In Major League Baseball, a "cup of coffee" is defined as a player who plays a short time in the majors, largely less than a full season. Some cups of coffee last a few months or games while others turn their cup of coffee into long careers.
In this piece, I will be taking a look at a cup of coffee that lasted a few games, but if not for injury, probably could have lasted much longer. It's one of the most fantastic cups of coffee ever, lasting 11 games during the 2005 season. It was fantastic, but also brief.
Rick Short, now the hitting coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, spent 12 years in the minors after being drafted in the 33rd round of the 1994 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles. He hit well at every minor league stop, playing in the organizations of the Orioles, Cubs, Royals, Angels and Expos/Nationals but never found his way onto a big league roster, that is until he joined the Montreal Expos in 2004 a year after he departed for the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan.
He came over to Montreal in a trade for Scott Randall and instantly crushed it at AAA Edmonton, batting .336/.378/.4861 in 40 games, swatting two long balls and driving in 19.
The move to Washington, and for Short, New Orleans, did not affect him at all. It allowed Short to be put on notice for the first time in his career. He put together an excellent season at AAA New Orleans, batting above .400 all season, and finally, Short was recalled after the team outrighted C.J. Nitkowski on June 9. He had finally made it after 12 long years, and this wouldn't be the end of this story, only the beginning.
At RFK Stadium on June 10, the Nationals were hosting the Seattle Mariners and getting shut out by Joel Piñeiro (hey, I know him!) until the fifth inning. Rick Short emerged as a pinch hitter for starter Sun-Woo Kim in front of a crowd of 28,707, finally getting his first chance in the majors, and he wasn't about to let it pass him. Facing an 0-2 count, Short rapped a single into left field that was booted by left fielder Raul Ibanez, allowing Brian Schneider to come home for Short's first RBI, the first run in a 9-3 Nationals victory. Short received national attention for his long road to the majors and absolutely deserved all of it.
Short finally got his first hit and was rewarded with a DFA soon after. He was recalled again early in July, only receiving one at-bat in Chicago before being sent back down when Nick Johnson returned from injury.
The real moment for Short came in September of that season. While the Nats faded out of first by then, Short received a September call-up after nearly hitting .400 all season at New Orleans, finishing at a .383/.456/.569 line with 11 home runs and 70 RBI.
After going hitless in his first two at-bats, Rick Short came in in a double switch on September 7 against Florida, and in his first at-bat, smacked his first career home run off Dontrelle Willis, the only run in a 12-1 defeat. After 12 seasons, more than 1,200 games and five teams, Rick Short finally had his first major league home run and was featured on The Sports Machine with George Michael, where you can find clips of his first hit and home run.
Short hit in three consecutive games and homered in back-to-back, facing off against another great pitcher in John Smoltz on September 11 and sending this mammoth home run off of him at RFK Stadium and then following with another hit two days later against the Mets at Shea Stadium.
He had his first and only multi-hit and multi-extra base hit game a week later against the Giants, smacking two doubles and raising his batting average to .462.
Unfortunately for Short, all good things must come to an end, and it ended in abject fashion the next day. Starting against the Mets, Short injured his shoulder on a José Reyes single in the sixth, ending his season and being replaced by Jamey Carroll. That would be his final major league game, and his final line was nothing short of impressive in the major leagues. He batted .400/.471/.933, had a 1.404 OPS, 265 OPS+, 263 wRC+, .574 wOBA, .333 BABIP, .533 ISO and contributed 0.3 fWAR in his 11 games. He spent the next five years continuing to rake with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. In the majors, he was 6-15 with four of his six hits being for extra bases. That will do wonders for a slugging percentage.
Despite the injury, it's great that Short got a ton of recognition for his perseverance and hard work to reach a lifelong dream, and it's something that anyone should admire. We can marvel at how good he was for his brief time as a major leaguer and reminisce about how he took two of the best pitchers in the league deep during that time. He has earned being a king of small sample size.