Taking a Bite Out of Big Mack
Now, you may think the title of this piece is at best misspelled and at worst about former Oakland and St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire. Not so. In fact, this is not even about those iconic McDonald's burgers with "two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun." And, I confess that every Tuesday night, on my way home from Biletones - a band in which I play bass - practice, I stop at the arches for two cheeseburgers and a Mac.
Nor do I mean Nashville singer/songwriter Shane McNally, who performs under the name Shane Mack. Actually, my reference is to the other Shane Mack, the former first round pick of the San Diego Padres, and #11 overall of the 1984 draft. Mack is such a good case study for all of us who study baseball, and statistics, and player trends, not to mention fulfillment - or the lack thereof - of statistical promise.
An unprofitable tale
To give total context, Mack was originally drafted by the Royals in 1981, when Kansas City was a viable force in baseball. He opted, however, for three years at UCLA, stalling his pro debut for three years. As a minor leaguer, Mack went .326-16-84 over four years combined at Triple-A Las Vegas, but whatever was needed to break the Padres cadre was missing. Mack did appear in 161 games for the Pads over 1987-88, logging totals of .240-4-37. But that was it.
In 1989, the outfielder was plucked away from San Diego as a Rule 5 pick by the Minnesota Twins, and in 1990 Mack played all three outfield spots - 23 games in left, 43 in center, and 51 in right - posting .326-8-44 numbers, with 13 steals and a pretty good .852 OPS.
In 1991, at age 27, Mack moved into his peak years at the Metrodome, playing an additional 503 games, with mean totals over that span of .306-15-68, with 16 steals. And then, just as easily - if that path is considered easy - Mack lost it.
The outfielder was granted free agency by Minnesota in 1994, and signed with the Red Sox in late 1996, going a decent .315-3-17 over 160 at-bats as a 33-year-old in 1997. Boston released the outfielder, and Oakland signed him to play three games before the Athletics swapped him to Kansas City. Mack lasted 66 games there, going .280-6-29, and that was it.
Mack had a career full of promise, with some great moments, but, aside from the requisite ups and downs, he was also more than injury prone, spending chunks of time - sometimes years - on the DL.
Much like the careers of Rich Harden, or Milton Bradley, Mack tantalized with some killer numbers, but also disappointed by only putting up one full season's worth of stats, in 1992 when he appeared in 156 games for Minnesota.
For some reason, when I was thinking of Mack, and his bumpy career and totals, I also thought of Mike Morse, now of the Nationals, but drafted in the third round of the 2000 draft by the White Sox.
Morse, who has won starting jobs in the majors a couple of times, has subsequently self destructed with various hand, leg, and back injuries, and over six seasons Morse has totaled .291-21-88 over 237 games. Last year, when Morse got the most playing time of his career, it was with Washington, where the outfielder/first sacker went .289-15-41 over 98 games.
Morse also posted a nice .870 OPS (.519 SLG, and .351 OBP), and at age 28 he signed a $1.05 million dollar deal, for the 2011 season. Which means Morse is going into his, if you will, "Shane Mack years," meaning if he can stay as healthy as Mack, good for 126 games a year.
Now, the issue with players like Morse and Mack - and also Harden and Bradley - is that when they play, they can truly be impact players for your team. Of course the problem is the good seasons come out of the free agent pool, and the next year, when we pay $16 for the services of one of these guys, they break seven hamate bones and pull a good dozen groins. And, they give a profit of -$17.
Now, I am not saying to completely dismiss these guys, for as noted, when they play, they play really well, but truly, all any of them are worth is a $1 late roster spot, if that.
So tempting. So frustrating. Bid, accordingly.
Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.
Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.