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January 12, 2007
One-game wonders. Solo showers. Java jabbers. Uni-gamers--men who make it to the big leagues for just one game.
In a February 2005 column, I discussed our continuing fascination with these men, focusing on the players who had, within the years 1999-2003, done this very thing. I thought we'd revisit the topic today and talk about those who have joined them in the One-Game Club and those among that group who managed to beat the rap and expand on their careers in the intervening two seasons.
I won't be talking about the seven players who made their major league debuts in 2006 and got into just one game. It would premature to assume none or all of them will ever see the light of major league day again. We'll revisit them in a year or two. In the meantime, you can start keeping track of the progress of the following players: Chris Mabeus, Phil Barzilla, Jeff Fulchino, Jim Johnson, Patrick Misch, Mike Rabelo and Juan Morilo.
Instead, we'll start with the players who played their one game in 2004 and 2005:
Class of 2005
What happened? Oliver Perez was his usual enigmatic self, surrendering 10 baserunners in less than three innings and just about wiping out the good will his brother Pirates had shown him by scoring six runs in the bottom of the first. Bullington was summoned with two outs in the third and the bases loaded. He induced Ryan Freel to ground out to shortstop to preserve the 6-5 lead. Just like that, he was in a position to record a win. He couldn't hold it though, surrendering a walk to Rich Aurilia, a double to Adam Dunn and a plunking of Jason LaRue in the fourth. The Reds scored twice, both on outs, and gained the lead. Bullington was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the Pirates half of the inning and they later came back to win.
Chances of getting back: This game marks Bullington's last professional outing, but if his rehab after labrum surgery is on-track, he'll be right in the midst of the Pirates' plans for '07 and will get off this list soon enough. As the first man taken in the 2002 draft, he'll get every chance to earn his way out of the One-Game Club.
What happened? Bazardo had the kind of debut that is the stuff of rookie nightmares. With the score tied 3-3 in the fifth, he entered the game with nobody out and men on first and second. He promptly uncorked a wild pitch, moving them both up a base. A walk followed by a single by David Wright unevened the score and kept the bases loaded. Damion Easley then booted a Doug Mientkiewicz grounder, allowing two runs to score. Bazardo got out of further trouble in that inning but was back at it the next when a walk, a single and two doubles put the Mets up 9-3. He did manage to strike out future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, so there's always that. Another run-scoring single by Wright and a Mientkiewicz double play ended the inning and, to this point, Bazardo's major league career.
Chances of getting back: Two months after his problematic debut, Bazardo was traded to the Mariners for Ron Villone. He's still only 22 and had a fairly decent season at Double-A with San Antonio. (Major League equivalent 16.9 VORP.) He's a good bet to return and remove the stigma of his lone outing, perhaps in 2008.
What happened? With the Cubs leading 8-2 in the top of the ninth and Valerio de los Santos pitching, Greenberg was sent up to pinch hit for Will Ohman. He was beaned in the head on his first big league offering. It was a serious enough knock that he stayed on the ground for a few minutes and Carlos Zambrano was called in to pinch run for him. He was put on the disabled list and was still complaining of dizziness and vertigo five weeks later.
Chances of getting back: Greenberg will be 26 next month and has appeared in just 22 games above Double-A. He was a walking machine at Jacksonville last year, managing a .387 OBP in spite of batting just .228. The power he displayed his final year at the University of North Carolina hasn't appeared as a pro (he slugged just .311 at Jacksonville) and the Cubs gave him his release. The good news is the Royals signed him last month, so the door remains open for another shot at actually getting to swing at a major league pitch. Fate owes him that much.
Class of 2004
What happened? Saenz skipped Triple-A and got the start against the Cards and ran into trouble in the first inning, loading the bases on a single and two walks. He managed to get out of it and went on to pitch six scoreless innings, walking just one more batter and giving up one more hit. He got the win as the Brewers won 3-1. In three at bats against Albert Pujols he popped him up, hit him with a pitch and allowed a single.
Chances of getting back: Not good at this point. Saenz, who had been called up merely to replace Chris Capuano for one start, was optioned back to Double-A Huntsville the next day where he struck out a man an inning and had a K:BB ratio of 84:18. Unfortunately, the season ended with Tommy John surgery in September and he has not pitched since.
What happened? What one expects to happen when you throw a rookie with five games above the A level at the Yankees at home in front of 54k in his big league debut: chaos. Villacis walked three in the first inning and botched a pickoff play that would have lessened the damage. He managed to wiggle out of a bases loaded situation with only two runs allowed. He had a quiet second but walked two more in the third, both of whom scored on a home run by Ruben Sierra. He left with one out in the fourth with the Royals trailing 5-1. They would go on to lose 12-4.
Chances of getting back: Very low. Villacis, who was 25 when he made his debut, was sent back down to Double-A and then released by the Royals later the same month. The White Sox scooped him up and he held his own at Birmingham in 18 starts. In 2005 he pitched his first games in Triple-A and was shellacked. Things went poorly back in Double-A too and he was released and ended the season in the independent Atlantic League. Last year he had four relief appearances for Bridgeport in the same league, so it looks like the end of the line.
What happened? The Angels were trailing 7-2 when Bergman was called on to replace Matt Hensley with two men on and none out in the eighth. A sac fly accounted for one out but a wild pitch, walk, single, double and single brought in four more runs. He allowed a harmless single in the ninth.
Chances of getting back: Bergman had ML Equivalent VORPs of 16.7 and 21.9 at Triple A in 2004 and 2005, all in relief. He was traded to the Giants on August 31, 2005 but was not called up to the big club for September. After a rough go in Fresno last year (he had a mind-bending .538 BABIP), he was released by the Giants and then given a chance by the Yankees for whom he had an equivalent ERA of 5.05. He turns 29 in a few weeks.
What happened? The Yankees were thrashing the Rays 9-3 when Marsonek came on with two outs in the top of the eighth and a man on second. He dispatched Damian Rolls and set the Bedevilers down in the ninth with just a single to Toby Hall.
Chances of getting back: None. Marsonek, who was 26 when he made his debut, had a 6.61 ERA at Columbus in 2005 and did not pitch last year.
What happened? Narron, latest of the Baseball Family Narron, started and surrendered a home run to the second man he faced, Eric Byrnes. He walked two and threw a wild pitch in the second but escaped without allowing a run. In the third Byrnes smacked another homer and Erubiel Durazo followed with a two-run shot to make it 4-0. Narron walked the next two batters and was lifted. Joaquin Benoit put out the fire and the Rangers came back to win 7-5.
Chances of getting back: Narron sports a 32-11 career minor league won-lost record but missed all of 2005 with elbow miseries. Picked up by the Brewers, he spent last year in the Florida State League where he acquitted himself fairly well in nine starts and nine relief appearances. He turns 26 in July, so there's some time left to climb back.
What happened? Snare was brought in to relieve another rookie, starter Nick Regilio, who was trailing 4-0 with one in the second and men on second and third. Snare walked Rafael Palmeiro and then got a double play ball from Javy Lopez. Larry Bigbie homered in the third and Miguel Tejada and Lopez followed suit in the fourth. In the fifth, a walk, a Rafael Soriano error and a double by Melvin Mora plated another run before Joaquin Benoit (again) put out the fire.
Chances of getting back: Snare's game started to go to hell in '05 and he was released by the Rangers. The Pads grabbed him and it got worse. He started seven games for Wichita in the Royals system in 2006 to no good end. His ERAs at his last three stops have been: 6.23, 5.93 and 6.62. He turns 28 next month.
What happened? Urdaneta was a co-facilitator of one of the worst thrashings in recent baseball memory. He entered the game in the third inning with the Tigers trailing 8-2 and the bases juiced Royal blue. He walked David DeJesus to force in a run and then surrendered five consecutive singles and left with the bases loaded. Franklyn German relieved him and allowed all three runners to score. 13 straight Royals reached base in the inning which ended with the score 17-2. The final was 26-5.
Chances of getting back: Not good. Urdaneta (which is not Spanish for "The Infinite One") has made seven stops since that game, including two postings in the Mexican League. He turned 27 in November and pitched briefly in the Mets system last year.
What happened? In the last inning of the last game of the season of the last Montreal Expos game every played, Hietpas was sent in to catch. Bartolome Fortunato was on the mound. Hietpas's career consists of receiving for five batters, two of whom struck out.
Chances of getting back: Hietpas has split the last two seasons between Double-A and Triple-A with grim offensive results. His ML equivalent EqAs in his four stops in that time have been .199, .193, .105 and .172. Unless the Mets are interested in a living historical recreation of the career of Bill Bergen, he's seen the last of the bigs.
The rest of these players were discussed in the article two years ago. This a follow-up:
Class of 2003
Travis Chapman is 28 and was still hanging on in 2006 although he's played quite sporadically in the last three years in the lower reaches of three different teams' minor league systems. He had about 70 plate appearances in the Pirates chain in '06. Dane Sardinha was kicked out of the One Game Club when he doubled his big league game total by starting against the Red Sox on June 14, 2005. He went 0-for-3, running his career total to five at bats without a hit. He spent last year at Triple-A, doing his defensive catcher thing with a ML EqA of .155. He turns 28 in April.
Class of 2002
Ron Wright remains the most prolific out generator in major league baseball history on a per-at bat basis and, if I may boldly predict, will remain so for eternity. He made six in three at bats in his sole big league game. He last played professionally in the Northern League in 2004. Kris Keller's 27.00 career ERA is chiseled in stone. He also last played professionally in 2004.
Class of 2001
Christian Parker's long road back from shoulder problems ended in 2005 in the Rockies chain. Scott Sobkowiak has spent the past three seasons eating innings in the independent leagues with ERAs in the 4.00s. He's 29. Tim Christman turns 32 in March and last saw the professional light of day pitching Indy ball in 2005. Steve Green turns 29 in two weeks but is still hanging in there. He's spent the last year and a half at Toledo in the Tigers system with middling results. As Clay Davenport predicted he would in the column of two years ago, Scott Seabol did manage to leave the One-Gamers behind. Four years after his big league debut, he returned to play 59 games with the Cardinals in 2005. His .219/.272/.295 line didn't win him a return trip. He played 71 games at Albuquerque last year with a ML equivalent EqA of .264. He's 32 now.
The only other player I discussed two years ago who managed to beat the one-game rap is the immortal Yamid Haad. Six years after getting a single at bat with the Pirates in 1999, he finally returned to the bigs and appeared in 17 games for the Giants. His on-field results weren't good (.071/.156/.107 in 28 at bats) but he did get to give Willie Mays a haircut. You may have seen the footage of that event. Mays also made fun of his name. That's got to be worth something.