When Mike Hampton was healthy, he was one of the game’s best left-handed pitchers. He also may been one of the game’s best hitting pitchers, as he earned five consecutive Silver Slugger Awards over his 16-year career. In 2000, he hit seven homeruns. From 1997-2000, Hampton had a 3.30 ERA, which ranked him third behind Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine during that time period.
In 1999 (his best season), he finished second in the National League CY Young award voting. He was 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA for the Houston Astros. He was then traded to the NY Mets, where he had another solid season, going 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA in helping the Mets reach the World Series. In getting to the World Series, Hampton was named the NLCS MVP as he held the St. Louis Cardinals scoreless over two starts (16 innings).
Following the 2000 season, he was one of the most attractive free agents on the market and received a lucrative eight year, $121 million contract with the Colorado Rockies. At that time, it was the most lucrative contract in the game and served as a benchmark for upcoming free agent players (such as Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez). The contract also became one of the most criticized due to Hampton’s ineffectiveness and injury-plagued seasons during the contract.
The Rockies traded Hampton to the Atlanta Braves, where he seemed to revive his career from 2003 into 2005. However he succumbed to Tommy John surgery in September of 2005. While trying to return in early 2007, he suffered an oblique strain in March and then felt more discomfort in April, which led to another season-ending elbow surgery.
While warming up in the bullpen for his April 3, 2008 start, he strained his pectoral muscle. That would have been his first start in three years. He waited until July of 2008 to make that long-awaited start and stayed healthy the rest of the season. He returned to the Astros in 2009 and made 21 starts before shoulder pain ended his year (he had a fully torn rotator cuff).
Hampton endured a grueling rehab and last September, he returned as a lefty reliever for the Arizona Diamondbacks and signed a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks this December to try and win that same role in 2011. Hampton had a tough spring and realized that his career had come to an end. So on Saturday, Hampton announced his retirement. He said it was a tough decision, but ultimately the right one. Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson offered him a chance to stay within the organization in some capacity.
Hampton wants to be remembered as an athlete, not just a pitcher. He gave everything he had every night out. He came from a small town in Florida that no one had ever heard of and he made himself into a Major League pitcher. “I think with the talent and the body type, I think I pretty much got as much out of my body as I could,” Hampton told Mark Bowman of MLB.com.