Sometimes, it seems, you just can’t quite get there from here.
Take Johnny Abrego, for instance.
When the Phillies took the right-hander with the 20th overall pick in the 1981 MLB Draft, you had to figure he was on a fast track to the Majors.
But Abrego found the going tough in rookie ball that summer and then blew out his elbow, forcing him to miss all of 1982. Then, in 1983, while the Phils were gearing up for one last push from oldsters like Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, and even Mike Schmidt, Abrego landed with the low-A Bend Phillies.
His 3.97 ERA in 14 games was encouraging in that it meant his arm held together, but it wasn’t enough for Philadelphia to protect him in that December’s Rule 5 Draft, and the Cubs snatched him up.
While the Chicago was busy winning its first-ever division title in 1984, Abrego finally got regular work and jumped from Single-A to Triple-A, crafting an overall 10-10 record with a nifty 2.54 ERA in 28 starts.
The next season saw more minor league seasoning for Abrego, with 27 starts split between Double-A and Triple-A, but then … a September call-up!
Abrego made his Major League debut with two innings of relief against the Houston Astros on September 4 and then rang up five consecutive starts to end the campaign.
As the Cubs headed home that October after missing out on the playoffs, Abrego’s MLB record stood at 1-1 with a 6.38 ERA.
That’s the record that would show up on his 1986 Donruss Rated Rookie card the next spring.
And it’s the record you’ll find today if you look up Abrego on Baseball Reference, or anywhere else.
That’s because, by the time collectors were sliding that blue-and-black striped card from wax packs in the spring of 1986, Abrego was punching his ticket back to Triple-A Iowa. He would pitch there for two more seasons, again struggling with injuries, before the Cubs released him early in 1987.
So, though Abrego never quite lived up to his first-round promise and lasted just about a month in the Majors, he’s immortalized in Rated Rookies lore, right there alongside the likes of Brad Komminsk and Russ Stephens.
A Fourth of July Delicacy
Since today is America’s big patriotic holiday, I thought it might be fun to peruse eBay listings to see what sort of red, white, and blue baseball treats were in the offing. Plenty to be had, but my favorite is a complete 60-card set of 1976 Hostess Twinkies cards in uncut sheet form. When was the last time you saw one of those? Yeah, me too. Take a look at this beautiful thing right here (affiliate link).