS. At that point Bell sprained his ankle and was unable to play for the remainder of the postseason, allowing Timo Perez to become an everyday player. Bell would end up walking after the 2000 season as the Mets made no effort to resign him.
How the Astros Fared:
The Astros hit a home run with Dotel, who became a solid piece of their bullpen for the next four seasons. Dotel would team with future Met Billy Wagner and Brad Lidge to form a dominant bullpen for the Astros until 2004, when he was again a key figure in a trade. The Astros sent Dotel along with some prospects to the Oakland Athletics as part of a three team trade in which they received another future Met, outfielder Carlos Beltran. Cedeno's one season for Houston was marred by injury as he spent three months on the disabled list with a broken hand. Cedeno eventually got traded to Detroit in the offseason and returned to the Mets in 2002. Kessel was a non-factor in the deal, never pitching a game in the major leagues.
Hindsight is 20/20:
As it would turn out, Mike Hampton would lose in his only appearance in the World Series in game two. Eventually the Mets would lose the 2000 World Series and Hampton to free agency. Hampton would sign an eight year, 121 dollar deal with the Colorado Rockies because he was a fan of the Colorado school systems (according to the pitcher). Looking back at it though, it was a good thing to bring him in. Hampton was the missing piece to the World Series team, and his departure gave the Mets a very important compensation pick in the draft. That pick would be used to draft David Wright.
That's right, without Hampton's departure there would be no David Wright. After signing with the Rockies, the Mets received compensation draft picks. As it would turn out, they would select Aaron Heilman and David Wright with them. So while the move for Hampton may not have panned out as they originally intended it would, there is still a very big chapter of this move being written.
Check back tomorrow for the fourth biggest blockbuster in Mets history as our Seven in Seven series continues!
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