Tonight marks the first of the major awards given out by Major League Baseball, the Rookie of the Year award for both the National and American Leagues. Quite a few players that have won this award have gone on to outstanding careers with some of them eventually reaching the Hall of Fame. Men such as Willie Mays, Rod Carew, Willie McCovey, Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols certainly fit this billing. Still, there are many instances where ROY winners do not live up to their initial promise and there are some who disappeared from the game less than five years afer their initial glory. Here is a look back at some players who I wish could have had more success after their initial big splash.
Mark Fidrych-1976-Unfortunately, I was only three years old when “The Bird” was the word not just in baseball but everywhere you went. The Detroit Tigers’ righthander would manicure the mound, talk to the ball and receive curtain calls after every home start on his way to a 19-9 record while leading the American League in ERA with 2.34 and complete games with 24. Fidrych started the All-Star Game and finished second in the Cy Young race to Jim Palmer. Because of his laid back demeanor and eccentrics on the mound, everyone loved the Bird as evidenced by the crowds that filled stadiums all season long every time he pitched. Just weeks into the 1977 season, Fidrych’s arms went “dead” as he put it, and it was not revealed until 1985 that the injury was a torn rotator cuff. He pitched in just 27 games between 1977 and 1980, his career over at age 25.
Joe Charboneau-1980-Back in the late 1970’s the Cleveland Indians needed something to energize the fortunes of a proud but downtrodden franchise. In 1980, it came in the form of “Super” Joe Charboneau, their 25-year old outfielder who captured ROY honors with 23 home runs, 87 RBI’s and a .289 average. A song popped up in Cleveland called “Go-Go Charboneau” whose melody I can hear in my head but alas, can’t find a copy of online at the moment. Sadly, back injuries derailed a promising career and he played in a total of 70 games in 1981 and 1982 before being forced to retire at age 27.
Pat Listach-1992-Listach, a fifth round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1988 draft, Listach was called up to Milwaukee during April 1992. From there, he helped spark a surprising Brew Crew team all the way to a 90 win season , good for second place in the AL East behind the eventual World Series Champions, the Toronto Blue Jays. Listach stole 54 bases to along with 93 runs scored and a .290 average in capturing ROY honors. He was never able to re-capture his initial magic and never played in the Majors after 1997, his last appearance in a game at the age of 29. Listach is currently the 3rd base coach of the Chicago Cubs.