After featuring the most well known of the One Game Wonders, Tony La Russa, last week, today I bring to you the most recent, Clay Rapada. (Yes, technically, Alex Burnett from earlier this year is the most recent but there's still time for him to get called back up and get off this list).
Clay Rapada signed with the Cubs as an amateur free agent during the 2002 season. He followed a nice progression, advancing each year, from low A to A to high A to Double-A to Triple-A. In 2007, Rapada got the call and made his MLB/Cubs debut on June 14 in an interleague matchup against the Seattle Mariners.
With the Cubs down 4-3, Rapada was called in to replace Carlos Marmol with runners on first and second and one out in the 8th inning. He faced Raul Ibanez, who lined out to right field and was promptly replaced by Bob Howry, who ended the threat by getting Richie Sexson to fly out to centerfield. The Cubs would go to score two runs in the bottom of the 8th inning, netting Howry the win. If Rapada had faced Sexson (and gotten the out), he would have gotten the win. So close.
And Rapada wouldn't get another chance. A few days later, he was sent back down to Triple-A Iowa without getting into another game. Fast forward two months, with Rapada still in Triple-A, he is named as the player to be named later in a deal with the Detroit Tigers that brought Craig Monroe to Chicago. He started his Tigers career in Triple-A as well with their affiliate, the Toledo Mudhens.
In a funny twist of fate, Rapada was called up and the visiting team was again the Seattle Mariners. Up to bat? Raul Ibanez. This time, however, Ibanez won the matchup hitting an 0-2 pitch for a three-run homerun. Rapada was pulled and replaced by Virgil Vasquez.
What are the odds of that? Two games. Two batters faced. Same batter.
Anyway, Rapada finished the 2007 season, with 2 2/3 innings over 5 appearances without getting a decision. And the only reason I'm going to keep going (and it doesn't involve the Cubs) is because it gets a little more intriguing.
So 2008 rolls around, where Rapada splits time between Toldeo and Detroit. By the end of the season, Rapada has pitched in 25 games for the Tigers, earning a 3-0 record as a middle reliever.
In 2009, Rapada didn't have much luck making it with the big club, pitching in only three games, all Detroit losses. 0-0 record.
In the offseason, the Tigers traded Rapada to the Texas Rangers. A change in scenery didn't add much to his resume as he only managed 9 innings over 13 appearances in 2010. No record change to show for it and he was released after the season.
But good news for Rapada! The Baltimore Orioles signed him for the 2011 season and he pitched 16 1/3 innings in a personal best 32 games, winning two of them and didn't suffer a loss.
I guess the Orioles didn't like what they saw and released him following the season. But the Yankees were interested and signed him for 2012! He even made the Opening Day roster. He had more career bests with 38 1/3 innings in 70 appearances and a 2.82 ERA. He also picked up another 3 wins without picking up a loss.
Unfortunately, after Spring Training this year, Rapada was DFA'd and ultimately released in early April. The Yankees did re-sign him to a minor league contract but released him again in June. The latest I've seen of him shows Rapada pitching for the Cleveland Indians Triple-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers. He has made 26 appearances for them and sports a miniscule 1.17 ERA there.
So if you've been following closely, you'll see that Rapada has a Major League record of 8-0 over 6 seasons. Granted, his career ERA is a little high at 4.15 and he's generally brought into games his team is already losing, thus being eligible more often for wins than losses. But still. I'll be curious to see if he gets a September call up as he isn't on the 40 man roster.
Oh the trials and tribulations of a Minor/Major League ballplayer. Not only is he a OneGame Wonder for the Cubs but Rapada is at least tied for the shortest Cubs tenure of all time. Further investigation is required to determine whether he holds the record by himself.