Monday, March 12, 2018

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 25 - Allen Watson

The Cardinals were in rebuilding mode in the early 1990s, and they had some early draft picks several years in a row.  Clearly the team missed out big a few times along the way.  In 1990, the team selected Donovan Osborne and Aaron Holbert in the first round ahead of players like Mike Mussina, Garrett Anderson, Ray Durham, Mike Hampton, and Troy Percival.

Love my Aaron Holbert cards, but I will save most of them for another day.  

The 1990 Cardinals were horrible.  The team went 70-92 and finished 6th in the National League East.  In the 28 years since the 1990 season, the Cardinals have finished in last place zero times.  Never happened.  The team has not even had a 90 loss season in the part 28 years.  Prior to the last place finish in 1990, the 1918 team was the last team to finish in last for the Cardinals.  That's 72 years in between last place finishes.  The Cardinals did manage two 90 loss season in the mid to late 1970s.  

Beyond the last place finish, the team also lost a ton of free agents, so they received several compensation picks.  In all, the Cardinals had seven of the first 100 picks in the draft.  

Their first pick, fourth overall, was spent on Dmitri Young.  He was considered the best high school bat in the draft.  While Dmitri never developed into the franchise player he was hyped to be after he was drafted, there is no shame in picking a player who spent more than a decade in the Majors as a productive player.  

Dmitri was easily the best player the Cardinals took in the 1991 draft by a wide margin.  The Cardinals owned four other draft picks in the first round of the draft and took Allen Watson, Brian Barber, Tom McKinnon, and Dan Cholowsky.  Outside of Young, the next most recognizable name from this draft came in the 6th Round when the team selected John Mabry out of West Chester University.  

The Cardinals also drafted John Frascatore in 1991, who was a useful reliever for a few years during the late 1990s for the Cardinals, as well as catcher Mike Difelice, Rigo Beltran, and Mike Busby.  

So back to Allen Watson.  He was drafted 21st overall behind Manny Ramirez and Cliff Floyd, and Shawn Green.  Watson pitched in the Minors during the summer of 1991 with the Cardinals High A and Low A teams.  He pitched a total of 11 games, ending the season with a 2.89 ERA, and more than a strikeout per inning.  

Watson had baseball cards the following year.  His most notable cards were in the Bowman, Topps, and Upper Deck Minor League sets.  Personally I kind of like his 1992 Score card.  I know the background is just filled in green, but it's a fairly clean card.  His Topps card has him wearing a New York Tech shirt, that looks like it probably has holes in the arm pits, and a Mets hat.  

Baseball American rated him as the 64th best prospect in baseball prior to the 1992 season, and the 9th best before the 1992 season.  Watson was in Triple A by the end of the 1992 season and was dominating the batters.  He was about a strikeout per inning pitcher, had an excellent ERA, and started winning games too.  Watson ended the 1992 season with 14 Ws in 30 starts.  

According to my ticket stubs and scorecards I actually attended Allen Watson's Major League debut against the Braves in July of 1993.  He went 6 innings, shut down the eventual National League Champion Braves, and got some help on offense with a Bernard Gilkey home run.  

Watson had sort of a weird 1993 season.....

He won his first 6 decisions and stood with a perfect 6-0 record in the middle of August.  It took some luck.  He won his third start against the Rockies in Coors Field even though he gave up 6 runs in 5 innings.  He was actually losing when the Cardinals lifted him for a pinch hitter in the 6th inning, but they hung an 8 spot on the Rockies during that frame.  Watson ended up losing his last seven decisions of the season, ending the year with a 6-7 record.  

The long losing streak culminated with a late August game against the Padres.  Watson gave up 8 runs in just two-thirds of an inning.  The Cardinals replaced him with Todd "Third Degree" Burns who gave up another 5 before the end of the inning, putting the Cardinals in a 13-0 hole.

Watson was still reviewed as an important part of the Cardinals future despite the losing streak at the end of the 1993 season.  My two favorite cards of Watson, beyond his Score Draft Pick card, were his 1994 and 1995 Topps cards.  Both featured the Cardinals pitcher in the old Busch Stadium.  The astroturf, the circular National League team logos on the outfield wall, and the arches at the top of the stadium.  Great card, doesn't really matter what player is on the card.


The 1995 Topps card shows less of old Busch Stadium, but I like the white Cardinals uniform against the blue wall in the background.  After the Cardinals switched Busch Stadium over to grass in 1996, the walls in the outfield were all painted green, beforehand the walls were whatever blue is behind Watson.  

Blue walls are shown below.

Watson's Cardinals career came to an end in December of 1995 when he was traded to the Giants for shortstop Royce Clayton.  Both were former first round draft picks who had been disappointments during their brief careers.  Clayton helped the 1996 Cardinals reach the National League Championship Series.  Watson pitched one season for the Giants before they traded him to the Angels for first baseman J.T. Snow.

Watson pitched a few more years for the Angels, Mariners, Mets, and Yankees before he played his last Major League game in 2000.  He did pitch for the Yankees in 1999, which was a World Series winning team, so Watson ended up with a ring at the end of his career.  Card-wise, there is one nice Allen Watson card that was made post-Cardinals.

He appeared in the 1996 Leaf Signature set as a member of the Giants.  There were not many Allen Watson cards after his time with the Giants.  A few Angels cards, a pair of Yankees cards, and that's it.  

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