Each week during the off-season, I will be selecting a random, former Met to highlight. This will be taking place of our usual Friday segment, Rising Apple Player of the Week, until games start back up. If you have a former Met that you’d like me to highlight, please contact me at [email protected]
and title your email: Rising Apple Off-Season Player of the Week suggestion.
I know, it’s technically not the off-season anymore, but there wasn’t enough action on the field to actually choose a player of the week, so I’ll be picking random Mets this week and next week before Grapefruit League games get started. This week’s selection is Butch Huskey, which was actually a suggestion made by Staff Writer Sam Maxwell at the beginning of the winter, but I totally forgot about it until now.
Robert Leon Huskey was drafted straight out of Eisenhower High School in Oklahoma in 1989, as the Mets selected him in the 7th round of the amateur player draft. As he worked his way through New York minor league system, he quickly showed the power potential he had at the plate. Huskey won the Doubleday Award (given to the highest performing player at each minor league level…now called the Sterling Award) in his first professional season, hitting .263/.317/.453 with 6 homers and 34 RBI in 54 games for the Rookie League Gulf Coast Mets.
He quickly became a top prospect in the New York organization, being ranked as one of the top 100 prospects in baseball three years in a row, winning the Doubleday Award two more times, and putting together three seasons of 20+ homers and 80+ RBI from 1991 to 1995. Huskey made his debut for New York in 1993 and struggled in 13 games played (.146/.159/.171), but as a 21-year-old, the organization still felt like he had a bright future. He didn’t make it to the Majors in the strike-shortened season of ’94, but played in 28 games for the Mets in ’95 before making it to the Majors for good in 1996.
Originally, Huskey was penciled in to be the backup infielder for Edgardo Alfonzo, but the emergence of Rey Ordonez force him to be moved to right field, where he became a huge defenisve liability, as his problems with the glove outweighed the upside with the bat, and he was so bad out there that he eventually platooned at first base with Rico Brogna (does this remind of Lucas Duda at all?). Huskey finished the season with 15 homers and 60 RBI in 445 plate appearances.
The 1997 season ended up being his best with the bat; after the Mets traded away Jeff Kent, the third base job was open for Huskey, but he struggled again so bad with the glove that Alfonzo ended up taking his place, moving him back to right field to platoon with Carl Everett. At 25 years of age, he showed his power potential by hitting .287/.319/.503 with 24 homers and 81 RBI. However, that was the best season he would have in the Big Leagues, taking a step back in 1998 with only 13 longballs and 59 RBI, which led GM Steve Phillips to look for better options in right field; the team once again acquiring Bobby Bonilla, and traded Huskey to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Lesli Brea.
He played for four teams in the next two years before he hung up his spikes, but still had promise as he put together a nice first half with Seattle, leading him to get traded to the Boston Red Sox, who were in playoff contention. After that season, he signed with the Twins and was penciled in to be the everyday designated hitter, but once again, the 28-year-old regressed by hitting .223 with 5 homer and 27 RBI in 215 at-bats, and was again traded to the playoff contending Colorado Rockies, giving them some power off the bench.
That would be the last time Huskey made it to the Majors; he signed a one-year deal in 2001 to join the Cleveland Indians, but didn’t make the team out of Spring Training. One of his biggest claims to fame was that he wore number 42 before it was retired across Major League Baseball; he, like Mo Vaughn and Mariano Rivera, were grandfathered in and allowed to wear the number until the end of their career, as Rivera is taking full advantage of that rule.
So, here’s to you, Mr. Huskey. I’m sorry that your time with the Mets didn’t live up to expectations, but I’m happy you were able to experience the post-season twice in your short career. Also, thanks for having one of the best nicknames ever.