I feel I have neglected this space. But, in the flurry of travel from Phoenix, to home, to New York, to home over the past few weeks, and with so much good stuff going up on the daily blog each day, well....
I always respected Hampton for nothing less than trying to defy then conventional wisdom, signing and pitching for the Rockies. It was a failure (21-28, with an ERA around 6.00), but at least he was thinking outside of the box. Always a fine athlete (.246-16-79 as a hitter over 725 at-bats) Hampton hurt himself in 2002, and was never really the same. Though he always offered hope.
Sweeney could hit, but I have two distinct memories. First, the first year I had press credentials, I asked players some of their favorites: town in which to play, favorite food, etc. Well, Sweeney's favorite food was pizza, his favorite album was "Box Set" by George Strait, and his favorite movie was "Johnny B. Goode" starring Anthony Michael Hall.
The other was a game-tier, when Oakland ran their 20-consecutive win streak a many years back. Sweeney hit a bomb down the left field line that forced the contest into extra innings.
No question, Sweeney could hit.
Finally, I think Scot Shields was the best set-up man in baseball from 2002 to 2008, when wear and tear wore him down. 46-44, 3.18 with a 1.24 career WHIP, and 631 strikeouts to 697 innings, with 21 saves, and always a great $1-$4 pitcher in AL Tout and LABR, Shields was a fave for years. Same with Cory Schwartz, of MLB.com, who was so on me the first year I played against him in a league, bombarding me with unrelenting trade offers till I finally swapped Shields (Cory won the league).
I also note that Kevin Frandsen, whose debut I saw in San Francisco in April of 2006, was dropped by the Padres earlier in the week (the Friars grabbed him from the Angels), but a day later the Diamondbacks signed Kevin.
And, perennial disappointment Oliver Perez was released by the Mets, but the next day the lefty caught on with the Nationals.
Baseball: eternally hopeful, hopefully eternal.