MLB history: Forgotten stars of the current NL West teams

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(Photo by Mike FIALA / AFP) (Photo by MIKE FIALA/AFP via Getty Images)

As MLB seemingly plans to start playing this year, finally, we’ll take another look at some of the game’s forgotten stars, however briefly they starred.

As MLB stumbles towards the beginning of a pathetically short season for 2020 (maybe), we once again visit the forgotten, shooting stars of the game, today those of the National League West. This time around we’re going to make sure that we pick stars from both San Francisco and Los Angeles, rather than from those franchises’ historical players who played in New York City. No reason to rile up some folks there who still hold serious grudges.

We’ll start with one of the Snakes:

Diamondbacks, Greg Colbrunn

Like several players in our series, Greg Colbrunn didn’t amass staggering career statistics – a 6.9 aggregate WAR over 13 seasons, for example – but for a short time, he was a flame in the sky. The D-backs were the first baseman-pinch hitter’s sixth team, and he came to them in his seventh year of play for his age-29 season.

By then, Colbrunn had learned his MLB role, a part-time player who could extend his career by hitting for average in a limited number of plate appearances. The right-hander did exactly that in 1999, posting a career-high .326 BA (to that point) in 153 PAs. Thirteen of his 44 hits were for extra bases.

The following year, Colbrunn was rewarded with the starting job at first base, and he played in 116 contests, the most in four years since his last games with the Marlins. He hit .313 for a strong team and had to be encouraged about Arizona’s prospects for the following season.

But December 8, 2000, the D-backs signed free agent Mark Grace. Grace had been a star with the Cubs, but the team he had been with for 13 years refused to offer him salary arbitration. That move in Chicago was part of Andy McPhail’s overhaul of his team, and although Grace was six years older than Colbrunn, he got the lion’s share of playing time at first in the Diamondbacks championship year.

But the player who would eventually become a hitting coach and manager in the Yankees and Red Sox organizations had a moment or two in the limelight with the Johnson-Schilling D-back champions. That season he hit .289 in 59 games and started in game six of the World Series against the Yankees.

He had two singles, a walk, and drove in a run as Arizona took down fearsome New York, 15-2.

Greg Colbrunn’s five seasons with Arizona were the most he played with any of his seven MLB teams, and in 2001, a ring year, he helped pound the most formidable opponent in baseball history in a World Series game.

In 2013, he won another flashy ring with the Red Sox as a batting coach. His team led MLB in seven separate offensive categories.

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