Ever since 1947, Major League Baseball has honored the top rookies each year with the Rookie of the Year award. The award is now also known as the Jackie Robinson Award, commemorating Jackie as the first recipient of the award after his historic debut season.
Through the years, there have been a great number of players who went on to have Hall of Fame careers after winning Rookie of the Year honors. Willie Mays ('51), Rod Carew ('67), and Cal Ripken ('82) are just some of the rookies who made it to Cooperstown.
Even today, there are some former Rookie of the Year winners that have gone on to have, or are in the midst of, an overall successful career, even if Cooperstown is not their final destination.
But perhaps more notably are the players who are deemed Rookie of the Year, but then fail to have any success in subsequent seasons. The sophomore jinx may be a real thing if you ask these guys, who were never able to repeat the brilliance seen in their rookie campaigns.
Hopefully the likes of Mike Trout, Buster Posey and Bryce Harper won't suffer the same fate as these past winners.
In 1988, the Milwaukee Brewers drafted a 20-year-old by the name of Pat Listach. Four years later, Listach debuted for the Brew Crew and went on to steal 54 bases en route to an American League Rookie of the Year award.
Listach's 112 stolen bases are still good for eighth in club history, and his 54 swipes in '92 stand as the third most. However, Listach was never able to duplicate his 1992 campaign, when he hit .290 in 579 at-bats.
In fact, Listach never had another season with 500 at-bats, and never stole more than 25 bases in any one season. He only played a total of six years, spending all but one in Milwaukee. He ended his career in 1997 with the Astros.
Other AL Rookie of the Year candidates in 1992 included Kenny Lofton, Cal Eldred and Dave Flemming. Lofton stole 66 bases for the Indians that season, and his WAR was higher than that of Listach. But I guess you can't change history, right?
Since retiring as a player, Listach has served as a third base coach for the Washington Nationals and the Chicago Cubs.
Big Bob Hamelin was drafted in the second round by the Kansas City Royals in 1988. He made his debut in 1993, and in 1994 he stunned everyone by slugging 24 home runs and 25 doubles. Perhaps even more remarkable was his 62:56 K:BB ratio—not very typical for a young slugger. He was named the Rookie of the Year in the American League that year.
Unfortunately for Bob, his career would only last another four seasons, two more in KC, one with the Tigers and finally with the Brewers. He did smack another 18 home runs in 1997, his lone season in Detroit, but he never really blossomed into the type of hitter his '94 season led us to expect.
Keep in mind, Hamelin beat out Manny Ramirez and Jim Edmonds for the Rookie of the Year award in '94. At least that's something to hang your hat on.
When Todd Hollandsworth was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 1996, it marked the fifth straight season the award was given to a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He followed Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi and Hideo Nomo as consecutive Dodgers to earn top rookie honors in the NL.
But unlike his predecessors, Hollandsworth never really established himself as a successful ballplayer after his rookie season. In '96, he hit .291 with 12 home runs and 21 stolen bases. The former third-round draft pick went on to play a total of 12 seasons in the major leagues, but never found any kind of sustained success in any of them.
He hit 19 home runs in the 2000 season between the Dodgers and Colorado Rockies (although, 11 of those home runs came as a member of the Rockies, seven coming at the hitter-friendly Coors Field).
In 1996, Hollandsworth beat out Edgar Renteria, Jason Kendall and Jermaine Dye for Rookie of the Year honors. All of those players went on to have much better careers than Mr. Hollandsworth.
Right-hander Scott Williamson stormed onto the major league scene, debuting for the Cincinnati Reds in 1999. That year, he recorded 107 strikeouts in just 93 innings. He saved 19 games for the Reds and had a clean 2.41 ERA, and even had a 12-7 record, on his way to a Rookie of the Year award.
And although Williamson went on to have a couple of decent campaigns, he never was able to show the brilliance he flashed in his rookie season. Overall, in nine big league seasons, he accumulated 55 saves and a lifetime 3.36 ERA, with an even 28-28 record. Injuries got the best of him for the majority of his career, which concluded after 16 appearances with the Orioles in 2007.
Right-hander Jason Jennings had the misfortune of being drafted by the Colorado Rockies, and being forced to pitch in the thin air at Coors Field. Even with the installation of a humidor at the Rockies' home ballpark, hitters have seemingly always had the advantage when playing in Denver.
Jennings was named the National League Rookie of the Year in '02, a year in which he went 16-8 and struck out 127 batters in 185 innings. But his ERA finished at 4.52, no doubt thanks in part to the Rocky Mountain air. Nevertheless, he did have a decent campaign and was named the league's best rookie.
But after that, Jennings' struggles got worse. He finished the '03, '04 and '05 campaigns with respective ERAs of 5.11, 5.51 and 5.02, and never won more than 12 games in any season. His only other decent year came in 2006, his final season with the Rockies, when he recorded a 3.78 ERA and 142 strikeouts, but went 9-13 on the year.
He went on to play parts of three more seasons (one with the Astros and two with the Rangers), but he only won four games total over those three years. He hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009.
In 2002, Jennings beat out the likes of Austin Kearns, Brad Wilkerson and Mark Prior for the NL Rookie of the Year.
Remember Angel Berroa? He was originally signed as a 17-year-old amateur free agent by the Oakland A's. Before even seeing any big league action, he was part of a blockbuster three-team trade in 2001 in which, among other moves, Johnny Damon and Mark Ellis were sent to the A's, and former Rookie of the Year winner Ben Grieve was sent to Tampa Bay. Berroa was sent to the Royals in that deal as well.
Two years later, the shortstop beat out Mark Teixeira, Hideki Matsui and Rocco Baldelli for the American League Rookie of the Year. That year, he hit .287 with a career-best 17 home runs and 29 stolen bases. This was, by far, his only legitimately successful season of his nine-year career.
He spent an additional four seasons with KC before brief stints with the Dodgers, Yankees and Mets. He signed minor league deals with the Dodgers, Giants and Diamondbacks, but never appeared in a Major League game after 2009. He finished with a lifetime .258 batting average and 50 stolen bases in nine seasons.
The 2004 season was an exciting one in Oakland. The A's finished the season just a game back of the Texas Rangers for the top in the American League West, and the debut of shortstop Bobby Crosby gave fans a lot to look forward to.
Crosby, a former first-round draft pick in 2001, was the American League Rookie of the Year in '04, when he belted 22 home runs and drove in 64 runs. His .239 batting average left a little to be desired, but the A's were happy to take the power surge.
Unfortunately, Crosby's career did not turn out the way fans were hoping for. In the subsequent six seasons of his career, he never hit more than nine home runs in any single year, and he never hit higher than the .276 he recorded in '05.
He split the 2010 season with the Pirates and Diamondbacks, but has not appeared in the big leagues since then. His rookie season provided a lot of excitement and expectations—expectations that were never met.
Oh yeah, some of the names Crosby beat out for the top rookie honor in the AL in 2004 include Zack Greinke, John Buck and Alex Rios.
The 2008 National League rookie crop consisted of names like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Edinson Volquez. However, Rookie of the Year honors that season went to the catcher of the Chicago Cubs, Geovany Soto.
In '08, Soto registered 23 home runs, 86 RBI and a .285 batting average, all of which still stand as his career bests. And though he still had a couple of power-loaded seasons with the Cubs, he never established himself as a truly productive hitter.
Currently, Soto is the back-up catcher for A.J. Pierzynski with the Texas Rangers. In 2013, he registered a .245 batting average in 184 at-bats.
In 2009, the Florida Marlins Chris Coghlan received 17 first-place votes, nabbing him NL Rookie of the Year honors. That year, he beat out guys like Andrew McCutchen and Dexter Fowler for the award when he hit .321 with nine home runs in 504 at-bats for the Fish.
Unfortunately, Coghlan's career has not been anywhere near what the Marlins or their fans were hoping for. Since that '09 season, Coghlan has not had a single-season batting average higher than .268, and he's seen lots of time down in the minor leagues (injuries have hampered his career to an extent as well).
At just 28 years of age, there's still lots of time for Coghlan to right the ship in Miami, but it seems like the Marlins may be losing their patience with him, as they have brought in players capable of replacing him in the lineup.