A Starting Lineup Of Baseball’s Biggest One Year Wonders — The Outfield
Continuing off the first piece (check that out for the infield), this is the outfield in the starting lineup of one-year wonders. Let's not waste any time, on to the honorable mentions.
CF Jerome Walton: One of the few bright spots for the late 80’s Cubs, who were an absolute train wreck. In his rookie year in ‘89, he stole 24 bases and batted a solid .293, which included a 30 game hitting streak. Walton ended up winning the NL rookie of the year but he failed to keep up that kind of play, and quickly became a bench guy. Yet another sophomore jinx. And the Cubs returned to being sad.
LF Phil Plantier: When it came to prospects, Plantier looked like a sure thing with the Red Sox in 1991. He was tearing Triple-A a new one in Pawtucket, batting .305 with more walks than strikeouts. And he was doing this in a batting stance that looked like he was getting ready to sit on the porcelain throne. He would be promoted midway through the ’91 season and began to tear it up again with the Red Sox, batting .331 with 11 dingers and 35 RBI’s in 53 games. Plantier’s production slipped that next year, batting just .246 with worse stats overall in double the games. He would be shipped out from Boston, joining the Padres where he had a sudden power surge, slamming 34 HRs and 100 RBIs in ‘93. Some injuries and waning production made him in a bench player after that, but hey, you can say he wasn’t a one year wonder, but a one and half year wonder.
LF Joe Charboneau: The man commonly known as “Super Joe.” His journey to the big leagues fits for what kind of personality he has. He was originally drafted by the Twins in ’76 in the 6th round but opted to go with the Phillies when they drafted him in the second round of the supplementary draft. After a decent year in Single-A filled with constant fighting with management, he decided to say fuck it and quit. He went home to go play softball. Then the Twins came back to sign him. Imagine if you’re playing beer league softball with your boys and a random MLB team offers you a minor league deal? He had an even better year in the Twins’ Single-A system, batting .350. But then he’d leave the Twins because of a bar fight, getting traded to the Indians for a pitcher who only ended up playing three games in his career.
That’s just the beginning though. Super Joe would cast a love spell on all of Cleveland. After batting .352 in Double-A in ’79, Charboneau was generating quite a bit of hype heading into the 1980 season. Would he get promoted to Triple-A or get his shot in the big leagues? Andre “Thunder” Thornton’s knee would make that decision, as he went down before the season started. Joe would get his chance and he made big on it. Before the regular season started, fans would get a proper introduction to Joe in an exhibition game in Mexico. He got stabbed by a fan with a penknife. But that didn’t stop him from making his debut and winning rookie of the year.
He batted .289 with 87 RBIs and 23 HRs. As his rookie year progressed, stories began to emerge of his many talents. Talents that can make the biggest frat guy shed a tear. From being able to open a beer with his eye socket then drinking said beer from his nose, fixing a broken nose with plyers and Jack Daniels whiskey, to cutting out a drunk mistake tattoo with a razor. He even had a song named after him, which ended up number 4 on the charts in Cleveland.
The 1981 strike season would the kryptonite to Super Joe. He suffered a severe back injury in spring training, and while he muscled through it, his production suffered, hitting just .210 in 48 games. He would be the first Rookie-of-the-Year to return to the minors one year after winning the award. ’82 would be more of the same, more demotions to the minors where he once dominated, and yet another back surgery. ’83 broke the straw, where he flipped the bird to Double-A fans, leading to his release. The Pirates gave him a minor league flyer in ’84 but that fizzled out, leading to a quiet retirement unfitting for a guy nicknamed Super Joe.
CF Brady Anderson: When you look at Brady Anderson’s stats, you must be thinking, “how can you say a guy who was on the All-Star game three times and in the Orioles Hall of Fame is a one year wonder?” And you have a point. But look closely. 21 home runs and 52 stolen bases in ‘92, his first All-Star season. Ok. Then he doesn’t reach 20 HRs for a few years, alright he’s a solid speedy, contact, leadoff guy and doesn’t hit for power. Then his third All-Star season in ‘97, 17 HRs and 78 RBIs, again solid. But what about his second All-Star season?
That’s why he’s here. He went from never touching 22 bombs to slamming 50, yes, 50 of them in 1996, from the leadoff spot mind you. Remember this was the steroid era, anyone was fair game for producing monster dingers. People were shocked to see the lean and speedy Anderson clobbering home runs like Sosa and McGwire. ’96 was also the best of his contact skills, hitting for .297 and ripping 110 RBIs to go along a ridiculous 1.034 OPS. So while Anderson had many solid seasons, many see him as a one year wonder purely for this out of nowhere season and a symbol of the steroid era, for better or worse.
RF Jason Lane: Ok, to be honest, it was kind of hard to pinpoint a definitive one-year wonder right fielder. Most were either left or center fielders so Lane will have to do. He was a bench player for the first three years of his career and entered his first starting year at the age of 28 in 2005. So not a lot of expectations heading in for him, especially with the Astros leaning on the old HoF core of Biggio and Bagwell as well as Lance Berkman and a brilliant pitching core led by Rodger Clemens.
Well, Lane and Morgan Ensberg (he was Lane’s ’98 teammate on the National Champion USC team) would surprisingly light it up. Ensberg would finish 4th in the MVP vote, and win a Silver Slugger (36 homers, 101 RBIs) alongside an All-Star bid. Lane wouldn’t make the All-Star team but he did hit 26 homers and 78 RBIs deep in the lineup. Notably, Lane led the majors in fly ball percentage (51.3%), which would help the Astros in their NLCS upset over the Cardinals.
He wouldn’t last long after that season. He was replaced by Aubrey Huff (who’s a racist by the way) and was optioned to Triple-A. He was given a chance in ’07 but up and coming Hunter Pence sent him back to Round Rock. Years later in 2014, he would come back with the Padres but not as a hitter, a pitcher. He did pitch in college after all. He had a few cool moments but was cut after the 2014 season.
And that’s it for the outfield. Next up are the pitchers and designated hitter to wrap it all up.