Top Ten Rookie of the Year Busts of All-Time

Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com

 

10. 1962 Ken Hubbs, Chicago Cubs

 

Four Facts:

1) From 1958 1964, the NL Rookie of the Year went to Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Frank Howard, Billy Williams, Ken Hubbs, Pete Rose, and Dick Allen, in that order. Only Hubbs and Rose failed to hit 350 home runs. Hubbs finished his career with 14 in three seasons.

2) Hubbs is the only NLROY position player to win the award with an OBP under .300.

3) Hubbs almost won the award unanimously, with the only other vote going to Donn McClendonn, who played in only 80 games.

4) Hubbs is the only ROY whose name rhymes with the name of his team.

 

9. 1994 Bob Hamelin, Kansas City Royals.

 

At the age of 26, Hamelin hit 24 home runs in 312 at-bats, which won him the AL Rookie of the Year over a young Cleveland leftfielder named Manny Ramirez. I hear that every now and then Hamelin and Ramirez run into each other at cocktail parties, and when Hamelin brings up the ALROY for the hundredth time, Manny usually storms out of the room in tears unable to bear the "what could have been."

 

8. 1983 Ron Kittle, Chicago White Sox

 

Ron Kittle once hit 50 home runs in one minor league season. As a child of the '80s, the number 50 in the home run column was not something I was accustomed to seeing. I thought Kittle was going to be the next big thing. After his 35HR 100RBI ROY season, there was little reason to think otherwise. Except for his .251 average. And his 39 BBs. And his 150 Ks. Finished with a .239 career average and 176 career home runs in just over 800 games.

 

7. 1976 Butch Metzger, San Diego Padres

 

Butch saw very limited action for two seasons before his ROY campaign of 1976. He then proceeded to see very limited action for two seasons after his ROY campaign before being done at the age of 26.

 

6. 1992 Pat Listach, Milwaukee Brewers

 

Listach was an incredibly exciting player as a rookie. 54 steals, 93 runs scored; truly a sparkplug at the top of the Brewers lineup that featured Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Greg Vaughn, and Dante Bichette. It would be the last Brewers team to feature Molitor and Yount together, and Listach may have taken it personally. Of course, he also had many health issues, and despite his speed had no knack for getting on base. He was out of baseball before 30.

 

5. 1952 Joe Black, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Joe Black was a 28 year old former Negro Leaguer when he won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1952. He was fabulous that year, going 15-4 with 15 saves and a 2.15 ERA in 147 innings. He would never again match those numbers, and lasted only five more years in the league.

4. 1980 Joe Charboneau, Cleveland Indians

 

At the age of 25, Joe hit 23 home runs and drove in 87 in only 131 games as a rookie. At the age of 27, he was out of baseball with 29 career home runs in 201 career games.

 

3. 1980 Steve Howe, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

The venerable Steve Stone, who as we speak is seeking other employment in part because the Chicago Cubs players are too thin skinned to take criticism from their television announcer, and who by the way won the 1980 AL Cy Young, always uses examples from the field to "teach all you youngsters out there" about the game. The lesson to be learned from Steve Howe is simple: don't do drugs. Steve Howe was no fluke, no one year wonder who came and went. He was a talented ballplayer who was given more than enough chances to get clean and was so addicted to various drugs that he unable to do so.

 

After being out of baseball for most of the late '80s, Howe made a comeback at the age of 33 in 1991, and pitched 48 innings, finishing with 34 Ks, 7 BBs, and a 1.68 ERA. "What could have been" indeed.

 

2. 1989 Jerome Walton, Chicago Cubs

 

In 1989, I was eleven years old, and an avid Cubs fan, and two things struck me as different about the Cubs as I watched that season. One, the Cubs were winning, and it was a strange feeling to watch the Cubs play so well. Two, in amongst the names I was used to hearing all the time, Dawson, Sandberg, Dunston, and Sutcliffe, a new name kept being called: Jerome Walton. I always remembered how odd it was that Walton had almost instantly become a Cub legend that year. Walton's season was not particularly great stat wise, but his 30 game hitting streak combined with the Cubs' success made him golden. I truly felt, even at the age of eleven, that this was the dawn of a new day. Not so.

 

2a. 1989 Dwight Smith, Chicago Cubs

 

What truly makes Jerome Walton the number two player on this list is not that he never again came close to meeting the expectations set by that 1989 season, though that much is true. The truly remarkable feat of that year was that Walton's teammate, Dwight Smith, was the Rookie of the Year runner up, and he, too, would never do another damn thing after 1989.

 

1. 1976 Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, Detroit Tigers

 

What a character, that Mark the Bird. The talking to himself on the mound, the zany clubhouse antics, the overnight sensation that swept the nation. The 2.34 ERA, 19 wins, and 24 complete games as a Rookie! So often the Rookie of the Year winner wins the award because he was "good for a rookie." Mark the Bird was good for a seasoned veteran.

 

However, his meteoric rise is matched only by his meteoric crash. The Bird failed, in the remainder of his career, to match his IP total from that one season. He would win and lose exactly 10 more games, finishing with a 29-19 career record. He quite literally fell off the face of the earth, pitching his last game in 1980 at the age of 25.