There was no Johan Santana-like welcoming party when Craig Hansen signed with the New York Mets on July 24.
In fact, it was barely a blip on the radar of newspapers and bloggers in the New York metro area. You'd have to turn to a small press release on the Mets' official site, and just a few tiny blurbs on various New York baseball sites, to find any information about the deal.
From Glen Cove To Beantown
That said, it's hard to believe that just seven years ago, Hansen was a 21-year-old prospect who was supposed to be the closer of the future for the Boston Red Sox.
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound righty was a dominating presence at St. John's University, lighting up the radar gun with a fastball that dabbled close to the triple-digit mark.
In 2005, the Red Sox turned to Jonathan Papelbon, who was just 24 years old at the time, and a 21-year-old Hansen, to shore up a bullpen that needed some fresh arms. They were supposed to be the saviors of a pen that lost Joe Nelson, Scott Williamson and others from their World Series-winning team from 2004.
Failing To Live Up To The Hype
What all know what happened next. Papelbon thrived from the start, wrapping up the 2005 season with a 2.65 ERA in 17 appearances. He was so impressive that season that he would move into the closer's role by the following year, ultimately notching 219 saves in his seven-year stint with the Red Sox.
Hansen's time in Boston didn't go quite so well. He would go on to appear in 74 games, notch just two saves and struggle in a middle relief role, ending up with a 6.15 ERA over a three-year span.
His story didn't end there, and would only get more tragic as the years wore on. The former star closer at St. John's, who was drafted No. 26 overall in the 2005 MLB Draft, was diagnosed with Parsonage-Turner syndrome, a rare condition causing pain, weakness, and numbness in the arms, shoulders, and upper back, in 2009.
Recovery from this condition takes three to five years, and teams weren't willing to be patient with him. Hansen was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008, and he was welcomed rudely to the National League. He gave up 17 earned runs in 22 innings of work for the Pirates, tallying a woeful 6.95 ERA in the process.
Shoring Up The Mets' Bullpen
It would be easy to write Hansen off as another "can't miss" prospect who simply didn't pan out as an elite athlete in the pro ranks, but my gut tells me he has plenty left in the tank.
After all of his struggles, it's easy to forget he's still just 28 years old, young enough to right the ship and develop into a lockdown force in the bullpen. The Mets desperately need some bullpen help, and there's no doubt the fans would embrace a hometown kid from nearby Glen Cove, NY.
I had the opportunity to play little league baseball with Hansen, so I know first-hand that he has the heart and determination of a warrior. He's a guy that loves to compete, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him turn into a star in the big leagues.
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