Michael William Hampton (born September 9, 1972 in Brooksville, Florida) is a former Major League Baseball left-handed pitcher. During his career, Hampton was well-known for being one of the best hitting pitchers of his time, as well as for his large contract and frequent injuries.
Mike Hampton was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the sixth round of the 1990 Major League Baseball Draft. He first broke into the major leagues in 1993, but had a disappointing start. After the season, he found himself traded to the Houston Astros with Mike Felder for Eric Anthony.Hampton became a starter for Houston in 1995, and kept his ERA under 4.00 for every season he was with the Astros. In 1999, Hampton had his best year. He broke through with a 22–4 record, best in the National League, and a 2.90 ERA. He picked up his first of five Silver Slugger Awards and narrowly finished second in National League Cy Young Award voting to Randy Johnson.
Entering the final year of his contract, Hampton was dealt to the New York Mets in the wake of his big season. He went 15–10 with a 3.12 ERA and helped the Mets greatly in the postseason. With two wins and no earned runs in two starts, Hampton was named the MVP of the 2000 NLCS. Hampton received a loss in his only World Series appearance.During this time, Hampton also established a reputation as a good hitting pitcher, as he batted .311 (23 for 74) in 1999. His best all-around offensive season came in 2001 with the Colorado Rockies, when he would hit .291 with 7 home runs. The next year he hit 3 home runs and batted .344. From 1999-2003, Hampton would go on to win 5 consecutive Silver Slugger Awards.
The Colorado Rockies signed Hampton to an expensive, long-term contract on December 9, 2000. It was the largest contract in sports history at the time. The contract is currently the 25th largest in the history of sports. (Hampton once claimed that he had chosen to move to Colorado because of "the school system", a statement that is often derisively referenced by sportswriters.) The Rockies hoped Hampton, who had been one of the best pitchers in the league over the past few seasons, would be able to succeed in the tough pitching conditions of Coors Field.Hampton went a disappointing 14–13 with a 5.12 ERA in 2001, his pitching clearly affected by Coors Field. Like his predecessor Darryl Kile, Hampton succumbed to control problems. The next season was even more of a disaster for the highly-paid Hampton, as he went 7–15 with his ERA climbing to 6.15. The only positive from Hampton's two Colorado years was his hitting (ten home runs and .300+ batting average over two seasons).
In November 2002, Hampton was traded to the Florida Marlins, then to the Atlanta Braves. Hampton won 14 games and got his ERA back down to 3.84 in 2003. He overcame a slow start in 2004 by winning 10 of his last 11 decisions and helping to propel the Braves to another division championship.Hampton did not contribute nearly as much in 2005 as he was limited heavily by injuries. He went 5–3 in twelve starts, but was lost for the rest of the season with an elbow injury on August 19, 2005. Hampton had Tommy John surgery on September 25, 2005 and missed the entire 2006 season rehabbing.The Braves were hoping for Hampton to be ready to rejoin the rotation in time for the start of the 2007 season. The rehab was on schedule until Hampton tore his oblique muscle on March 7, 2007, which was to sideline him until at least May. Soon after, the Braves signed Mark Redman to be a left-handed starting pitcher for them in case Hampton was not able to return to action soon. After Hampton threw a bullpen session on April 8, the Braves shut Hampton down due to recurring elbow pain and said that he would see Dr. David Altchek, who had performed his Tommy John surgery in 2005.
The next day, it was announced after having another left elbow procedure, that Hampton would miss the entire 2007 season.
Hampton began a rehab assignment on November 22, 2007 for Navojoa of the Mexican Winter League. In the first inning, he attempted to make a play on a comebacker and left during warmups before the second inning, feeling discomfort in his hamstring. The rest of his rehab was left in doubt.However, Hampton reported to "Camp Roger" on time in late January. He threw off the mound for Bobby Cox and Roger McDowell, both of whom were impressed with Hampton's steady progress. Hampton arrived a day before pitchers and catchers were due to report at Lake Buena Vista. He ran sprints and played catch with teammates, and continued to pitch off the mound, and threw to live batters: Mark Kotsay, Tim Hudson, and Corky Miller.On April 3, 2008, Hampton was scheduled to make his long-anticipated return to the Braves rotation in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. While warming up, however, Hampton strained his left pectoral muscle, and was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
On December 3, 2008, Hampton signed a 1-year contract worth $2 million with the Houston Astros.Hampton could have earned another $2 million in performance based incentives.Hampton chose to wear uniform #11 in his return to Houston to honor his old friend, longtime Astro catcher Brad Ausmus.His #10 that he wore during his first stint with Houston was being worn by Miguel Tejada. His physical was clean, and experts believe he was once again healthy. He pitched in the number 4 pitcher slot behind Brian Moehler.On September 15, 2009, Hampton underwent full rotator cuff surgery to repair a tear and was expected to miss the entire 2010 season.Despite initially being expected to miss the whole season, on August 21, 2010, Mike Hampton signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.He returned to the major leagues with the Diamondbacks, throwing 4 1⁄3 innings in ten appearances.
After the season, Hampton resigned with Arizona to a minor league deal for 2011. On March 26, 2011, Hampton announced his retirement from baseball.