Thursday, January 7, 2016

Second Guessing - Hall of Fame Edition

Congratulations to Mike Piazza on being selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame! Ken Griffey, Jr. is notable for being the first #1 overall pick to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but Piazza is the lowest drafted player to make the Hall. Famously drafted in the 62nd Round of the 1988 Draft as a favor from Tommy Lasorda to Piazza's dad, the story was that Mike was not cut out for the big leagues. He worked hard and made himself into a major leaguer, then a Superstar.

Here are just a small handful of the Catchers drafted ahead of Piazza in the 1988 Draft:
 Steve Decker -- As a kid I thought he was going to be really good. I wasn't much of a prospect hawk. The back of this card notes that his 1990 cup of coffee was enough to prevent Gary Carter from earning two bonuses in his contract for games played. Way to rip off The Kid, kid. Decker played in 263 MLB games over parts of 7 seasons as a part time back up.
 Jimmy Kremers - Jimmy was a two time MVP of the University of Arkansas baseball team. He was fast tracked to the majors, tearing through the Braves system and making his only MLB appearances in 1990. He impressed the team, but ultimately the Braves went with other options and traded Kremers and a player to be named later to Montreal for Otis Nixon and a minor leaguer. The Expos were already set behind the plate, so Kremers was stuck in AAA. He bounced around to Milwaukee, and then was signed in 1995 by the Marlins -- as a replacement player during the short lived Player's Strike.
 Tim Laker - One of the players blocking Kremer's path to the big leagues was Tim Laker. He was able to carve out a career playing second (or third) fiddle for several seasons in the bigs. His career high for games played was 64 back in 1995. He was injured in 1996, missing the whole year - he then spent several seasons shuttling from AAA to the MLB and re-surfaced in 2003 as a regular backup in Cleveland. He even managed to find the time to pitch a couple innings at the end of two games. Laker is also infamous for being named on the Mitchell Report - he admitted that he had purchased Testosterone at four different times during his playing career.
 Scott Servais -- Servais was a member of the 1988 Olympic Team. Not to be confused with pitcher Scott Service, Servais was another journeyman backup catcher. In 1996, 1997, and 1998 he was the primary backstop for the Chicago Cubs. He has the most at bats of any player to graduate from Creighton University, so he's got that going for him, which is nice. He hit 2 homers in the Majors. He's the new Manager of the Seattle Mariners for the 2016 season.
 John Flaherty - Flaherty was a regular for San Diego, Detroit, and Tampa Bay in the late 90s, and later appeared in the 2003 World Series as a member of the New York Yankees. Among the guys on this list, he had the most career hits, Homers, RBI, etc etc etc... His major league debut he caught a no-hitter... but his team still lost the game. Matt Young went the distance for the Red Sox, allowing 2 runs on no hits, 6 strikeouts . . . and 7 walks. Kenny Lofton walked to lead off the game, stole second, stole third - then scored on an error by Wade Boggs.
 None of those guys could hold a candle to the guy picked in the 62nd Round - the 1993 Rookie of the Year, the 12 time All-Star, and the all-time career leader for home runs by a Catcher, Mr. Mike Piazza.


  1. It was too bad Piazza had to wait a few years. Seeing him do so well makes you realize how much of a crapshoot the draft is.

    1. For sure! Olympians, Testosterone, College success ends up being nearly meaningless. You can never be sure that you're going to get a great player in the draft.

    2. I totally agree. Baseball is seemingly the only sport where the top draft picks are always a gamble. The Show is a totally different grind and environment from the top level of other professional sports.

  2. It still boggles my mind that a guy with any smidge of talent whatsoever (much less HOF-level talent) could drop to the 62nd round. Another reason to love baseball.

  3. Great post! I've learned stuff I didn't even know today. Piazza and Griffey will be quite the induction.

  4. Servais managing? I'd forgotten about him. Interesting look back on the guys who never made a real impression on the game. Catchers are my favorites anyway. ;)