Once upon a time in the ’80s, when baseball men believed Vince Coleman had the skills necessary to compete at the highest level and considered Donell Nixon a prospect, my friend Dan and I stumbled across a newspaper crossword puzzle that had as one of its clues, “____ Winningham” (four letters). The correct answer was Mare, an American actress perhaps best known for her role as Wendy Beamish in St. Elmo’s Fire, but we both immediately flashed on Herm, a fleet-footed outfielder perhaps best known for being part of the trade that sent Gary Carter from Montreal to the Big Apple.
Thinking of Winningham gets me thinking of other Mets prospects that fizzled. Billy Beane later gained fame as general manager of the Oakland A’s and author of Moneyball (I kid, I kid!), while Shawn Abner and Stan Jefferson came to San Diego (along with Kevin Mitchell) in the Kevin McReynolds deal, where they continued to… what is the opposite of develop?
From Abner and Jefferson, it’s a short step to other failed Padres prospects: Randall Byers, Ray McDavid, Marc Newfield, Gabe Alvarez, and so on up to Sean Burroughs, whom I’d expected would be the new Chipper Jones by now, or at least some kind of Jeff Cirillo/Bill Mueller hybrid. Spilt milk. Water under the bridge. Still, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
So, here’s to you, Mr. Winningham, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you. And by “a nation,” I mean me, because nobody else knows what the heck I’m talking about.