I started watching baseball in 1989. I still distinctly remember the Giants beating the Cubs in the NLCS before being swept by a far superior Bash Brother-powered Oakland A’s team in a World Series made memorable more by the earthquake than for anything else that happened on the field. The respective NL and AL Rookies of the Year that season were Chicago’s Jerome Walton and Baltimore’s Gregg Olson, who is not to be confused with 1920s Negro League star Greggg Olson. Walton would go on to have an exceptionally mediocre 10-year career (25 home runs, 132 RBI in 598 games), while Olson saved 217 games with a respectable 3.46 ERA. Winning the ROY does not always portend a stellar career; for every Mike Piazza there is a Ben Grieve, and for every Justin Verlander there is a Jason Jennings. In my lifetime, players like Nomar Garciaparra, Ichiro Suzuki, Ryan Braun, and Albert Pujols have produced incredible rookie seasons and gone on to become superstars.
Piazza’s rookie season remains, to me, the most impressive. Not because he was selected in the 62nd round by Tommy Lasorda as a Mafia-style favor to Mike’s father, but because he did it from the catcher position. Great hitter, but mobile as a microphone stand (17 career SB). In 2001 Ichiro became only the second rookie to win league MVP. He’s one of the great jackrabbits (452 career SB), but has averaged 55 RBI and 8.6 HR per season. Ryan Braun, who bravely succeeded where all others failed in resisting the nefarious overtures of deposed U of Miami strength coach, scumbag, and roid pusher Jimmy Goins, discovered each of the past two seasons that stealing 30 bags isn’t that hard. Garciaparra had little interest in running. Pujols has sneaky, opportunistic retard speed.
And then there’s Mike Trout, who as a rookie displayed a power/speed/average combination the likes of which had not been approached since before Barry Bonds became a hydrocephalic, baseball-murdering gargoyle. He steals bases (49 thefts in 54 attempts) at will and tracks pitches like a cyborg. Continue reading