The trio known as Generation K (as in strikeout) was the cornerstone of a New York Mets dynasty that never was. Three young pitchers with superstar talent, Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen, and Paul Wilson were supposed to carry the Mets, out of contention since the wheels came off of the Doc Gooden/Darryl Strawberry teams of the 80's, back to the World Series. But it wasn't to be.
Bill Pulsipher arrived first, in June of 1995, after pitching 200+ minor league innings as a 21-year old. Between the majors and the minors in 1995 he threw 218 more, but showed few ill effects, producing a 3.98 ERA. All those innings did take their toll, however, and he missed all of 1996 and most of 1997 with a torn elbow ligament. He was never the same, and after a brief comeback bid in 2001 it appeared his career has ended. The former whiz-kid's final numbers? 13-19, 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. He pitched extremely well there, and it appeared like 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 longshot, but his showing in Spring Training was so strong that he forced the Cardinals' hand; Myers was traded, and Pulsipher became the second left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen. A long comeback had come full circle, as two members of Generation K would be on the same team for the first time since 1996.
Isringhausen came next, in July of the same year, and was the Mets' best pitcher down the stretch, with a 9-2 record and a 2.81 ERA. His 1996 was a struggle, 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 wasn't very effective before going down with a broken wrist. He missed all of 1998 rehabbing after reconstructive elbow surgery, but was saved from the scrap-pile by the bargain hunting Oakland Athletics. What other teams saw as a flameout starter Oakland saw as a closer, and 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 sub 2.50 ERAs in each of his first two seasons with the club and led the National League with 47 saves in 2004.
With the first pick in the 1994 free agent 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 it 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 DL. He wouldn't return to the major leagues until 2000, when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays took a chance on him. Since then he's been a reliable innings-eater at the back of the rotation, solid but a far cry from the Hall-of-Famer many saw in him when he began his career. He spent 2003 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.
Generation K's sad story has served as an effective warning against overworking young starters. Most pitching prospects are watched strictly on their pitch counts-- very few are worked like Isringhausen, who twice threw over 130 pitches in 1996. Recent prospects like Jeremy Bonderman of the Detroit Tigers have been shut down after a specific amount of innings as well. Though Mets fans will always wonder what could have been, many teams have learned a lesson as a result of Generation K's rise and fall.