One of the many stories of failure surrounding the 2000 Philadelphia Phillies was their closer, Michael (or Mike) Jackson.
In our continuing look at the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the 2000 Philadelphia Phillies, their new closer Michael Jackson (we’ll go with Mike from this point forward) is one player that we need to touch on.
After Jackson had saved a combined 79 games over two years for a couple very good Cleveland Indians teams, the Phillies dipped into their funds and brought him in on a 1-year, $3 million contract for the 2000 season. This did come, however, after he had failed a physical with St. Louis after they had originally agreed to sign him.
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I guess there was a reason for that.
Jackson was actually returning to where his big league career had begun, as he was originally a 1983 draft pick of the Phils and had spent some time on the club in 1986 and 1987. Now, after stints in Seattle, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and the aforementioned Cleveland, he was coming home in a move that looked like a shrewd one by the Phils’ front office.
But in typical fashion for the Phillies of that era, it was a disaster that didn’t pay off. After the Phils dropped their first two games of the season to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and obviously didn’t have a need to put their closer into either game, Terry Francona decided to get his shiny new (old) bullpen toy loose late in the season’s third game, which was a close contest.
But Jackson, who had been one of the most durable relievers of the entire 1990’s, (644 appearances during that decade) felt something in his shoulder. He had to stop warming and never entered that game, one that the Phils would drop in extra innings as they were swept to begin the season. It also marked the first of what would eventually be 15 separate losing streaks of at least three games that awful year.
As for Mike Jackson, he hit the DL immediately after that game, and then had a recurrence of the pain shortly thereafter as he attempted to return. He’d have to be shut down, and he underwent surgery in May that ended his season. And I’m being liberal by saying “ended his season” since his season never officially began. The Phils paid Jackson $3 million for essentially a month of spring training and then an injury-shortened bullpen. I don’t think there’s been a worse use of money in Phillies history.
Mike Jackson would of course return to health the next year, but not for the Phillies, as he headed to Houston. After one season there, he’d also deliver one-off years for Minnesota and the White Sox before calling it a career. Since he had pitched for the Phils way back when, his career does include Philadelphia on the ledger. But as far as the record books are concerned, he never had a second stint with the Phillies.
Good for him, though. He came dangerously close to having his name associated with the on-field performance of that 2000 Phillies team, but he barely managed to escape. Smart man.