Sunday, June 19, 2016
One Card Wonder Pt. 29: Ed Sprague
Sprague had some decent years with the Blue Jays, in particular in 1996. That year, he hit 36 home runs and drove in 101 runs. But other than power, Sprague was simply not a very good hitter. He was eventually traded to the Athletics in 1998, which was one of the last years that my brother followed the team. At that point, Sprague started bouncing from team to team with varying levels of success. He was an All Star with the Pirates in 1999 when he turned in a decent year. In 2000, he started the year off with the Padres. He also finished the year with the Padres, but he spent a brief amount of time in the middle of the season with the Red Sox.
In 2000, the Red Sox were coming off of two straight seasons of making the postseason, but they were having some difficulties, particularly with regard to pitching and third base. Incumbent third-baseman John Valentin was dealing with nagging injuries that limited him to 10 games that season. Top prospect Wilton Veras was proving to be a bust. Even Sean Berry was given a one-game shot. Finally, Manny Alexander was a utility player at best. Boston attempted to fill their hole at third by acquiring Sprague from the Padres for shortstop prospect Cesar Saba and pitching prospect Dennis Tankersley. Sprague was not the answer either.
Sprague spent less than two underwhelming months with the Red Sox, playing in just 33 games and hitting .216/.293/.306 with two home runs and nine RBIs. It was a disappointment and did not help Boston with their problems. Eventually, their problem was solved when Lou Merloni was brought back as he had the best season in his career. So, Sprague was no longer necessary and he was released shortly thereafter. Sprague returned to the Padres.
Luckily, neither of the players that Boston gave up in the Sprague deal did anything. Saba never made it to the Majors, despite being a highly touted prospect. Tankersley had brief stints in the Majors over three seasons, but never did much and finished with a 7.61 ERA and a 1-10 record. However, getting to Merloni meant that Boston had to make some room on the 40 man roster and they were not quite ready to give up on Sprague, so they had to place a young infielder named David Eckstein on waivers. And that is how Eckstein ended up with the Angels, a fairly big blunder.
Despite Spragues's short tenure in the middle of the season, Topps Heritage saw fit to include him as a short-printed card pictured with the Red Sox, even though he finished the season with San Diego. I was shocked by this when I found it out, and I had to add Sprague's only Red Sox card to my collection.