Here’s to You, Mr. Winningham

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.

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5 Responses »

  1. Here’s another failed Met: Gregg Jefferies. I have his 1989 “rookie card” where he is touted as a “Future Star.” The card also says that “One of the stringent exercises employed by Gregg during workouts is swinging a leaden bat under water.”

    I should add that Jefferies was not really a failure. He put together a decent MLB career. But, he was not the superstar that he was projected to be when still in the minors.

  2. Nice. I remember those days, when we thought a “Future Star” card actually meant the guy was going to be a star. Many an allowance buck was wasted trying to invest in the Future Stars market.

  3. IIRC, Abner was the big bust for the Mets in that era. The #1 pick in 1984, I think. I don’t recall much ever being predicted of Winningham.
    But that was a very productive 5-6 year period for their farm system. Gooden, Strawberry, Dykstra, Reardon, McDowell, Aguilera, Mitchell, Oquendo, Backman, etc.
    I think Darling, Walt Terrell, Sid Fernandez and Cone were minor leaguers obtained through trades. Not a bad group.

    They have never produced a HOF hitter. I think Ken Singleton might be the best hitter from their farm system.
    I think the big flaw with the Mets was not their prospect flops, but some of the bad trades they have made. There have been some doozies!

  4. Parlo, you’re right that Winningham wasn’t in Abner’s class. I remember Winningham mainly because he had potential value to a Roto team thanks to the steals.

    And yeah, the Mets made some sweet trades to assemble that pitching staff. They gave up Lee Mazzilli, Rick Anderson, Mauro Gozzo, Ed Hearn, Bob Bailor, and Carlos Diaz for those four pitchers.