A Look Back at Mediocre Mets: Karim Garcia
If one was forced to pick a single, all-encompassing characteristic of the New York Mets as a franchise, it would have to be the team’s incredible knack of enlisting truly mediocre players. “A Look Back at Mediocre Mets” will be an on-going series exploring these types of players that fans loved, hated, but were regardless forced to watch. Today’s mediocre Met is outfielder Karim Garcia.
For those who don’t quite remember Karim Garcia’s 202 PA’s for the 2004 Mets, you’re probably asking, “Who are you you, Karim Garcia?” It’s the question Pedro Martinez famously coined in his 2003 interview with Peter Gammons amidst speculation that the proven pitcher intentionally hit then-Yankee Garcia with a pitch. In an attempt to differentiate the talent pool he deemed Garcia belonged–to as opposed to other Yankees or himself–Martinez essentially called the hefty outfielder a nobody.
To a certain extent, Karim Garcia was (and still is) a nobody. Originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1992, the then 16 year-old would have to wait until 1998 to gain noticeable at-bats. In 1998, now playing for the newly added Arizona Diamondbacks, Garcia posted a .222/.260/.381 line with 9 HR, 43 RBI, 39 R, and 5 SB in 354 PA’s. The 22 year-old lacked on-base skills and struck-out far too often, but his pop was noteworthy. His tenure on the Diamondbacks last just one season, as the outfielder was shipped to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Luis Gonzalez. Gonzo would go on to enjoy some of his finest offensive seasons with the Diamondbacks, and helped lead them to a World Series victory in 2001.
But back to Garcia. His 1999 statistics (.240/.288/.441 line with 14 HR, 32 RBI, 38 R, and 2 SB in 309 PA’s) paled in comparison to Luis Gonzalez’s (.336/.403/.549 line with 26 HR, 111 RBI, 112 R, and 9 SB in 693 PA’s)–but then again, Garcia probably wasn’t on the juice like his trade-mate. Bad trade aside, the Tigers quickly soured on the former Dodgers top prospect, dealing him to the Baltimore Orioles in 2000–who cut him just four months later. The Cleveland Indians picked-up the discarded outfielder on December 22 of that year, and reaped immediate benefits (.311/.360/.711 line with 5 HR, 9 RBI, and 8 R in 50 PA’s during 2001). His slugfest continued into 2002, posting a power-heavy .299/.317/.584 line with 16 HR, 52 RBI, and 29 R in just 205 PA’s for the Indians. Despite his encouraging stint in 2002, Garcia’s horrid .194/.238/.366 line in 101 PA’s during the beginning of 2003, in addition to his lack of defensive prowess, led to his outright release. But just like so many times in the past, Garcia’s unemployment didn’t last long. This time, the taker was the New York Yankees.
Even though Garcia started the season below the Mendoza line, the left-handed hitter was anything but mediocre with the Yankees. In just 161 PA’s, the slugger became a fan favorite–swatting a .305/.342/.457 line with 6 HR, 21 RBI, and 17 R. But the “Latino Bambino” will always be more well known for his brawny behavior in the 2003 playoffs. After being hit by a high-and-tight Pedro Martinez fastball, Garcia incited a bench-clearing altercation. In addition, later in the same game, the riled-up outfielder joined forces with reliever Jeff Nelson, hopping over the bullpen wall, and starting a fist-fight with a Fenway groundskeeper. Whether or not his classless antics were the reason, the Yankees parted ways with Garcia after the season, granting him his free agency. And this is where the New York Mets come in.
The Mets plucked Karim Garcia off the free agent junk heap in 2004, and was more or less platooned with right-handed hitter Richard Hidalgo. The Mets had the right idea, as Garcia smacked about 85% of his career homeruns against right-handed pitching, but the lefty struggled greatly in 2004. In 202 PA’s, the outfielder posted just a .234/.272/.401 line with 7 HR, 22 RBI, and 24 R. Garcia did bring his promised homerun pop–but he happen to forgot the rest of his skills in the Bronx. He did not, however, forget his aggressive off-the-field nature, as he and other former-Yankee Shane Spencer beat-up a pizza delivery man in a parking lot. In all fairness, the guy should have known Garcia HATES mushrooms.
Anyway, after 62 games for the Mets, the team dealt Garcia to the Baltimore Orioles for reliever Mike DeJean, putting a quick end to the relationship. The 28 year-old continued to flounder in Baltimore, adding a .212/.247/.348 line with 3 HR, 11 RBI, and 9 R to his yearly total (.229/.265/.388 line with 10 HR, 33 RBI, and 33 R in 275 PA’s). 2004 would be Karim Garcia’s final Major League season.
The outfielder bounced around in the Mexican, Japanese, and Korean leagues–even enjoying a 29 homerun season in 2009. Yet despite his still relevant power, no Major League teams came fishing. While there was once a time when mentioning “Karim Garcia” brought smiles to scout’s faces, that time has long past, and was never with the New York Mets.