Shawn Abner 1990 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 18, 2017

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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.

Remembering September 28th, 1987


23 years ago today, a great moment happened in San Francisco Giants history… and I would be remiss if I didn’t pay tribute to it.

In 1987, my family moved from the Boston area to the San Francisco Bay Area. I was still smarting from the 1986 World Series when I saw my new local team make an unlikely trip to the post season.

The Giants (or the “Hum Babies” based on manager Roger Craig’s inexplicable expression) were far behind the Reds for most of the season. But like most of the Reds teams managed by Pete Rose, they faded down the stretch.

And the Giants made a slew of trades with the Pirates and Padres to remake their team in midseason. In came Dave Dravecky, Rick Reuschel, Don Robinson, Kevin Mitchell and Craig Lefferts to join the squad.

When my family arrived in the Bay Area in the first week of August, the Giants were in third place with a sub .500 record. They went 37-17 the rest of the way. Coincidence? OK, yes.

Then on September 28th, after many near misses over the years, the Giants played the Padres and had a chance to do what they hadn’t done since 1971… make the post season.

I remember watching the game from our new home in Palo Alto. I remember it being an incredibly exciting moment for the Bay Area. And looking back at the box score, it had an amazing cast of characters and some strategy that shows how baseball has changed since 1987.

Take a look at the Box Score here and let’s reminiscence.

HOW DEEP WAS THE GIANTS OUTFIELD?

They started Mike Aldrete, Candy Maldonado and Eddie Milner and was able to bring both Jeffrey Leonard and Chili Davis off the bench.

I remember that Giants team had about 4,000 veterans on their last legs who played as part time players. The Joel Youngbloods, Chris Speiers, Harry Spilmans and Eddie Milners of the world all contributed.

By the way, neither Leonard nor Davis started but each homered.

HOW GREAT WAS THAT DEAL WITH SAN DIEGO?

Maybe it was appropriate that the Giants clinched in San Diego with Dave Dravecky pitching.

It was the deal that brought over Dravecky, Mitchell and Lefferts that turned the season around.

How good a deal was it? The Giants gave up Mark Davis who would go on to win a Cy Young with San Diego… and the Giants STILL got the better part of the deal!

COULD THE PADRES LINE UP BE FILLED WITH MORE OVERHYPED BUSTS?

Anyone who stockpiled rookie cards during the 1980s must look at this lineup and cringe.

Future superstar Shawn Abner! Future closer Lance McCullers! Rising slugger Rob Nelson! Future lead off man Stan Jefferson! Sweet left handed slugging Marvel Wynne!

None of them lived up to the hype… and those baseball cards should have been put directly into bicycle spokes.

MAYBE HE’LL BE INVOLVED WITH ANOTHER GIANTS CLINCHER AGAINST SAN DIEGO IN 2010

In the 4th inning, Bruce Bochy came up as a pinch hitter for the Padres.

He struck out to Dravecky.

Now he is guiding the Giants to finish what they started in 1987.

BULLPEN STRATEGY WAS A LITTLE DIFFERENT IN 1987

Manager Roger Craig brought in Don Robinson, arguably his best reliever, into the 4th inning.

Can you IMAGINE that now? I think it takes Special Dispensation from the Pope to bring in a closer before the 9th inning and an executive order from the White House to have them pitch more than 1 inning.

Just imagine Bochy bringing in Wilson in the 4th inning of a 1 run game today.

LET’S JUST SAY ROGER CRAIG HAD FAITH IN THE CAVEMAN

OK, if bringing Robinson into the game in the 4th wasn’t crazy enough for 21st Century baseball fans, try THIS on for size!

In the 8th inning of a potential clinching game, and his top reliever already pitched 3 innings, and the game tied with the pitcher’s spot coming up… what do you think Roger Craig did?

HE LET ROBINSON HIT!

I guess no Joba rules for Robinson. Can you IMAGINE that happening today? A manager would be fired ON THE SPOT! In MID GAME for doing that!

Do what did Robinson do?
He hit a home run… and it turned out to be the game winner.

Let’s just say the strategy worked.

CHAMPS

Svelte Padres outfielder John Kruk hit a flyball to the warning track that was ALMOST a walk off come from behind homer… instead Hac Man Leonard caught it at the wall and Giants fans could do something they couldn’t do since Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry were on the team… celebrate a title.

WILL CLARK’S INTERESTING CELEBRATION

Most people on camera in a locker room celebration say things like “It was a team effort” and “this feels great but we’re looking for to the playoffs.”

Not Will Clark. He was screaming, dropping F bombs and doing what everyone must FEEL about their first post season berth.

“I LOVE CHAMPAGNE!”

I remember he had to apologize for his language. Come on… he was just doing and saying what every Giants fan was feeling.

The Giants almost made it to the World Series, falling a game short against a banged up Cardinals team.

But lest we forget, this was the day that San Francisco remembered how to field a playoff team.

Enjoy the entire clinching… Will Clark’s celebration starts at 6:45.

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