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One-year wonders

GRANT'S TOMB:

July 20, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

It seems every year Major League Baseball produces its share of surprise talent and this year is no exception.

I remember when I was a kid guys like Joe Charboneau, Mark Fidrych and Nick Esasky, guys who were superstars for a season and then faded away like so much sawdust.

If you are wondering who I'm talking about, I'll drop a brief history lesson on you. Charboneau was the 1980 American League Rookie of the Year for the Cleveland Indians, Fidrych won the same honor for the Detroit Tigers in 1976. As for Esasky, well he smacked 30 home runs for the Boston Red Sox in 1989, only to develop vertigo the following season and never play again.

There are many more of these "one-year wonders." Hell, there's probably more than I know or will ever be able to name. Does anyone remember when Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs in one season? I do and that certainly left me with another thing to wonder about.

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This brings me around to this year. This brings me to Lance Berkman, Doug Mientkiewicz, Albert Pujols and Paul Lo Duca. Not to mention Mark Mulder, Wade Miller and the entire Minnesota Twins pitching staff (save Brad Radke).

Each year you have ballplayers you've never heard of who seem to stick their heads out of their collective holes and stake a claim to superstar status. The trick, of course, is for us as the fans to try to figure out who's for real and who's just another Joe Charboneau.

I still recall a summer in the early ‘80's when I had a bit of an infatuation with a couple of New York Mets rookies. Their names were Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. Of course there was no way to know it at the time, but the pair went on to become quite successful major league players.

My interest in baseball's stock market took a strange turn in 1987. That was the year Jose Canseco and Wally Joyner broke into the bigs. It also was the year they were proclaimed to be the next big thing, which sent the values of their rookie baseball cards skyrocketing.

Well, in an effort to make a weird story as short as possible, I'll tell you I had a friend named Jeff Duncan (yes, he was one of the MicroLeague players). Jeff was so convinced Wally Joyner was going to become one of the greatest baseball players of all time that he lost his mind. Well, not really, actually (on a dare) he consumed a glassful of one of our other friend's bodily fluids that no one should consume in exchange for 10 Joyner rookie cards. You see, Jeff figured that Wally's cards were going to be worth $100 by the time Joyner retired. Jeff obviously didn't have a clue. Now Wally has retired and Jeff has a degree from UC Berkeley (my dad always told me that kooks went to that school).

I guess I got a bit off my point. I will not dare offer a guess as to which of this new breed are the real thing and which are having their career years (although I wouldn't dare do a damn thing for 10 Mientkiewicz cards).

Anyway, the point I was trying to make was this strange phenomenon is something we shouldn't take for granted. Instead just sit back and enjoy the ride, no matter if it takes you to the Hall of Fame or Canton, Ohio, which in the end, was where it took Joe Charboneau.

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