Great Moments In Fleece History: The Scott Kazmir Trade

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If you’re a fan of the New York Mets, don’t read any further.

On July 30, 2004, the New York Mets dealt top pitching prospect Scott Kazmir and pitcher Joselo Diaz to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for starting pitcher Victor Zambrano and relief pitcher Bartolome Fortunato. The Mets found themselves 6 games out of a playoff spot at the trading deadline that year, and increased pressure from the Wilpons to win “now” was the cause of Jim Duquette (then General Manager of the NY Mets) to push the panic button…and push it hard.

Victor Zambrano appeared in 39 games as a member of the Mets (35 starts) from 2004-2006. Zambrano went 10-14 in that time, posting a marginal ERA of roughly 4.45. He was oft-injured, and never achieved success with the Mets’ ball-club.

Scott Kazmir, on the other hand, has become one of the brightest young starters in baseball. While he has issues at times finding the plate, Kazmir has become a strikeout machine for the Devil Rays. Since the trade, Kazmir has posted a 34-29 record for Tampa, with an ERA of 3.64. He has 617 strikeouts in 570 2/3 innings pitched. Oh, and he is also turning just 24 in January of 2008.

The NY media has thrown fuel on the fire, making reference to this fleece quite often over the last few years, and who can blame them? To this date, no one truly knows what went on in the Mets’ front office that season to make them pull the trigger on such a monumental fleece. Duquette fitted himself, and every New York Mets fan with a warm, fuzzy, size XXXL fleece for years to come. Regardless of Kazmir’s success in the coming years, Zambrano’s failures will cement this trade in “the Hall of Shame”, while Kazmir’s achievements will serve as a reminder to the Mets organization: Oh, what could have been?

Great Moments in Fleece History: Chan Ho Park Robs the Rangers

Let’s take a look at another one of the worst free agent fleecings in MLB history:  Chan Ho Park’s robbery of the Texas Rangers in 2002.  (By the way, you can always take a look at all of our inductees into the Greatest Moments in Fleece History by clicking on the category to the left). 

In 2001, the Texas Rangers offense was dominant.  They managed to score 890 runs as Alex Rodriguez joined Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Ruben Sierra and Gabe Kapler (17 hr’s, 72 RBI in 2001) to form a dangerous middle of the lineup.  However, the Rangers also had the worst pitching staff in the majors that year, giving up a whopping 968 runs, leading to a record below .500.   Needless to say, owner Tom Hicks and new GM Jon Hart were desperate for pitching that offseason.  And desperation often begets fleecing when it comes to Major League Baseball Free Agency.   Enter Chan Ho Park.

The Date:  January 16, 2002

The Players:Rangers owner Tom Hicks and GM Jon Hart (The fleecees), and right handed pitcher Chan Ho Park and his agent, none other than Captain Fleece, Scott Boras (the fleecers).

 The Fleece:  The Texas Rangers signed Park to a 5 year, $65M deal.

The Result:  In short, miserable.   After winning 75 games in 5 years for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chan Ho Park won just 22 games for the Rangers and lasted just 3 and a half years in Arlington.  He threw only 381 innings for the Rangers over that span.  He made just 7 starts in 2003 and only 16 in 2004, mainly due to annoying injuries like hamstring strains, back strains and blisters.   (Note that Park’s last year in LA was marked by recurring back problems, something that should have prevented Jon Hart from giving him $65,000,000.00. )

Performance-wise, Chan Ho Park’s Texas ERA’s for 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 were surely Texas sized:  5.75, 7.58, 5.46, and 5.66, respectively.   His WHIPS for those years were just as awful: 1.59, 1.99, 1.44 and 1.68.  He was a complete disaster from the start and embarrassed himself in nearly appearance.  (In some starts, he even looked like he felt bad, as he saw Jon Hart sweating to death wearing a big fleece in the Texas heat).   Even in 2005, when Park finally managed to stay healthy enough to throw 20 straight starts, opponents still hit nearly .300 against him and his 8 wins were mainly the product of that deep Texas offense. 

Finally, in the summer of 2005, Texas jumped at the chance to rid themselves of Chan Ho by flipping him to the San Diego Padres for Phil Nevin.   Park finished out his obscene contract with the Padres in 2006, posting a horrendous (by Petco Park standards) 4.81 ERA in 24 appearances.  Park won just 33 times during his 5 year contract, equating to almost $2M per win.  Pathetic. 

John Hart stepped down as Texas GM after the 2005 season to take another job in the Rangers front office.   The team went 331-337 during his reign as general manager.  Awful.   Rumors are that he still wears the heavy fleece Chan Ho Park gave him on cold nights.

Great Moments in Fleece History: The Mike Hampton Signing

In light of Mike Hampton’s newest comeback, let’s take a look at his greatest accomplishment, and induct it into the Great Moments in Fleece History.

Even though former Astro and Met Mike Hampton was the prize pitcher on the market that winter, when the Colorado Rockies signed Mike Hampton in 2000, it seemed a bit excessive.  But I do not think anyone imagined the extent to which Hampton fleeced Colorado at the time.  It is a fleece that keeps on fleecing as 3 teams have now been involved and there is still one more year of fleecing to go. 

The Date: December 9th, 2000

The Players:  Colorado General Manager Dan O’Dowd (the fleecee) and Mike Hampton and his agent Mark Rodgers (the fleecers).

The Fleece:  The Colorado Rockies signed 28 year old pitcher Mike Hampton to an eight-year, $123.8M contract which, at the time, was the largest contract in baseball.

The Result:  Well, not so good for Colorado.  Hampton lasted just two years in the Mile High city, posting a disastrous 21-28 record with a disgusting and hideous 5.75 ERA.  (Note to Dan O’Dowd:  This was actually LOWER than Hampton’s career ERA at Coors Field prior to the signing – 6.88!  What were you thinking?  Seriously, were you alright at the time? We need to know.  Because this was just plain awful management, sir.)

After the 2002 season, the Rockies actually paid the Florida Marlins to get Hampton out of their sights.  That same winter, the Marlins then shipped him to Atlanta, who hoped that pitching guru Leo Mazzone could fix him. 

Hampton’s first two years in Atlanta were slightly above average as he won 27 games and posted an ERA close to 4.0.   But he was anything but the $16M per year pitcher he was being paid (mostly by Colorado) to be.   In 2006 and 2007, the fleecing increased even more as Hampton was out for the entirety of both seasons (collecting nearly $32M in the process) with elbow problems.  Hampton is currently rehabbing and hoping to be in the Braves rotation by April so that he can hit the free agent market next winter and attempt to fleece again.

Strangely, Dan O’Dowd (pictured above), who was also fleeced by Denny Neagle that same winter and later by Todd Helton, survived this signing.  He changed his philosophy (although probably forced by management) and lead the team through a rebuilding phase that has recently paid huge dividends in the form of a 2007 NL pennant.   Still, Dan O’Dowd will probably most be remembered for being fitted for a huge fleece by the likes of Mr. Hampton. This fleece was one of the worst free agent decisions of all time.

Great Moments in Fleece History: The Darren Dreifort Signing

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When Darren Dreifort inked his big deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001, it was widely viewed as a mistake. After all, his career record at that point was 39-45, 6 games under the .500 mark. He had a history of arm troubles and other ailments, and he had posted just ONE season with an ERA under 4.00. With all these factors against him, Dreifort was able to FLEECE to Dodgers for a 5 year deal, worth $55 million.

The pitching market was limited, and Scott Boras was able to sell his client based on the infamous word that surrounds every talented pitcher: “Upside”.  The Dodgers took the bait, and in his first season after the deal, Dreifort needed reconstructive elbow surgery and was out of action until the end of the 2002 season. In total, Dreifort pitched in only 3 of the 5 years of the deal, constantly struggling to stay healthy.

Final Tally:

  • 5 years
  • 9-13 Record
  • 4.53 ERA
  • 1.39 WHIP
  • 86 games pitched
  • 205.1 IP

Dreifort earned slightly more than $6 million for each victory he earned over the course of the contract!

The Dodgers were fleeced beyond comprehension in one of Scott Boras’ most infamous deals over the years.

Great Moments in Fleece History: The Jeff Bagwell Trade

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Time for a new feature at MLB Fleece Factor, called  Great Moments in Fleece History.   Here, we will celebrate the truly historic fleeces.  You know, the ones that make or break a GM’s career, and give us good fodder for years.  Hall of Fame Fleeces, if you will.   The infamous Jeff Bagwell Trade will kick it off.

The Date: August 30, 1990

The General Managers:  Houston’s Bill Wood (The Fleecer) and Boston’s Lou Gorman (The Fleecee).

The Fleece: The Boston Red Sox acquire relief pitcher Larry Anderson from the Houston Astros for 3rd base prospect Jeff Bagwell.

The Result:  Anderson did help the Red Sox sew up the American League East that year but Boston was then swept in the American League Championship Series by the Oakland Athletics.  Anderson’s Sox career only lasted that year.  

Jeff Bagwell, meanwhile, went on to become the Houston Astros career leader in homeruns (449) , RBI’s (1,529) and walks (1,401).   His 15 year career batting average was .297 and his career OBP was over .400.  Bagwell won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1991, NL MVP in 1994, a Glove in 1994, Silver Slugger Awards in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1999.   He drove in 100 or more runs eight times, played four different seasons without missing a game and was a 30 homer-30 steal man twice.

It was one of the greatest fleeces of all time.