Friday, October 19, 2007

Where have you gone, Jeff King?

In which I discuss a Pirate of the past and why I loved or hated them so much. There's no rhyme or reason to who I pick, the only rule is that I have to remember them. I'm not actually trying to find them.

I think we can probably classify the Kinger as the very first Pirate uber-bust of the 1990s. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong in making that assertion. Jeff King was picked with the very first pick in the 1986 draft. Taken behind him in the top 10 were Matt Williams, and Gary Sheffield. It's not that King was a bad player, it's just that he only had a year or two as a really good one at a time when the Pirates needed him to "the man." If you will. After Bonds and Bonilla left and Van Slyke got hurt, they needed someone to fill the void. King just couldn't do it. He'd fit in quite well with the current Pirates I think: a solid major leaguer that would make a great utility guy, but is a starter because of circumstances.

That's not to say King didn't have his bright spots. In 1993, he somehow drove in 98 runs with only 8 homers and a .403 slugging percentage. No single stat line offers more proof to people like me that RBIs are meaningless than Jeff King's 1993 season does. He did eventually turn into a decent player for the Pirates. In 1995 he hit .265/.342/.456 with 18 homers, then in 1996 he whacked 30 homers with a .271/.346/.497 line that got him traded to Kansas City with Jay Bell for Joe Randa and others. He was average there for a couple years and retired pretty young (at 34) for some reason that I don't recall, though it may have had something to do with migrane headaches (which I know bothered him throughout his career).

So basically what we have in King is a prototype for Xavier Nady, without the serious platoon splits. A guy that was a high draft pick and could play several positions that never really panned out, though people rode those draft expectations for far too long. You know what they say, time moves on but history repeats itself. Especially when the Pittsburgh Pirates are involved.