Phil Humber: Baseball Is a Cruel Game

Josh LevittSenior Analyst IApril 19, 2009

When the Mets drafted Phil Humber back in 2004, I was thrilled. Even though my baseball knowledge was still in a prehistoric state, I had read enough about Humber to get excited about the prospects of the Mets drafting him.

As a member of Rice University's "Big Three" along with Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend, there was quite a bit of buzz around Humber, and I considered the Mets fortunate to have had the opportunity to draft him.

When I arrived at Mets spring training in 2005, I was eager to get the opportunity to meet Humber and get an autograph. Even though the Mets had just drafted Humber, they invited him to spring training and he quickly shined with the Mets.

The buzz surrounding Humber was building.

People like me were convinced that Humber was going to be the next big thing simply after scouring all the scouting reports and articles about the Mets' first round pick.

As soon as Humber finished his workout for the day and signed autographs, a massive amount of people surrounded him, hoping and pleading for an autograph or picture. You would have thought that Humber was Roger Clemens or something.

Luckily for me, I was able to walk away from Mets camp that day with a Philip Humber autographed baseballon the sweet spot. I immediately put the ball into a ball holder, firmly believing that this guy was the future ace of my beloved New York Mets.

But before I knew it, Humber was hurt. Just a few months into the 2005 season, Humber was forced to undergo the dreaded Tommy John surgery. Just like that, his season was over and his future was very much in question.

And then, something amazing happened. Humber's recovery from Tommy John surgery went more quickly than anticipated and, just one year later, Humber was back in AA.

By the end of 2006, Humber made his major league debut with the Mets as a relief pitcher. The buzz was back!

Or so I thought.

Even though Humber put up good numbers in 2007, he was not the same lights-out kind of pitcher that the Mets had hoped for. It was clear that Humber was not the same pitcher post-surgery as he was prior to it.

The Phil Humber ceiling was inevitably lowered.

By 2008, Humber was traded by the Mets in the Johan Santana deal. Just like that, the Mets had traded their "future ace," who, just three years earlier, was their top draft pick and one of the best prospects in the Mets' system.
Even though Humber's velocity appears to have come back since his surgery, the results simply were not there this spring training. Humber did wind up making the Twins opening day roster, but once the Twins needed to make a roster move, there was no doubt who the Twins were going to designate for assignment: Philip Humber.

In just five years, Humber has gone from a third overall pick to a guy struggling for his major league life. While Humber might never have piles of fans yearning for his autograph, I hope that Humber can simply maintain a major league career.


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