Most Suspicious One Year Position Player Wonders in MLB History
When it comes to determining whether a player is worthy of a Hall of Fame induction, most, if not all eligible voters take a player's career statistics into consideration. They usually look to see if they reached certain offensive or pitching benchmarks and whether they have been consistent over their entire careers.
One thing that will not help a player get into the Baseball Hall of Fame is if that player is considered a one-year wonder. In other words, some players have had one great season that has defined their careers forever, but the rest of their seasons have not been as good.
Furthermore, due to all the controversy regarding performance enhancing drugs, some of these one-year wonder seasons that have occurred during the "Steroid Era" in the middle and late 1990s could lead people to suspect that those who had great seasons during those years may have potentially taken performance enhancing drugs to help them hit or pitch better.
Here are ten position players that should be considered suspicious one-year wonders.
10. Sandy Alomar Jr. , 1997
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One catcher that had a single particularly good season in 1997 was Sandy Alomar Jr. He batted .324 with 21 home runs and 83 RBI that season as he helped lead the Indians to the World Series.
However, the highest number of home runs Alomar ever hit outside of 1997 was 14 in 1994, and the highest number of RBI he ever had was 66 in 1990, which was his first full major league season. He did bat .300 in 1995 and .307 in 1999, but it's still a good distance below the .324 average he had in 1997.
Alomar was never mentioned in the Mitchell Report that came out in 2007, but the Indians had a good group of sluggers during the 1990s, so the possibility of Alomar taking performance enhancing drugs should not be out of the question.
9. Ivan Rodriguez, 1999
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Another catcher on this list is Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, who despite being one of the most consistent players at his position for the past 20 years, is defined offensively by his MVP season in 1999.
Rodriguez was always a great defender and had a throwing arm that few catchers in history could ever match up to. Offensively, though, Rodriguez was a good hitter, but not the best ever. He batted between .300 and .321 in each season from 1995-1998, but in 1999, he all of a sudden raised his average to .332 and set career highs with 35 home runs and 113 RBI. Rodriguez had never hit more than 21 home runs in a season until the 35 he blasted in 1999. He then hit 27 home runs in 2000 and 25 home runs in 2001.
In addition, in his books "Juiced" and "Vindicated", former teammate Jose Canseco described how he personally injected steroids into some of his teammates, and Rodriguez was supposedly one of them. If this is true, then the spike in Rodriguez's offensive performance in the late 1990s could be the effect of using performance enhancing drugs.
Ivan Rodriguez is not a genuine one-year wonder, but his 1999 numbers definitely stand out compared to the rest of his career.
8. Ken Caminiti, 1996
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The late Ken Caminiti was not considered one of the best hitters throughout the 1990s. However, the season he had in 1996 en route to winning his only NL MVP Award was rather impressive.
Before 1996, Caminiti's highest single season home run and RBI totals were 26 and 94, respectively. Those were his numbers in 1995. However, in 1996, Caminiti took it up another level and bashed out a career high 40 home runs and 130 RBI while batting .326, which was also a career high for him by a long shot. Caminiti batted just .272 for his career and the highest average he ever had in a full season prior to then was .302 in 1995.
What's even more surprising is that Caminiti scored 109 runs in 1996, which was an improvement from 1995 by 35 runs. The highest number of runs scored that he had after his MVP season was 92 runs scored in 1997.
Caminiti never had another season like 1996 for the rest of his career. He batted .290 with 26 home runs and 90 RBI in 1997 and batted .252 with 29 home runs and 82 RBI in 1998 before he began to decline. His 1997 and 1998 seasons were good overall, but not at the same level as his 1996 numbers. Thus, this is the main difference as to why Caminiti's legacy will never be up to par with his slugging counterparts at the time, such as Jeff Bagwell, Juan Gonzalez, Ken Griffey Jr, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas and Larry Walker, among others.
Ken Caminiti is not your typical one-year wonder, but his 1996 season is what made his career more significant than it would have ever been if his 1996 numbers were similar to the rest of his career.
After retiring, Caminiti did admit to using steroids during the 1996 season, which could definitely explain how his numbers improved so much that year.
7. Javy Lopez, 2003
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The longtime Braves catcher Javy Lopez makes this list, despite not exactly being a one-year wonder per se.
This is due to the fact that Lopez had a breakout season in 1998 by batting .284 with 34 home runs and 106 RBI. These are good numbers, and particularly good generally speaking for a catcher. However, Lopez only played in 65 games in 1999 before having three subpar seasons from 2000-2002. Then, Lopez all of a sudden happened to catch fire once again in 2003.
In his career season in 2003, Lopez batted a career high .328 with 43 home runs and 109 RBI. The 43 home runs broke Todd Hundley's single season home run record for catchers. Hundley had hit 41 home runs in 1996. No one had expected Lopez of all catchers to hold this record, but he surprised everyone in his resurgent career year.
The interesting part of Lopez's career is that the Braves did not re-sign him after the 2003 season. He signed with the Orioles and had a decent season in 2004 before declining and eventually retiring after the 2006 season. Thus, it is definitely fair for one to speculate that Lopez could have been using performance enhancing drugs during the 2003 season.
Lopez was not on the Mitchell Report that was published in 2007, but still, it's reasonable to speculate that he could have used steroids during his career, which could explain why he had a lot more success in 2003 than the vast majority of his other seasons.
6. Ellis Burks, 1996
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Like Caminiti, Ellis Burks had a career season in 1996 that helped make his career more significant than it would have been if only all of his other seasons would have been considered.
Burks was a decent hitter with the Red Sox (1987-1992), White Sox (1993) and in his first two seasons with the Rockies in 1994 and 1995 before he of all of a sudden turned into a feared slugger.
In 1996, Burks batted a career high .344 with 40 home runs and 128 RBI. He also led the National League that year with 142 runs scored, a .639 slugging percentage and 392 total bases. The Rockies at the time had the Blake Street Bombers, which included Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Andres Galaragga and Larry Walker. However, Burks asserted himself as a brief member of the group thanks to the numbers he put up in 1996.
Burks followed up with a .290 average, 32 home runs and 82 RBI in 1997 before getting traded to the Giants midway through the 1998 season. Burks had some good seasons from 1998-2003 before retiring after the 2004 season. However, Burks' status and legacy in baseball was never again at the level it once was in 1996.
Despite the altitude in Colorado and the general spike in home run totals at Coors Field, one could still suspect that Burks used performance enhancing drugs in 1996.
5. Paul LoDuca, 2001
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Another one-year wonder catcher is Paul LoDuca, who emerged with a breakout rookie season in 2001 and never really had another season like it for the rest of his career.
LoDuca became the Dodgers' starting catcher in 2001 following the departure of Todd Hundley who left for the Cubs. LoDuca batted .320 with 25 home runs and 90 RBI, all of which were career highs. His .917 OPS was yet another career high and one that LoDuca never came close to matching for the rest of his career.
After 2001, the most home runs that LoDuca ever hit in a season were the 13 he hit in 2004. He did drive in 80 RBI that same year, but the power decrease is enough to consider LoDuca a one-year wonder. Furthermore, LoDuca's name was mentioned in the Mitchell Report, which gives a good reason to consider him a potential user of performance enhancing drugs.
To LoDuca's credit though, he did bat .318 in a bounceback 2006 season. However, he never had the power he displayed during his rookie season and him not taking performance enhancing drugs after 2001 could be a possible reason why.
4. Bernard Gilkey, 1996
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Bernard Gilkey can be added to the list of players that all had career seasons in 1996. Gilkey's season in particular stands out compared to the rest of his career.
Gilkey originally came up with the Cardinals, whom he played for from 1990-1995. During his time there, Gilkey showed decent power at most, while batting around .300 in most of those seasons. With one year left on his contract at the time, the Cardinals decided to trade Gilkey to the Mets for three minor leaguers.
Although the 1996 Mets were not particularly successful, largely due to their underachieving pitching staff, Gilkey helped the Mets' offense that year become one of the best in franchise history. While Lance Johnson brought a lot of hits and speed to the offense and Todd Hundley was the team's slugger, Gilkey was somewhat of a hybrid to Johnson and Hundley.
Gilkey certainly made the most of his walk year by batting .317 with 108 runs scored, a Mets' single season record 44 doubles, 30 home runs, 117 RBI, 17 stolen bases, a .955 OPS and 18 assists from left field. It is without a doubt one of the best seasons by any hitter in Mets history. As a result, Gilkey was rewarded with a new four-year contract by the Mets.
That ended up being a mistake.
Gilkey regressed a bit in 1997 as his average fell to .249, despite hitting 18 home runs and driving in 78 RBI. Gilkey did not live up to his expectations that year and it only got worse for him when he got traded to the expansion Diamondbacks at the 1998 trade deadline after batting just .227 with four home runs and 28 RBI before the trade.
Gilkey never found his 1996 success again for the rest of his career and retired following the 2001 season. His name was not mentioned in the Mitchell Report, but there's a good possibility that he could have been using performance enhancing drugs during the 1996 season, simply based on his numbers and the fact that some of his Mets teammates at the time were supposedly using performance enhancing drugs themselves at the time.
3. Todd Hundley, 1996
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Yet another Mets hitter that had a career season in 1996 was catcher Todd Hundley, who came out of nowhere to deliver a very impressive season that year.
Ever since he became the Mets' everyday catcher in 1992, Hundley was rather scrawny and had not shown much power at all from 1992-1995. His numbers got better each season generally speaking, but it was still not at the level of his defense at the time. Then, 1996 occurred.
That year, Hundley made his first of two consecutive trips to the All-Star Game and batted .259 with a Mets' single season record 41 home runs and 112 RBI. The 41 home runs also set a new single season record for both catchers and switch-hitters, which have since been broken by Javy Lopez and Chipper Jones, respectively.
What was really interesting about Hundley's career season was that he did most of his hitting from the left side. 35 of his 41 home runs came as a left-handed batter, and so did 91 of his 112 RBI. As a result, he only hit six home runs and drove in 21 RBI as a right-handed batter. In addition, he batted just .194 from the right side, compared to .286 from the left side. This was always the case for Hundley, who consistently struggled from the right side of the plate.
Hundley followed up in 1997 with a .273 average, 30 home runs and 86 RBI before a painful elbow injury forced him to end his season early. He had elbow surgery in September and did not return to the playing field until July of 1998. This injury pretty much destroyed his career as the Mets acquired Mike Piazza while Hundley was rehabilitating.
When Hundley returned to the Mets in 1998, he played left field, which was a terrible fit for him. He also did not hit well at all and got traded to the Dodgers in the offseason. Hundley never found his 1996 success for the rest of his career, and despite the good numbers he put up while healthy in 1997, he is still more or less perceived as a one-year wonder.
Hundley's name was mentioned in the Mitchell Report and because of his huge increase in offensive production in 1996, it sounds very likely that he used performance enhancing drugs during 1996 and maybe even his 1997 season as well.
2. Richard Hidalgo, 2000
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One player who really had one heck of a breakout season in 2000 was Richard Hidalgo.
Hidalgo did not get much playing time at all during his first full season in the major leagues in 1998, but after Astros left fielder Moises Alou was forced to miss the entire 1999 season, Hidalgo became the starting left fielder, and batted only .227 with 15 home runs and 56 RBI. It would take another year for Hidalgo to have his breakout season.
In 2000, Hidalgo moved to right field to replace Derek Bell, who had gotten traded to the Mets in the offseason. Hidalgo surprised many people by setting career highs with a .314 average, 42 doubles, 44 home runs, 122 RBI and a 1.028 OPS. The Astros' new stadium, Enron Field (now known as Minute Maid Park) may have benefited Hidalgo, being that it's a hitter's park. However, his numbers were simply staggering that year. He somehow missed a trip to the All-Star Game, but Hidalgo was no All-Star by any means.
After his career season, Hidalgo never found success at that level again. The best season he had after 2000 was in 2003 when he batted .309, hit 28 home runs and drove in 88 RBI. Nonetheless, there was a lot of hype around Hidalgo after his 2000 season and he never lived up to his post-2000 expectations.
Due to the numbers he put up in 2000, one could definitely speculate that Hidalgo may have used performance enhancing drugs that year, which could have affected the increase in his offensive production. Regardless, Hidalgo should definitely be considered one of the most obvious one-year wonders in baseball history.
1. Brady Anderson, 1996
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If Richard Hidalgo is considered an obvious one-year wonder, Brady Anderson would fit that same description multiplied by at least five. His 1996 season is far above all his other seasons combined.
Anderson was the Orioles' leadoff-hitting center fielder in the 1990s and played almost his entire career with them. He was mostly known as a line-drive hitter with speed, as evidenced by his pre-1996 high of 21 home runs and 80 RBI in 1992. He also had a career high 53 stolen bases that year as well.
A year after hitting 16 home runs and driving in 64 RBI in 1995, Anderson emerged as one the year's best hitters in 1996 and instantly became a dual threat with his speed and new found power.
That year, Anderson set all kinds of career highs by batting .297 with 117 runs scored, 37 doubles, 50 home runs, 110 RBI, a 1.034 OPS and 369 total bases. He set the Orioles' new single season home run record and also became the only player to ever be part of the 50-20 club and the 20-50 club.
After his memorable 1996 season, Anderson did not have any more seasons as good as that one. He batted .288 with 18 home runs and 73 RBI while dealing with a broken rib in 1997. In 1998, his numbers slipped to a .236 average, 18 home runs and 51 RBI. Anderson then bounced back decently in 1999 with a .282 average, 24 home runs and 81 RBI.
After a subpar 2000 season, Anderson really declined in 2001 and hit even worse in 2002 as a member of the Indians before retiring.
Through his career, Anderson averaged a .256 average, 19 home runs and 67 RBI, which goes to show how remarkable his 1996 season really was in comparison to his career averages. As a result, many people have speculated that Anderson may have used performance enhancing drugs during the 1996 season, which could have helped him hit with more power. However, Anderson has long denied such claims and has stated that he simply had more good swings that season than in other seasons.
Regardless of whether the performance enhancing drugs claims are true or not, it's very hard to argue against Brady Anderson being the most suspicious one-year wonder ever in baseball history.