December 01, 2010
Jeff Shaw, 1991 Score
Look at Jeff Shaw, with his happy-go-lucky mustache and carefree attitude. Hot-shot major league rookie prospect. Ya’ know, I’d like to tell this guy a little something about adversity.
You don’t have to tell Jeff anything about adversity.
He knows all about it.
Geez, I’m sorry, Jeff Shaw. I shouldn’t have judged you like that. I didn’t know that you were raised by your grandmother in the rough part of Washington Court House, Ohio. Or that you were once trapped inside a revolving door for six weeks and managed to escape only by pulling out your own tooth and using it to cut the glass. Or that nobody gave you a chance because of your prosthetic ear, which looks so real that nobody notices, although you can’t hear that well out of it, so you never heard the multitude of people say to you, “Here’s your chance.” I can’t imagine what all that must have been like. So tell me, Jeff. Tell me about adversity.
Pitching in the Double-A Eastern League in ’88, Jeff started off with a splendid 5-2 record
There is frequently splendidness before the storm. And I can think of few things as splendid as a 5-2 record. 6-1? Maybe. But that’s a little much, no? This isn’t Hollywood here. It’s real life.
and a scintillating 1.72 ERA.
This is too good to be true. Leave it to Jeff Shaw to leave others scintillated before adversity hits. I am so nervous.
Then, it happened.
I am going to throw-up. WHAT HAPPENED?
He never won another game the rest of the season, ending up with 17 losses in a row.
Oh man. Self-induced adversity is the worst kind of adversity! How on earth did the formerly splendid and scintillating Jeff Shaw implode so drastically?
Jeff actually didn’t pitch that badly as his 3.63 ERA attests. He also led the league with 27 starts and tied for third in complete games.
You shouldn’t be able to tout the fact that you led the league with 27 starts if you lost 19 of them. (Unless you’re a workhorse.) Not mentioned is the fact that, in 1988, Jeff Shaw walked considerably more batters (75) than he struck out (61). This typically induces adversity. Still, I hope redemption is on the horizon.
In ’90, still one of the Indians’ top pitching prospects, Jeff was brought up from Colorado Springs three times. Despite the disruption,
Being called up to the majors = disruption.
he had a solid 10-3 record in 16 starts for the Sky Sox.
5-2 Double-A record = splendid.
10-3 Triple-A record = solid.
Let us never forget the story of how Jeff Shaw pitched himself into 17 consecutive losses in 1988, and how he rebounded from this adversity to beat "the Rangers 3-0 on four hits in 6.2 IP" in 1990. It’s the story of redemption, and of not being able to throw strikes, and of misleading pitching statistics. It is, in many ways, the most splendid story ever told.
At the local Elks club in 1996, Jeff Shaw sat a bar stool sipping on a vodka tonic, wearing khakis and a button-down shirt having just attended a formal dinner honoring adversity. He was surrounded by older men, all vets, comparing scars and war stories over endless mugs of beer and shots of whiskey. One man loudly told the story of how he survived three months in Japan as a POW. Another man topped that with a graphic tale from ‘Nam, and the horrors that keep him up at night. A brief moment of silence occurred as the men nodded their heads in disbelief that they were fortunate enough to be sitting there talking. That silence was interrupted by the “pretty boy” in the corner.
“That’s nothing,” said Jeff Shaw, as he stared straight ahead into his vodka tonic.
The men all turned around, not hiding their disgust and skepticism. Jeff Shaw turned around in his stool to face them.
“Let me tell you guys about 1988…”