Rookie Blasts to Busts
As seen in Sandbox Sports

You have Kerry Wood on your roster? Too bad about that elbow. But hey, he's only 21-years old and that Tommy John surgery is as common nowadays as a nose job in Hollywood. It's a sure bet (somewhere, Pete Rose just perked up) he'll be back in a year or so. That's when he's he'll start racking up those 20-win seasons with 300-plus strikeouts. Or so you hope.

Kerry Wood owners, meet Joe Charboneau and Pat Listach and Carl Morton and Ken Hubbs and Hideo Nomo. Like Wood, each of these guys won Rookie of the Year honors and, heading into their sophomore seasons, looked like solid talents and good fantasy pick-ups. If only all fantasy league owners were blessed with Dyonne Warwick's psychic abilities (what, she's not for real?). Each of these guys went down faster than a cold beer on a hot day in the Wrigley Field bleachers.

Joe Charboneau is the unfortunate poster child for flash-in-the-pan-itis. After putting together a stellar 1980 season (.289, 23, 87) that earned him Rookie of the Year honors and the borrowed and inappropriate moniker "Joltin Joe", his career crashed faster than the Hindenburg. 

Injuries played a part in limiting Limpin' Joe to only 48 games with four home runs and 18 RBI in 1981, but it was a lot worse than that. Slumpin' Joe saw his average plunge 79 points to a much more Clevelandesque .210 (remember, these were the perennial loser Indians that inspired the movie Major League, not the current Jacob's Field funded juggernaught). 

Fadin' Joe appeared in only 22 games in 1982, amassing totals of .214, 4,18. That was the end of Joe Charboneau. And you thought the stock market crash of October '29 was bad. 

And then there is Hideo Nomo. Last week the Mets sent Nomo to the minors. Nomo may indeed be No-More. How could this happen? In 1995 Nomo's twisting windup and excellent control took the National League by storm. The former Japan League All Star put together a nifty 13-9 record with a 2.54 ERA while racking up 236 strikeouts over 191a innings. The Japanese hadn't whipped us that bad since Pearl Harbor! For those of you who know your history, same story here. After his initial success, it's been one long toboggan ride for Nomo-all down hill. 

Nomo never has matched his rookie year. In fact, each season his winning percentage and strikeout totals have dropped while his ERA and walks allowed has gone up. After 3½ seasons in Lost Angeles the Dodgers gave up on him and shipped him to the Far East...ern United States (New York). After ½-season with the Mets, he has been sent to the minor leagues.

Not as dramatic as Charboneau was the fall of Pat Listach, 1992 American League ROY. After hitting .290 with 168 hits and 93 runs scored in 1992, the once speedy Brewer infielder average only 42 runs and 55 hits a year before leaving baseball after the 1997 season. 

Let's see, this is a story of unrealized potential, so you knew the Cubs had to be in here somewhere. Well here it is. Ken Hubbs. "Ken who", you ask? Exactly.

In 1962 Ken Hubbs played in 160 games, banged out 172 hits, scored 90 runs, collected 49 RBI and a respectable .260 average on his way to claiming National League Rookie of the Year honors. In 1963 the Cubs' Hubbs (sorry) played in fewer games, banged out fewer hits, scored fewer runs, collected fewer RBI and hit for a lower average. In 1964 Ken Hubbs was out of baseball. It's like that Beatles' song, Hello Good-bye. (And to all of you whining Cubbie fans, we do know that this was the ultimate out of baseball and life - it still stands that comparably speaking, he sucked in 1963)

Todd Hollandsworth (LA, 1997) also comes to mind. Likewise Gregg Olson (Bought-me-more, 1989), Jerome Walton (Cubs, 1989) and Ron Kittle (White Sox, 1983). Who can remember the unremarkable careers of Pat Zachary (Reds) and Butch Metzger (Padres), co-winners of the NL ROY in 1976? Injuries robbed us all of Mark "The Bird" Fidrych (Detroit, 197). And while were talking about wasted careers... really, you've got to look at Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry (Mets, 1983 and '84) as disappointments.

Sure there have been plenty of successes, but beware the lure of the eye popping rookie phenom. Often it's not just our eyes that are popping. It could be that guy's shoulder or the bubble.

© Bucketfoot Baseball Publications, 1999