Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Old Time Mets - Tim Foli and Bill Almon

There are some interesting parallels in the careers of Tim Foli and Bill Almon. Both Foli and Almon had two separate stints with the Mets, each 7 years apart. Each had a big league career that lasted around 15 years. Both played primarily shortstop although Almon became more of an all-around utility type as his career wore on. Both had all their best years with teams other than the Mets. Both were traded to the Montreal Expos by the team that originally drafted them. But most significantly, Foli and Almon were both the number one amateur draft pick in the country, Foli to the Mets in 1968, and Almon to the Padres in 1974. Which is the main point of this post.

Is it fair to say that the #1 pick in the draft is expected to be more than an average major league player ? Looking at Foli and Almon in retrospect, it's hard to see why either ws rated so highly as an amateur, but it's worth pointing out that in the days prior to Jeter, A-Rod, Tejada, Garciaparra, etc., a shortstop who might hit .280 with some pop was considered a prize, and conceivably, that's how Foli and Almon were projected. In the '68 draft, the Mets could have opted for Bobby Valentine, whose career might have been a lot better if not for the terrible injury he suffered. Still, Foli was a reasonable pick who was probably ready for fulltime duty in the major leagues when the Mets dealt him away in the Rusty Staub trade. Bud Harrelson was entrenched as the Mets' shortstop at the time and Foli got his chance to blossom with the Expos. He was a regular at shortstop for the better part of the next ten years, although never an all-star.

When Almon was selected in 1994, Dale Murphy, selected by the Braves 4 picks later was probably the best choice. If you wanted a shortstop, Garry Templeton was drafted by the Cardinals a few picks later. Almon got more of a chance with the Padres than Foli did with the Mets, but after several ordinary years as the San Diego shortstop, he was traded to the Expos for Dave Cash.

Both Almon and Foli were useful major league players and that's more than you can say for a lot of other #1 draft picks, but in retrospect, it's hard to see what the "wow" factor was with either one that would have made them the top pick in the country.


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