Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Top 10 What Could Have Beens of All Time

2015 Topps
Los Angeles Angels star outfielder Josh Hamilton has made the news of late with his relapse of drug addiction.  If you don't know Hamilton's story, he was MLB's first overall draft pick in 1999 and then became a drug addict. He was out of baseball entirely for two years and fought his back to become one of the top players in the game for a period of time.
His story got me thinking about other players who had careers destined for stardom or even the Hall of Fame, but was cut short due to various reasons.  I will give you my list of the top 10 MLB players of all time who could have been greater. 
As for my criteria, Hall of Famers are excluded as they are already considered to be amongst the greatest.   Also, Negro Leaguers are also excluded.  They deserve to be on a list of their own.  These players also established themselves as quality MLB players for several years instead of just one or two seasons.  Giving more credence to the argument.  So here goes:

10)Kerry Wood   Wood and fellow top prospect Mark Prior were suppose to be the ones that would end Cubs' World Series drought.  Wood won the Rookie of the Year and tied the MLB record for striking out 20 hitters in one game.  Woods developed arm problems and never was the same afterwards.

9) Lyman Bostock   He debuted for the Minnesota Twins in 1975.  He was thought to be a future star and win a batting title or two.  He developed into a very good hitter and became one of MLB's first big free agents when he signed with the Angels.  His career tragically ended in 1978 when he was murdered.
1970 Topps

8)Tony Conigliaro   Tony C as he was affectionately known in Boston was one of  MLB top sluggers in the late 1960s.  He had hit 100 career home runs by the age of 22.  But during Boston's AL pennant run in 1967 he was hit by a pitch in the face.  He made a comeback but his stardom was all but over

7) Josh Hamilton   One of the most talented players in baseball.  Won an MVP while trying to fight his drug addiction.  Watch him play and you can see how special of a player he could have been.  I believe Hamilton is the closest to anyone to being the real life "The Natural".  Hamilton was born to excel in the game.
1941 PlayBall

6)Cecil Travis  He was a star shortstop for the Washington Senators in the 1930s and 40s.  He made three All Star teams and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting twice by the age of 27.  At this time he was called for duty in World War II.  While fighting he developed a severe case of frostbite that needed surgery to avoid amputation to a foot.  After returning from war, he was never the same player.
1991 Conlon
5)Smoky Joe Wood  He was the ace of the Red Sox World Series championship team in 1912.  Wood was considered just as good as Walter Johnson for a short time.  For the 1912 season, he went 34-5 with an ERA of 1.91.  During that season, he set the MLB record for consecutive victories(18).  Wood also had arm problems that ended his career. For his career he had a record of 117-57 and an ERA of 2.03.

4)Pete Reiser  In his first full season in the big leagues in 1941 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Reiser led the NL in runs scored(117), doubles(39), triples(17), batting(.343) and slugging(.558).  He finished 2nd in the MVP voting.  His next seasons also made him an All Star and finished in the top ten for the MVP.  But his reckless play led to injuries and his downfall.

3)Herb Score  The flame throwing Cleveland Indian led the AL in strikeouts in first two seasons in the bigs.  Early on his third season, he was hit in the head by line drive from New York Yankee hitter Gil McDougal.  Score made a comeback but his days as a dominant flame thrower were over.
1975 Topps

2) J.R. Richard  Richard was one of the most feared pitchers in baseball in the late 70s.  After harnessing his talents he strikeout over 300 batters in consecutive seasons for the Astros in 1978 and 79.  Nolan Ryan signed with Houston after the 1979 season to give the team the most potent 1-2 punch in baseball. But halfway through the 1980 season where Richard was having another great season, he suffered a stroke and ended his career.

1) Bo Jackson  Perhaps the most talented player on this list.  He did things on the ball field no one has ever done before or since.  His talents were so raw from playing more football as as amateur.  Just as he was learning the game more and developing as a better overall player he suffered an injury while playing football.  If Jackson  had a long baseball career, his numbers might have been mind boggling and his highlight reel even more so.