Players That Could've Been: A Look at Great Careers That Were Cut Short

Sergio ValdezContributor IISeptember 15, 2009

1989: Darryl Strawberry of the New York Mets looks on the field during a game in the 1989 season. (Photo by: Mike Powell/Getty Images

There have been many comments over the years about players whose careers have been shortened in one way or another; and "what could have been" had they not lost the playing time that they did.

While there is no way to make up for that time or give credit for it, its fun to think about how some players might have turned out.

For fun, I decided to create a lineup and starting pitching rotation of players who might have been a lot more than they are/were.

Some people take exception to a few names that are both on and off my list. Feel free to add or comment as you see fit.

Two names I am sure will come up are Gehrig and Clemente, as neither is on my team. Gehrig was 35 when he stopped playing and Clemente was 38.

While Gehrig surely would have had three to five more good years left in him- I don't think Clemente did- and both had great careers to begin with.

Of course, anyone who wants to add them should feel free. Also, please refrain from bringing steroids into the conversation; there is more than enough about it everywhere else.

I am only doing a lineup and starting pitching rotation.

C - Thurman Munson - A career .292/.346/.410 hitter who was known as a defensive wizard, Munson was killed in a plane crash in 1979 at the age of 32.

He was a fantastic postseason hitter putting up a .357 career postseason average. Given those numbers and his defensive prowess, it is possible that the Yankees might have had even more championships had he lived.

1B - Mark McGwire - The greatest HR hitter in terms of frequency to ever play the game. Big Mac lost 556 games in his playing career. If one uses his career HR rate over those lost games, his total would have been 756.

2B - Chuck Knoblauch - While his career line of .289/.378/.406 is not superstar caliber, Knoblauch was a solid offensive player. He was a great base stealer with 407 swipes in only 12 seasons. Knoblauch was also known as a great defensive 2B, until for some reason he lost the ability to throw to first.

He made 41 errors in only 232 games where he had only made 70 errors in 1149 games in previous seasons. Had he not gotten this problem, which resulted in his retirement at age 34, Knoblauch could possibly be a Hall of Fame 2B.

3B - Paul Molitor - Before I begin this, I know he spent more time as a DH than anywhere else so please don't bring it up.

In his career, Molitor lost 719 games to injury. If one was to give credit for these games, he would have ended up with 4,208 hits for his career given that he kept his same hits/game ratio.

SS - Ray Chapman - Chapman was hit in the head by a Carl Mays fastball and killed in 1920 at the age of 29.

His career line of .278/.358/.377 doesn't look overly impressive until you consider that it was made during the dead ball era, and he was killed while in his prime, just before the live ball era began.

He was poised to become an offensive star when he was killed, and may have ended up as one of the better SS to ever play the game.

LF - Ted Williams - Teddy Ballgame was easily one of the top hitters to ever play; despite the fact that he lost three full seasons by going to war; and lost 477 games from 1950-1956.

If given these games back, Williams at his career paces would have ended up with well over 700 HR and 3700 + hits.

CF - Ken Griffey Jr. - From 2001-2007, Junior lost 436 games to injury. If one was to take his career HR rate and apply it to those games, he would currently have roughly 730 career HR's.

Given that a lot of the games he played in those years were also in the recovery stage, it is possible that he could be the all time HR king by now had he not been injured.

RF - Darryl Strawberry - Strawberry is in a different category than the rest as his lost games were of his own making.

In the only three seasons in which he played 150 games, he averaged 38.3 HR's. If he had been able to stay away from the blow, its entirely possible that he would be one of the greatest sluggers to ever pick up a bat.

Even if you were to apply his career averages over 150 games a season for those he didn't play, he would have 530+ career HR's. And that doesn't take into account the fact that he wasn't 100 percent for most of his career.

SP - Sandy Koufax - Sandy Koufax had one of the greatest peaks of any pitcher EVER. Arthritis cut his career short, making him retire at age 31. Had he been allowed to play out the rest of his career, he would have challenged 300 Wins, 4000 K's and maybe even outnumbered Roger Clemens for Cy young awards.

SP - Pedro Martinez - Martinez had a peak even better than Koufax. In fact, it is hard to argue that any pitcher has ever had a better peak. Given a five-man rotation, Martinez has missed roughly 100-120 career starts. Even at 100 starts, you could add another 1000 K's to his total and probably another 60 wins.

SP - Addie Joss - Joss is second all time in career ERA (1.89). He was killed by an undisclosed illness at age 31. Looking at the fact that he basically played half of a career, one could assume him to have been a 300 win, 4500+ IP, 450+ CG pitcher had he lived long enough to do it.

SP - Doc Gooden - Like Strawberry, Gooden blew a great career right up his nose. There is no way of telling how good Gooden would have been, but if his first three seasons are any indication, he would have been GREAT.

Just goes to show how talent is everything if you don't do everything else the right way.

These players might have had HOF type careers had they not suffered career shortening obstacles in their lives.


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