Tigers Top Ten Disappointments: #3 Eric Munson


Once in a while during a slow off-season, as a writer you have to look around for some inspiration. I was doing so one day last week, when I came across a top 10 bum list from one of Fansided’s other baseball sites, Lasorda’s Lair. I thought, that is a pretty good idea, and at least could be some fun for me anyway. So a big nod to them for the idea, and please check out their list as well.

My list of Tigers bums doesn’t go back too far in history. Approximately the past 30 years or so, and while I am sure that there is going to be some dispute about the list (hint: Jason Grilli is not on it), I wanted to let you know what I was thinking before I start this list. Essentially, it’s about performance, or lack of it, coupled with the expectation that the player would perform. A player’s draft status, and/or who they were traded for played a role in deciding who was on this list. As well as what they have/had done the rest of their careers.

To read up on the third biggest disappointment on my list, Eric Munson, follow on through………

Let me take you all back to a fine June afternoon in 2004….at least what I remember of  it anyway. It was a work outing, which was catching a game at Comerica Park, and we all had quite a few barley pops. The Tigers weren’t exactly a very good baseball team, but had some promising youngsters, or at least that’s what I was trying to convince people of that I was with. The game was against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and besides the novelty of playing a National League team, watching some of the girls get drunk held more entertainment. That was, until the 9th inning.

Despite all of our effort to the contrary to ignore the game, the game began to take some meaning to us all in the late innings. After all, it was tied 6-6, and with more and more ice cold beer pouring through our veins, we of course began to get more vocal. No, there was no calling of names, we were loud and respectful of our Tigers and the fans around us. Which wasn’t a ton of people to begin with, but they would all join me in the joy that was about to occur.

I recall feeling pretty talkative when Tigers 3B Eric Munson stepped to the plate. My friends can attest to me being a rather reserved person most of the time, but the boisterous side of me can come out after a good number of beers. Anyway, with the game tied and no one out, I declared for everyone in my whole section to hear, “Get ready to go home folks!! This one is over!!” It wasn’t more than 2 pitches later when Eric Munson belted a fly ball to deep center that just kept going and going. The ball finally landed in the bushes in straight away center, as one of the longest home runs in the park’s’ history at 457 feet. The Tigers won on a walk-off from the unlikely Eric Munson! And I called it! And for a hot second, a became an instant folk hero in the upper deck, as people were bowing to my prognostic abilities.

Unfortunately for Eric Munson and Tigers fans, those joyous occasions were too far and few between. The 3rd overall pick in the 1999 draft, Munson came out of USC with a billing of a can’t miss type guy. What was even better was Munson was an offensive catcher, something the league just didn’t have a lot of. Munson was in pretty good company in that 99′ draft, the first two picks were Josh Hamilton and Josh Beckett. Barry Zito and Ben Sheets came shortly after that.

Munson turned out to be far from a can’t miss guy. I never knew where the hype came from. It was almost as if being high school teammates with Eric Chavez boosted Munson’s own stock. At least his game seemed to make him more of a product of the hype machine, than of real substance. Maybe that isn’t fair, but for the 3rd pick overall, let’s look at some of his career numbers. Munson hit .214 over the course of his career, and in parts of 8 seasons managed only 47 career home runs. Power was supposed to be one of his best attributes. It certainly wasn’t defense behind the dish. Munson wasn’t good enough to play catcher at the big league level, and got moved around to 1B and 3B.

His bat wasn’t good enough to carry him at those positions. Besides hitting just .214 for his career, Munson slugged just .394 for his career and produced an OPS of just .683. He struck out around 20% of the time, despite walking a somewhat respectable 9% or so of the time. His OPS+ for his career was just 80, and according to Baseball Reference, Munson registered a -2.6 WAR for his career. In other words, he was below replacement level for his career. Ouch.

Despite that one shining moment of when he made a younger, more drunk version of myself look good, the numbers just don’t lie. And being the 3rd overall pick in the draft as well? Eric Munson may have been a good guy, but his career was a major disappointment to Tigers fans.