The offseason is upon us, and we’re without Mets baseball until 2018. To get us through the dead of winter, let’s use this period to reminisce about some past Mets; the obscure guys, the forgotten ones. Whether they contributed to a playoff run or just simply serve as an answer to a Howie Rose trivia question, they are as part of Mets history as Seaver and Piazza. Welcome to “Shadows of Shea.”
Ahead of the 2001 season, the Mets signed Kevin Appier to replenish the void left by Mike Hampton, who spurned them in favor of an eight-year, $121 million mega-deal with the Colorado Rockies. Replacing the 2000 NLCS MVP didn’t come cheap either, as the Mets handed Appier a four-year, $42 million dollar contract to be their number two arm behind Al Leiter. Appier had just come off a playoff run of his own, as he served as a veteran starter for 2000 AL West Champions Oakland Athletics, and capitalized on the Mets’ need for another arm between Leiter and Rick Reed.
He made 33 starts in his lone season as a Met, and finished the ‘01 season with a record of 11-10, tying Al Leiter and Steve Trachsel for most wins. Appier added an ERA of 3.57, led the team in strikeouts with 172, and was worth 3.5 WAR, second best on the club. Most impressively, Appier went 4-0 with an ERA of 1.87 in his final six starts, which helped the Mets push the Braves and Phillies in a race for the NL East crown. The Mets fell short of the postseason, but Appier’s performance was worth the money, and it looked like he’d be a big part of the 2002 rotation.
Enter Mo Vaughn.
''We're talking about a very highly motivated athlete. I came away fired up talking to him.''
That was a quote from then-Mets GM Steve Phillips on Vaughn, whom he had just acquired in exchange for Appier. The right hander had rewarded the Mets’ gamble on signing him, and before he knew it, he was an Angel.
The Vaughn move will forever live in Mets infamy, as the first baseman struggled to both hit and stay in shape. Meanwhile, Appier had himself another solid year on the mound, as he pitched to a 14-12 record with an ERA of 3.42, helping the Angels clinch the AL Wild Card, and eventually, win the 2002 World Series.
Appier made 19 starts for the Angels in 2003, but after battling injuries and struggling to the tune of a 5.63 ERA, he was released. He reunited with the team that originally drafted him, the Kansas City Royals, but never regained form and retired from baseball after the 2004 season.
Appier retired from the MLB having almost done it all. He pitched 16 seasons, amassed a record of 169-137, notched 1,994 strikeouts, and carried a career ERA of 3.74. He pitched in multiple pennant races, contended for a Cy Young award in 1993, made an All-Star appearance in 1995, and capped off his career with that ’02 world title.
In 2011, the Royals inducted Kevin Appier into their Hall of Fame. In 2014, Appier competed in the MR340, a competitive kayaking race across the Missouri River. He can be seen here discussing his love for kayaking and how he prepared for the race:
In 2016, Kevin put his impressive Kansas ranch on the open real estate market, citing a desire to move to Michigan to be closer to his wife’s family.
The Appier trade marked the beginning of the end for Phillips, whose habit of acquiring players past their prime finally caught up with him when the 2002 and 2003 teams fell apart. He was let go in June of 2003. There’s no way of knowing how Appier would pitch the rest of his would-be Mets tenure, but ask most Mets fans and they’d gladly sacrifice their time with Mo Vaughn to find out.