Saturday, March 1, 2008

Broken Dreams.

This is a cautionary tale, to New York Yankees’ fans.

As many of you are excited about the futures of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and the other youngsters who could be appearing in the Bronx soon. The future looks bright. Remember, though, potential is just that until it is reached.

As former Mets GM Steve Phillips said on ESPN the other day “prospects get general managers fired.”

Anyway, on with my story.

The year was 1996 and there was a team in New York brimming with optimism. It had three young rookie pitchers for whom stardom had been predicted, and these three youngsters were expected to be in the starting rotation and carry the New York Mets to great things for the next decade.

Bill Pulsipher was 22, Paul Wilson 23 and Jason Isringhausen the old man at 24. The trio had dominated the International League in 1995.

They were Generation K, and, like the Yankees new Generation Trey, there were great expectations. They were being counted on to pitch the Mets to glory for a decade.

It didn't turn out that way, however.

Pulsipher never made it to the mound in a regular-season game, suffering an injury in Spring Training. Isringhausen went 6-14 and ended up having surgery on his elbow and shoulder. Wilson went 5-12 and, while he didn’t get hurt that year, spent the rest of his career battling injuries.

As we all know now, none of the three ever reached the stardom predicted for each of them.

  • Isringhausen, now with St. Louis, has been the most successful. Adapting to the closer role after missing most of 1997 and all of 1998 with injuries, he has compiled 281 career saves. Still, Isringhausen has never been the elite pitcher many thought he would be.

  • Wilson, the Mets’ No. 1 pick in 1994, finished an injury-plagued career in 1995 with a 40-58 career record. Following the 1996 season he did not pitch in the majors again until 2000 due to injuries. Only once in his career did he record double-digit victories, going 11-6 in 2004 for Cincinnati.

  • Pulsipher not only missed the 1996 season, he missed 1997 as well. He ended up winning just 13 career games and his career, for all intents, was over in 2001. He tried a comeback in 2005, but pitched just four innings for St. Louis that year.

The baseball landscape is littered with the broken dreams, and arms, of countless promising young pitchers who were supposed to be the next Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton or Tom Seaver.

In recent years we can look at Mark Prior and Kerry Wood in Chicago. I remind you that Minnesota phenom Francisco Liriano missed last season with an arm injury. There are plenty of other examples.

The example of Pulsipher, Wilson and Isringhausen, though, is the one that hits closest to home. It parallels the exact situation the Yankees are in today.

So, as excited as you Yankees fans are to watch the future unfold for the trio let’s remember not to expect too much. And, hope this turns out better for the Yankees than it did for the Mets.


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