Chris Young's one full season as a Met seems like eons ago. It was 2012 and the club was still waiting (in vain) for Jason Bay to come around. Daniel Murphy played 156 games and had fewer home runs than he has had this postseason. Matt Harvey was called up to make his debut. Johan Santana pitched a no-hitter after overcoming the same kind of shoulder surgery from which Young was recovering.
Their offense was so weak that once, the only run they scored in a game came from a bases-loaded walk to Young from the Reds' Johnny Cueto.
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All told, Terry Collins' Mets went 74-88 that year and merely hoped that better days were on the horizon.
"When I was here, I thought we had good teams,'' Young, 36, said Friday at Citi Field, where he will start Game 4 of the World Series for the Royals Saturday night. "I enjoyed my time here. I love the city. I love the fans. I love the organization. And I thought the team was going in the right direction."
He was right about the direction, given that three years after he left, the Mets won the pennant. What is most important for him is that after pitching only four games for the Mets in 2011 because of his shoulder, he revived his career in 2012. He went 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA and worked 115 innings, the most since he was a Padre in 2008.
As a Met, Young made it clear that his livelihood had late life -- just as his pitches did, as former Padres teammate Mike Piazza once said.
"Well, if you know Chris Young, you root for him," Collins said Friday, a few hours before Piazza threw the ceremonial first pitch for Game 3. "He's one of the best people you'll ever meet. Unfortunately, I'm on the other side of the field, so I don't want to root hard for him."
The Mets were rightly skeptical about signing Young for 2013. It turns out he missed that whole season with more shoulder problems.
But it seems ironic now that the club had serious reservations about whether Young could be a reliever as well as a starter. His three emergency innings out of the bullpen in Game 1 of the World Series made him the winning pitcher that night and put his old team in an immediate hole (made worse with Cueto's complete game the next night).
Young, who signed with the Royals in spring training as a spare starter, said, "My body feels fine . . . I'm not worried about bouncing back."
That remains to be seen, considering his health history and age. But he has shown a knack for peering into the future.
Young said that when he looked around the Mets' organization three years ago, he saw only good things. "You could sense that there was a group of guys that really wanted to win. There was some development that needed to take place, and certainly that has happened," he said. "With the horses they have in the rotation and the pieces offensively, that's why they are here in the World Series. And it's extremely impressive. They're a great club and I'm extremely happy for them."