Jul 31, 2016

Late Eighties Mets Player: Greg Jefferies (1987-1991)

Greg Scott Jeffries was born August 2, 1967 at Burlingame, California. Jeffries was drafted right out of high school in San Mateo, California, in the first round (20th pick overall) in 1985.

He became a minor league success right away, winning two minor league MVP Awards & a Player of the Year Award as well. He was hyped up as the next great Mets hitter, even Davey Johnson said “he could hit .300 on his head”. In 1987 he batted .367 at AAA Tidewater with 20 HRs & 101 RBIs.

In September of 1987, at age 19 Jefferies got a September call up, debuting in Los Angeles going hitless on September 6th. Overall in six games he was 3-6 as a pinch hitter on the season. The next year, he spent most of the year at AAA Tidewater because there was no where to put him on the talented big league club. He hit .282 at AAA Tidewater & got brought up at the end of August.

He went on a tear right away, getting nine hits in his first five games, batting .475. On August 29th his second game of the season, he hit a two run HR in the Mets 6-0 win over the San Diego Padres. In the first nine days of September he hit four HRs driving in seven runs.

On September 19th his base hit in the bottom of the 9th was a walk off game winner aginast the Montreal Expos. He would stay hot all through the September Pennant race, batting .321 in 109 at bats, with 6 HRs, 8 doubles & 17 RBIs. Although he only played 29 games he received votes for the Rookie of the Year Award.

Post Season: He played in all seven games of the 1988, NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Playing mostly at third base, while slugger Howard Johnson moved over to short stop. Jeffries played a solid defense, hitting .333 (9-27) with two doubles, an RBI & four walks. It would be his only post season appearance.

The Mets had to find a place for him on the field and ended up trading away the popular Wally Backman to open up the second base spot. Jeffries found himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated & with a Starting Lineup Action figure before he even played one full season.

After two hits on Opening Day, Jeffries struggled in 1989 not getting over the .200 mark until late June. On June 15th he won the game with a walk off single beating the Chicago Cubs 4-3. The next day he homered & drove in four runs in the Mets wild 15-11 win at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.

He hit well in July raising up is average while hitting safely in 16 of twenty games. On September 7th he hit a pair of HRs & drove in five runs in a 13-1 Mets romp over the St. Louis Cards at Shea.

On the year the Mets finished second six games behind the Chicago Cubs, Jefferies batted only .258 with 12 HRs 28 doubles 56 RBIs while posting a .314 on base %. He stole an impressive 21 bases playing in 141 games. At second base he made 12 errors posting a .975 fielding % turning 41 double plays.

Drama: Jefferies didn’t adjust to the hardships of playing in New York at the big league level so quickly. He was constantly frustrated and complained often enough to earn a reputation as a whiner by his team mates & the fans.

He would throw his bat in frustration when he struck out & was called a baby. threw his bat in the dugout he was called a baby, (it wasn’t until years later that things like that made other cry babies like Paul O’Neill be considered intense).

He wrote an open letter to Sports Radio 66 WFAN, when it was a new station criticizing his team mates for not supporting him. This only buried him deeper & the fans let him have it. He heard the boos loudly at Shea when he didn’t do well.

In 1990 things did get better, he led the NL in doubles (40) and raised his average up to .283, with 15 HRs, 68 RBIs scoring 96 runs. But the fans still wanted more due to the hype he had received early on. The Mets finished second once again, this time four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, which also frustrated the fans.

Jefferies became a target of the team's inability to capture the NL East in the past two seasons. He got hot from June 7th through June 14th in the midst of a twelve game hit streak, driving in eight runs with five straight multi hit games. On June 24th he led the Mets with a HR & Four RBIs to beat the Phillies 6-5 at Shea Stadium.

Throughout the summer he was hitting above .300 most of the time, driving in runs in five straight games two separate times. On August 3rd he topped off a Mets top of the 9th inning three run rally in St. Louis, driving in the winning run with a single off reliever Lee Smith.

A week later his three RBIs helped the Mets beat the Phillies 8-4 at Shea Stadium. In September he fell from a .297 average to finish the year at .282. At second he posted a .976 fielding % making 12 errors turning 49 double plays.

In 1991 he drove in the Mets first run of the year with a first inning double, leading to a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. On April 20th he broke a 1-1 tie in Montreal with an 8th inning double scoring the game winning run. After missing the first two weeks in May he hit safely in 12 of 14 games raising his average up to .284.

In July he missed another week of action, then returned to drive in ten runs in the week of his return. As the season went on he kept status quo finishing the year at.272 with 19 doubles, 9 HRs & 62 RBIs & a .336 on base % in 136 games. His time was up in New York, and he was traded with Kevin McReynolds & Keith Miller to the Kansas City Royals for All Star pitcher Bret Saberhagen.

Jefferies hit .285 with 10 HRs & 75 RBIs in one season at Kansas City, then got traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Felix Jose & Craig Wilson.

In St. Louis he moved over to play first base, and had his best career year. He hit .342 (3rd in the NL) with a .408 on base %, 16 HRs, 24 doubles 83 RBIs & 89 runs scored. He made the All Star team that season & the next as well.

In 1994 he hit .325 (7th in the NL) with 12 HRs 55 RBIs in the strike shortened season. After contract disputes with Cardinals management, he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1995.

Jefferies was yet again in the top ten in batting that year (hitting .306, bashing 31 doubles. He hit .292 the following year playing in 104 games.

By 1997 he was entering the twig light of his career, as his average fell to .256, In the middle of the 1998 season he was traded to the Anaheim Angels for a player to be named later.

He finished up the year, hitting .300 but was not resigned. He went to the Detroit Tigers but injuries got the best of him, making him a part time player. He played two more seasons in Detroit, finishing his 14 year career in 2000. 

Overall he hit .289 lifetime, with 1593 hits, 300 doubles, 27 triples 126 HRs, 663 RBIs 196 stolen bases & a .344 on base %.

Retirement: He currently lives outside Sacramento California, coaching high school baseball & varsity football.

He is married to his second wife and has four children. He looks back at his time in New York, wishing he was a little more mature back then. He said the 1988 playoffs spoiled him, and he misses the chance of not playing in a World Series.

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