|FUTURE STAR BILLING CAN BE|
TOUGH TO LIVE UP TO IN NEW YORK.
|THOSE MINOR-LEAGUE STATS FUELED THE HYPE.|
THE FRONT PAGE
- I was among the many card collectors going bonkers over Gregg Jefferies in 1989. He came onto the scene following two minor-league player of the year seasons in '86 and '87 and with much fanfare churned by the New York media. I thought I was about to see part Ted Williams, part Paul Molitor wrapped up into Eddie Murray. Uh, not quite.
THE BACK PAGE
- Another non-traditional batting exercise for Gregg devised by his dad was being pitched tennis balls with numbers that he had to identify after hitting them.
- Jefferies had cards from Donruss, Fleer and Score in '88, so Topps was late to the party. But this one was the best Jefferies ''rookie'' and a standout in the set. He sure looks happy to be a major-leaguer. That smile would be wiped off his face pretty quickly, though.
- As talented as Jefferies was, he was a bit sensitive and that's a bad trait for New York and the preening Mets of that era, whose lewd and lascivious behavior would've made the Hell's Angels company softball team blush.
- Because the Mets were loaded -- with talent, that is -- in the late '80s, Jefferies was a phenom without a position. The Mets created one by shipping out hard-scrabbled Wally Backman, freeing up second base for the '89 season.
- Jefferies did OK, batting .258, with 12 homers and 56 RBI and 21 steals. He hit .283 the next year with 15 HRs, 65 RBI and a league-leading 40 doubles. But in '91, with the team struggling and the Mets pointing fingers -- some at Jefferies -- the former chosen one decided to take matters into his own hands and craft a statement that he sent to WFAN to have read on the air:
- "When a pitcher is having trouble getting players out, when a hitter is having trouble hitting or when a player makes an error, I try to support them in whatever way I can. I don't run to the media to belittle them or to draw more attention to their difficult times. I can only hope that one day those teammates who have found it convenient to criticize me will realize that we are all in this together. If only we can concentrate more on the game than complaining and bickering and pointing fingers, we would all be better off.''
- And off Jefferies went in December, traded to the Royals along with Kevin McReynolds and Keith Miller for Bret Saberhagen and Bill Pecota.
- After putting together another familiar season (.285/10/75) with the Royals, he was traded to the Cardinals. He had his career season there in '93, making his first All-Star team after batting .342 with 16 homers and 83 RBI and 46 steals.
- He made the All-Star team again the following year but his numbers slid to .325/12/55/12.
- Stints with the Phillies, Angels and Tigers ended a largely disappointing 14-year career. Maybe if he had started somewhere else instead of zany New York things would've been different.
- Still, I look at this card and see the joy radiating from Jefferies and the promise of the future that it's hard not to smile, too.