Tonight, Major League Baseball’s needlessly protracted awards season enters its final stretch with the announcement of each league’s Rookie of the Year. While the award has been won by future greats like Jackie Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr, and Derek Jeter, its conferral is not always a sign of things to come. Just ask Bobby Crosby.
But since this is baseball, a game that features a wide variety of shitty players you can’t help but love, we’re instead going to focus on some of the Rookies of the Year for whom the honor was a career highlight:
Bob Hamelin, 1994 AL Rookie of the Year
That the 25-year-old Hamelin won the award during the strike-shortened 1994 season proved ominous for his career, given that his last sniff of the majors was in 1998. He was a defensible choice for ROY, though, batting .282 with 24 HR in 310 AB, but Hamelin was a first baseman/DH who couldn’t play first base and didn’t get many at-bats in the DH slot. 21 years later, the Hammer’s most enduring legacy isn’t his truncated career, nor the fact that he beat out Manny Ramirez in the 1994 voting, but the dubious (fabulous?) honor of appearing on the worst (best?) baseball card of all time, above.
We can’t help but love Hamelin, though, mostly because it was fun when more baseball players looked like this.
Notable players who also received votes in 1994: Manny Ramirez, Jim Edmonds, Rusty Greer
Pat Listach, 1992 AL Rookie of the Year
Pat Listach, Brewers shortstop and facial-hair-with-a-human-attached, was worth 3.4 fWAR in 1992. He was worth 1.5 fWAR over his entire career. That’s not good.
The slick-fielding, fleet-footed Listach hit just well enough to woo Rookie of the Year voters in 1992, who chose him over the far superior Kenny Lofton (and kickstarted a career-long trend of the unappreciated Lofton getting completely screwed by voters). Injuries and BABIP regression soon derailed Listach’s career; his final stint in the majors was with the Astros in 1997 at the age of 29.
Listach is now manager of the Tacoma Rainiers, the Seattle Mariners’ AAA affiliate, where he gets to hang around with Jesus Montero all day. He was previously the Astros third-base coach and before that a coach for the Nats and Cubs.
We love guys like Listach because they represent the highs and lows of baseball: One minute you’re the future, the next you’re the past. Also because of that ‘stache. Seriously. How did he not go as Pat “The ‘Stache” Listach during his career? Why was that not a thing?
1992, you disappoint us.
Players who also received votes in 1992: Kenny Lofton, David Fleming, Cal Eldred
Angel Berroa, 2003 AL Rookie of the Year
Angel Berroa was a decent defensive shortstop who woke up one morning in November 2003 having somehow hit 17 home runs during a rookie season that we’re not entirely unconvinced wasn’t the work of some lesser demon with a weird sense of humor. The fall of 2003 was a dark time for awards voters (who wrung their hands like only baseball writers can) trying to decide whether Hideki Matsui should have really been considered a rookie. They opted instead for Berroa. A lot of good it did him.
Like Listach, Berroa’s rookie fWAR (2.7) is higher than his career number (-0.1), which is just all sorts of bad. He was historically awful (even for the Royals) in 2006 when he slashed .234/.259/.333 and grounded into 21 double plays. Berroa went on to made token appearances for the Dodgers, Yankees, and Mets before exiting the majors for good in 2009.
The 37-year-old Berroa just finished his third consecutive season playing in the Mexican leagues, which is great. We love him because even lousy utility infielders can sometimes win big awards, especially when voters don’t want to give in to Godzilla.
Notable players who also received votes in 2003: Hideki Matsui, Rocco Baldelli, Mark Teixeira
Todd Hollandsworth, 1996 NL Rookie of the Year
Inertia is a hell of a drug.
Entering 1996, the Los Angeles Dodgers had won four straight Rookie of the Year awards via Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, and Hideo Nomo. At season’s end there were two stand-out candidates for the honor: the Marlins’ Edgar Renteria and the Expos’ F.P. Santangelo. The trophy went instead to Hollandsworth, a Dodger.
To be fair, Renteria and Santangelo were glove-first guys in an era when the bat was king. Hollandsworth didn’t have a huge year, but he had a decent one: .291/.348/.437 with 12 HR and 21 SB. He parlayed this early success into a 12-year career over which time he was worth 5.2 fWAR, which still makes him the Babe Ruth of this list.
Renteria went on to have a fine career and won World Series rings with both the Marlins (1997) and Giants (2010). Santangelo fizzed out and now makes his living annoying people who watch Nationals games.
Notable players who also received votes in 1996: Edgar Renteria, Jason Kendall, F.P. Santangelo, Jermaine Dye
Robert Montenegro is the site’s resident expert on Todd Hollandsworth’s brothers-in-law. You should follow him on Twitter.