There was a point in time where I figured Bret Saberhagen was one of those shoe-ins. That he'd be the second Kansas City Royal (after George Brett, who's arms he's jumping into at left after the Royals won their lone World Championship) to make it to Cooperstown. At one point in time, I thought he was Roger Clemens with less press. Then I realized he was Greg Maddux, only every other year (for some odd reason, he did remarkably well in every odd-numbered year, 1985-1991 for KC). He won two Cy Young Awards from 1985-1989, with one of the greatest seasons of the last 20 years for a pitcher in 1989. I had no doubt that Sabes was on his way to Cooperstown.
And then the 1990's happened, and for whatever reason, on December 11, 1991 Royals GM Herk Robinson traded by the Kansas City Royals with Bill Pecota to the New York Mets for Kevin McReynolds, Gregg Jefferies, and Keith Miller. I still maintain to this day that this was the trade that killed not only the Royals but Saberhagen's career. That Mets team, at the time, was the worst place in the world for Sabes to go:
- First of all, he was going from Kansas City to New York. Never an easy thing for any player to do.
- Sabes was already a wild card, and he was now going to a team with Dwight Gooden, Vince Coleman, Bobby Bonilla, and did I mention he'd be in New York City?
Nevertheless, in the strike shortened season of 1994, Sabes put together another season for the ages, one that's overlooked so much because it ended in mid-August due to the labor dispute, and overshadowed by the year Greg Maddux had.
And then that was pretty much it, until finally Boston took a chance on Sabes in 1997, and he'd reward them in 1998 and 1999 with respectable seasons while playing second fiddle to Pedro Martinez. Arm & shoulder troubles and age finally caught up with Sabes, and he was finally forced out of the game after another failed comeback in 2001.
And now, he's on the Hall of Fame Ballot, where he might get something like 10 votes, then forever going off into obscurity. Well, maybe not obscurity when you consider he was MVP of that 1985 World Series, still had those 2 Cy Youngs, and does have that spot in the Royals Hall of Fame.
I had the chance to become friends with the woman who ruined Bret Saberhagen's marriage, while he was still playing. She was never proud of this fact, and she only confided in me because I was such a Royals fan, because I held Sabes in such high regard, because I mentioned that we almost mentioned my son's name with one "t" instead of two because of Sabes, and because she genuinely feels Sabes is still a great guy. And by all accounts, he's an incredible father to his children. There's a big part of me that thinks his marriage woes led to the Royals trading him in 1991, even after he threw that no-hitter against the White Sox that August. That Herk is still a jerk, that Sabes should have had the chance to try to finish his career as a Royal. After all, it was less than a year after the organization traded Sabes that they reacquired another wild card and future Cy Young Award Winner, David Cone, via free agency.
And even though we know Sabes isn't going to be anywhere near a phone on Tuesday expecting some sort of call that he somehow got elected to Cooperstown, he recently said that if he were voted in, he would not attend the ceremony because he believes Pete Rose should be inducted.
I'll always remember Bret Saberhagen in that magical October of 1985, when he was clowning to the camera about telling his then-wife to wait to have the baby, as he had another game to pitch. About how his wife gave birth to his first son, Drew William, on the same night of the infamous Don Denkinger call. And then the next night, 21-year old Bret Saberhagen pitched a complete game shutout in Game 7 of the World Series, finally making World Champions of the likes of George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, and Hal McRae.
I'd like to ask the Royals to retire Sabes #, but the funny thing is that he wound up wearing two different numbers during his Royals tenure. He wore #31 in 1985 and then through 1988, but switched to #18 in 1989 to change his fortunes (which it most certainly did). I guess his biggest claim to fame is that he's the one Royals starting pitcher you'd pick if you had to save your life.
I'm compelled to mention, after bringing up the messy woes of his personal life, that Bret Saberhagen does have a website dedicated to millions of American children with diabetes and other debilitating diseases. After his career and marriage, he started the Bret Saberhagen Make a Difference Foundation. Sabes was always the money guy, and continues to be one.