Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Scouting Report: Gregg Jefferies

During my run over at Inside Pulse and 411mania, I had several ideas for features that never saw the light of day. Some of them were aborted, mid-way, by my own hand (note to my readers in every state, except California and New York: it's just a figure of speech). There were others that I simply never had time to start. This one falls into the latter category, as I couldn't shake the thought that it would only be interesting to me. So, we'll see how it goes. If there's one thing THAT BOOTLEG GUY won't stand for, it's using this colossal blog for my own self-serving interests.

Now, those of you who know me probably know that I'm the last Black baseball fan in captivity. I came up in the late '80s/early '90s following those steroid-laden A's teams of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. I was there in 1990 when ESPN turned a regional, one-nationally-televised-game-a-week sport into the overexposed 200-minute broadcast monstrosity that we all know and love…or hate.

About 15 years ago, I bought my first copy of an annually-published book called "The Scouting Report". It was put out by the eggheads at STATS, Inc. (the all caps company name is theirs, not mine). It was billed as "the most in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of every active major league baseball player".

In the 1991 edition, nearly 700 players were featured, with analysis of their hitting, pitching, defense, baserunning, etc.

As with pretty much anything from that long ago, the only purpose it serves me now is to retroactively mock its glowing praise or pointed criticism of players who ultimately flopped or flourished, respectively. And, first up is one of my all-time favorite failures:

Gregg Jefferies

TSR Sez: "He is one of the great young hitting talents in the game today. Still developing at age 23, Jefferies hits for average and power. He has a picture-perfect compact swing from both sides of the plate. He has the potential to lead the league in batting average. There is no safe way to pitch Jefferies…He is the only untouchable among Mets' position players going into 1991. If he can stay hot…baseball fans are going to be hearing plenty about this rising young star."

Hilarious! Jefferies was "untouchable" for about 11 more months, before the Mets shipped him off to Kansas City with emotionless paperweight, Kevin McReynolds. In exchange, the Royals sent Bret Saberhagen to New York.

Jefferies would ultimately play for six teams in a 14-year career that saw him make a pair of All Star teams and finish with almost 1,600 career hits. Still, Jefferies made his debut at the age of 19 during the '87 season and in an era that pre-dated the 24/7 ESPN hype machine, Jefferies was hailed in all circles as the next big thing.

Turns out, Jefferies became one of the most despised players within his own clubhouse on those Mets teams. Notoriously selfish and stubborn, he never warmed up to the media, which is pretty much the death blow any athlete in The Big Apple.

Jefferies' rise and fall coincided with my brief baseball card collecting life. And, if anyone out there wants some bulk Rated Rookie cards, just let a brutha know.