Gregg Jefferies
Gregg Jefferies Mets.jpg
Infielder / Left fielder
Born: (1967-08-01) August 1, 1967 (age 55)
Burlingame, California
Batted: Switch
Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 6, 1987, for the New York Mets
Last MLB appearance
May 29, 2000, for the Detroit Tigers
MLB statistics
Batting average.289
Home runs126
Runs batted in663
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Gregory Scott Jefferies (born August 1, 1967) is a retired infielder/outfielder in Major League Baseball who had a 14-year career from 1987 to 2000. He was a highly touted prospect who became the first two-time winner of the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year Award. In 2017, Baseball America called him their most highly regarded prospect until Andruw Jones.[1] He went on to become a two-time All-Star.

Early life

Jefferies was born in Burlingame, California, to Rich and Joan Jefferies. Rich, the baseball coach at Parkside Junior High School in San Bruno, California, developed Jefferies as a baseball player by pushing him through an intense workout eight hours per day, six days per week which involved, among other things, swinging a baseball bat underwater.[2][3] Jefferies attended Junípero Serra High School in San Mateo, California, where he played baseball and football.[4] While he was in high school, his brother, Dean, was playing baseball at the University of San Francisco.[2] Jefferies initially committed to play both college baseball and football at Cal State Fullerton after high school.[4]

Professional career

Draft and minor leagues

Drafted by the New York Mets out of Junípero Serra High School in the first round of the 1985 amateur draft (#20 overall), Jefferies hit .331 in his first year in the minor leagues, moving from Kingsport of the Appalachian League (rookie) to Jackson of the Texas League (AA) in two years. He was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year for both 1986 and 1987, becoming the first player to receive that distinction in consecutive years.[3]

New York Mets (1987–1991)

He hit .367 with 20 home runs, 48 doubles and 101 RBI for Jackson in 1987, earning Jefferies a brief call-up from the New York Mets at the end of the 1987 season. He went 3 for 6 in 6 games, at the age of 19, making him the youngest player in the Major Leagues that season.

The Mets decided they needed to make room for Jefferies, but didn't know where to play him, as the veteran team was full at the spots Jefferies played in the minor leagues (shortstop, third base and second base). The outfield was full as well, with the team finding it difficult to get outfielders Lenny Dykstra and Mookie Wilson playing time alongside Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds, so Jefferies was sent to AAA Tidewater to start the 1988 season.

After spending most of the 1988 season at AAA (where he hit .282), Jefferies was recalled at the end of August and allowed to play out the year as a starter, mostly at third base. He responded by hitting .321 over the last 29 games of the 1988 season. The team had an MLB-best 24–7 record after his debut and finished with a league-best 100 wins en route to the National League East title.[3]

The Mets made a full-time roster spot for Jefferies when they traded Wally Backman to the Minnesota Twins, leaving second base open for Jefferies. But Jefferies faltered, hitting .258 with little selectivity as a rookie in 1989.

During a game against the Philadelphia Phillies on September 27, 1989, Jefferies was the last batter to ground out before the Mets lost the game. Jefferies then heard some unkind comments from his former teammate Roger McDowell and charged the mound, starting a bench-clearing brawl.

In response to criticism from teammates, on May 24, 1991, Jefferies pleaded his case in an open letter read on WFAN, New York's sports radio station. In the letter, Jefferies wrote: "When a pitcher is having trouble getting players out, when a hitter is having trouble hitting, or when a player makes an error, I try to support them in whatever way I can. I don't run to the media to belittle them or to draw more attention to their difficult times. I can only hope that one day those teammates who have found it convenient to criticize me will realize that we are all in this together. If only we can concentrate more on the games than complaining and bickering and pointing fingers, we would all be better off."[5] In 2020, Jefferies denied having written the letter but would not reveal its true author or authors.[3]

In 1990, Jefferies raised his batting average to .283 while scoring 96 runs and leading the NL with 40 doubles, but the Mets finished 2nd for the second straight year. He slipped in 1991, hitting .272 with 30 extra base hits in 486 at bats as the team slipped to 5th place.

Kansas City Royals (1992)

That off-season the team traded him, along with McReynolds and infielder Keith Miller, to the Kansas City Royals for former All-Star pitcher Bret Saberhagen and utility man Bill Pecota, ending his stay with the Mets.

St. Louis Cardinals (1993–1994)

After playing the 1992 season with the Royals, he moved on to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he would have his two best seasons, batting .342 and .325, respectively, while finding a home at first base and being named to the National League All-Star team in both the 1993 and 1994 seasons.

Philadelphia Phillies (1995–1998)

He signed a lucrative contract with the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1994 season due to a dispute over a no-trade clause the Cardinals wouldn't give him, and he moved to the outfield for the Phillies, where he performed adequately over the 1995, 1996 and 1997 seasons, but injuries to his thumb and hamstring hampered his effectiveness. On August 25, 1995, in a game vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers at Veterans Stadium, Jefferies became the first Phillie to hit for the cycle since Johnny Callison in 1963.

Anaheim Angels (1998)

In 1998, he was traded mid-season to the Anaheim Angels, where he hit .347 in 19 games before moving to the Detroit Tigers the next year.

Detroit Tigers (1999–2000)

He hit a collective .231 for the Tigers over two seasons before he retired in 2000 due in part to a severed right hamstring.[6]

Tigers manager Phil Garner offered Jefferies the bench coach job for 2001 but he declined.[6]

For his career, Jefferies had a career .289 batting average with 126 home runs, 663 RBIs and 196 stolen bases.

In 2020, he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he was "absolutely not" content with what he accomplished in his career.[6]

Personal life

Jefferies resided in Pleasanton, California, with his wife Jeannie Marshall and kids. He was a hitting instructor at Total Players Center in Pleasanton before opening his own Gregg Jefferies Sports Academy, also in Pleasanton. He coached Troy Channing, who was selected in the MLB Draft.[7]

In 2017, Jefferies was working as a hitting instructor at Office Sports Academy in Anaheim.[1] By 2020, he had relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada where he was working as a freelance hitting instructor.[3]

Jefferies has four children from two marriages.[3] His son Jake was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 39th round of the 2015 Major League Baseball draft.[8]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Morris, Ron (October 18, 2017). "Where are they now?: Gregg Jefferies". Baseball America. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Lieber, Jill (March 21, 1988). "Waiting to Splash Down". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Sherman, Joel (May 24, 2020). "Gregg Jefferies complicated Mets' failure looks different now". New York Post. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Waterhouse, Steve R. (September 22, 2011). "Jake Jefferies following in father's footsteps". The Mercury News. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  5. ^ Pearlman, Jeff (2009). The Bad Guys Won. HarperCollins. pp. 268. ISBN 978-0061851964.
  6. ^ a b c Hummel, Rick (June 13, 2020). "Gregg Jefferies wonders how good he could have been". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  7. ^ Sports Illustrated, August 2, 2010, Where are they Now?, p.84, Published by Time Inc.
  8. ^ Casella, Paul (June 10, 2015). "Sons of Biggio, Conine join '15 Draft class". MLB.com. Major League Baseball. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
Honorary titles Preceded byGreg Maddux1986 Youngest Player in theNational League 1987 Succeeded byRamón Martínez1988 Achievements Preceded byRondell White Hitting for the cycle September 3, 1995 Succeeded byTony Fernández