Monday, April 27, 2015

Base(ball) Oddity #33: The Ace of Spades

"If you like to gamble, I tell you I'm your man. You win some, lose some, it's all the same to me. The pleasure is to play, makes no difference what you say. I don't share your greed, the only card I need is the Ace of Spades."~ MotΓΆrhead, The Ace of Spades

I suppose there's always going to be risk involved whenever a professional franchise takes part in an expansion draft. Teams are choosing from a pool of players each of the existing teams have left exposed, most of whom are a) failed prospects (or, at least haven't developed as hoped) b) injured players c) older players d) veterans due to make a huge amount of money on the remaining time of their contracts. Some, like today's featured player, are simply the victims of being in a loaded organization.

David Nied entered the 1992 MLB season ranked by Baseball America as the 56th top prospect in the game. Despite a strong showing in spring training, Nied was one of the final cuts in camp and was assigned to the Braves team in Richmond- where he would get his first taste of triple-A ball. David continued to make himself known as a prospect during that season in the International League, posting a 14-9 record, along with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.119 WHIP. He pitched well enough to receive a call-up when rosters expanded that September.

Making his major league debut on September 1, David threw seven innings of four-hit ball against the Mets, allowing 1 run and picking up the win. He would get five more appearances over the next few weeks (including one more start) and finish 3-0, with only 10 hits and 5 walks allowed over 23 innings while striking out 19 batters. Nied's performance certainly made it a difficult decision to leave him unprotected in the expansion draft, where he would be chosen by Colorado with the first overall pick.

That offseason, Baseball America ranked the new face of the Rockies franchise as the 23rd ranked prospect in baseball. Not only would the new ace have to anchor the staff for a first-year franchise, but he would be doing it as a rookie and in the rarefied air of Denver. The deck, you could say, was stacked against him. Heh Heh.

For the first year Rockies, David went 5-9 with a 5.19 ERA in sixteen starts, missing three-and-a-half months with an injury during that inaugural season. He showed vast improvement during the '94 season, finishing 9-7 with a 4.80 ERA. At times during that strike-shortened season, Nied looked every bit the ace the team had envisioned after taking him in the expansion draft, while other times he showed his inexperience at the major league level. His best game came at home against the Astros on June 21 as he pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing only four hits against the powerful Houston lineup. Though he had his ups and downs that season, there was no reason to believe he would never win another major league game.

As major league players resumed play the next spring, following the nearly eight-month long strike, Nied came back at full-throttle, airing it out within 15 minutes of the first time he threw. His right elbow, injured. His career, pretty much done. Although David would pitch for Colorado at the major league level, he clearly wasn't the same- tinkering with his mechanics to compensate for the arm trouble. He would go 0-2 in 8 games between the '95 and '96 seasons, with a 16.76 ERA and a 2.793 WHIP over 9 innings. Nied's career was at that point all but over. He would sign a free-agent deal with Cincinnati the following year, but would retire before being demoted to AA Chattanooga.

Now, for something to cheer you up...

Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" and the Young Ones...

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