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New York Mets History

NY Mets History Rewritten: A pick in 1984 reshapes the National League

PITTSBURGH - MAY 1988: Outfielder Shawn Abner of the San Diego Padres bats against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium in May 1988 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH - MAY 1988: Outfielder Shawn Abner of the San Diego Padres bats against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium in May 1988 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
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Does the name Shawn Abner mean anything to you? If you were following the New York Mets in 1984, you may remember them selecting him first overall in that year’s draft.

A high school outfielder from Pennsylvania, Abner never had the MLB career the Mets and everyone else seemed to believe he would. He would end up packaged in the trade with the San Diego Padres to acquired Kevin McReynolds after the 1986 season, putting his legacy in the hands of a new organization.

Curious about a few other “what ifs” in Mets history, I went back to look at the 1984 draft. The first round includes a few memorable names but only one true star. In later rounds, however, there are other guys who could have helped the Mets reshape the National League.

The Mets could have drafted some stars in 1984 instead

The most logical choice for the Mets to have reasonably taken might have been the tenth overall pick, Mark McGwire. I can’t tell you enough about how much McGwire means to me. He helped me, and many others, get into the game in the mid-to-late 1990s. I even had a dog named after him.

By far the most successful from the first-round, McGwire and Jay Bell are the only two future All-Stars taken in the first 20 picks. I don’t know if this was just a hard to predict draft or scouts were just bad back then. It’s amazing how badly the Mets and many other teams missed.

Beyond the first round, we do find a couple of other game-changers. In the second round, two pitchers Mets fans know well were drafted to National League clubs. The 31st overall pick was a pitcher named Greg Maddux. Selected by the Chicago Cubs, imagine him on the Mets in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The history of them and the Atlanta Braves would have been much different.

Maddux’s Braves teammate Tom Glavine was also selected in the second round. Glavine went to Atlanta as the number 47 pick in the draft. Because each was taken outside of the first round, I can’t really blame the Mets or come up with an explanation.

Other memorable players went in this draft including Al Leiter, Ken Caminiti, and the ageless Jamie Moyer. Reiterating the point, it wouldn’t make sense for any of those second-round or later picks to have gone first overall to New York. McGwire, however, does remain as a possibility.

McGwire’s legacy may be tarnished on the field, but Abner’s biggest crime was a literal one years later. On August 28, 2019, he was charged with animal cruelty when he left his 14-year-old husky alone with no one to feed it for over a month. I did mention I had a dog named McGwire, right? You can only imagine the choice words I’d like to share about this situation.

I feel little guilt for using the word “bust” when describing Abner. From a strict baseball standpoint, the Mets teams of the 1980s and into the 1990s could have looked vastly different if they had gone in a different direction. It’s never possible to know exactly how a player will turn out. Because several teams passed on all of these future stars, I guess we’ll have to chalk this one up as a heavy loss.

Perhaps the bigger shame of all is that in round two the Mets took a lifelong minor leaguer named Lorenzo Sisney with the number 29 pick. Two picks later, Maddux would go to the Cubs.

Next. 10 notable Mets trades in August

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Baseball in Flushing would have looked a lot different in many of our childhoods.

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