Remember This Guy: Ricky Otero

Hello, my name is Dave. I do a little writing over at the SB Nation Sixers site, Most of my work involves reminiscing about random Philadelphia athletes from my youth. And, this morning, while cleaning out My Documents, I stumbled upon this piece from my now defunct blog.

Thought I would share.

Name: Ricardo "Ricky" Otero

Born: Vega Baja, Puerto Rico

Nickname: "Sparkplug" Ricky Otero

Believable Dialogue from 1996:

"Mom, this Otero is the real deal!"

Sweetie, what have I told you about small sample size?

"It's 1996. What the fuck is sample size?"

I wikipedia'd Ricky before I opened up this Word Document.

Ricardo Otero (April 15, 1972 in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico) is a retired Major League Baseball player who played outfielder from 1995 to 1997. He played for the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets.

I wrestled with many emotions while reading those few sentences. I was confused, hurt, disappointed, empty - mostly empty I guess. It was like the scene in Angels in the Outfield when the little kid says to Tony Danza's character, "You used to be Mel Clark."

What happened? When did we collectively forget about Otero? When did he disappear from the public's stream of consciousness? Did we quit Ricky cold turkey in ‘98, when he was out of the Major Leagues for good? Or was it gradual erosion, a wave of centerfielders - Glanville, Byrd, Lofton, Rowand, Victorino - that slowly chipped away at Otero's mystique.

But before we got over Otero, we first had to love Otero. And love we did. It was love at first sight, a schoolgirl crush kind of love that had us smiling and giggling, and scribbling in notebooks:

Otero 4 Eva.

For ten days in '96, there was no bigger news story than Ricky Otero. It may as well have been John Lennon batting lead-off and roping the ball gap to gap. Compared to Otero's eight-game stretch that spring, the Atlanta Summer Olympics seemed like nothing more than a small blip on the pop culture radar.

His first eight games as a Phillie produced a .353/.439/.471 line. It was like Lenny Dykstra went down with an injury, so Lee Thomas reached into Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and plucked out Ty Cobb. Otero was the proverbial table setter at the top of the line-up: Walking, stealing bases, hitting for occasional power. He tucked himself into a Chicago hotel bed that night with a .921 OPS to his credit. I, too, tucked myself into bed that night, finally knowing what it was like to watch Richie Ashburn patrol center field.

*Cue the VH1's Behind the Music narrator*

Little did Otero know, however; his best days were already behind him.

His numbers slid fast, steadily, a one-hit wonder whose once catchy chorus had turned drab and annoying. And I said, what about, breakfast at Ricky's... Otero finished the year with a pedestrian .678 OPS. The next year, he played just fifty games for the Fightins, and by '98, he was gone - a fleeting memory, an obscure answer to a sports bar trivia question.

So today, I ask you to remember Ricky Otero. This post, like his career, was cut way too short.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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