Shawn Abner is a character in a tale of high expectations and why they are almost impossible to predict in baseball.
He was born in Ohio but grew up in Pennsylvania. A baseball and football star, he was picked with the first overall pick on the 1984 draft by the Mets.
There was added excitement in this pick because of the sudden turn around for the Mets. They were so dreadful in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. But in 1984, they were turning it around. Recent rookie stars like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden highlighted a young core.
And the team that contended and had images of a World Series title dancing in their head suddenly had the chance to insert another superstar.
The first round of the 1984 draft was an odd one. Lots of players with high expectations were picked and did not come threw in their big league career. Cubs pitcher Drew Hall and Reds pitcher Pat Pacillo didn’t contribute much.
6 first rounders never made it to the majors. The ones that did not not have much success on the field or on the mound.
Mark McGwire was in that draft. The A’s swiped him up with the 10th overall pick.
FYI, available in the second round? Greg Maddux and Tommy Glavine. Picking one of them would have solved some issues later when the Mets and Braves became rivals. I digress.
The Mets picked Abner and he was solid in 1984 playing in Rookie Ball. In 1985, as the Mets evolved into a true pennant contender, Abner was putting up solid numbers in Single A Lynchburg. He moved up the ladder in 1986. While the parent Mets team, filled with young stars, went on to win the World Series, Abner hit for power and ran for speed in Double A Jackson. The World Champion Mets looked poised to bring the outfielder up in 1987.
The team post World Series looked to have a right handed hitting powerful outfielder in a part of the title defense.
Abner helped fill the role, but not in the way he wanted. The Padres and Mets put together a massive deal. Quiet and dull but effective hitter Kevin McReynolds joined the Mets. Stanley Jefferson, future MVP Kevin Mitchell and Abner were some of the players who went to California.
He would not be on the highest profile team in the land but would cut his teeth in San Diego. Now it was the young Padres squad who would harvest the bounty of the best player in the minors.
In September the future Padres star made his big league debut. In 1988, he was given a chance to start in the majors and he responded with a .181 average and not much power in 89 plate appearances.
In 1989, the results were not much better. He would put in 4 1/2 years with the Padres. There seemed to be some hope in 1990. He was still only 24, his average was a respectable .245 but would not walk nor hit for power. But in 1991, he got off to a horrid start, batting .165 in 125 trips to the plate.
The experiment was over and he was shipped off to the Angels. After a season wit the White Sox, he appeared to be a baseball vagabond. He injured himself in a motorcycle mishap with the 1993 Royals and never played again.
All bets were on Abner becoming a star. He had the skills and was being inserted into a system that was aiming for more titles.
Should the Mets have given Abner a chance? I mean the number one pick should be worth more than trade bait.
We will never know for sure. Perhaps he would have flourished. Maybe the outfield of Abner, Dykstra and Strawberry would have been one of the best ever. Instead the man picked instead of Mark McGwire never got his toehold.
Ahh the burden of expectations.
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