As Mariner fans we have lived through too many trade deadlines and winters without the front office making a big splash. Sorry, but getting Vince Coleman in 1995 or John Olerud in the 1999 offseason doesn't exactly have me longing for yesteryear when the team was aggresive. I have to watch Miguel Tejada here in Baltimore knowing he should have been a Mariner, but the M's wouldn't match the O's offer.
That changed last offseason. The M's brass spent over $100 million in a 48-hour period on Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre. Remember? Sexson was nice, but Beltre was the icing on the cake. Here was a kid who everyone had been waiting to tear up the league, and in 2004, it finally happened:
.334 AVG, 48 HR, 121 RBI, 104 R, 1.017 OPS
And he was only 25. The Mariners locked him up for 5 years, when he would only get better. Needless to say, 2005 has been a major disappointment:
.253 AVG 14 HR, 60 RBI. The most glaring number has to be 72 strikeouts to just 22 walks. He had a decent June, hitting .321. I thought maybe that would lead to big things in the second half. Obviously not. It's fair to say 2004 has been a bad year. But does that mean that this is what we should expect for the next 4 years? That's a question I'm going to try to address here. Is Adrian Beltre a one-year wonder?
Well, that's pretty tough to figure out. There's not a whole lot of statistical data, trends, or otherwise to go by when looking at something like that. But one thing we do have is history. We can look at some of the biggest one-year wonders in recent history to see if we can come to any sort of conclusion. Here are five players who had one big year, and nothing much else in their career. This is by no means scientific, but it could be interesting. I'm gonna do a brief synopsis of each player's career year, then discuss at the end.
#1: Brady Anderson-1996:
Perhaps the most ridiculous 50-HR season of all time. The most mind-boggling numbers from that year are 50 HR and 110 RBI. This was following seasons of 12 HR/48 RBI and 16 HR/64 RBI. The two years after 1996? 18 HR/73 RBI and 18 HR/51 RBI. Now, Brady Anderson wasn't a bad player. He scored 100 runs 4 times, had 10 triples twice, and 20 steals seven times. But that 1996 season was absurd. The interesting thing is that none of his other numbers were exactly through the roof compared the rest of his career. He had career highs in average (.297) and runs scored (117), but only the power numbers were way up from the rest of his career.
Speaking of crappy M's offseason signings. This was an insane year for Aurillia:
.324 average, .369 OBP, 37 HR, 97 RBI, 114 runs, 206 hits.
If you put his career highs together in those categories outside of 2001, it would look like this:
.281 average, .339 OBP, 22 HR, 80 RBI, 76 runs, 157 hits.
It's nice to hit in front of Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds isn't it Rich?
Wow. Now that brings back some baseball card memories. Looking for players who have had only one huge year has been tough, but Oglivie's 1980 season qualifies. Take a look:
.304 AVG, 180 hits, 41 HR, 118 RBI, 94 runs.
1981 was a strike year, but his 14 HR, 72 RBI, and .242 AVG don't stack up. He did have some good power years in 1979 (29 HR/81 RBI) and 1982 (34 HR/102 RBI), but 1980 stands out. I actually think he is a good guy to compare with Beltre. His numbers were decent for a couple years building up to his big year, and I'm sure Brewers fans loved him during the World Series run of 1982. But Ben Oglivie makes the list mainly because I can still see his 1985 Topps card in my head.
#4 Ken Caminiti-1996:
1996 was an unreal year. Not only Anderson and Caminiti, but players like Henry Rodriguez were crushing homers all over the league. We all know about Caminiti, and I debated about including him, but it was tough to ignore:
.326 AVG, .408 OBP, 40 HR, 130 RBI, 109 Runs.
Caminiti was pretty good, but he didn't even reach 30 HR or 100 RBI once before or after 1996.
#5 Kelly Gruber-1990:
First things first-Kelly Gruber's hair was mullet-esque. Gruber's 1990 batting average wasn't anything special for him, but his 31 HR and 118 RBI dwarf his next best years of 20 HR and 81 RBI. He did hit for the cycle once too and I think his face is on the SkyDome's (I don't like it's new name) wall because of it.
There are definitely others and I would welcome anyone to add to this list. We've seen what these guys share with Adrian Beltre-one big year preceded and followed by a lot of so-so years. But how do they differ from Beltre?
1) Beltre was 25 when he had his big year. Anderson was 28, Aurillia 30, Oglivie 31, Caminiti 33, and Gruber 28. Those guys were all in there prime years.
2) Beltre was in the bigs at 20 and was a highly-touted prospect. I hadn't graced the world with my presence when Oglivie was coming up, but I don't remember any of those other guys having the expectations that Beltre did. My point? Beltre is flat-out more talented than those guys.
3) Anderson and Caminiti were playing in the juiced-"ball" era. Let's not make accusations, but everyone was hitting like crazy then.
4) I mentioned the lineup Aurillia was hitting in. Sorry, but Shawn Green and Milton Bradley aren't Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent.
5) Beltre is the only one of those players to switch leagues following his big year.
6) Beltre's 2004 was the best overall season of any of those players. That doesn't really mean much, but...
Like I said, this wasn't a scientific exploration. I just wanted to see how common it was for a player to have a season like Beltre did last year, and never reach that level again. I think the most important factors are Beltre's age, talent level, and switching leagues. I also think that he put a lot of pressure on himself this year because of the expectations that came with his signing. Although there may be even more pressure on him to perform next year. Only time will tell, but I for one am going to keep my hopes up. I think Mariners have a chance to make a run from 2007-2009, and Beltre will be in Seattle for all those years. If he can bounce back from this awful year, that run could be awfully special.
What are your thoughts Mariner Magic faithful? Should we be hopeful?