Obscure Spotlight: Ben Grieve

Known for his odd practice of only batting while engulfed in flames.

When the Sandy Alderson-led Oakland A’s picked an 18-year old Ben Grieve with the second overall pick in the 1994 MLB draft, there was little doubt in the baseball community that he was bound for superstardom. By the time he made his Major League debut in September, 1997, there were even fewer skeptics. Ben Grieve’s outfield ability and raw power shone through in just a month of action in 1997, as he collected 24 RBI in 24 games.

1998 was Grieve’s first full season in the majors, and he picked up right where he left off a year earlier, playing in 158 games, hitting 18 home runs and driving in 89 runs, making his only All-star game and winning the AP Rookie of the Year award. Grieve’s next season saw his home run total take a jump to 28—a season he followed up with his best ever in 2000. That 2000 season, Grieve hit .279 with 27 homers and a career-high 104 runs driven in.

That offseason, Ben Grieve was dealt to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a three-way deal that saw obscure athletes Angel Berroa and AJ Hinch being sent to Kansas City and landed Mark Ellis and Johnny Damon in Oakland.

Some speculated the move to Tampa Bay was Grieve’s downfall, while others questioned his work ethic. Still others pointed to his inability to stay healthy after his second season with the D-Rays. But I knew what was wrong. I’d seen it before. To me it was obvious that the Monstars stole Ben Grieve’s talent. Unfortunately for him, Bugs Bunny wasn’t walking through that door to help him get his talent back, and Grieve was never the same. He played just two full seasons in Tampa Bay, and his OPS saw a giant drop.

After an injury-plagued 2003 season, Grieve was released by Tampa Bay, and he signed a deal with the Brewers in an attempt to revitalize his career. In August of that season the Brew Crew sent Grieve to the Cubs, for whom he would only play only 38 games in two seasons (which were divided by the ’05 offseason, during which he signed with the Pirates and was released when Spring Training ended).  Ben Grieve, once one of the most highly touted prospects of the 1990’s, never played a game after 2005. Grieve’s career tends to live on today as the answer to the trivia question “Who won the 1998 AL Rookie of the Year award?” Such an obscure ending to a career once with so much promise. Damn you Danny DeVito!

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