Friday, July 08, 2005

July 8th, 1965

Jerome Walton Born

No relation to the Wal-Mart Waltons--they're from Oklahoma--Jerome came up for the Cubs in 1989. The Cubs, who had finished 77-85 the year before would go 93-69 while Walton would hit .293/.335/.385, including a thirty-game hitting streak. He would also win the Rookie of the Year award; thanks in no small part to his perceived role in helping the Cubs make the playoffs for the first time in a few years. Walton would never repeat his success; although he managed a .290/.368/.525 stretch in a little over 150 at-bats for the Reds in 1995, the rest of his career was basically a disappointment.

This raises a question I've long wondered about but never been able to settle. If you're only going to have one great year in an otherwise undistinguished career, is it better for that to be your rookie year, or some year in the middle? On the one hand, if you're a rookie, you might win the Rookie of the Year, good press, etc. On the other, if you have a good rookie year and never do anything after, you're a bust, a failure, a guy who "never lived up to expectations." Now, having it come in the middle of your career is nice too. If you're really lucky, it comes in a free agent walk year and you can sucker some team into giving you a nice contract (I'm looking at you Jaret Wright and Tony Womack). Of course, if your one good year comes out of nowhere and then retreats back to that same nowhere, you're labeled a fluke, a one-year wonder the guy who "had that one great year."

So is it worse to be the bust or the fluke? I've never decided which, but luckily I doubt it will ever be a concern. As for Jerome Walton, he was a bust, retiring after an unremarkable stretch with the Devil Rays in 1998.

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