Forgotten Player of the Moment – ERIC HILLMAN
(by Bill Barnwell)
When the baseball-reference sponsorship scheme started, there was one item I felt I absolutely needed to get. For a year, yes, I was the sponsor of the 1993 New York Mets, the worst team (excluding those who were Huizenga’d) of the 90’s. A team so bad that it inspired mediocre New York beat writers to exploit them even further by writing a crappy book about them a decade later. A team so bad that it made Eddie Murray seem cuddly and likable. Oh, the ’93 Mets.
|MEET THE UGLY, VITRIOLIC METS|
|C||Todd Hundley||SP||Doc Gooden|
|1B||Eddie Murray||SP||Sid Fernandez|
|2B||Jeff Kent||SP||Bret Saberhagen|
|3B||Howard Johnson||RP||John Franco|
|OF||Vince Coleman||RP||Anthony Young|
|OF||Bobby Bonilla||P||Pete Schourek|
|IF||Tony Fernandez||P||Josias Manzanillo|
There were a lot of things on that team that pushed me away from the cause and into the clutches of Camp Theo and the Curmudgeonly, Indecisive about the Validity of Clutch Hitting Beard. Consider the ugliness that I list to the right. Now, some of these people are really guilty by association. And, take, say, Anthony Young. He is really just guilty of a lot of stinkiness mixed with a lot of bad luck. But that pushed me away from the Mets, too. But, I mean, would YOU want to play in this clubhouse? Yes, you. I am offering you, let’s say, an average major league salary in 1993. You have to show up for all 162 games, play when called upon, and have to deal with Vince Coleman hustling you, Todd Hundley doing kegstandsin front of your locker, Eddie Murray getting grumpy when you leave the toilet seat up, Jeff Kent listening to what I can only imagine would be the underground, gritty early days of Toby Keith, and John Franco making you offers he strongly urges you against refusing. No wonder J—f I—s retired after the season. Yet, it’s hard for any of these goofs to compare to the utter ineptitude that was ERIC HILLMAN.
|I BEAT UP VOROS MCCRACKEN IN GYM|
|Little Falls (A)||21||9.11|
|St. Lucie (A)||23/24||6.83/7.67|
|New York (MLB sorta)||26-28||3.72|
Eric Hillman is a lot like yesterday’s FPotM, Serge Zwikker. He is tall (6’10”). He comes from a place struggling with its own ugly problems of racism and ability to escape its industrial/Jackson-based economy (Gary, Indiana). He is left-handed. Most importantly, he isn’t particularly well-suited for the task he chose to apply himself to most forcefully as a young man. Regardless, he was indeed very tall and very left-handed, which got him drafted in the 16th round in 1987 by the Mets. He proceeded to go through their farm system, pillaging the local townspeople but leaving his calling card: about a strikeout an inning on each stop. Yes, by the time he got to the majors, he pitched 232 innings over three years, striking out 3.72 batters per nine.
It’s not like we’re talking about Kirk Rueter or Jamie Moyer here, either; the word crafty is not one that Eric Hillman had any business applying to himself. Hillman’s real year where he got to call himself a major-league pitcher was that fateful 1993 season. He had 22 starts, third-most on the team behind Gooden and yes – Frank Tanana. Tanana also was smart enough to retire after the season ended. Superficially, Hillman’s year didn’t look that bad – he had a 3.97 ERA. The bad news is that a league-average pitcher at Shea that year would’ve had a 3.92 ERA. And I’ve already mentioned how ugly his strikeout rate was. He didn’t really walk too many people, but it’s not like he had the stuff to keep the ball in play. He finished up 2-9. The next year, he had a 7.79 ERA pitching as a swingman and was never heard from again in the states. He went to go play in Japan until 1998, but I don’t have any statistical information on him. I am presuming Japanese people knew he couldn’t strike out anyone, either. Sadly, there is no Japanese (or Dutch) translation of his retirement press release.