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Your Random D-Back: Karim García

Best. Deal. Ever.

Karim Garcia

Money Ball

Mark Shapiro: “What else you’re thinking? Outfielders? In your price range...no disrespect...García...”
Billy Bean: “Nope.”
...
Billy Bean: “OK, tell me about García....is he healthy?”
Mark Shapiro: “Yeah, he is healthy...ish...I wanna be straight with you, he had this back thing, right...”
Billy Bean: “I’ll give you Guthrie if you kick in some cash. 200k”
...
Mark Shapiro: “So García is gonna be a no.”
Billy Bean: “You’re kidding me, right...OK, straight up García for Guthrie, no kicker.”
Mark Shapiro: “I think it is gonna be a hard no on García.”
Edited scene transcript from Moneyball, Billy visits Cleveland

Raise your hand if you knew this famous scene of Billy Beane visiting Mark Shapiro in the movie ‘Moneyball’ was about Karim García, the next player in line for our Throwback Thursday article.

Well, maybe you just raised your hand, but I did not. I sure had no clue it was our Karim García they were talking about and after trying to line up dates, seasons, teams...I still have some reasonable doubt but apparently Internet pretty much agrees that one of our most valuable picks ever might also be one of our most famous picks.

Karim García was taken in the 1997 MLB Expansion draft by the Diamondbacks. Yes, that draft we recently talked about when we wrote about Neil Weber. The expansion draft was basically a huge success for both teams, although they didn’t know it at that time. While the Devil Rays took Bobby Abreu at pick 6 from the Astros and immediately traded him away, a trade they will forever regret, the Diamondbacks took Karim García at pick 9 from the Los Angeles Dodgers (lol). A year later, Karim García would be traded to the Detroit Tigers with some cash to get Arizona Diamondbacks and AZSnakePit legend Luis Gonzalez. Now THAT is Moneyball!

“Best. Deal. Ever.” - Jim McLennan on the García-Gonzalez trade in a 2006 article about the (back then) #2 All Time D-Back Luis Gonzalez

One of the first “Serpientes”

If you take away the national baseball team of Mexico he represented, today’s random D-Back played for a staggering amount of 28 different baseball teams. That’s impressive and at the same time makes sense, since Karim’s professional baseball career starts at the age of 17, in 1992, when the Dodgers sign him out of Mexico once they see young García perform in the nation’s capital city.

The Mexican is an impressive athlete. He starts as a pentathlete at a very young age but doesn’t start playing baseball until the age of 13, once his father, a former baseball pitcher, notices his kid has the taste, the talent and the motivation for it and starts working with him. At the age of 15 he starts attracting the interests of MLB scouts, but García was most interested in signing with the Dodgers.

“When the Los Angeles Dodgers came along I said ‘yes’ immediately because they were my favourite team, because of Fernando Valenzuela, my idol” - Karim García in a 2021 YouTube interview (Spanish)

Karim García plays in High A in 1993 and 1994 and without impressing too much he is bumped up to AAA in 1995 and ranked by Baseball America as a Top 100 prospect. In 1995 he becomes one of the better hitters on a bad Albuquerque Dukes team in the PCL and the Dodgers reward him with a look in the majors. As a September call-up at the age of 19 he becomes one of the youngest players ever to debut in the MLB, in the likes of Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle or, more recently, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.

His first month of MLB action in September doesn’t really go like the debut in a young boy’s dream as he is only able to get 4 hits in 20 at bats, but he made it and before the 1996 season starts he is ranked by Baseball America as the best organisational talent within the best MLB minor league system, ahead of, for example, Paul Konerko and Adrian Beltre.

But his stock drops. García splits time between AA and AAA in 1996 and gets just 1 at bat at the highest level. In 1997 he is still one of the highest ranked prospects in baseball and returns to the major leagues, but hits a meager .128 during the month of June and is sent down again. And although Baseball America still thinks highly of him, the Dodgers are apparently willing to pass on and leave him unprotected for the 1997 expansion draft.

“Batting sixth, playing right field, number 24...Karim García” - 1998 Diamondbacks opening day lineup announcement on YouTube

After that Expansion draft the lefty is able to make the Diamondbacks Opening Day roster and makes history once he forms part of the Opening Day Lineup and hits the second homerun in D-Backs history.

He is sent down for a brief stint in Tucson for the month of May, but other than that plays 113 games for the 1998 D-Backs, striking out a bit too much, walking not much and batting with meagre power.

“Our worst-ever outfielder, certainly played a part in why our franchise’s debut season was so forgettable. With a 66 OPS+ and negative defensive value, it was a miracle that at the end of the year we were able to get anything at all for him.” - Jim McLennan on AZSnakePit in a 2015 article on the worst Diamondbacks ever

With a .641 OPS the Diamondbacks apparently need to be patient with the 23 year old outfielder, but some big signings in the 1998 off-season hint at the D-Backs not having that patience.

“The Tigers also sent the Diamondbacks cash as part of the deal, Diamondbacks spokesman Mike Swanson said. He wouldn’t say how much.” - 1998 AP article on the Luis Gonzalez-Karim García trade

Yep, we can’t say it too often: the Diamondbacks got Luis González AND cash for Karim García.

García finds himself at Comerica Field in the 1999 season, playing left-field for the Detroit Tigers. He hits a bit better than in Arizona, but doesn’t have to count on much playing time in 2000. The Mexican is on the move, is dealt to the Baltimore Orioles, but ends up in Cleveland in 2001. There both the Indians as the Yankees start to develop some kind of a fetish for Karim as he bumps around between both organisations in the next seasons. He hits for some power in 2002 on the Cleveland Indians, when Billy Beane supposedly comes looking for him, but really makes a name for himself as a useful bench bat on the 2003 Yankees where Pedro Martinez infamously refers to him as “who is Karim García” after an interesting brawl in the ALCS. It looks like the Mexican is innocent although later in that game he gets into a fight with a groundskeeper in the bullpen.

After a rather successful stint in New York the Yankees decide not to continue with the batter and he crosses over to city rivals the Mets, where he...well, again hits other things than baseballs...

Employees of Big Apple Pizza were pulling outdoor chairs into the store for closing at 10 p.m. when Garcia began urinating in front of the store, said multiple sources, including two assistant managers of Big Apple. The pizzeria workers said Garcia became hostile when told by several employees to move along. [...] As the fight broke up, Garcia moved around unsteadily and screamed and cursed, asking the group of employees of Big Apple if “they wanted some more.” - Article on nypost.com in 2004 on an incident with Karim García in 2004

He is soon traded away to Baltimore and since violence and some bad hitting don’t go very well together, his career in the MLB is over after 2004.

Without any possible MLB fiancees, Karim García has no other possibility than to look and continue a better career across the Pacific. He ends up with the Orix Buffaloes in the NPB. His 2005 season is fine, but his mediocre 2006 season also leaves him without new opportunities in Japan as he is not the homerun threat the Japanese hoped to find in him. He tries his luck again in the MLB, getting a minor league contract with the Phillies in 2007, but is released after spring training. He then joins the Sultanes de Monterrey and a year later after devastating Mexican pitchers in the LMB he is offered a contract to play in the KBO.

He stays with the Lotte Marines for 3 seasons, but it seems to be somewhat of a love-hate relationship between the player and the Korean owners of the club. His release in 2011 after falling out of the play-offs creates some fan anger.

“During Garcia’s tenure manning right field for Lotte, he became one of the most beloved sports figures in Busan. His willingness and patience to please the public and promote the Lotte Giant brand was instrumental in the team’s rise in popularity, and the fact that they didn’t re-sign Garcia caused a public relations backlash that was felt throughout the stands at Sajik Stadium.” - Article in 2011 on hapskorea.com Karim García’s return to the KBO

In 2011 he returns to the KBO to get his revenge with the Hanwha Eagles, but Karim is in his age 35 season now and no longer the homerun king he could have been. He returns to the LMB again in 2012, keeps on playing Winter Ball as well (something he has been doing since 2006), but his numbers drop by the year until he finally decides to retire from baseball at 40 years of age in 2016, 23 years after his professional debut in High A in Bakersfield.

After finishing his baseball career as a player he starts a new career as a baseball coach. At first with a baseball player academy in 2018, but in 2020 also with a clinic for baseball coaches. At the beginning of the 2022 season he is added to the coaching staff of the newly founded Mariachis de Guadalajara in the LMB as their new hitting coach, adding yet another dimension to his impressive list of baseball teams.