DENVER – It has been more than 16 years since Mike Hampton threw his final pitch in a Rockies uniform.
And on Saturday, the Rockies finally finished paying the bill. The last of 10 annual $1.9 million payments, which began after Hampton’s career ended, was made.
It was a gamble the Rockies took in December of 2000, kicking off that year’s winter meetings by signing Hampton to a six-year, $121 million deal, which at the time was the biggest deal in Major League history.
After two seasons, however, both sides knew a parting of the ways was in order, which resulted in a three-team deal in which the Rockies acquired Vic Darensbourg, Charles Johnson, Pablo Ozuna and Preston Wilson from the Marlins.
The Marlins acquired Juan Pierre, in addition to Hampton, from the Rockies, and then shipped Hampton to the Braves for right-handed pitchers Tim Spooneybarger and Ryan Baker. Baker never got out of the minor leagues.
To make the deal, however, the Rockies not only picked up an additional $40.25 million of the contract, resulting in the Rockies having paid $68,253,543 for two years of that six-year deal.
TeamYearsW-LERASeattle19931-39.53Houston1994-99, 200976-503.59NY Mets200015-103.14Rockies2001-0221-285.75Atlanta2003-05, 200835-244.1Arizona20100-00Injured2006-07DNADNA
Hampton made a strong first impression. Thirteen starts into his Rockies career he was 9-2 with a 2.98 ERA, which led to his being selected to the NL All-Star team, one of only two All-Star selections of his career. After that, however, things fell apart. He made 49 more starts with the Rockies and went 12-26 with a 6.62 ERA before finding himself in Atlanta.
"I did hit 10 home runs in those two years," said Hampton.
Hampton admitted the contract created a stress he never anticipated.
"It follows you," said Hampton, "the pressure to live up to that money. You don't make like you feel it, but you want to live up to the contract. The end of the day, you want people to feel the contract is a bargain. You have pride, and you want to prove you are worthy of it."
The two years in Colorado were a blight on his career record. Overall, he wound up 21-28 with a 5.75 ERA with the Rockies. The only other team with which he had a losing record was the Mariners, the team that originally drafted him, and then traded him after a late-1993 big-league call up in which he was 1-3 with a 9.53 ERA.