Let’s Remember Some Dodgers: McKay Christensen, Paul Shuey & Jeromy Burnitz

Photo: Sarah Wexler

After an incredibly insane fall and spring, I’m finally back with some filler content for some of the days coming up through the summer. I’ve absolutely forgotten a few of the suggestions people threw out last year, so here’s a few I had near the end of my original list and some I accidentally stumbled upon.

To get these started again, here’s a trio of trade deadline acquisitions that didn’t exactly make much of a difference. Once again, all three of these are from the early 2000s and made it pretty hard to gather up many photos or videos (not that there’s a ton of moments that stand out for it).

McKay Christensen

The 6th overall pick by the correctly named California Angels in the 1994 draft, Christensen’s professional career did not begin until the 1996 season. A star athlete for Clovis West High School in Fresno, Christensen planned to serve an LDS Church mission and play football at BYU before the Angels took him with their top pick.

Debuting in the majors for the White Sox in 1999, he had 87 PAs in the majors across two and a half years before the Dodgers sent Wade Parrish to Chicago on July 13, 2001 in a minor league deal. With Tom Goodwin and a few others on the DL, Christensen was targeted by then assistant general manager (or whatever his title was while working with Dave Wallace) Dan Evans after leaving the White Sox following the 2000 season.

A 10-for-14 run through his first three games with the Dodgers set up Christensen to start 10 games while playing in a total of 28. He’d only hit 6-for-35 following the incredible start (which unsurprisingly started with two games at Coors Field), with just two extra-base hits.

The Dodgers finished the season 86-76, third in the NL West, six games back of the eventual World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks after leading by 1.5 games on Aug. 8.

Christensen is a pretty minor acquisition all things considered, with the main deadline deal from the season being James Baldwin from the White Sox (again, Evans’ influence), Terry Mulholland and Mike Trombley. The reason I included him was this quote from Mike DiGiovanna in the LA Times back in April 2002.

“What the Dodgers feared since last October came to pass Wednesday: Outfielder McKay Christensen, designated for assignment Sunday and out of minor league options, was claimed on waivers by the New York Mets. Christensen, a 1994 first-round pick of the Angels who was acquired from the Chicago White Sox for double-A pitcher Wade Parrish last July 13, lost out to Dave Roberts in his bid for the center-field job this spring.”

Christensen retired at 28, electing to wrap up his baseball career early after moving from the Mets to the Phillies and finally the Reds. Meanwhile, the minor trade of Roberts led to his first full season in the majors in 2002 and eventually back to Los Angeles again as a manager.

Paul Shuey

The aforementioned Mulholland was flipped almost a year later, as he was packaged with Francisco Cruceta and Ricardo Rodríguez for Shuey on July 28, 2002. The 31-year-old had appeared in 361 games for Cleveland over 9 seasons before being shipped to Los Angeles so he could serve as the set-up man for Eric Gagne.

After allowing 3 runs in three different games against the Phillies in the stretch of six days, Shuey finished out the year with a 2.63 ERA across 24 IP in 19 games. Back with the Dodgers in 2003, Shuey 69 IP made him the team’s fourth-most used reliever behind Guillermo Mota (and his 105 IP), Gagne and Paul Quantrill in what was obviously a pretty impressive bullpen.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers went 92-70 in 2002 to finish 3rd in the NL West and 3.5 games back of the Giants for the Wild Card. While the bullpen was pretty strong, the team missed the playoffs again in 2003 with an 85-77 record. (More on that season below).

Shuey’s last game for the Dodgers came on the final day of the 2003 season, with an old hip injury flared up leading to a hip replacement as well as a torn thumb ligament during the spring of 2004. That led to an extended lawsuit between the Dodgers and insurance company Hartford, based on reimbursement of Shuey’s contract.

After one Double-A appearance in 2005 and sitting out the 2006 season, a comeback attempt with Baltimore led to a rough few outings and the end of his career.

Jeromy Burnitz

Sitting 8.5 games back on July 12, 2003, the Dodgers needed to replace Brian Jordan, who underwent knee surgery and was set to miss the remainder of the season. One option was Rickey Henderson, who spent 30 games slashing .208/.321/.306/.627 in 84 PAs at 44 years old.

The other was Burnitz, who cost the Dodgers Víctor Díaz, José Díaz and Kole Strayhorn while the Mets paid a total of $10 million of his $12 million salary through the year. A pretty disappointing 2002 with the Mets soured Burnitz’s run in New York early on, but he was slashing .274/.344/.581/.925 at the time of the trade and was only moved because the Mets tore down the team.

However, it went poorly for him in LA across 61 games and 246 PAs. Slashing .204/.252/.391/.643, Burnitz did hit 13 homers for the Dodgers to just 4 doubles but produced one of the worst stretches of his career to close out the season. After three 2-hit games in his first six with the Dodgers, Burnitz had an OPS of just .515 in 97 PAs in September and struck out 20 times to just a pair of walks.

Unsurprisingly, the Dodgers finished the season 15.5 games behind the Giants and 6 back of the eventual World Series Champion Marlins for the Wild Card.

He would get one last good run in the majors as he joined the Rockies in 2004 and hit .283/.356/.559/.916 in 606 PAs and earned an 8th-place vote in the NL MVP race.

About Cody Bashore

Cody Bashore is a lifelong Dodger fan originally from Carpinteria, California (about 80 miles north of Dodger Stadium along the coast). He left California to attend Northern Arizona University in 2011, and has lived in Arizona full-time since he graduated in 2014 with a journalism degree.