Tuesday, November 29, 2005

November 29th, 1967

Bob Hamelin Born

A few weeks ago I did a two-part "look back" on various Rookie of the Year Awards. Today, I thought I might dive into depth on one of the all-time great Rookie of the Year busts, Bob Hamelin. Truthfully, Hamelin's reputation is in large part unfair. He deserved the award in 1994, but had the misfortune of beating out a small army of players who have gone on to superior careers, including Manny Ramirez, Jim Edmonds, Rusty Greer and Brian Anderson. Furthermore, while Hamelin was the best rookie in 1994, it was a doubly-odd year. For one it was, of course, the year of the strike meaning Hamelin's .282/.388/.599 performance, good for the league's sixth best OPS+ was in just over a hundred games. (To Hamelin credit, in those games he also broke Bo Jackson's record for homers by a rookie, hitting twenty-four, two more than Jackson had managed in fifteen more games.) The bigger issue was that Hamelin was not really a prospect. He was twenty-six and had spent six years in the Royals' minor league system before being called up for a cup of coffee in 1993. Hamelin was basically a twenty-six year old who happened to have his career year in his first season, which itself was shorter than usual and spent the rest of his career failing to live up to a probably unreasonable standard.

But oh my, did he ever not live up to that standard. Hamelin's 1995 was an unmitigated disaster. Hamelin hit just .168 for the season, and suffered the indignity of being the first Rookie of the Year since Dave Righetti in 1982 to be sent back down to the minors the next season. Hamelin would eventually return to the big club, but his 1995 was a lost season. 1996 was a slight improvement for Hamelin; he returned his OPS+ to above average, but was released after the season by the Royals, just two seasons removed from his Rookie of the Year season.

Hamelin was signed to a minor-league deal by the Tigers for 1997 and actually proved a useful player that year, posting a 122 OPS+ as the Tigers' primary DH, but by now his reputation as a bust was cemented. After an unsuccessful season with the Brewers in 1998, the now thirty-one year old Hamelin spent the 1999 season with the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate but was never called up to the Majors and was out of organized baseball after that season.

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