Generation K

Generation K

Generation K was the collective nickname given to a trio of young starting pitchers in the New York Mets organization in 1995, consisting of Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen, and Paul Wilson. Generation X was a hot topic in American media during the mid 1990s and the nickname came from the use of "K" to denote a strikeout in baseball scorekeeping. The trio were highly regarded and were expected to lead the club back to the top of the National League East standings for the first time since the end of the Dwight Gooden/Darryl Strawberry era. All three players succumbed to pitching-related injuries within a year.

Bill Pulsipher

Bill Pulsipher arrived first, in June 1995, after pitching over 200 minor league innings as a 21-year old. Between the majors and the minors in 1995 he threw for 218 more innings for a 3.98 ERA. Pulsipher missed all of 1996 and most of 1997 with a torn elbow ligament. After a brief comeback bid in 2001 it appeared his career had ended. During this period Pulsipher compiled a 13–19 record and a 5.13 ERA. Yet another comeback came in 2004; after a sterling year with the independent Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks, he was signed by the Seattle Mariners’ AAA affiliate Tacoma Rainiers. He pitched extremely well there, and it appeared that a major league return was imminent, but after a back injury led to his release he returned to the Ducks, leading them to an Atlantic League Championship victory.

In 2005, he started over, going into Spring Training without a job. He received a non-roster invitation from the St. Louis Cardinals on Jason Isringhausen’s recommendation, and joined a race for Steve Kline’s lefty specialist job that already included several competitors, like the established Mike Myers and touted prospect Carmen Cali.

At first he was considered a long shot, but his showing in Spring Training was so strong that Myers was traded and Pulsipher became the second left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen. Two members of Generation K were on the same team for the first time since 1996. Unfortunately, injuries and the emergence of Randy Flores led to a brief major league showing for Pulsipher; he spent most of the year in AAA.

Jason Isringhausen

Isringhausen came next, in July 1995, and was the Mets’ best pitcher down the stretch with a 9–2 record and a 2.81 ERA. In 1996 he struggled with a pulled rib-cage muscle, bone spurs, and a torn labrum contributing to a 4.71 ERA. He had only six starts in 1997 and was ineffective before suffering a broken wrist. He missed all of 1998 recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery but was traded to the Oakland A's for reliever Billy Taylor. Oakland made Isringhausen their closer. He posted a 2.13 ERA in his half-season with Oakland. His 96 mph fastball and jaw-dropping knuckle-curve, which moves so much and breaks so sharply that he sometimes has trouble keeping it out of the dirt, have made him one of the most untouchable closers in the league when healthy. Now with the St. Louis Cardinals, he posted ERAs below 2.50 in each of his first two seasons with the club and led the National League with 47 saves in 2004.

Paul Wilson

With the first pick in the 1994 first-year player draft the Mets selected what many thought as the most promising member of the trio, college phenom Paul Wilson. Featuring a strong fastball/slider combo he made the majors in early 1996 after strong minor league numbers. He had often been accused of possessing poor mechanics, and the stress put on his pitching arm haunted him early. After pitching 187 innings in the minors the year before, he spent much of 1996 on the disabled list. Wilson returned to the major leagues in 2000 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Since then he has been a reliable reliever at the back of the rotation. He spent 2003–2005 with the Cincinnati Reds, and although he was probably the best of the Reds’ beleaguered starters he is now remembered most for being body-tackled to the turf by Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Farnsworth. After spending all of the 2006 season in the minor leagues, Paul Wilson retired with a career Major League record of 40–58 and a 4.86 career ERA.

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