There has been talk about an intra-city trade with Jacob deGrom to the Yankees and Gleyber Torres to the Mets. How much of this is just the talk of fans and radio hosts and how much is legitimate remains to be seen. “It always seems like they don’t like to do it too much,” Jason Anderson said.
If the teams do make a trade, it won’t match Anderson’s story. The right-handed reliever was the first Staten Island Yankee to make it to the New York Yankees. He had his number retired in Staten Island and then was traded to the Mets two days later.
“My family came into Staten Island, they did that and then then the next day I was with the Mets,” Anderson said.
First things first. Anderson is from Danville, Illinois, a place with about half the population of a sold-out original Yankee Stadium. He was Big Ten Pitcher of the year in 2000 at Illinois, and then pitched for the Staten Island Yankees in 2000 and 2001. He worked his way up and made the 2003 Opening Day roster and pitched in the first game of the season.
“That whole organization was awesome,” Anderson said. “It was like a family. Clemens and Billy Connors and Don Zimmer and Torre and Bernie Williams, it was a bit overwhelming for me but these guys talked about championships everyday and then the other stops that I went along the way you didn’t get that same feeling.”
Anderson and Nick Johnson were the only players on the Opening Day roster under 25.
“It was surreal,” Anderson said. “It was great. It was weird and then it was almost like playing with a bunch of uncles.”
At the All-Star break Anderson was 1-0 with a 4.79 ERA in 22 games. The rookie had a sense he might be dealt away and saw the rumor in a newspaper.
“I didn’t really have anything to do, I was just kind of roaming around New York City and I read about it,” Anderson said. “I’m like, ‘Well, I’m not gonna have to go very far if nothing else’ and then it ended up happening.”
Anderson had his number 19 retired in Staten Island on July 14, the first day of the All-Star break. The day after the All-Star Game, Anderson was traded to the Mets.
“Maybe they were waiting for that,” Anderson said laughing.
The Yankees received Armando Benitez, possibly the least popular player in Mets history. He was already entrenched in Yankees history, giving up the Jeffrey Maier-aided home run to Derek Jeter in the 1996 ALCS, starting a brawl by drilling Tino Martinez in a 1998 game, and blowing the save in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series. The Yankees would trade Benítez to the Mariners for Jeff Nelson three weeks later.
On the other side, as if going from a first place team to a last place team wasn’t bad enough, Anderson was sent to Triple-A Norfolk.
The Mets attempted to convert Anderson into a starter. “It was a frustrating time for me,” Anderson said.
He pitched in six games with the Mets, finishing with a 5.06 ERA. The Mets finished with 95 losses while the Yankees won the AL pennant.
“I don’t think the Mets knew what they wanted to do at that point,” Anderson said. “They were trading the older guys for the younger guys but then as soon as the season got over they started getting more older free agents and some of the younger guys got pushed to the side. It was very frustrating over there.”
Anderson pitched in one game for the Indians in 2004, and then returned to the Yankees, pitching in three games in 2005. He pitched in Triple-A Columbus late in the season but wasn’t called up in September. “I was older so I felt like I could handle the major leagues a little bit better but I didn’t get the September call up that year and I ended up with the Padres the following year. That was one thing that I really would’ve wished, that I got an opportunity to get called up that second time and stay up there the whole September.”
He pitched in the Padres and Phillies organizations, never making it back to the majors. He was something of a player/coach in the final years and thought about going through the system as a pitching coach, but family reasons changed his mind. He is currently the head coach at Eastern Illinois University.
“It’s different from pro ball,” Anderson said. “You’ve got 35 players that you have to manage and there are budgets and schedules and things that you run into every single day, but it’s something I enjoy.”
The young players also like hearing his first hand stories of the major leagues.
“And that’s one of the things I think benefits as a college coach that I’ve experienced a lot,” Anderson said. “I did everything on the college side and I’ve done everything as a pro player, so I don’t necessarily know if that makes me a better coach than anybody else but I have had those experiences firsthand and know that it takes at each one of those levels.”
Does he ever think about what would’ve happened if he wasn’t traded from the Yankees to the Mets?
“All the time,” Anderson said. “I don’t look back. I did everything I could and you always say “what if?” And if I could have only done this or this would’ve happened but to be pitching for the Yankees on Opening Day as a 23-year-old sitting in the bullpen with Mariano Rivera and having a locker next to Roger Clemens, I have no complaints whatsoever. But you like to look back on things and that was a thing that just happened. I didn’t overcome it as well as I should’ve.”