Apr 14, 2015

Early Nineties Mets Infielder: Fernando Vina (1994)

Fernando Vina was born April 16th in Sacramento, California. The scrappy five foot nine Cuban, American infielder attended Arizona State University getting drafted by the New York Mets in 1990 in the ninth round.

In 1992 he was drafted away by the Seattle Mariners & played 23 games with them at the big league level. In June he was returned to the Mets & played the rest of the year out at AAA Norfolk batting .230.

In 1994 he began the season with the Mets playing as a utility player around the infield. On April 27th he had his biggest Mets moment driving home the game winning run in the bottom of the 15th inning scoring Kevin McReynolds to beat the San Diego Padres. Vina played in 79 games batting .250 with six doubles, six RBIs & a .372 on base % for the '94 Mets. That season he led the NL in hit by pitches with 12, something he would be tops in the league with throughout his career.

In November of 1994 Vina was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers for pitcher Doug Henry. Vina was played five seasons in Milwaukee making the All Star team in 1998. That season he had career bests at the plate in batting (.311) on base % (.386) hits (198) runs (101) & stolen bases 22. That year Vina also was caught stealing 16 times (2nd most in the NL) & was also hit by 25 pitchs also second most in the league. In his career he led the league twice in getting hit by pitches, & was in second place three times in that category. In December of 1999 Vina was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Juan Acevedo.

Vina had the perfectly manicured goatee, as well as his best years in St. Louis, beginning with the Cards 2000 playoff season getting all the way to the NLCS. Vina hit .300, posting a .380 on base % hitting 24 doubles with ten stolen bases as the teams leadoff hitter & second baseman. He led all NL second baseman in fielding (.988%) and went on to win two Gold Gloves over the next two seasons.

Post Season: In the NLDS that year he batted .308 against the Atlanta Braves, hitting a HR in Game#3 helping the Cards to a series sweep. In the NLCS loss to the New York Mets he hit .261 (6-23) with two hits & an RBI in the Cards Game #3 win.

Vina spent four years with St. Louis making two more post seasons. In the 2001 regular season he hit .303 with career highs in RBIs (56) & HRs (9) while posting the leagues second best fielding % (.987%). In that NLDS he batted over .300 again (.316) with a HR against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game #4 at Busch Stadium.

In 2002 his average fell to .270 but in the NLDS he hit .600 (9-15) once again tearing up Arizona's fine pitching staff. In December 2003 he signed as a free agent with the Detroit Tigers but was limited to just 29 games due to hamstring injuries. Some people accused him of hiding his injuries from the Tigers in order to get a lucrative contract. The injuries resulted in the ending of his career at age 36. In a 12 year career he batted .282 with 1196 hits 194 doubles 49 triples 40 HRs 343 RBIs 116 stolen bases 627 runs scored & a .348 on base %. At second base he posted a .984 fielding % (52nd all time) turning 779 double plays in 1949 games.

Retirement: Vina was named in the 2007 Mitchell Report for using steroids, although he denied the charges. He was cited in the report as buying anabolic steroids in the Mets locker room between 2000-2005. In 2007 he was a member of ESPN's Baseball Tonight TV show as an analyst. Since then he has served as an analyst for the Oakland A's.

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