It’s August 1, the Boxing Day of baseball. Fans everywhere are waking up late, stumbling downstairs to the tree, and realizing that the ballplayer they were so excited about yesterday looked a little better when it was still in the box. For others, there are unfulfilled wishes of prospects uncollected, and moves unmade. This somber disquiet sets the perfect backdrop by which to partake in a little feasting, and reflect on the true meaning of disappointment. It’s also the perfect opportunity to pay tribute to that elfin figure of the past, Gregg Jefferies.
Life: As a rookie in 1987, Gregg Jefferies had six plate appearances. In the process he raked two singles and a double and earned a 0.1 WAR. Fans over the world extrapolated these numbers into 600 at-bats and a ten-win season, and reacted accordingly. In an era when a pack of baseball cards cost forty or fifty cents, his rookie cards sold for upwards of eight dollars, a princely sum. Owning a Jefferies rookie card was a mark of pride, a membership card into the collecting elite. Sadly, the precocious Jefferies was never able to match the twenty home runs he hit as a teenager in Double-A, and went on to produce an ironically undistinguished fourteen-year career. Jefferies hit for decent average, wielded a little power and a splash of speed. If he had stayed with the Mets, he may have developed his own local legend, but instead he was sent into exile, wandering from team to team. In the end, the man seemingly predestined for the Hall of Fame received two votes.
Spiritual Exercise: First, if you have any rosebuds around, gather them as ye may. Once that’s done, reflect on baseball as a symbol for the fleeting nature of youth, and the psychological significance of a system in which 97% of teams struggle for six months only to result in definitive failure. Ask yourself: is Gregg Jefferies a victim of society? Should we prize the naiveté of the shepherd Daphnis, or the Machiavellian cunning of Odysseus? Did Gregg Jefferies fail the city of New York, or did New York fail Gregg Jefferies?
A Prayer for Gregg Jefferies
You were the golden ticket of a generation.
Your face, ink pressed into cardboard
Instilled a sense of vitality and promise
The possibilities of summer.
Your face matched the youth of our own.
Greatness was something ephemeral
As we grew older
And left (collectively) for college
To earn our business degrees
You disappeared somewhere between
Philadelphia and Detroit.
Your visage, encased in vinyl,
Frozen in its impish, hopeful grin,
We left in the attic to slowly depreciate.
Print This Post